I meandered through Decatur to the town square to again look in awe at the magnificent edifice. I was recalling the crap-shooter’s old saw: “Gimme an eighter from Decatur, county seat of Wise.” I left town southward on old U.S. 81 paralleling the Burlington Northern tracks and came upon an unexpected gem. It was the Petrified Wood Texaco Station with stone-faced tourist cabins behind it, each having attached carports. I just had to photograph it, a real relic from the past. I finally had to merge with U.S. 287 for awhile, then exiting onto a two-lane TX 114. My lane was practically empty, but the oncoming traffic was bumper-to-bumper with commuter cars and those damnable earth-hauling trucks that seemed to blow you off the road.
It was, as I expected, an excruciating drive. The road eventually expanded into a new six-lane divided freeway (the spread of concrete was steadily enveloping North Texas) and I merged with TX 121 where the outgoing traffic was stacked up for miles. It was sheer madness.
I exited at Belt Line and stopped to call the Lamberts. I just wasn’t ready to get home yet. Judy answered, and I said, “I’m in the area and thought I’d drop by and share my trip with you.” She said, “Come on by, we’d love to see you.” Somehow, I was anticipating her saving, “We have some left-over stew,” but she didn’t. Guess I was all stewed out. Charlie met me in the driveway and I showed him the black tread marks on the left front fender from the blowout. I briefly told him what had happened, and then said, “Charlie, this is the way I like it. You were the first ones I saw on my way out, and the last ones to see on my way back. I’ve come full circle.” He loved it. As we dined on the kitchen countertop, I presented them with the framed watercolor print of New Mexico Mesas, the same one intended for Larry “Buddy” Wright back in New Mexico. They were completely enraptured with my gift. I thought to myself, “This was the way things were supposed to work out – I tried giving there and ended up giving here.”
Judy tells me about their visit to Dennison (about 60 miles north of Dallas) and the galaxy of art galleries in the downtown area. One in particular sounded like a dream-come-true situation. A man and his wife bought a two-storey building, turning the ground floor into an exhibition area while renovating the upper floor into living quarters. Wow, what an ideal arrangement! Then Judy got on my case about me stashing my watercolors in portfolios and dresser drawers instead of renting a space for exhibiting my artwork. I said, “I hear what you’re saying, but I wouldn’t know what price tags to put on them. I’d end up asking people what they thought a watercolor was worth to them. Besides, the idea of selling my work to strangers doesn’t really appeal to me. I’d rather give them to friends and family, especially my son Ted and his family as heirlooms.” I think she kind of reluctantly understood. Charlie and I retreated to the living room to watch the History Channel and talk over old times. I finally retired to Ol’ Blue where it was cool enough to fall asleep sans super fan.
Judy treated me to a scrambled egg breakfast as we rehashed the conversation of the night before. I said jokingly, “Judy, I think your interest in me opening a gallery is so you can act as my agent.” She got a chuckle out of that. Charlie and I talked a little about his property in Keller and he agreed it would be best to sell the sucker. I said, “Look at it as if you were selling a used car. You either put a lot of time and money into getting it ready to sell, or you just sell it as is and save yourself a lot of trouble. You do the math.”
I bid farewell to my dear friends and headed home at last. As I was negotiating the traffic-choked LBJ Freeway, I was thinking to myself, “This was one of those exceptional trips where everything seemed to fall in place, especially when it came to finding friends at home, not to mention, all the gifts I gave away along the way.” I was feeling very fortunate, and thankful. The journey had been at a pace that would boggle the minds of cross-country interstate speed-crazed motorists – a mere 125 miles a day! I wheeled around the on-going construction of the interchange of LBJ and North Central now known as the “High Five”, an overwhelming assemblage of over-and-under concrete viaducts just for the conveyance of the almighty automobile. Fifty years ago, there was only a two-lane U.S. 75 and a Houston & Central Texas railroad track. I pulled in front of Apt. 415, 2400 miles and 19 days later and thanking The Lord for a beautiful and safe trip.
William C. Early © 2004