“Here’s the deal, Dad,” my 6-year-old lectured me. “You’ll probably say no, but I’ve decided I’m ready for a visit to Texas.”

The statement hit like a four-letter word. Totally disarmed, I tried to defuse the situation by digging deep into the New Age parent manual and asked how she’d heard about the land of the longhorn. Not surprisingly, I got the straight-shooter answer.

“Well, for starts, I know there’s a beach,” Skyler replied. “My friends said it’s way more fun than Durango, and that it’s kind of beautiful even though there’s a bunch of garbage.”

A family from Fort Worth had moved into the hood not long ago, and apparently their two young girls were preaching some of the Lone Star gospel.

“I think two weeks would be nice,” my first-grader concluded. “And you probably want to leave your bike at home for this trip.”

The words hit like a stampede. First, I was in no shape to pilot the family truckster to the state that made W. king (especially sans bicycles). Second, I remember having a much dimmer view of our neighbors to the south at her age.

Back when Jimmy Carter sat in the Oval Office and Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” topped the charts, Texans still loved nothing better than a visit to Colorado. I did know that the tourist “bidness” put bread on the table and that twangy visitors were by-products of “livin’ in such purty mountains.” Nonetheless, I’d had my fill of “y’alls” by age 9 and happily joined my entire fourth grade class when we declared official war on the State of Texas.

So it was that we got our own version of the Alamo going. During our first (and only) offensive, I diabolically scrawled “Go home” in the dusty rear windshield of a dualie with Texas tags. We all scattered and went our separate ways after the covert action, and I’m sorry to report that the Great War of San Miguel fizzled shortly thereafter. A couple of blonde teenagers from Dallas (we’d never seen frosting or highlights) sporting lipstick and faux-fur jackets showed up in town the next week, and all the boys in the class happily surrendered. The three fourth-grade females (that’s right, I said three) couldn’t carry on the battle alone, but they did rapidly discover the joys of Clairol Perfect Color.

A decade later, I joined another batch of kids (these of the 20-something variety) in a ski town that shall remain unnamed (hint: it rhymes with “breasted fruit”). There, an entire mountain community had adopted a “Let’s mess with Texas” approach to the service industry, and drawling diners, aspiring skiers and faux-fur shoppers all got the county special – heavy-handed tourist treatment.

“Life is a little harder down there,” a friend explained as he served up cold biscuits and gravy and added a 20 percent gratuity to the check. “Texans like surly service. Why else would they keep coming back?”

It just so happened that my karmic debt (the one demanding payment for a dusty finger) came calling that summer. My punishment for that high-altitude Alamo just happened to be four grueling months knee deep in the heart of Texas.

Courtesy of the Gulf War I, a friend and I had picked up two slots on a land-based oil rig outside the dusty backwater of Pleasanton. There, in one of the deepest, darkest parts of Tejas, we worked nearly 70-hour weeks as roughneckers, all in the dead of night.

Amidst the constant roar of engines, we helped the rig slowly chew through the Earth’s core, attaching 80-foot lengths of thick pipe as the bit crawled through dirt and rock.

We celebrated our first day off with 19 hours of solid sleep. A week later, we had adjusted, and a day off meant a trip to the glitz of downtown Pleasanton and one of its two bars. Call me a romantic, but I picked The Oasis.

“ID please,” the aging barmaid (who either went by Madge or Phyllis) said loud enough for the entire bar to hear. Looking at the laminate, she loudly added, “Mainly so we can figger where the hell you boys come from.”

I’d expected to find riches and life experience on my journey to the Texas oil patch. I had no idea that I’d find my own medicine waiting there.

And so it was pretty easy to turn the other cheek when my 6-year-old tourist and I found ourselves stuck in line at a local Mexican eatery. Two Lone Star visitors replete with belt buckles, Tony Lamas and mesh caps were struggling with the menu, the language barrier proving too much to overcome. After being informed that the beef had been locally raised and was hormone and antibiotic-free, the leader finally gave in. “I don’t care about the mumbo jumbo,” he barked. “Shredded or ground? That’s all I wanna’ know.”

Seeing an opportunity for Dallas-Durango détente (and a way to finally wipe the dust from my finger), I intervened. “Pardon the interruption,” I said, channeling my best John Wayne. “But you gents might want to give the ‘Ranch Burrito’ a go,” (the aforementioned locally grown James Ranch burrito).

In return, I received a “much obliged” as well as an “adios” after the boys had polished off their grub in quick time. And as their diesel dualie fired up in the parking, I looked over at Skyler, gave her a gentle pat on the head and said, “And that, my daughter, was the easiest trip to Texas you’ll ever take.”

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows