The Funeral Trip – February 1991 Part III

As I rolled north on U.S. 281 out of the MetroMex (San Antonio is 60% Hispanic), I was thinking back to my trip down here last November. I was remembering Vivian’s undying devotion for Uncle Bob, spending every afternoon, all afternoon, at the rest home with him. “Unfailing sympathy, Undying love.” And I was thinking of Robin, who has had to absorb the deaths of her sister, her son, and her father, plus an injury-rending auto accident and a divorce – all since 1985! It’s no wonder that she is cautious about opening up with her emotions. I’m just going to have to give her all the time she needs. Hang in there, Cuz. I want to be there when you need me.

I charted a zigzag route through the Hill Country to Austin by way of a half dozen Texas Farm to Market Roads from Spring Branch to Fisher to Wimberly to Driftwood to Oak Hill to the Capital. It was one of those drives that was too short. At two intervals, the road dipped down to where it barely had the elevation to ford a swollen creek. The caution sign read: “Road May Be Under Water”  Wow, I’ll say! Two days ago, there had to be three feet of swirling current rushing over the pavement. It gave me a kind of creepy feeling. There’s really not that much time to reach between the warning and the water. I picture some idiots in their four-wheel-drive Broncos or Blazers, down shifting and puttin’ the pedal to the metal, and running pell-mell into the surging current. Invariably, these foolhardy souls are swept downstream, completely underestimating the stream’s deceptive lateral force. Gee-mo-nee, I shuddered at the thought of Ol’ Baleau being inundated. What I would hate losing the most would be my portfolio full of all my artwork. But still, I shouldn’t cry over something that can’t cry over me. Just thought I’d throw in some roadside philosophy.

The Holiday Inn at Town Lake was my “home base” in Austin. That place was beginning to grow on me. I headquartered there last November. It had a full house, as usual. I liked having a crowd around. And Pistachio’s always had a great happy hour buffet on which to feast. This time it was pizza. KLBJ, AM 590, was my favorite listening station: lots of sport talk.

The next morning I visited my new good friend, Lynn Buckner/Rich, at her downtown art studio. Remembering how I regretted not taking a picture of her on the previous visit, I made sure this time by capturing her in her studio surrounded by all her artwork. Lynn has this innate talent of designing an abstract composition on paper simply from an idea that she’s created subjectively in her head. In all my years, I’ve never been inspired to attempt such an art form. I’ve always had to have a subject matter, whether it be landscape or cityscape, lady or horse. She gave me a hug to pass on to her brother Bob back in Dallas. I took it as a hug for me also.

I headed west through the center city, crossing Congress Avenue with its dramatic vista of the capitol building. As I turned onto Texas Farm Road 2244, otherwise known as Bee Cave Road, I just had a feeling that I was in for one beautiful drive.

First, though, I had to wend my way through the swanky suburbs of Rollingwood and West Lake Hills, where the hoity-toity reside (I picked up that lovable Yankee term from cousin John Farris in Long Island). The super-wide highway, obviously earmarked for future development all the way to Bee Cave, soon transitioned into a ridge road, that is, I could look down on the rolling hill country on both sides of the road. Without exaggeration, this part of Texas has a uniqueness all its very own. With well over 90,000 miles of highways traversed all over the U.S.A., it could safely be said that no other part of this vast land has the same indigenous characteristics as the central Texas Hill Country. I concluded that these inherent qualities were due mainly to the vegetation, e.g., the magnificent evergreen oaks sprinkled in among a multitude of, as the local genre call, scrub oaks. The terrain was a series of plateaus which continued for a good 120 miles to Brady, with a pit stop in Llano (the “a” being pronounced as in piano).

The hilly countryscape abruptly gave way to flat cotton fields as I approached the last remaining major town in the Lone Star State in which I had never set foot – San Angelo. It’s no wonder. If you look at a present day map, it is obvious that San Angelo is not a current day crossroads. It lies smack dab in between I-20 and I-10, a good 70 miles each way. Originally, the Concho river and valley spurred its growth, along with the Santa Fe railroad to transport cotton and cattle. Now the Santa Fe is dead.