Wildorado, Goodnight, Estelline, Quanah, Chillecothe, Bowie. Small town after small town greeted us as we drove across Texas earlier this month. Each little wide spot in the road had a name and a history and obvious pride in both. We didn't have the time to stop and treasure-hunt in any of the antique shops or browse the general stores nor, for that matter, sample the "eats" of very many cafes, but they all called out my name as we passed by. Perhaps, someday, we can take a more leisurely trip through Texas, park our car alongside the curb of this little town or that, and stroll through the corner Rexall Drug or visit the community library. Maybe we can even order a Coke float at the soda fountain and sit on a sidewalk-bench to finish it off. But on this trip we couldn't tarry. We had our mind's eye on a destination and pushed hard to get there as quickly as possible.
I did copy down the words of a few amusing ma-and-pa shop-signs we saw along the way, though. For instance, in Chillicothe there is a store called Dang Good Pecans. Their sign also promoted their "dang good coffee" and "dang good candy"; in Denton I saw Mable Peabody's Beauty Salon and Chain Saw Repair. The Good 'Nuff Cafe was in Clarenden, which is also where I found my favorite: the It'll Do Motel, which boasted, in bold letters, "CEILING FANS!"
We've driven through a lot of states over the years. Sometimes, as we travel through one, two or, even, three states in a day, the highway miles blend together into one long stretch of homogenous countryside. But Texas refuses to let you forget where you are. "Drive Friendly" signs, bluebonnets and buttercups grow along the roadside (thanks for those wildflowers, Ladybird Johnson). When you stop for lunch and order iced tea, the waitress asks for clarification: "sweet tea?" And the Texas lone star hangs on front doors and is proudly painted onto the sides of old brick buildings, mailboxes and whatever else will stand still long enough to be painted.
Now that we're back in New Mexico, I have to admit I miss being urged, as I'm leaving a roadside cafe, "Y'all come back now!" And we will, because of one blond, blue-eyed little girl that I miss. And her mama and daddy. And a new heart-tugger on the way.