Texas is a huge country. It's easy to get lost there. I wasn't really "lost." I didn't know "where" I was, technically speaking. No doubt I eventually would have gotten to Four Corners using a combination of map reading, dead reckoning, and blind chance. But my odds might be better if I stopped in Blackwater to get some directions. A friendly little gas station caught my eye.
A teenager wearing the barest hint of a scraggly mustache slouched over to ask what I wanted. I tried not to look at the alleged mustache - it wasn't too unsightly on its own, but it didn't fit the shape of her mouth. Her gas station shirt identified her as Loretta.
Me - "I took a wrong turn somewhere. There was supposed to be a good shortcut to Four Corners, but I must have missed it."
Loretta - "Oh, you wanta talk to LEE-roy."
She gestured toward the wooden porch, where her identical twin brother was tormenting a huge white dog and a little yellow dog. Leroy was wearing a gas station shirt with the name "Bud" on it. I gathered that the huge white dog was named Red. During the course of introductions, he assumed a comfortable position on my pantleg. I mean Red, of course. Red retreated after a couple of friendly kicks. A desiccated Civil War veteran watched us from his rocking chair. According to Leroy, his name was Pops.
Me - "I'm trying to get to Four Corners."
Pops, removing his pipe - "Never heered of it."
Leroy - "Sure y'have. That's the place you kin spit on four states at the same time without gittin' out of yer car."
Pops - "He who will not work... shall not eat!"
Leroy, whispering - "Don't mind Pops, he's 109 years old."
Pops - "I may be 109, but I still got my ears. Teeth too, some of 'em. Four Corners HA! I kin sit right here and spit across three Congressional districts! Praise Gawd for Tom DEE -lay!"
The small yellow dog carefully approached me. I was equally cautious - Leroy wore a "Bud" shirt, and the white dog was called "Red." Anything was possible here.
Pops - "Duke, the little yeller dog, is 23 years old. That's 109 in human years, which I reckon makes us the same age. I let him do whatever the hell he wants to do. He might even run for Congress."
The bigger dog, Red, heaved up a small pile of Texas roadkill, then turned to defend it against Duke, the curious "yeller" dog. Duke was about 90% pure teeth, and after a brief negotiation, he began to recycle the mess, alternately lapping and snarling. His performance was surprisingly dainty.
Pops opened one eye in appreciation of the event, removed his pipe, and spat.
"Anything worth eatin' ... is worth eatin' again."
109 years buys a lot of wisdom. I resolved right then and there not to live that long. Even if I had to miss seeing a dog from Texas in Congress, which could arguably be an improvement. Duke had already shown an amazing grasp of politics, Texas style.
Leroy - "Too bad yer leavin.' The armadillo rodeo starts tomorrow."
Cursing my bad timing, I headed for the car.
Texas is fascinating for its local color, but it also has much to teach us about life.
1) Cousins shouldn't marry
2) Whiskey and fireworks don't mix
3) Don't hold a family reunion on the Fourth of July
But I am just a simple Hoosier. Much of the richness and subtlety of the state of Texas may have escaped me. After all, Texas did give us our 43rd president.