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Monday, February 4, 2008


The movers came this morning promptly at 8:20am. By 9am they were gone. I didn't have much to pack and move, a mere 13 boxes of clothes, books, office supplies and small appliances was all I had.

And then the apartment stood nearly empty, with just some trash strewn in the corners: broken pencils, plastic wrappers, sugar packets. In a week I'm out of this place and on the road.

It's the road that's a bit daunting. The last two weekends have shown me that although I love to travel and explore, I enjoy doing so at a slower pace. I don't want to break personal records by racing across the countryside. I want to take the Slo-Mo train down the backroads and absorb everything in. The nearly 500 miles I drove this past weekend (which cost me $82 in gasoline money) is something I'd rather do in five days instead of five hours. I just hope my back, butt and legs can handle that.

I could leave tomorrow if I wanted to. But I'm already scheduled to leave on the 7th and will stick around town one more weekend since I have a VA appointment in Temple.

It was a warm day today. After 2pm I was done with the errands and drove off toward Oakalla, to assess the fire damage from last week. I didn't see any damage. The burned acreage was probably off a county road toward USHwy 183.

I did see plenty of other things. Besides the cows and goats, there were dead coyotes that ranchers strunk up along their barbed wire, to scare off the living coyotes. I drove past ancient live oaks and hidden creeks that flowed past hidden cemeteries that were the homes now to settlers who died in the late 19th century. Brown horses stopped to stare at me. Vultures flew overhead. Dogs and cats in yards glanced up but were more interested in their own little world of mice, sheep and stray calves.

The white stone homes around here that were built in the 1840s and on still stand. Many are now ruins and stand empty, but many fortunate homes are maintained and decorated in an inviting matter. They are shaded by old oaks and provide a cool sanctuary to livestock and wildlife.

I drove down roads I never knew existed before. I ended up in Killeen, a town of around 100,000 and counting and winner of the Most Crime for a City its Size award last year. I prefer to avoid Killeen as much as possible. The strip malls off Highway 190 are bad enough; the traffic as a result of all the build-up is even worse.

So this is my Texas: gently rolling hills topped with juniper, oaks and mesquite, prickly pear and creeks lined with cottonwoods and elms. A terrain of brittle alkaline soil, ready to tumble away in the next downpour. Buttes that provide a panoramic view of the valley around you that fades into the golden horizon. White-tailed deer, hunters who prey on them and ranchers who drive these backroads with their horse or cow trailers in tow, and who always take a second or two to wave back at you.

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