Back to Texas, Our Former Home and a Place I Miss

The High Plains of West Texas

The High Plains of West Texas

I was back in the air a week later, down to Dallas/Fort Worth.  We’ve been gone almost six months, and on the third trip back it still felt weird to land in a place that is no longer home.  The skyline of Dallas, off in the haze, said home, as did the bluebonnets along the runway.  But I didn’t have much time to get wistful (at least for Dallas), because after 30 minutes I hopped on an American Eagle jet and flew west to Lubbock, Texas, to see son Jack.  It had been way too long since I had visited, and it was great to hug him outside the terminal.  We headed in to town, yakking like long lost pals.  First stop was serendip, a local antique car show we chanced upon as we motored along the northeast edge of downtown.  Lots of cool oldies, like a 1936 Ford with a rumble seat, ’56 Chevy Bel Airs, muscle cars from the late 1960s and ‘70s (the math of getting old is sometimes jarring: those SS 396s still seemed modern and new, but back when I was a teenager a 45-year-old car was a Model T).

BelAir

Rear fender, 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air

Car fans!

Car fans!

We dropped back to Jack’s house, chilled for a bit, then drove across Lubbock to pick up John Watson, a friend now in medical school at the local Texas Tech University, then across to Tech to see Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” radio show live.  Those of you who live in the U.S., or even the U.K., may recognize him as a Minnesota author and humorist who has been hosting a live radio show most Saturdays almost continuously for more than 35 years.  Although a huge fan and radio listener, I had seen him live only twice before, once very early in the show, mid-1970s, when it was only broadcast locally, then in August 1981 on the lawn of the Minnesota State Capitol.  So it had been 32 years, and I was excited for the start of the show, in an older auditorium on the Tech campus.

It did not disappoint.  We clapped and whooped and whistled our approval of the music, his dialogue, his jokes.  Apart from the show band, Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band, who have been with Garrison for years, there was a local trio now famous, the Flatlanders (Joe Ely and pals), and a rising country singer Ashley Monroe, nicely twangy.  Garrison and the shoe band played homage to local rock pioneer Buddy Holly, and just after intermission interviewed Buddy’s older brother Travis, at least 80 (whose best line was “getting old sucks”), and the original Peggy Sue, who Buddy had met in high school and wrote a song about.  Above all, what came through loud and clear was placefulness; Garrison always weaves the distinctiveness of the host community and region into the show.  One snippet: toward the end, acknowledging that the area is the largest cotton producing region in the U.S., he said “this part of America where your pants come from.”  And he gets his facts right: the correct radius for the center-pivot irrigation systems (0.25 mile).  It was an awesome show.  Afterward, we met John’s wife Kara, and repaired to the Cap Rock Café for a burger and some chatter, then across the street for an ice cream.  A colossal evening.

Telephone, Holly Hop Ice Cream, Lubbock, Texas

Telephone, Holly Hop Ice Cream, Lubbock, Texas

Sunday morning we were out the door at nine or so, over to J&B Coffee for a big cup, then back to the house and away on separate two-wheelers: Jack on his motorcycle to the gym, and me north on his Trek mountain bike, pounding out 20 miles on a breezy but cloudless morning – under that big Texas sky that I also miss.  On the way back, wove around the Tech campus, growing.

After lunch, we headed to the National Ranching Heritage Center on the edge of the Tech campus, a great interpretive center that tells the story of ranching, mainly in Texas through a series of restored structures.  The simple frontier houses and their sparse furnishings were a powerful reminder of the harshness of frontier life (and by extension how we ought not to take comfort for granted).  Inside the main building was a temporary exhibit of “cowgirl art” by Texan Donna Howell-Sickles, a couple dozen vibrantly colored and often whimsical interpretations of a usually unseen part of ranching.  It was a way cool outing.  We headed home and chilled, watching sports on TV.  I’m not a big viewer, but Jack’s house is just such a comfy place.  He’s in his element there.

Detail, saddle, National Ranching Heritage Center

Detail, saddle, National Ranching Heritage Center

Pioneer ranch house

Pioneer ranch house

Jack Britton, channel surfing

Jack Britton, channel surfing

At 5:30, we headed out for a look at Lubbock neighborhoods, then to dinner.  Lots of stuff is closed on Sundays, including some promising local barbeque joints, so we pointed the car toward Rudy’s, a chain that is, well, just okay.  Happily, there was what geographers call an “intervening opportunity,” in the form of Chuy’s, also a chain, but a great one, Texan, well known for outstanding Tex-Mex.  That was the place.  We were up at six Monday morning.   Jack was headed for work, and I rode along as far as the airport. Gave him a kiss, a big hug, and a thanks for a way-fun weekend.  Flew to DFW, detoured to a board meeting of American Airlines Credit Union, then back on the Silver Bird for Washington.

Chuy's, the place for outstanding Tex-Mex, in cities across the Lone Star State

Chuy’s, the place for outstanding Tex-Mex, in cities across the Lone Star State

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