Monday, September 29, 2014

Texas Claimed Him, Attempt Two

A statue stands near courthouse in downtown Waxahachie. An early settler with a lawer shingle, born in Virginia and active in Alabama, has a statue that honors him. The story in brass letters written on the tablet says, "Texas Claimed Him". I found his name. It's Richard Ellis, and the county with seat at Waxa, short for Waxahachie, took its name from him. I surprised that my searches found him so easily. I drove down to Waxa from Dallas to check out the town on the Chisolm Trail, and I had dinner at a steakhouse and walked around town looking for history and maybe a peep or two for conversation. I didn't find a single peep. I found that statue, and then I went back to the restaurant for water and air conditioning. I had no readiness for the insane heat even after arriving in Dallas in early June. And then I signed my credit card ticket, which I had forgotten. The waitress asked me point blank, "Did you forget"? Of course I forgot. Who is dumb enough to dine and dash at a restaurant next door to the county seat, near a Texas sheriff's office.
Texas didn't claim me. That day, I drove back to my hotel, gulping Gatorade, and I slept off the wooziness of heat exhaustion. I remember driving out to Lake Grapevine and seeing the lake rise up in evaporation, surface water vaporizing before my eyes. I found myself vowing to return to our Great Lakes basin and given a chance after Labor Day 2006, I was in my truck and on my way home with a laptop from Electronic Data Systems in Plano Texas in my waterproof tool box. Not all tools make loud noises.
I have a nostalgic feeling for Texas now that eight Labor Days have passed. I remember driving out from Dallas to find the UFO destination of Aurora Texas, missing the off ramp and ending up in Decatur, a courthouse town with a Sweetie Pie's Ribeye restaurant. Sweetie Pie was the longhorn statue on the roof and ribeye was the only dinner served at the long picnic tables thronging with grassland hunting guides and peace-officers attired in sharp blue teeshirts and shoulder harnesses. There's another restaurant where only a fool would dine and dash. I found Aurora by sundown, sipping on a sweet tea as I watched the sun sinking into the Trinity River Valley, water flowing towards Fort Worth and Dallas to fill reservoirs and to be pumped through the city veins three or four times before being water treated a final time and sent downriver towards Houston.
Texas outside of the big cities is the courthouse towns, and I "Got the Skinny on McKinnney". McKinney Texas is the county seat of Collins. The old courthouse was turned into a performing arts center. Lone Star Wine Cellars served up a fine glass of Texas White Wine, which had good acid thanks to the hot weather. A cool, old building that housed the wine cellar housed a coffee house, and I wrote many a short story inside that funky space where loitering didn't seem a concern. I found an old book store with old books that didn't look old or smell musty, a space without a trace of dust. I was to learn that Texans treasure their thick books, and carefully read them at night, sitting on the porch, with the house updraft bringing cooling breezes to the reader's face. These old books had been read many times and shelved with care. Gravity's Rainbow is a long Thomas Pynchon book and its a gateway book for the Texas reader. I got a ticket for driving without a seatbelt on the Fourth of July on my way to Walmart, and the officer served it to me so politely I made no effort to avoid it. I paid the fine willingly in the new courthouse in McKinney, collected by a Justice of the Peace. I kept my seatbelt buckled and kept driving out to McKinney from downtown Dallas to stay in a forty dollar a night hotel where the owners evicted all tenants exactly at 11:00 AM. The rooms were impeccably clean.
Will Juntunen

No comments: