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A Dark and Stormy Night

28 June 04

Farwell, Texas

It was a dark and stormy night... No, wait. That comes later.

I left Georgetown under cloudy skies at noon, and drove straight on through to Brownwood, where I stopped at the Gomez Cafe for a pile of chicken livers, fries, and gravy. Waddling back to the truck, I opened up the trailer to get a coke for the road. There was a bottle of Chilean cabernet lying in front of the fridge.

Uh oh.

And a one inch round hole in the middle of the dining table.

O noooo.

Time once again to review a life of oops and errors. When I ripped out the dinette seats last February to put in chairs, I moved the wine rack into an overhead compartment. Looked good up there. Many a bottle had sat there complacently all through the winter, apparently waiting for a chance to escape.

I guess that moment arrived going round some curve between Georgetown and Brownwood, when this belligerent and ill-mannered cabernet pushed open the door and plunged neck first through the formica top of the dinette table. And half-way through the particle board beneath. Then it must have cartwheeled onto the floor, where at last it ran out of imagination, and options.

For that is where I found it, label scratched but glass unbroken. They make good glass, down there in Chile.

I put the bottle back where it belonged, and secured the door with a small bungee. Don't ask me why I didn't think of this before.

O well, something more to fix. And a heretofore undiscovered reason not to let passengers ride in the trailer. If a quart of wine upside the head doesn't kill you outright, you'll most likely bleed out anyway before the driver becomes aware of the tragedy.

Nasty mess to clean up, too, unless of course your head was also made in Chile. A word to the wise...which I was not.

Unable to pass up a Sam's Club, I stopped for gas in Abilene. And no, it is not the prettiest town you've ever seen. Next stop, Lubbock. That's the great thing about Sirius satellite radio. You can get wrapped up in NPR and forget the passage of time, even in the Panhandle.

Ah, the Panhandle of Texas. I can't ever seem to slow down in this stretch of returning prairie. There's probably lots to see. I first blew through here in the summer of '67. It seemed like a desert then, and it still does.

Not the interesting sort of desert, like Big Bend or Ansa-Borrego. Too many people here for that. More a desert of the mind. A land of hog reports and twangy music, gospel-besotted panhandling radio preachers, and the weekly epiphany of high school football.

The sort of place I've been escaping all my life. Boredom unlimited.

It is a flat and sandy land that owes it's whole life to artifice. Ancient aquifers have been emptied out to paint these green circles on the surface of the prairie. It's an inspiring trick while it lasts. An inch outside those sharp-edged circles, though, the original dusty desperation shows, and the staked plain of legend waits.

I guess this prejudice got its start on ski trips, back when time was short. But now that I have all the time in the world, all the time I'm ever going to get, I still feel the need for speed come over me around Abilene, and it doesn't let up until I see the mountains of New Mexico.

I talked myself into stopping, this time, at the very edge of Texas in the dark. I'm circling a deserted roadside park outside Farwell, looking for the flattest spot. A light clatter of hail convinces me that maybe it's not so all-important to be level, just this once. I barely get inside before the heavens open up, and rain comes down in sheets. Some of those sheets are nearly horizontal.

Me for a glass of whisky, a bit of typing, and to bed.

You know, there is a sensual aspect to living in a trailer that you hardly notice in a normal house. The storm is right there over my head, inches away. I can feel it drum and shake and splatter and roar and flash. It is like having a second skin.

Yikes! That was close.

If all this stuff starts going round and round, a second skin might not be quite enough. I could be flying featherless. That would be a little too entertaining.

Less snug now, certainly less poetical, I've definitely taken a firmer grip on the covers. The bed's lit up by lightning as the swollen sky swirls by.

I bid you all safe slumber. And good night.


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