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A First Pass at Texas

Thursday, 9 Jan 2003
written by Teresa

In the space of two days we flew through Mississippi and Louisiana and deep into the heart of Texas. Our westward flight left little time for stopping and no real sense of the land we were passing through other than a couple of impressions. The first is of Interstate 10, raised on stilts, striding across a twenty-mile stretch of Louisiana bayou and the second is of fields of rice growing in the arable land to the west. The place names speak of the various pasts, with Native American and French featuring most noticeably. I hesitate to pronounce a word like Atchafalaya, in case some strange regional variation is brought to a word constructed predominantly of one vowel.

Entering Texas, it is clear that the cotton has only recently been harvested. The verges are scattered with scraps of the crop, dropped and blown into the roadside grasses. The fields have lost their telltale bolls, leaving the bare cut-off stalks standing forlornly in the earth. Piles of greyish, unprocessed cotton lie like heaps of dirty snow, waiting to be bundled into huge loaves weighing up to 14 tonnes and covered with tarpaulin tops, before being transported to the Cotton Gins for processing.

No Hunting the Bison While I hesitate to jump to conclusions about an entire state based on a few chance observations, sometimes it's hard to restrain myself. Along the interstate, an oft-repeated billboard advertised: "Wildlife Ranch - African Safari, Texas Style". The pictured giraffe looked a little confused and images of cowboys, lassoes and long necks meandered across my mind only to be disturbed when we stopped at a State Park, advertised as a wild turkey roosting habitat, to find that it had been closed for a two week hunt. Suddenly the word "safari" took on a whole new meaning that was confirmed by a "No Hunting" sign on a field of farmed bison within another state park's boundaries. We speculated about why such a notice might be necessary and the possibilities we covered were not altogether pleasant.

We are camped outside the odd little town of San Angelo. Its first point of interest is that in a town of eighty eight thousand people there was only one supermarket to be found during an hour-long search of the entire metropolitan area. We decided that other possible explanations for the absence of food emporiums ranged from well-hidden locations, camouflage or a strange and wonderful technology making them invisible to visitors. Whatever the truth, three days later an Albertsons had miraculously appeared in a location we passed twice during our quest.

The second peculiarity has to do with laws relating to alcohol. This is a dry town, meaning that the only alcohol available within the city limits is 3.2% beer. Everything else is sold in liquor stores that are clustered at strategic points on the outskirts of town. I can only assume that on Friday and Saturday nights there is a short-lived mass exodus from the city of people in search of their beverage of choice.

Cactus We're parked in the San Angelo State Park and will stay here until we head for Denver in another few days. Its gently rolling open vistas are yellowed from the lack of rain and the reservoir has left its boat ramps high and dry. There are large swathes of cacti and although the trees are bare of leaves they are festooned with more mistletoe than there are kisses in the world. We're close to the hundredth meridian and so it's a haven for bird watching, being at the cross over point for birds from both the east and west. I have to mention the Pyrrhuloxia if for no other reason than its name demands attention and neither of us had seen one before. At dusk we've watched the Black-tailed Jackrabbits as they forage for breakfast and at dawn, the deer, as they munch a quick supper before heading to bed.

People often ask what I do when Sterling's working and I'm not in search of supermarkets or off licences. Well, when we lived in Glenwood, we had a dishwasher. Now we have a Teresa. She's by no means as efficient as her mechanical counterpart although she can whistle while she washes. She, that's me, continues to be amazed at just how much washing up two people can generate, especially given that the kitchen does not readily lend itself to extravagant banquets. However, the hand cream companies are on a roll and I have become reacquainted with tea towels in a way I had hoped to avoid. My next favourite activity is the cleaning but maybe I'll leave you on a cliffhanger and entice you back with the exciting details of that another time.

Without a television to entertain us we have sadly developed an overly keen interest in watching the amp-hour meter. Discussions about how many electrons are flowing, our state of charge and the wattage of various appliances are not infrequent and instances of Sterling leaping up to assert that he is about to conduct another experiment are not unheard of. He dashes about the camper, which admittedly is hard given its size, turning on all the lights or alternatively plunging me into darkness in the name of science. The electric blanket is often the focus of such attention; resulting in the inverter squealing like a pig and Sterling thoughtfully scratching his chin, a quizzical look in his eye.

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