Road Trip! Tuesday, September 13, 2011-Amarillo, TX

I am having dinner with family in Texas, and when you’ve been on the road as long as Jonathan and I, there’s nothing like a good home-cooked meal.  My plate is loaded high with roast beef, potatoes, salad, rolls, corn on the cob, and lime pie for dessert, and we haven’t eaten like this since we were in Amish country.  Just good wholesome eats with good people.  I’m loving it!

We left from Denver this morning and took I-70 to Highway 287, and this is flat, yet somehow, featureless territory, with nothing but big broad rangelands and a cow town about every thirty miles or so, and this could prove to be boring, if we didn’t have the chance to see such metropolises as Kit Carson, Two Buttes, and Deer Trail, Colorado.  We soon cross the Oklahoma panhandle and are quickly into Texas, and Amarillo is our first stop, because if you’ll remember, one of the key objectives of this road trip way back when was to reconnect with my relatives.

I have a lot of kin in the Lone Star State.  My brother’s from McAllen (“The Armpit of Texas”), and I have cousins, aunts, and uncles in both Amarillo and the Big D.  Our family goes way back here, which is unique in that it is the only state that is actually still also a republic.  The Weaver side of the family goes back to the 19th century in what is now Pancake, and I’m not as sure about the Jones side, but I think they have been in Dallas since the 1800’s as well, so we’re pretty proud of the Texas heritage in our clan, as we ought to be, because this is one of my favorite states, and part of the charm is in the famous Texas pride (braggadocio?), which is healthy, as long as you can back it up, and yes, Texans can.  It’s big, it’s bold, it’s in your face, and if you don’t like it, the attitude in general is, get the hell out.  I’ve never met a real Texan I didn’t like.

I didn’t bother to look it up, but I’d wager this state is doing a little better than the rest of the country.  They still have oil, big ports, some high tech centers, and lots of agriculture, and I think that positions them pretty well for a recovery if or when that comes for the rest of the country.  I’ll let you know more about this as I visit other parts of the state over the next few days.

We arrive in Amarillo around 6 after an 8 hour drive and go directly to My Uncle Jim and Aunt Pat’s home, which is a neat and modest ranch style brick house in a subdivision filled with homes just like it.  All of the lawns are well maintained and the whole appearance is of a tidy little neighborhood.

Jim Jenkins is a quick-witted retired schoolteacher who won’t hesitate to tell you all about the good ol’ days when he was in the classroom.  According to him, it was a time when he could kick any student out on his own authority and he could even tell the principal to stay away if he wanted to.  He said he never failed anyone and always told his students  “I love you”, and he meant that they could come to him confidentially about anything, which they often did.  Oh, almost all of his classes were composed of Hispanics, who were OK, but he was glad he only had one black, because if “you got two or more of them together, there’d be trouble.”  We all got a kick out of that, but I’m afraid today he’d be sued by the ACLU or some other libtard organization, and that’s too bad, because I’m sure he was a good teacher.

He and his wife, Pat, who are both in their 70’s, appear to be in good shape, though the children worry that their mother is showing some early signs of Dementia, and I notice that she’s having a bit of a hard time walking (and her husband is scheduled for a new stint).  Pat has a ready and warm smile and that typical easy grace that I love so much about Southern women.  I don’t know, but I don’t think she ever worked outside of the home, and raised two children, one of whom I couldn’t connect with in California (Mike, a defense industry engineer), and Jill, who is dining with us tonight.

One of Mike’s daughters is Kelly, and she lives with Jill in Amarillo, so she’s also here doing a little substitute teaching on the side.  It’s kind of like a mini-reunion, and we have fun catching up with each other.

We are staying with Jill and Kelly so we head over to their apartment, which is a very nice 2-story red brick townhome that Jill moved into when she sold her own house after only 18 months on the market  (any sale is a good sale these days).  She considers this home to be a temporary living arrangement, however, and has her heart set on a custom zero-lot line house that she hopes to build later.

Jill is a pretty, slim, fun, and vivacious 50 year-old with a great sense of humor.  She’s recently divorced and still teaches in the local school system and has a lot of fun and interesting “war stories” to tell about that, which she proceeds to do when we get back to her place and open a second bottle of wine.  Jill is the proverbial life of the party, and the ultimate people person.  You CANNOT meet her and not like her!

Kelly is a smart blonde (no, that’s NOT an oxymoron), beautiful twenty-something California transplant with a bright smile, a liberal arts degree, a penchant for lemon drop martinis, and is a little more reserved than Jill, but of course that’s not saying much. Jonathan and Kelly are a good compliment to Jill and I, the yen and yang of the conversation, and it’s a fun and interesting group of people.  I LOVE these guys!

We stay up until midnight drinking, laughing, talking, drinking, reminiscing, joking, drinking…until finally Jill has to back to her parent’s home to sleep, because she’s given us her own space in the house.  I feel guilty, but it’s way too late to argue about it, so we’re out for the night.

Tomorrow, we visit the World Famous Cadillac Ranch.  Be there!

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