I rolled north on U.S. 277 towards Abilene when I passed the Goodyear Training Grounds. Well, they certainly had enough grounds, out there in the middle of nowhere, on which to test their world-renown treads. I sure swear by them. The two front Wranglers have a combined mileage of 120,000 behind them! Don’t worry, I’m not running the “slicks”, yet.
A few miles later, I crossed over the Texas-branded Colorado River, which was only a muddy trickle at that point. What’s so amazing about that? Well, just 200 miles down the road in Austin, that poor excuse for a river was as wide as the length of two football fields! What’s always boggled my mind has been how all the major Texas rivers originated. Their headwaters certainly were not supplied by an abundance of West Texas rainfall, to say the least. And obviously, their origin was not a high altitude lake supplied by huge run-offs from melting snow. I believe that this is truly a phenomena found only in Texas: rivers originating from underground springs. Now, we’re talking big time rivers by the time they reach the Gulf of Mexico. When tracing one of the river’s route upstream, say the Colorado, I finally came to an end about 15 miles east of Lamesa, probably in some farmer’s cotton field.
Just past the river crossing, I stopped in Bronte to stock up on 4 cent stamps. I figured there wouldn’t be much of a waiting line in the post office in a town of 983. (The lines at my local P.O. are getting out-of-sight. I pulled in front of the first structure with Old Glory flapping outside. Turned out to be the hardware store. Turns out half the buildings in Bronte have the stars and stripes waving in front. Very patriotic town. I got directions to the P.O., which meant walking through half of downtown Bronte, a full two blocks. A bunch of the local gentry were strolling about, springing friendly greetings: “Howdy. How ya’ doing this mornin’?”. The town reminded me of so many other small Texas incorporates, particularly the ones along old U.S. 287. Was that Paul Newman swaggering along on the boarded sidewalk with a six-pack of Pearl tucked under his arm? The movie “Hud” was actually filmed in Claude up near the Red River, but it could have easily been shot right here in Bronte.
I got to Abilene before noon so that I might have lunch with an old friend, Don Wright. I called his house, but his lovely wife, Beverly, informed me that Don was in Sweetwater where he did his counseling work on Thursdays. How could have I remembered? It has been five years since I’d been through here. That’s what I’ve learned to expect and accept on my unscheduled stops. But there was good news. Beverly said that they would be in Dallas in a couple of days and they would definitely call and arrange a rendezvous. Great! That was something to look forward to.
I stopped by Albertson’s to get some coffee. While in the checkout line, I noticed this dude in Army khakis with Edwards Air Force Base inscribed across his chest. I turned to him and said, “I bet you’re one of the few left on base”. He replies, “You better believe it, and I hope to stay right here”. I got the idea that he wasn’t too keen on seeing the shifting sands of the Saudi. I had to negotiate a number of traffic signals as I shifted my way across south Abilene. While stopped at one intersection, I shifted into neutral as I usually do on flat surfaces, just to give my brake foot a rest. Abilene, along with Amarillo, Lubbock, Houston, Las Vegas, and Miami Beach, has been categorized as a city where you can put your car in neutral at any intersection and it won’t roll an inch. Actually, I liked thinking that the motorist behind me was wondering if I was going to roll back on top of him. It’s never happened, nor will it ever happen. Trust me.
I headed southeast on another Texas Highway, #36, in the direction of Brownwood to make one last stop to see another old friend, BeBe Blackstock. Just before the junction at Cross Plains where I would take TX 279, I pulled off to a “Picnic Area”, one of many that I had enjoyed on this trip. It was the most pleasant setting – a small creek running nearby and an abundance of huge oak trees which afforded a semi-shade. It was so serene, even though the area was obviously being used as a turn-around for the local boys cruising the main drag in their “Dukes of Hazard” style belch-fires. They weren’t any nuisance. In fact, I rather enjoyed watching them spinning their wheels and time in the dust. The truth was, I kind of felt sorry for them, not having anything better to do other than expending precious petrol.
I used the respite for reflection on the past five days, thinking back to the first day when I arrived at Geneseo Road. We were all standing around in front of the villa, waiting for Aunt Vivian to assign us to our designated limo seats. Mom asked me what my plans were after the funeral, and I replied, “I’d like to drive out to San Angelo and Abilene”. Cousin Fay overheard my answer and exclaimed an interrogative, “Why?” At first impulse, I wanted to reply, “Why not?”, and then embark on a dissertation on all my reasons for doing so. But I refrained, when I considered that talk was cheap when I have to explain what I’m planning to do, as opposed to what I have done.
Anyway, I was sitting there in my easy chair in Ol’ Baleau with the cargo door wide open and the afternoon sun filtering through the oaks, thankful that I had made it that far – safely. I was remembering some of the peculiarities that I observed during the short journey. For instance, it seemed that one out of every three towns, with a population of at least 500, had a braggadocios billboard bestowing their blessings upon my arrival in their beloved burg. . .”Welcome to Medina – the Apple Capitol of Texas”. . .”The First Baptist Church of Llano Welcomes You”. . .”The Home of the Bowie Bobcats — State Champions – 1946″ . . .and so on. I wished just one time that I could see an entry sign that read: “The Last Methodist Church of . . .” I could not recall any other state that had as many welcome markings as Texas. More was less.