Twice Born A Vagabond
A Novel [Copr. 2008]
By D. DeWitt Thomas
Chapter Six

TEXAS



Things quickly changed when Rawley wrote me and asked me to join him in San Antonio. He did well in his senior year at Culver Military Academy and was accepted to Trinity University in Texas. Rawley chose Texas because he had heard about the year round good weather. He was tired of three feet of snow for three months out of the year in Indiana. While at Trinity University, he was elected as President of the Freshman Class and was doing so well that he thought it was time for us to get back together. Rawley drove back to Carolina to get me in his sky blue Ford Galaxy 500. After saying our ado to family and friends, we headed toward the Gulf of Mexico. We stopped somewhere between Mobile and New Orleans at a Stuckeys gift and gas station. Next to Stuckey's, we found an exotic animal farm called Monkey Jungle. There were all kinds of strange animals like parrots, monkeys, snakes, and alligators. We happened upon a wide-eyed squirrel monkey that we purchased for $25.00. Pepper has a brownish orange colored furry coat and an obnoxiously chirping high pitched voice. He is always nervously rattling the paper bag for more peanuts. He will eat anything that we are willing to share from our fast food road feasts. He chirps impatiently and slowly saunters across the back seat, sticking out his plump little monkey belly. Rawley and I finally get back on the road for San Antonio with Pepper tagging along. We drive through Houston and head north toward the hill country. As we approach San Antonio, get behind the wheel and drive with a heightened level of attention to the road ahead, carefull not to squash the occasional armadillo crossing our path. I would hate to provide road kill for the omnipresent turkey vultures so evident here in west Texas. It's easy to get carried away and drive exceedingly fast out here because there are no cops on these long stretches of desert highway. For that matter, there are no people out here in this desolate country. The towns are few and far between and the dusty, dry, scrubby hills and gullies are covered with bleached white jagged limestone rocks, cactii, and mesquite bushes. The bleak topography betrays the pre-historic identity of ancient ocean floor. As we roll along the black tar ribbon, telegraphic flashes of the silver streak seam down the middle of the road provide an almost hynotic trance. We speed along on tires made from the equitorial bloodsap of South American rain forest rubber trees. I am sure that the children of South America, while cooling in the shade of rubber trees, never imagined that the bloodsap of trees that suckeled the moisture from Mother Earth's breast would be found attached to the axils of Rawley's old blue Ford Galaxy 500. We press on. On second thought, I think the incestuous behavior is terrible. Man rapes Mother Earth without a moments pause to consider what the result will be in the future. Pepper and his relatives deserve better than that. We never put anything back. We don't know how to clean up after ourselves. We don't appreciate, cultivate, or nurture the delicate balance between Man and Earth. How long can this one-sided relationship go on? Our mortal finiteness seems so pitifully insignificant when compared to the endurance of Mother Earth, the sustanance for our very survival. We are not even a blip on the cosmic radar. Mother Earth will produce many more life forms before she grows old herself. She will continue to spin and spin until she too becomes cold and barren like her sisters and that is a long time away.
While the planet spins eastward, Pepper and I continue our journey as we travel westward across this chunk of space debris we call Earth. Desolation becomes more and more apparent as we get further into the hill country. The scenery of the urban sprawl that we had left behind only this morning where the buildings are stacked-high one upon the other in the blighted and densly populated All-American city was extremely different from the wide open spaces of West Texas. In the city you will find our species electronically wired and networked through conduits for transmitting and receiving more and more subliminal misinformation and propaganda. Big Brother funnels it into our habitations to manipulate like Pavlovian dogs our collective soul. Freedom...my ass. The fifth estate...my ass. Justice...if you have the money to prove that you are innocent.
Pepper and I stop at a comfort station. That's surviving on the go. We take a little walk off of the road to the foot of a nearby hill to stretch our legs. We walk to the top of the rocky hill and can see for miles and miles. There is nothing obstructing our view toward the endless horizon whose pink edge skirted the very limits of our perception in every direction. This is the picture that I had in my head as a child in Carolina watching the cowboy westerns on television on Saturday morning. This was the real thing. This is what brought Davey Crocket from Tennessee and this is what attracted Daniel Boone from North Carolina. An unobstructed view of the edge of the world with wide open spaces, big skys, the frontier, the American West. This is the stuff from which dreams are made but it is disappearing right before our eyes. Where has it gone? As I look out over the blue horizon, I can see a thin darker blue line where the sky touches the earth and higher up a much lighter blue as I lift my eyes toward heaven. And even higher still my gaze spreads upward toward a purely white puff of clouds, so high even an eagle could not reach it. And behind that is a deep transparent space of electric azure blue so ashamedly beautiful that is defies description. The clouds move ever so slowly so as not to distract from the peaceful stillness. The universe completely disregards my being there.
Pepper tugs at the cuff of my jeans and chirps reminding me that we are on a journey, so we leave it behind us and we move on west toward the sheep ranch. The Earth spins east...one more time.

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