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Lake Whitney, Texas
I had to fish around a bit to find the cafe Kenn Smith recommended. This has to be the one. It's "downtown", across from the medical center. Hope that's a coincidence.
No name on the front, except "Restaurant". Around on the side, away from the road, it says "Pat's Diner".
It is my habit when traveling to eat breakfast out, and make it a big one, thank you. Eggs, ham, biscuits, grits, maybe even a short stack. This seems odd only when you know that at home I seldom have this meal at all. Maybe some yogurt and fruit. Often I just have lunch for breakfast, or vice versa.
But on the road I like it. For one thing it gets me up and out of the trailer. It is usually good food, and a good deal, and a good test. A cook who can ruin eggs is not someone you want messing with your dinner. Another thing is that eggs, bacon, and such are messy to clean up after, cooked in the trailer. Grits stick to the pan.
But the main thing is the conversation. There's no telling what you might hear, especially in small towns like this. Take this morning:
"Hello darlin'. What are you doin' here? Isn't this Wednesday? Don't you come in on Tuesdays?"
"O, they got my schedule mixed up. This week I'm off on Wednesday. What you been up to?"
"Same ole, same ole. You want your usual?"
"Sure. How was your Easter?"
"I took off for Easter. Went to see my Mama. She's been sick."
"You got off on Easter?"
"I took off. Went to Gainesville in my little $200 car. Lord, I thought I was travelin' round the world. You know, I hate goin' to Hillsboro, let alone Gainesville."
"You got a $200 car? You did good. What kind is it?"
"O, it's a '90 Dodge something. Spirit? Y'know, it did just fine, all the way there and back, and then it burned up right here in front of the Church of the Nazarene. It's got to be a Sign." She crossed her arms, and looked to heaven.
"Where did you get it? What happened? What do you mean, burned up? I didn't hear anything burned up."
"This little old man that sold it to me, he comes in here all the time. He says it's some wires, he can fix it. He's kind of a sweetie, and he worries about me. He says he's gonna buy me one of those Trak phones from Walmart, so I don't get stranded somewhere. I just said, 'Thank you, Daddy'."
"Well isn't that nice. Those the ones you don't pay for the call, you just buy it? How much are they?"
"They're $50, I think. Something like that. I don't know....."
And so it goes. A penny's worth of Homer, all in 2 or 3 minutes while she was taking orders from the table in front of me. If you've read this far, maybe you've picked up on the fascination. There's no end to the adventures people have. Just living, just getting by.
Strategies and adventures and risks and failures and triumphs. Most people manage, leaning on others now and then, but sometimes it's a close thing. Most everyone has the same troubles. But the solutions are often quite individual, complex, varied, and ingenious.
I'm hooked. Diners are where I go to get my fix. Who can resist all this drama, plus eggs and a piece of ham the size of a dinner plate, all for less than 5 bucks? Did I mention the biscuits and gravy?
After breakfast I drove around the lake. It's been foggy, dark, and rainy for two days now. Even at noon there's a low damp twilight along the road. But the bluebonnets and the indian paintbrush are in bloom, the cattle seem contented. So, I guess, am I.
My waitress says it's supposed to clear up tonight, so I think I'll hang around and have breakfast here again tomorrow. That ought to get me through the weekend.
Sometimes you don't have to go very far to get a lot of what you're traveling for.
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