Friday, April 16, 2010

The Boys

Snyder, Texas

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yesterday I took a day off while it rained. I would have taken it off anyway, but the indolent side of me always feels less recrimination from the industrious side when there's a good reason not to walk. Picture two little Petes, one on each shoulder, like in the old cartoons. The good Pete has wings and a halo, and earnestly says things like, "You've got to keep up the pace. There's a long way to go. It's what you're here for, after all." The bad Pete is red, with horns and a tail and a pitchfork, and he sneers, "Aww, don't listen to that chump. Turn the alarm clock off and relax. Treat yourself. Live a little." That's on a normal off day. Yesterday the bad Pete was greatly aided by the fact that it rained almost continuously, from morning until the middle of the night, leaving lake-like puddles where once there was dry land.

Today the choice was tougher, but still I'm not walking. Although it's not raining as I write this, more rain is almost certain throughout the day and into the night. The good Pete started strong, getting me out of bed pretty early, with "Look, it's not raining right now. You can't sit around here in this little town forever. So what if it sprinkles a little? Since when does that mean you can't walk? Remember all those gloomy days in Indiana in the fall before you got too lazy to walk in the rain? What about Yazoo City? You survived that and you were better for it. Walking in all kinds of weather builds character. Don't be a wimp." Then the bad Pete interrupted from the other side, hopping up and down and pointing to the little angel. "Who put that putz in charge, anyway? You were miserable up in Indiana! And as for Yazoo City, you swore after that you'd never walk in the rain again if you could help it. Anyway, show me the schedule where it says you have to be on the road today. Well? Right. There isn't one. You're doing this for fun. Fun. Have you forgotten the concept entirely? Nobody's holding a gun to your head, although I'd like to shoot that self-righteous little bastard on your other shoulder." Eventually the two little Petes met somewhere around the back of my neck and began duking it out, so I brushed them both away and went to check out the five-day weather forecast. Tomorrow the chance of rain is only 30%, and it goes down after that. So I've committed to one more idle day. Little Red, as I've affectionately come to think of him, strutted away in triumph. He knows the angel will come back later in the day, when I'm bored and depressed, to tell me he told me so. But he doesn't care. Little Red lives in the now. And if it the rain doesn't materialize during the day, the angel will be there with, "Nice going, dipshit. You wasted the whole damn day, for what? Because you were afraid of a couple of drops of water? Jesus Christ." Hey, that's how my angel talks.

It wasn't time to do laundry yet yesterday, but I did go to get a haircut at a little barber shop just off the courthouse square in downtown Snyder. The sign outside said "Specialty ... Men's Haircare." Two women manned the chairs, a Mexican and an Anglo, each approaching, or perhaps having reached, middle age. It was one of those places where you looked at the people who were cutting hair and thought, "Do anything to my hair except what someone did to yours." I got the Anglo, and about halfway through the very normal haircut she was giving me, an old guy came in to sit and gossip and sort of flirt with her. I felt like I was in Floyd's barber shop on the old Andy Griffith Show, with Floyd being a woman (not a real stretch when you think about it). The two of them chatted, and my barber clipped on. I was telling her my deal, and just happened to be mentioning that I'd read that this was the home town of Powers Boothe. She nodded, and then the old man said, "Powers Boothe! I knew that boy the whole time he was growing up! Good kid. He wasn't really from here in town. His folks lived out in the country." Well, this time I was determined not to miss an opportunity to find out a few more things that had been on my mind (although he didn't have any more to say about Powers Boothe). After the haircut he invited me go with him for a cup of coffee with a group of his friends, and I accepted.

It seems that almost every day this guy, Tommy, has coffee at 2:00 p.m. with a few old retired guys (including his twin brother Lonny) at Jaramillo's restaurant, a place that looks very much like a Big Boy, except that it specializes in Mexican food. So I followed him over (actually it was just up the street from Walmart), and we went inside and he introduced me around the table. Besides Tommy and Lonny, who are 71, there were three others. Tommy introduced George by noting that he was a Czech, as if that signified something. I nodded agreeably, and told him one of my sons-in-law was part Czech, so that sort of cemented a bond between us (a bond that would grow stronger when he let it slip that he was not, like some of the others at the table, a Republican). We talked a little about the proximity of Germany to the Czech Republic, and how back when his people came over they were probably all mixed in with the Germans. I'm pretty sure Tommy mentioned that he and Lonny were German, and were from Hermleigh, born and raised. "Hermleigh!" I said. "I walked through there!" We talked Hermleigh history. "The Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railroad," I said. Tommy nodded. "Yep. The RS&P."

The other two guys at the table were obviously Mexican, the younger one named something like Appolario and the older being introduced simply as Mr. Gomez. From the looks of it he was the oldest guy there, and for that reason was being treated with a bit more respect, or perhaps mock respect. There followed some friendly conversation, which included a bit of loud talk, on account of the fact that certain people were half deaf.

I spent an enjoyable hour with these men, learning about the local cotton industry (two of them had worked in gins and as farmers), and finding out a bit more about those wind turbines I've been curious about. For instance, a lot of the turbines aren't hooked up to the transmission lines yet. The installation got ahead of the rest of the process, so they're sitting idle now. Also, it takes about one acre for each turbine, I guess so they don't pack them too close together. And, contrary to what I'd thought from looking at them, the turbines do rotate with the wind, and the blades even turn somehow to catch the wind. Tommy said some people think they make the cows sick and that they expose people or things to electricity, but he didn't really believe that. I said that for sure those high voltage power lines buzz like hell when you walk under them, and that maybe that was the kind of thing people were talking about. But we both doubted that the turbines, which only generate electricity and send it somewhere else, would act the same as the overhead transmission lines. Tommy, like me, was more or less in favor of the turbines.

Tommy's twin Lonny had been a barber. All he said to me was, "You don't look like you just got your hair cut." Toward the end Tommy (who sounded to me a lot like Slim Pickens) told me he was glad to discover that people from the north, or east, or wherever I was from, were pretty much just like people were down here in Texas. He said I didn't even have that weird way of talking that he thought folks up there had. I said I'd been down south for a few months, and that maybe I'd lost a little of my accent.

Two or three of the guys were leaving in the morning for a trip to Mexico. They're going down to Piedras Negras to spend a day and night. Partying, I guess, with the senoritas.

Now it's almost 11:00 a.m. on Friday and it hasn't started raining yet. In fact, the sky looks lighter now than it did when I got up. Oh well, I guess there's always the one TV channel I can pull in to keep me company. And lots of reading to catch up on. And at 2:00 I'll stop in to Jaramillo's to see if some of the boys are there.


Billie Bob said...

A great read today! No doubt Little Red is doing the happy dance. He will be pointing out that you may miss an experience, like hanging with Boys, next time you're debating the day’s walk. If I were Tighty-Whitey, I’d be preparing a response.

Michael Roberts said...

If you're feeling indolent AND guilty, consider this as a way to pass a day: