Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hurtling the Highway on Spring's Cusp

ON THE ROAD — Spring appears to have commenced earlier in East Texas and now is making its way toward the Hill Country. At least that is the impression left as I travel the highways most weekends, headed back to the Pine Curtain to visit both my mother, in failing health, and my lovely fiancé and future daughter. I’m again grateful I bought a hybrid Ford Escape four years ago, as gasoline prices shoot ever upward.

Once again, I’m flummoxed that prices rise here instantly because of turmoil in Middle East that may or may not permanently affect oil production. It is not as if the gasoline in the storage tanks here just arrived from the refineries. No matter. I’ll just grit and bear it — grateful the Escape gets 30 mpg. We have tried to write gas prices stories at every newspaper I’ve drawn a paycheck from, with dismal success. Trying to get a straight answer out of the folks who actually have something to do with prices — not the convenience store managers but the actual suppliers — is about as fruitful as trying to pin down state officials on how they propose to balance a state budget that is $25 billion out of whack without raising taxes.

But I digress. We were discussing spring. East Texas begins, by my definition, just east of Corsicana, with I-45 serving as the dividing line. Folks living in Corsicana might consider themselves to be in East Texas, and that’s fine. I bear a grudge against that small city because it takes so blasted long to drive through it. I once wrote that I would vote for anyone for governor who built a loop around Corsicana. There is still no loop, and Rick Perry is still governor. Those two facts might not be related, but there you go. With the budget crunch, I’ll probably be too infirm before a loop is built to drive this route and avoid the 9.6 miles of stop-and-go traffic that defines the home of Collin Street Bakery.

East of Corsicana, the grass is greener now. Ragged rows of daffodils carpet old home places, planted decades earlier on plots where the houses have long turned to rot. The various trees sporting white blossoms — dogwoods, Bradford Pears, and others — are in full regalia. Redbud trees add a purple accent to the sights as I whiz down the road, listening to the Simon and Garfunkel station on satellite radio. Yes, there is a station devoted entirely to Simon and Garfunkel, another for Bruce Springsteen, Elvis (of course) and others. For three hours I hurtle down the asphalt without hearing the same Paul and Art song twice — singing along as the lyrics return from deep within the memory bank. It has always baffled me how I often can summon and sing lyrics when a song is playing that I haven’t heard since Jimmy Carter was president — but can’t remember where I ate lunch yesterday.

Sorry, I keep getting sidetracked. We were discussing spring, which arrives officially on March 20 this year. In East Texas that means sometime before April Fools’ Day every outside surface will be covered with a sickly yellow pollen that will take a gullywasher of a thunderstorm to dissipate. You learn early to not open windows during the Yellow Tide period there, tempting as it might be for that welcomed breeze. Here on the edge of the Hill Country, so far my windows are open much of the time with no deleterious effects — save a sneezing bout from what is likely a mild case of cedar fever. I can’t wait to take a bluebonnet tour down toward Brenham when the time is ripe.

I spent the last weekend of winter here and not on the road for a change. The peeps are headed this way on Sunday since it’s spring break. I mowed with the blade low to capture the dead grass, used the bagger and filled seven biodegradable sacks with clippings. The rye grass my landlord planted out back to fill in until he can have sod planted had neared hay-baling height. I sneezed and wheezed my way through a pleasant and breezy morning of mowing, trimming and stuffing sacks. The sun was warm on my back, and the cold beer with which I celebrated completing this task sure went down well, washing dust and such down the gullet.

It won’t be long until such lawn cleaning requires gallons of iced tea and a towel to wipe off the sweat. I’m enjoying the early days of Central Texas spring, no matter how brief the season.

Originally published in the Hill Country News (Cedar Par, Texas), March 17, 2011.


  1. I have a theory that Corsicana represents a rip in the space-time continuum.