Lone StarBy Wade Kwon
Before this week, the most time I had spent in Texas was about 10 minutes on a Delta flight at the Dallas airport. What I saw was from the inside of the plane as we changed passengers and crew on the way to points west.
So seeing the hill country, with its splashes of mesquite trees and open pasture, reminded me of how I havenâ€™t seen enough of this big, bright world.
You wonâ€™t see much beyond the thin sliver of highway winding along hills and the occasional mesa. Even the cattle and deer shy away from the road.
Above, the sky yawns blue with streaks of wispy white clouds. It isnâ€™t too hot yet, and we are heading to meet ranchers. Fence, mesquite, cactus, repeat.
For hundreds of miles, this is the pasture land of West Texas.
Many places remind me of home, with forests and farm land interspersed down long byways. But this place stands out. Iâ€™ve never seen such a rough-and-tumble landscape, strangely attractive.
The gnats and mosquitoes are out in full force, but the rattlers are absent, or at least well hidden. Offroad, we see several deer bounding away, either in fear or fun.
At the roadside, an abandoned mobile home. Upside down.
It mustâ€™ve been some house party.
Round these parts, a tank isnâ€™t a storage container or a military vehicle. Itâ€™s smaller than a lake, bigger than a pond. You can swim in one, but the drought has left the tanks punier than usual.
At one crossroads, a diner offers locals and hunters platefuls of barbecue and burgers. In back, bait for fishing.
While the view is unmatched, the folks along the highway are much like the folks back home, at least in the country. Many have found their way here to retire to a slower pace. Others follow in the footsteps of generations of cattle ranchers.
Even the music store owner runs cattle.
The modern intrusions are subtle. At the diner, the menu boasts a Web site address, while the farmers fidget with their cell phones.
Mercifully, the rains came last week, though not enough to quench the long-parched land. They could use a gullywasher to replenish, and soon.
As we bump along in the truck in the back 40, or 400, the radio doles out one country tune after another. The prickly pear cacti surround us, a pointed (ugh) reminder that while life can be tough out here, the settlers are tougher.
They just mask it with loads of friendliness and humility.