Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 104: He's Down

Mullin to Brownwood. 22.9 miles/1944.9 total

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Another day, another walk. When will it all end? I’m leaving from just west of Mullin, on U.S. 183/84, heading through Zephyr, Early, and Brownwood.

One more sunny day, with a few high wispy clouds, expected to get into the high 70s. Right now it’s in the high 50s.

It’s a quiet Saturday morning. And it’s a bit of a slow news day. Not much happening. Jesus is dead, after all. He's down, taking the mandatory eight count for all us sinners, waiting to rise again tomorrow and deliver the knockout punch. But as the sign in front of a church in Goldthwaite said, “You can’t keep a good man down.” Reminds me somehow of a gay greeting card I saw once in a shop in Greenwich Village. On the outside it said, “It’s hard to keep a good man down.” And inside it said, “But fun trying.”

Don't the sun look angry through the trees,
Don't the trees look like crucified thieves.

--Warren Zevon, "Desperadoes Under the Eaves"

Today will be my longest official walk so far, although I’m not trying to bump up the distance. It’s just that by doing the extra little bit, I’ll walk right to Walmart parking lot where the motor home is parked. So I didn’t have to move it this morning—just drive the car back to the start.

The elevation is increasing slightly as I work my way to Abilene, a week or so distant. In fact, the elevation will continue to climb steadily all the way into and across New Mexico. Austin’s elevation was about 500 feet, Abilene’s is about 1700 feet, and Hobbs, New Mexico, where I’ll enter that state, is about 3,600 feet.

Mentioning the Battle of San Jacinto yesterday has me thinking about the unofficial Texas state song, “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” The Yellow Rose is thought by many to have been a mulatto (hence “yellow”) woman named Emily West, who came out to Texas as the indentured servant of a guy named Morgan, in 1835. She caught the eye of Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna as he swept through, and may have been occupying his attention when Sam Houston attacked Santa Anna’s troops on the afternoon of April 21, 1836, defeating the army and putting the general to flight until his capture the next day. It would be richly ironic if an African American woman was partially responsible for the victory of the Texans, which in turn ensured the reinstatement and survival of slavery in Texas. (Slavery had been abolished in the Republic of Mexico in 1829, by order of President Vicente Guerrero, himself an ex-slave of mixed African, Spanish, and Indian ethnicity.) Prior to the Civil War this version of the Yellow Rose facts, minus the specific identity of Emily West, was pretty well accepted, but since then the lyrics of the song have been altered to make it less racially specific.

I leave Mills County and enter Brown County. Brown County purports to be a boll weevil free area, with fines for bringing the bugs in. So I check my pockets, and they seem to boll weevil free.

Just before Zephyr I stop in at the cemetery. It’s a pretty large and modern graveyard. Some of the names are Petty, Blackstock, King, Horner, Hollingshead. I rest on the stone of Walter Cornelius.

Zephyr is a small unincorporated community of about 200. It has one open store and a blinking light. A trio of sixty-year-old Chevrolets rust in a field near the road. Zephyr also has a post office and something called the World Famous Zephyr Store. Must be famous in a world other than the one where I live. It’s closed, and has been for some time, as is Petty’s Grocery and Feed. As is, for that matter, something called The Little Green Store on 84.

Zephyr has had its ups and downs. First it was bypassed by the railroad, but it moved a mile east so it would be a railroad stop. Then in 1909 a tornado struck the town, demolishing much of it and killing 34 people. But they rebuilt, and by 1940 the population stood at 750, with a thriving local economy based on cotton farming. Then the boll weevil struck the cotton fields in the 40s and the population declined to 300, then to its present level, where it has remained. The good news, I suppose, is that if you get in your car and drive like a bat out of hell you can be in Brownwood in about ten minutes.

Next I enter Early, population 2,588. Early is a contiguous suburb of Brownwood, just to the east of that city. Early was named for Walter U. Early, who donated some of his land for schools. Early is home to the Heartland Mall, which also contains a movie theater. I have been told by locals that it is the hopping place in the Brownwood/Early metropolitan area, except when they’re having the annual rattlesnake roundup at the Brownwood Civic Center.

Highway 180/84 takes a turn to the left and goes pretty much due west, until U.S. 183 peels off to the north. I’ll leave 183, which I’ve been on for many miles now, and stay on 84.

At 22 miles I leave Early and enter Brownwood, population 20,407, crossing the bridge over Pecan Bayou. Before the bridge I pass Humphrey Pete’s Steakhouse, where I ate last night. Not bad.

Highway 84 is a busy commercial strip, with all the major restaurant chains, motels, lots of gas stations and stores. I’m working my way down to Walmart, which lies just past the intersection where Walgreen’s and CVS face off against each other from opposite corners. Sound familiar? It is.

Walmart comes into view. I don’t think I want to make a habit of walking this far in a day. It cuts into my leisure time too much. Like working overtime. And when you’re self-employed, overtime is no fun.

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