Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Signs across Texas

   Some things change. Some things, never.

   Evidence thereof was great during a motorized spring swing through a great and greening state.

    The Panhandle city of Hartley — Population: 1 grain silo — has not changed one granule since I was a child sleeping in the back of the station wagon. My parents had removed the inside door handles so that in our wrestling, we three sons would not eject ourselves out into the cactus.

    The state-line city of Texline has changed, of a sort. A well-used and much-coveted convenience store right across from the red sandstone state marker is gone, and with it the curio shop of my childhood dreams.

    A house trailer roughly at the same spot — the first residence south of the state line — burned to the ground some time ago. There it remains. First impressions being what they are, the Texline Chamber of Commerce ought to demand a cleanup. If not, let us request that the Texas Legislature do something. Oops. An oxymoron.

   "Do-nothing Texas Legislature" has been a redundancy for a decade.

    Driving across the state, one wonders if Texas is moving at a brisk pace or is like a Geiser steam tractor trudging on the road's shoulder. It will get there when it gets there.

   Hey, things do happen. North of Lubbock is a brand new — OK, two years old — two-screen drive-in movie theater. The Stars and Stripes Drive-In has first-run movies, swing sets and all.

   And that's not all that's new.

   We noticed that counties had new signs identifying themselves. That's progress. I now know that Dumas is in Moore County and Hereford is in Deaf Smith.

    "You know you've made one trip too many when you remark on new signs on the highway," said my wife.

     Some signs were old standbys, like "Watch for ICE on bridge" we saw deployed everywhere. I always wondered about that. Knowing Texas drivers, the last thing you want is to raise their fear quotient to Level Orange about icy roads. Indeed, at the mere mention of snow, Texans will sweep every digestible item off every store shelf and wage hand-to-hand battles over spare kerosene (even if they have no means of using it). Then, it won't snow.

    You don't see "Watch for ICE on bridge" signs in states that actually have ICE. But at least in Texas people are watching.

     There's also the highway sign that warns of water on the road when it rains. Go figure.

      On our March trip, what we needed most of the time was advisories about wind — like every step of the way.

       Pursuant, and in probably the most striking indicator of change, giant wind generators by the thousands were turning, churning, and presumably making clean electricity.

        My wife is not so sure. She thinks this may be a big scam.

        After seeing waves and waves of the colossal one-legged, four-armed creatures in Scurry County, followed a few miles to the north by a pale army in Garza County waving in the neighbors' southward direction, she deduced that this wasn't about harvesting wind.

      "Those are giant fans. They blow the wind that turns the ones in the next county."

       Powering the fans? Oil, most certainly.

       That Boone Pickens is one smart man.

        Did I say greening? Well, whether or not its leaders are truly enviro-green, Texas is one blushing babe this time of the year, with more chlorophyl than a sea of breath mints.

        We're glad to report that though some visionary types in the Capitol will surely try as they have over the decades, no one has figured out a way to destroy the state's natural charms in commerce's name.

       What was true once from the back of the station wagon remains true now from behind the wheel: "No place like Texas."

         John Young writes for Cox Newspapers. Email:

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