Twice Born A Vagabond
A Novel [Copr. 2008]
By D. DeWitt Thomas
Chapter Twenty-three


After visiting my family on the East Coast, I stop on the way back to Texas at a Stuckeys for gas and a snack about 70 miles west of New Orleans down on the Gulf Coast in the swamps. Next to the gas station is an exotic animal exhibit with monkeys, aligators, and snakes. There is an area where the monkeys are displayed and that is where I found Pepper.
Pepper is the name of the cute little spider monkey that I bought for twenty-five dollars from the guy who runs a roadside "zoo". I think the place is called Monkey Jungle and is on the edge of shutting down operations altogether. I really did the monkey a favor when I rescued him from the roadside tourist attraction. The owner of the "zoo" provided a cardboard box with air holes and we put the furry brown-orange monkey into the car. Pepper has a very irritating personality and is constantly screaming and chattering for the rest of the way back to Texas. He is always nervously and obnoxiously chirping in a high pitched voice while cracking peanut shells and rattling the paper bag when it is empty indicating that he wants more peanuts. Pepper will eat anything, chips, french fries, whatever I have that is available from my roadside feasts and am willing to share with him. After arriving in Houston we continue on to the Hill Country west of Austin, near Kerrville, about 200 miles more. The record company, International Artists, has arranged for us to stay on a sheep ranch there to put together our next album. For the next couple of months this summer, we will stay somewhere in the middle of nowhere to write and arrange the new material for the album project that we will record in a studio down in Houston when it is finished. Our producer, Lelan Rogers, plans to release it in the fall of 1967. He will meet us in Houston to produce the record at Andrus Studio. He recently produced a session for his brother, Kenny Rogers, a country artist, at ACA Recording Studio. He has been spending a lot of time promoting our first album called the Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. He is well know in the music business as the "Silver Fox" and I am hoping that he doesn't "fox" us out of our rewards if we ever make it big.

Pepper and I finally get out onto the road for West Texas. I press the pedal to the floor on my old baby blue 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 and we kick up the dust on the way to the sheep ranch being careful not to squash anything at the occasional armadillo crossing. I would hate to provide supper for the ever present turkey vultures that are so prevalent in the desert. It is easy to go 90 to 100 miles an hour here in West Texas because the roads are long and straight, the towns are few and far between. Cops are no where to be found on this desolate stretch of highway. The dusty, dry, and scrubby hill country with gully washes of bleached white jagged limestone outcrops are covered cactii and mesquite bushes. The bleak topograhpy betrays the identity of the pre-historic ocean floor that was here millions of years ago. Pepper and I roll along the tar black ribbon of a road toward our destination almost being hypnotized by the telegraphic flashes of the painted silver streaks down the middle of the road. It is impossible not to count them. Counting the lines somehow seems to get us there quicker. We press forward on the hot desert pavement on cars tires made from the sap blood of Equitorial rain forest rubber trees. I am sure that the children of the Amazon are not aware that the destruction of their rain forest is contributing to the production of another 13th Floor Elevators album. Mother Earth is not amused. Pepper and his relatives deserve better, I think.

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