The Labor Day Trip – 2003 V

I had to hit a short stretch of I-40 before exiting at the southbound U. S. 81. This was a new highway in my ventures through Oklahoma, and now I was desperately searching for a road-side area where I could spend the night. Incidentally, my windshield was again bug-free. Was Kansas a geographical haven for suicidal insects? It was getting dark when I finally wandered into Chickasha, and I was now looking for a fire station or police station to park next to (it had been my last resort on previous trips, but where else could you feel safer?). I was rubber-necking at every intersection, even looking for a city park where one could park overnight. There was absolutely nothing. I had traversed all the way to the outskirts of town, feeling a little out of control of my destiny. The night air was comfortably cool, so there was no way I was going to spend the last night in a motel.

As one last resort, I pulled into a grocery store parking lot. Lightner’s Market was down-scaled and seedy-looking with stained exterior walls and filthy entrance walks. It was Oklahoma at its best. I asked a check-out boy if there was a Wal-Mart in town (knowing from experience they were very receptive to overnighters). He said yes there was and proceeded to give me convoluted directions to Wal-Mart. It was too much for me to digest in a strange town after dark. I located the store manager and said, “I noticed your store was opened for 24 hours. Would it be okay if I spent the night in your parking lot? I’m just a common man in a Chevy van, just trying to make it back to Colorado.” He bought it. I was home safe for the night, me and thousands of crickets chirping and crawling all over the parking lot. Was it some sort of Oklahoma plague? Don’t get me wrong…I liked the little critters. In fact, I missed having them around. Fifty years ago, before the ugly urbanization of Dallas, jimmynee crickets, along with June bugs, fire flies, and all the other creatures, were everywhere. I wondered what the spiders were feasting on nowadays. Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen any arachnoids either. Our so-called “progressive” society had exterminated all the childhood joys of catching and holding the beautiful little critters. I fell asleep to the chirping of my new-found friends.

The stars must have been lined up just right, because I awoke to another cool and cloudy day. I patronized Lightner’s for some ice to keep the grapes, orange juice, and the precious ointment refrigerated in the ice chest. And get this. As I approached Ol’ Blue, I noticed a bunch of crickets had lodged themselves between the wheel rims and the tires, like some suicidal ritual. Nature worked in strange ways.

I continued south on U.S. 81 through a very picturesque Oklahoma landscape. I crossed the Red River which was swelling at its banks, compared to the dry gulch I saw 250 miles upstream at Estellene. Amazing! And still, no more bugs splattering on the windshield — they had called off their attacks as quickly as they had begun back in Kansas. I was remembering a quip Mom would share with Dad and I (on our vacation trips) when an insect hit the windshield: “Well, that bug won’t have the guts to do that again.” Yes, nature did work in strange ways. How could one explain the kamikaze bugs confining their attacks only in the state of Kansas? Was it something territorial? My uneducated guess was that it had something to do with the agriculture of the region, you know, crops and insects — they were kinda congruous with each another, wouldn’t you think? Maybe it was the altitude, or the humidity. Who knows, except for the entomologists.

At the junction of U. S. 81 and U. S. 82, I headed east to Gainesville through the rolling hills of north Texas, still a virgin land on the brink of being inundated by the infectious sprawl of Far North Dallas. That might be stretching it a bit for now, but I would predict that by the year 2080 (or sooner), the Dallas North Tollway with all the accompanying development would reach Hwy 82 near Sherman, a good 80 miles from downtown Dallas. Sound far-fetched? Just wait, it will happen, trust me.

I rocked and rolled south on I-35 past a glaze of commercial development. It was mid-afternoon when I arced up and around and down to LBJ, so the traffic on the otherwise horrendous stretch was relatively light. I skirted around the High Five which didn’t appear to have made much progress from nine days ago. It was south on North Central and finally rolling up in front of Apt. 415 after 1,700 miles of a perfectly-timed release from the dog-days of summer in Dallas. Incidentally, a few days later I happened to try out the windshield squirters, and son-of-gun, they were working. I figured Jerry Rosso must have had that Midas touch. To quote from Porky Pig: “Yabidi, yabidi, yabidi, that’s all folks.


William C. Early © 2003