Return To Texas
Conlen, TX / South of Stratford
Far from the Oblander home, and the wealth of family that nourished me on many levels through five days, my legs have carried me south into the Texas panhandle. It is good to see police drive by again without brake lights hitting hard. It will take time for the instintive flinch to leave my stride after hundreds of miles walking under a microscope. Passing into Texas I feel a lightness return to my cadence, a new wind moves past that encourages me to lift my head again instead of plowing forward looking at my feet in a belief that a hard walking man is less likely to be stopped by the law. It's funny how many beliefs we carry far too long after we realize that there is no truth or payoff in them. The joy of simply walking is returning. In east Texas I was stopped by one police officer last summer. He was laughing on his way from his the cruiser to where I stood, "Bet you've been through this before."
"Once or twice," I tried to laugh back but failed. He ran my information more as a formality, and then we shot the breeze about places we served in the military, the terrible weight of water, and about how he too had dreams he wish he hadn't shelved, but did. He patted the round tire of his waistline spread, laughing less with humor and more in sadness to himself. We shook hands earnestly, and I felt richer for the meeting as I trudged on into the hot Texas evening, eyes already shopping the roadsides for a hide that would see me safe till dawn.
When I get to Colen, TX I take a picture of the telephone pole tall cowboy made of fiberglass that shoots back at noone, and scanned the village for any shelter from the storm that has been foretold for days. My radio would rather sing than give up datails on snow so I listen to the growing force of the wind. The sky crouches down to the earth to tell me it secrets and begins to spit as it talks without meaning to. My head is just coming down from anger so I listen with only one ear. It was more than ten miles ago that I resupplied knowing that it would be over thirty miles before another store. This is always tough evaluation time. I spend half an hour just coming down from the rush of seeing so much food for sale, so many colorful boxes of sugar this and that, fruit and veggies making my mouth swollow over and over. In the bread isle I am torn between blueberry bagels, flat-breads, or wheat berry bread that is as soft and fresh as a dream. Of course the wheat berry bread wins. Outside in the cold air I chug a quart of eggnog so I can think, while I peel a banana to follow it down, and a can of butter beans that are not as pretty as the photo on the can. The wheat berry bread is so fresh it steams up the bag. My hands want to tear open the bag and process a few slices knowing they will never taste this good with the air growing colder by the minute. With super human restraint I loop the plastic shop bag containing the bread to the trovois cart,shoulder a stout 60 pound Crow Dog and waddle off with a carrot sticking out of my mouth. Eight miles later there is no sack of bread to be found on the cart though I can see hours of road walked behind me. There is no consolation to be had. The bread that I was to enjoy in the coming storm and perhaps for more than three days of rough winter walking was now litter for racoons and ravens. My mouth complains the loudest, although the whole inner command of this journey feels the blow. Old words of anger are weak and frivolous out here, so I make up my own. They are loud and full of fireful barking until I am worn with it and just grumble on down the road muttering parts of sentences all with the word bread in them, designing crazy knots in my head to use on the next sorry bag of bread I am blessed enough to WELD to my cart.
In Conlen, far behind the fiberglass cowboy, there are a few old trucks discussing nothing verbal as they freckle with rust and remember. Making my way there with thoughts of smoked meat I can bed on cream cheesed flatbread a white pick-up follows me out into the grass. Too tired, I hand my card expressing my disblief about any bums hanging out in any town that doesn't even have a gas station/market. Cory Crabtree assures me that just a week ago the police from up north dropped off a man in the last storm that didn't even have a coat. "He nearly died in that storm. Well, he had a full page rapsheet depicting the crimes he had commited.......anyhow, I just drove out here to make sure some of our things don't walk away."
I looked over at my travois. I shrugged the weight that still sank into the saddles of my shoulders. "Well, I have no desire to carry anymore. This is all that I can handle. Is there any way I can just set my tent using those old trucks as a wind break? If you feel I am a concern, or if you'd rather, I'll just move on down the road." My mouth was as exhausted as my legs. There is nothing refreshing about selling your clean intentions over and over, too tired to sell, I just waited.
"Well, there's nothing down that road. Yeah, you can get in that truck if you get cold," Cory said with a smile that said he believed me.
"I have a good tent," was all I said.
It was less than a hour later that Cory and his girlfriend drove back over. Camp was set and I was just swollowing a large gulp of eggnog remembering one of the great treasures of winter, the gift of eggnog. After a few minutes debating, the F-350 white pick-up was driving away while I grumbled at myself for agreeing to drop camp and go to a heated barn across the road and over the train tracks. "Another barn!" My inner voice was not amused. "We're all set. Look, we have everything set up for morning coffee even if it snows. The wind can't hit the mouth of the tent as it's now gusting. If a storm comes as predicted we can huddle under this old duce and a half."
"Huddle under a truck in a snow storm under a truck bed as all my gear is ravished by winds I already have seen remove steel roofs?" In twenty minutes all the gear was stowed under a black sky, and I staggered off to find the barn.
The storm has come. My socks, hand washed, hang drying in front of a gas stove on the tractor bay floor. My bedding is unrolled on the hardwood boards of a flatbed semi trailer, and coffee beans promise to let me watch a foot of snow fall on everything through the barn window as winds bend down evergreens to the ground over and over just because they can.
Elliott Crabtree, Cory's father and owner of the workshop barn, and I eat our breakfast as he brings me up to speed on military events pertaining to the war. We chew slowly listening to the war raging outside and decide to talk about Creation instead.