Texas-AKA flyover country
So I’m fueling up my new truck in east Texas cattle country, and for the first time, briefly, I feel like a real Texan. After all, this beast has a giant diesel motor just like every other vehicle in the Lone Star state, and it’s so tall that a ladder would be a nice accessory, so now I think I finally fit in, at least from a vehicle standpoint. I even have a country music station tuned in for good measure. Then I look down at my feet and see flip flops there, which provide indisputable proof that I am not any kind of Texican at all, but rather just a Jimmy Buffet-style Florida wannabe poser. Because after all, anybody knows that real Texans wear rattlesnake cowboy boots and belt buckles the size of dinner plates, so who, at the end of the day, am I?
Anyway, I’m standing at the pump squeezing that last drop into my 35 gallon holding tank when I notice a nail in my tire, so the fact that the “Low tire pressure” idiot light has been on for about 800 miles finally makes some sense to me. When I ask, the girl behind the counter at the station tells me in a sweet twang that if I just follow “the road” 5 miles into cattle country I’ll come to an intersection in Wills Point, and if I take a right there just past the “Cowboy Church” (which, I later discover, actually has an iron silhouette of a praying cowpoke identifying itself as such)- why, then, I should find myself “right in the center of town”, from whence I should be able to easily locate an auto shop.
I’m not real happy about taking a detour on what is already a 2,000 mile trip (long story-you see, I needed to pull my newly purchased fifth wheel, since my last trailer adventure was such a delight, and I found this great deal in Denver, and…oh, hell, never mind). So I take the side trip out of necessity, and immediately I’m rewarded with the sight of sunny fields filled with bluebonnets, a cattle auction in process (with a ton of trucks even more gargantuan than mine in the parking lot), a herd of longhorn steers further down the road, the aforementioned Cowboy Church, and, yes-even a brace of Dromedary camels grazing peacefully in someone’s pasture! I roll my window down to enjoy the day and am greeted by the fragrant scent of fresh manure.
I hit Wills Point’s only stoplight and proceed as directed, past the delightfully named Peckerwood Feed, but everything seems to be closed on this Saturday afternoon. That’s when I realize they’re probably all at the auction, but luckily, just before I give up, I notice that the Chevy dealership is open. It’s the kind of store that’s a throwback to another era, with big painted metal “Tire Service” signs and glass-paneled garage doors for extra light. I pull in, and am greeted by Johnny, a big, raw boned kid who immediately directs the mechanic to get to work on my truck.
While I’m waiting, I notice an alignment machine from the 1950’s in the shop. I know this because in another life I was a sort of technician myself. I ask one of the mechanics about it, and he tells me that not only does it work, they have an old guy who knows how to use it. He’s been there since 1983…but still, the machine’s been there longer.
About this time, I notice with alarm that the mechanic is jacking up my vehicle and removing the tire. I am concerned because usually when I get a tire plugged it’s only $5-10 and there’s no need to take the tire off the vehicle. Johnny tells me not to worry, which makes me worry even more, because now I’m thinking OK, here I am on a Saturday afternoon, I’m in a dealership, which is always more expensive than the corner garage, I’m (seemingly) their only customer, and to make it worse, my truck has Colorado plates and I’ve already asked them to hurry because I still need to do at least 500 more miles today. If ever there was a time to rip off a customer,this was it.
Anxiously, I wander around the “showroom”, which sports exactly one car. It’s the 50th anniversary edition of the Corvette, which means the only car they have on display is 15 years old. On closer inspection, I can see that there is a spider web between the driver’s seat and the cowl panel for the convertible top.
That’s when Johnny calls me back to the shop. The mechanic is already moving my car out. With a great deal of trepidation, I ask, “What do I owe you?”
Without missing a beat, Johnny replies, “it’s on the house.”
Now, I’m pretty sure at this point that the two guys standing there (Johnny and the mechanic) are enjoying my look of astonishment, because my mouth is open, and I can’t seem to shut it.
“Well, uh, I didn’t come in here for a freebie. Really, what do I owe you?”
“It’s free, don’t worry. Not worth doing the paperwork.”
So I shake their hands and go, but not before the mechanic tells me he’d like to move to Florida. The trouble with that is, in Florida, there’s a decent chance he’d be asked by an unscrupulous boss to cheat the customer. He wouldn’t be able to attend the cowboy church, and his sweetheart wouldn’t think that either the grime under his nails or his tractor was sexy. And she wouldn’t speak with a twang or likely be interested in a family, not until she had established a career for herself, and by that time, they probably wouldn’t be together anyway.
So I point out to him that where he lives is a pretty nice place, all in all, and maybe he’d be better off there than moving to a rootless state where he has no kin, but I don’t think he’s convinced.
Still, I thank God that there are still places like rural Texas. These are the people that the plutocrats and “journalists” sneer at when they speak derisively of ‘flyover country’. They are hated because they are Christian patriots who “cling to their guns and Bibles”, as one of our worst Presidents once said, but then, that particular ass-hat would have never volunteered to fight for his country, let alone deigned to fix a flat for free for a stranger.