Saturday, April 17, 2010
Day 114: Yes I'm Sure
Eastern Borden County to Western Borden County. 20.4 miles/2154.7 total
Saturday, April 17, 2010
There's no town anywhere near where this walk begins or ends. I’m leaving from the intersection of U.S. 180 and Texas Farm Road 516, heading for U.S. 180 near the intersection of Texas Route 1054.
It’s cloudy and sprinkling, and the wind has shifted around and is coming from the north today. The temperature is in the 40s, only expected to get up into the mid-50s.
I needed to get back on the road after two days off in Snyder. You can only have so much fun, after all. I think Little Red and Tighty Whitey are in agreement on this. From the standpoint of the pursuit of pleasure, staying another day in Snyder wasn’t going to do the trick. In another half a day I would have been on the verge of serious depression. Even Little Red had to agree that walking would be more fun.
Which is not to say that I didn’t have a decent time. I made some friends. In fact, this morning at about 8:00, as I was making breakfast, someone knocked on the door of the motor home. I get so few visitors I couldn’t think of who it might be. Maybe the Walmart people, running me off after three nights, who knows? Hasn’t happened yet, but I always half expect it. Well, it was none other than my pal Tommy, the twin, wondering if I was going to walk, and if not, would I like to come and have coffee with him and some friends. Apparently Tommy's fulltime occupation is having coffee with friends, which as far as I’m concerned is about as good as it gets. Reluctantly, I told him I was going to try to give it a go out on the road, but that if I changed my mind, I’d see him at Jaramillo’s this afternoon. He said he’d be there.
I did have coffee with the boys again yesterday. In the morning I drove down to Big Spring, about 50 miles southwest of Snyder, to see what was down there. And really, it wasn’t much. Even though Big Spring has about twice the population of Snyder, it isn’t as busy, at least not right downtown. In fact, downtown Big Spring is so decrepit and empty and rundown that most of the second-hand stores have pulled up stakes, although there were a couple left.
I got back up to Snyder just in time for the afternoon get-together. Tommy was there, as well as George, and a couple I hadn’t met named Dave and Susan. But Lonny and Mr. Gomez and the other guy were still whooping it up down in Piedras Negras.
I’ll definitely try to roll through Snyder and see the boys again after I come back to sell the motor home. Oh, yeah. I didn’t mention yet that I sold it. Not the prospect I though I had, but another man who saw the signs and dropped by on Thursday morning. In the afternoon he came back again, with his wife, and said he'd buy it. I asked him if he could wait for another week or so until I get into New Mexico, and he said okay. So after I get to Hobbs I’m going to deliver the motor home to him. And unless he pulls out, that’s taken care of.
In fact, without trying to do so, I managed to sort of vet the potential purchaser. While sitting around with the boys, I mentioned that I’d sold the motor home to a guy in Westbrook, a town on I-20 about 25 miles south of Snyder. Dave asked me what his name was, and when I told him he said, “Ah know that feller.” And he described him to me pretty accurately. Then he said, “Yeah, he’s a good ol’ boy.” Which I think is a good thing, at least in this context.
If this were a clear day I’d have a gorgeous view of some mesas and ridges of hills off to the west. As it is, visibility is about half a mile, and I can occasionally catch glimpses of the prominences, pale and grey, in the near distance.
This is a particularly desolate walk. There’s nothing at all along the way, with the exception of Gail at near the halfway point, and that’s nothing at all, either.
After about three hours I enter Gail. Although it’s the county seat of Borden County, it’s not even an incorporated town. Just a spot on the road. Maybe a century ago it had some promise. I read that its population was over 700 at one time. Today there are about 190 people in Gail, out of a total of 789 in the whole county. The county is about 900 square miles, so the density is less than one person per square mile. There are many more cattle than people here.
There's the Caprock Café, long since closed, filled with junk. Another old store, about a block down, is festooned with junk on all sides, like a yard sale that got away from itself. The Coyote Store is a going concern, but it's closed on Saturdays and Sundays. However, there are two soda vending machines out front, which work, and I use one.
Across the road from the Coyote Store is the Borden County Courthouse, a one-story building about the size and shape of the elementary school I went to in Drayton Plains. It appears to have been built in the 1930s, with a few art deco touches in the decorative concrete pieces. I suppose it’s more than big enough. Off to the side of the courthouse is the old Borden County jail, a building about fifteen feet square, which a plaque says was built from local limestone blocks, and was escape-proof. It dates from the 1880s. The calaboose. Borden County, says another plaque, was established in 1876, and named for Gail Borden, Jr., the inventor of condensed milk. Well, we know that already.
There’s a tiny post office next to the courthouse and a few dozen houses scattered around. The woman who cut my hair in Snyder told me that Borden County is wealthy, from oil and cattle. You wouldn’t know it to look around here. But she did mention that it has its own school system, at which I expressed surprise. She said it’s a good school system, and that they take people from outside the county. Down the road, sure enough, is the entrance to Borden County High School, home of the Coyotes. And it appears to have a lighted football field, and from where I stand, about a quarter of a mile away, it looks pretty new.
A motorist asks me if there’s a gas station in Gail. I happen to know the answer to this question. There is not. She grimaces, and says she’s on empty, heading for Big Spring, about 40 miles south of here. I tell her that there’s gas about 30 miles either way on Highway 180, in Snyder and Lamesa, but that’s it. She’s distressed, of course. “Are you sure there’s no gas in Gail?” “Yes, I’m sure.” Unless you want to siphon some out of a pickup truck. Good luck.
When I told the boys the route I was taking from Snyder over to New Mexico, George kind of smiled, and said, “Well, you’ll see some nice country going that way.” The other guys laughed. Then George said, “And that’s about all you’ll see.”
By mid-afternoon the clouds have lifted somewhat, and the hills in the distance are coming into sharper focus. Grey, brown, green, purple. Red earth. Occasional cattle. Little mesquite trees. Barbed wire fences.
I’ve seen almost no roadkill today, either, even though there must be plenty of wildlife around here. I suppose they’re less likely to be killed on the road because there’s so little traffic.
Off in the distance three or four deer scamper through the brush, and I catch glimpses of their white tails bobbing up and down. And that's it.