“I know why you’re traveling again. You’re out getting fodder for your columns.”
That was the comment of a friend after learning about our plans for a quick visit with my brother and his family, my wife’s sister and her family, plus (and especially) a new baby we hadn’t had a chance to meet yet.
“Well, not exactly,” I thought, though that’s the way it’s always been for me. The things I think about and write about tend to be the things going on around me, no matter where that might be. So off we went...to Texas.
Yes, Texas, the home of Buddy Holly, Clyde Barrow, both Presidents Bush, Janice Joplin and Lyle Lovett, was our long-weekend destination.
“We’re just going to head southwest,” I told one questioner regarding our route. “It’s pretty big. I don’t think we can miss it.”
My brother, who just moved there last fall, greeted our decision to head that way for an extra-long Labor Day weekend with something akin to disbelief, citing the triple-digit temperatures they’ve experienced for much of the summer. But the timing, calendar-wise, was right for the trip, so down, down, down we went to the fiery depths of the Lone Star State.
A sudden rolling rush of thunderstorms and near-tornadoes threatened to blow us to Kansas and beyond as we picked our way through southern Missouri and into Oklahoma. But, happily, it also cooled the temps for the length of our stay.
A trip to Texas for us non-Texans can be almost like a journey to a foreign country. Several foreign countries, in fact, since, depending on where you are, it can be either urban, small-townish, college-town hip, coastal, countrified and about as remote as a place can possibly be. It’s a sometimes difficult melding of a variety of cultures, too, starting with the Caddos, Lipan Apaches and Comanches, and evolving through a European influx that started in the 1500s. Texas, in fact, has existed under six different national flags, including those of Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, The Confederate States of America and the United States.
While the real purpose of the trip was a visit with parts of both branches of our family, an essential part of any journey for both of us is a chance to look around and see something new.
We got a taste of the ardent religion that is University of Texas football, with post-game talk shows dominating the local airways, always featuring a couple of game highlights and a shot or two of the everpresent Bevo.
We shared the small-town feel of downtown Denton, the urban sprawl of Dallas and the Austin university scene with our families, while over-pursuing our passion for Tex-Mex cuisine.
We even met the Bishop of Sri Lanka (yes, Sri Lanka) at Mass on Sunday morning, then later got a look at the current governor of Texas, who bounced up on stage at our niece’s Texas-sized mega-church to say a few words to a massive crowd.
Then it was time to head home.
“Hey, look at those cows,” got a little commonplace after awhile, but not so much that we stopped looking in awe at the vast stretches of ranching territory that dominates much of the countryside outside the cities.
We saw miles and miles and miles of Texas, finally leaving the state in the midst of the same kind of rain that washed us in just days before.
Heading home. To Galva.
It's pretty small, but I miss it all the same.