Texas piney woods & gas stations & the prairie

Ok, so I had no money & was reduced to walking. Once I’d got out of town for the first week or so I was walking along the roads through the famous piney woods (true, they are relatively piney). This picture will illustrate the thought.

Then I met the Atchison-Topeka-Santa Fe line & started walking along that. To get money I was pulling sleepers and nails off the tracks and selling them to the families of Texas prairie mutants who live along there, (they like to have crucifixions), and it’s safe to pull a sleeper or a nail out of the tracks every now and then without necessarily derailing any trains.

So I think I walked for about a week and then one day I got to where the train line crossed a highway. It was one of those level crossings that kill so many people in Victoria because they don’t respect the lights. You must always respect the lights. As I got there the crossing lights started going off like an Oklahoma backroom dancer, whose sparkly be-tasselled act somehow involves a cowbell and a saucepan. So I stood waiting for a long time (I got off the tracks of course).

I waited and waited for about an hour I reckon, the crossing lights were going madly the whole time & the sky was a triple shade of blue. It was so weird, you could look in every direction and see cleanly for miles, the horizon line on the prairie is like a knife edge, and there was absolutely fuck all coming in either direction along the tracks or the road. I think it’s NASA’s fault, their navigation devices like GPS interfere with the non-NASA technology in Texas. Anyway, I didn’t realise that at the time so I stood there waiting and eventually a semi came up on the highway, small at first and surrounded by a mirage-like fog of dust. The driver saw me standing there and he actually put his engine brakes on and stopped the semi so it screamed to a halt halfway across the tracks. It was a total run or rape situation with further ethical dimensions: the crossing lights were still going off and I still thought that a train was gonna come and then there would be a semi trailer parked across the tracks and I would kill like a million people in a smash if the driver was out chasing me on the prairie. So, I got in the semi (I’d never hitch hiked before then!)

That was Billy Bob and we came quite friendly, and it was with Billy Bob I experienced a long &  sweaty & not unwonderful tour of all the craptastic diners and gas stations along the way. They were always attended by the same woman named Barb; the diners tarted-up for tourists were always glamorously patronised by truckers and those mentally unfit for work (even as truckers). The landscape was prairie, which at times touched the edge of the desert. We drove and we drove. I could go on like this for quite some time. A lot of Texas is as seemingly endless and just as empty and pointless as the conversations you will have there, particularly if one of those anti-evolution mutants thinks they have got your ear. Billy Bob’s swansong was the loneliness of life on the road. But I began to tire of it, rather.


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