Day 63 Bootleg to Hereford
today:27 miles cumulative:1250
Awake at 7 am because today is a work day and all the men who work in the county barn are coming in wearing Carhartt jackets and steel toed boots filling up coffee cups and wondering just who the hell is this with a blue comet on wheels and did you see that Hoola hoop he had strapped onto that thing? But we all have a good laugh drinking our coffee in a tiny office, and I tell them about the pretty girl on the side of the road and they laugh and slap their knees and say that maybe they should be the ones walking. I eat fresh muffins that Jesss wife made for me and drink milk from a gallon jug, drink coffee with the country boys. I have become very flexible, I am comfortable everywhere I go, and there are never awkward silences because there is so much to learn, so many things to talk about, so many things I have in common with every man. I wish they had more time to talk, but at 8am work begins and there is a cattle guard out there somewhere that needs fixed so they we all shake hands. They youngest, Jason, gives me a name in Canyon, a college town 2 days down the road.
In the County barn there is a wooden sign on the wall, and a quote from Lonesome Dove, that says:
Bootleg Land and Cattle Co.
Road and Bridge Emporium
Goats and donkeys neither bought,
Nor sold, we dont rent pigs.
The sign was made by a Polish man in his 40s by the name of Urbanzyk, he called himself The Philospher, he died very young, of a heart attack a few years back, they tell me. They also show me a B.S. meter (actually a humidity gauge), and I am told on rainy days when no one is working and everyone is in the shop it can go past the 100% marker. Today it is at 70. Dawn, Jesss wife made me a sack lunch, and it is sitting here in a brown paper bag on the table, but first I will sit for awhile and write these words, watching my hand write these words and trying to dig out of this hole of being weeks behind on my journal. Drinking unleaded coffee, because Bobby switches the pot over so we dont all start shaking from an old green mug sun bleached on one side from sitting in a window. Bobby says hell call ahead and tell the boys Im not a serial killer. Like a band of gypsies
and playing the harmonica as we pull out.
It is a blue sky windy panhandle day and I have found a new notch on this cowboy hat. The Texas panhandle knot, so tight that it almost chokes me, but it keeps the hat on in this panhandle wind, I will wear this hat to my grave. Damn wind. Blowing, leaning as I have leaned for many weeks now and will lean for many weeks to come.
Faint gold as I have also seen for many weeks, I will miss it when it is green again because its bareness makes ones mind collapse in and allows access to those secret places where perhaps the green leaves will dance too much and dizzy the mind distract from seeking. So I will enjoy these days. Passing feedlots wearing a bandana over my face like an old time bank robber. Stop to eat my sack lunch, what does Mom have for me today? Pudding and a turkey sandwich and chips and more treats than food but that works for me, I will ride a sugar high for the next three hours, injecting a new dose every hour or so. I am watching things like how the flocks of birds move together like some jellyfish shotgun pellets flying through the sky in slow motion, like a cloud, crossing the road to eat something from the field and then all retire to a telephone pole and back again or in search of another field. I watch the grasses always because that is all there is in the panhandle, the way blades brush against each other a dry hollow scraping sound, but when millions are together they vibrate with some kind of harmony, sing the songs that were before man, a history lesson when the wind blows, stories about the plains before the concrete silos, before the cattle yards. I am looking for the timeless and I find it in the grass song, bird cloud, ocean sky.
In Hereford, Texas I stop at a grocery store and draw a crowd. High school kids and dog lovers and people with children and people without children. Holding court on the curb while I eat a bag of walnuts. A woman with red hair asks someone to take her picture with me, she says her name is Urbanczyk. I tell her about the philosopher who made the sign in Bootleg. It was her father. She never knew about the sign. She cant believe that I know about her father. Strange clockwork of the universe that I would see that sign and find the Philosophers daughter. We hug. We are family, she has a very pretty face and I am glad we have met, I am glad to have her in my family. Court is adjourned. Looking for a place to loiter I walk all the way out of town and find nothing but a gas station. The red head finds me just out of town and brings a greeting and a gift from her mother, it made her so happy to hear my story about the sign. No place to sleep at this edge of town, too many feedlots and factories, so in desperation I stop at a house on the edge of town to ask if I can set my tent up in their field, it is the only field I have seen. The man hesitates, he is uncomfortable but he agrees. I am uncomfortable. I cannot find the gate to get in, so I use that as an excuse to move on, walk back to the highway, the man at the door will be relieved. Where can I sleep? I will look up the Urbanczyk family. Maybe they know someone on this edge of town with a farm. And the Philosophers wife answers the phone. She does know someone. Garth Merrick. Hes just a half mile down the road, I can sleep in his front yard, his right hand man, Mike, will meet me there to show me where to go. Garths yard is full of Indian Black Buck Gazelles. There is also an Emu and a Zonkey, half Zebra, half Donkey. A large metal building behind the animals is illuminated by a huge neon sign big enough for the truckers on the highway to read at 3am: Jesus is the Reason. I will meet Garth tomorrow, he owns one of the biggest dog food companies in the west.