Trail of the Lonesome Pine

Piney Woods, Groveton, TX U.S. 287 Groveton TX

As I was saying there are a lot of places in Texas and the States generally which boast of having only a single lonesome pine but which arguably have more than one pine, an accompanied pine, if you will. One of these places in Texas is the famous Piney Woods region in East Texas, where as has been discussed previously there are a multitude of pines… enough to constitute a wood. Following the U.S. 287 I run on into Groveton which also has its Piney Woods and its unsealed Piney Woods road which runs on into Piney Creek Road and then V B Woods Road and finally roads that have desisted in having a name at all. There were a great number of pines there. But what I was looking for was the archetypal rustic ‘lone pine’, an unkempt stretch into Nowheresville with a rusted unhinged gate collapsing into the dust and perhaps a skinny rabbit nibbling dried horseshit.

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So I was kicking along one fine Texas day under a full blaze of infernal sunshine (it was so hot the last town I passed Thru days before had their “Fire Danger Today 🙂 ” signs out) far enough out in the rustic regions that the google street view car can beam back only pixelated images, and has little else to capture other than its own shadow, radiant skies, and unnameable unmanned steampunk-style drain pipe holdings. There was a graveyard’s vista of telegraph poles loping alongside the road where both the painted yellow lines and the tarmac itself had faded to a tea-stained brown supposed to be nostalgic. There are 79, 535 miles of public highway in Texas. I walked for some time. Then along came a shitty box shaped car driven by a lanky college student with one of those sunny Texas names, Tripp or Chip (I forget which) entirely unsuited to his virginal outlook. He said, “What’re you doing out here?” and I said “Looking for a lonesome pine. What’re you doing out here?” He was just driving along on a Spring break for no reason that either he or I could see. So he decided we could go looking for pines together and was going to drive me up a piney ridge called precipitously Black Spur or Black Horn.

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In Texas, the road signs become less friendly the farther out you go: from “Drive Friendly- the Texas way” they had changed to “Don’t Mess With Texas – $500 littering fine”, “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You!” and the dark simple scripture of “Maintain Your Vehicle”. Of course, a roaming ranger was unlikely ever to pass by this way; there were three T-crossed-poles or radio towers at the very top of the spur which looked like a tableau of the crucifixion, enough to remind you that motoring crimes would be left to be punished by the ultimate judge out here. Tripp or Chip had arguably not had his self-esteem propped up enough in elementary school and accepted my silence while we drove with the equanimity of a pasty lanky kid used to being ignored by the pretty girls; instead we listened to the radio as he mounted the spur and occasionally swapped song titles and misinformation about the artists. For instance he was quite interested to learn a long and not entirely factual sexual history of the young blond Elvis which I extrapolated by listening to the early numbers he shared with Wanda Jackson and the Browns. It was of much interest to Chip or Tripp that in his Aryan youth Elvis always looked despondent.

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Chip or Tripp’s car was an old boxy beery brown thing that had been ticking since the early nineties; everything inside was vaguely sticky and furred with the collected lint and dust of his early years. There was a pile of loose change turning green in the centre tray and a tape jammed in the player. I could hear other cassettes rattling in their cases in the glovebox every time the car swung wide round a corner. We mounted the Horn in swift, sexy rings – at successive turns the radio spluttered out and the pleasant crooning of some huckster turned into an alien wavelength or FBI scramble, then came back again – the higher we climbed the space between the songs and the scramble lengthened until in the end it was just white noise and I had to flick it off.

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