UP & DOWN THE RIVER: Experiencing a real Texan weekend: Part III

By Bob Garrels
Up and Down the River

Over the next two weeks, Bob Garrels will share with us the trials and tribulations of a weekend in Texas that he has obviously never forgotten.

After supper, Old Sol, having blasted us most of the day, treated us. Hunched over his color pipe organ below the horizon, he played a twilight symphony of soft tangerine, turquoise and an endless melody of blue hues. Wisps of chiffon clouds curled and stretched along the expansive skyline. Soon they gave way to the second movement—deeper royal and navy blues, burgundy purple, touches of rose. Then appeared, one here, one there, all over the darkened vast dome, the sparkling star dancers of the heavens. They spattered the whole vault in scintillating diamond nets from northsoutheastwest. Persians on an Eastern desert charted these divine riders of the vast universes. (I Sang:) “The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas! The prairie sky is wide and high, deep in the heart of Texas!”

Nearby oil rigs shlushed away in phlegmatic cacophony; we drifted off to “The Carol of the Wells.”

In the middle of the night I was awakened. Remember cow pies? Well, the manufacturers of said brown orbs gathered close, and they weren’t emitting the gentle lowing of the farm animals in the Christ child’s stable. These bovines roared! A Texas beer brawl! Were the bulls having a shootout over some cute chorus cow? Was I the first person ever to hear a nocturnal cattle fertility rite? I’ll never know.

UNDER THE STARS: Spending the night in just a sleeping bag can reveal many of the wonders that nature keeps secret during the day. (Courtesy photo)

I churned in my sleeping bag. Wanted to get out and look. Didn’t. Al lay snoring gently; up on the edge of my cot, I gazed at the soft, undulating waves of his blanket. I tried to tap my foot to the rhythm of the rigs. Groped for the bottle of muscatel and knocked down a couple blasts. Got looser. Dropped off.

After Saturday’s breakfast I took a better gander at the premises. Cows had left for parts unknown. Oil pumps now seemed to whisper. A lizard skittered, and a dung beetle burrowed around in its fetid palace.

Al had brought an old .22 rifle for rattlesnakes. Not as authentic as throwing a bowie knife at a jack rabbit, definitely less accurate. The “fahrin piece” had a bent barrel. Valuable for shooting east while facing north. We saw nary a snaky critter. We later learned the Annual Breckenridge Rattlesnake Round Up had taken place the week before. Cleaned em out. Just as well.

Heard the sound of a vehicle heading up the scrabble. Yanked on my boots, spun out of the tent, yelled toward Physics and His Bale of Hair. Al arose slowly, dinosaur coming out of 10,000 years’ hibernation. We pushed our way through the bushes to meet our visitors.

None other than the Sheriff of Breckenridge and his “deppity.” Goodbye pristine morning, and Hello rootin tootin.

While I talked, through our brush gate they strode. Lots of beer cans on the ground, wine bottle on a stump. Doubtful grimaces. Didn’t have to speculate what denomination they were; Irish Catholic would have been a bad guess.

Questions about cattle poaching. Deppity was sent out for a look-see. Sniffed and clawed the area like a beagle. Came back empty-pawed.

Business was over. Their whole demeanor changed. Now they were good ole boys working the range with us. Friendly Texas adios. Warning. “Don’t you be here much longer, y’hear?” Off in a cloud of dust and tumbleweed! (To be continued next week.)

 

Up and Down the River is sponsored by Artworks, a project partially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities through Michigan Humanities Council.

The Artworks office is located at 106 N. Michigan Ave., in Big Rapids. President is Stephen Ross; Jennifer Locke, executive director; Pat Heeter, gallery team leader; and Cathy Johnson, editor.

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