written on March 25, 1995
Recently I traveled to west and south Texas on “holiday” as my Scottish friend Jody Taylor calls it. Actually it was more of a couple of days off work and more of a “spring break”.
I took highway 33 out of Sapulpa, Oklahoma intending to take the “blue highways” that William Least Heat Moon describes in his novel which was called by that same name. The first thing I noticed was that the small highways today are colored in black, at least they are on my road Atlas. On the older maps the two lane roads were always colored blue, so my trip started off on a horse of a different color but I swore not to let the little stuff bother me.
I used up all of highway 33 that I could before changing my route to travel south to Binger, Oklahoma, childhood home of former major leaguer Johnny Bench. I stopped at a three calendar cafe for some chicken fried steak and cream gravy—no low cal diets for this ol’ fat boy during this jaunt. I usually rate cafes by the number of calendars they have hanging on their walls—the most I’ve ever seen gracing a cafe wall was five, but I’m sure there’s a seven calendar cafe out there that serves biscuits that will melt in your mouth.
Anyway, after I left Binger, I took highway 152 which I recognized from my old traveling pipeline days and I knew this would take me fairly close to Pampa, Texas where I would pick up my two daughters Joley and Angel.
Angel is a sophomore at Clarendon City College located there in Pampa and she decided to go on Spring Break with me. Joley, who is two years older and has the responsibility of taking care of her Golden Retriever “Mo” and hubby John, told one to take care of the other and she loaded up to embark on the trip with us.
I realized something while traveling with my daughters down the open highways of Texas. Even though we are tied together by the blood coursing through our veins, the similarities stop right there when it comes to environments and preferences.
I am a product of the Illinois River and the Baronfork Creek, of cane breaks and oak groves. I’m a product of marshes and mud, of muskrats and perch. I’m happiest scrunching my toes in the sunbaked sand of the riverbed and listening to the chatter of the red-winged blackbirds.
Jo and Angel are products of sidewalks and buildings, of potted fig trees and the manicured grass of city parks. The only time they enjoy being outside is when they are standing outside of the video store about to rent a movie while six lanes of traffic noisily pass on the streets. They are most at home in a thermostatically controlled air-conditioned house where the outside lights come on automatically.
“So what of it,” say both Joley and Angel, “plenty of people have grown up without the companionship of raccoons and otters. And a lot of great people never heard of a red-winged blackbird.”
I suspect the reason that we want our children to share the experiences of our childhoods is because of the memories that constitute many of the important lessons that we learned early. I learned patience waiting on a fish to bite, respect from watching a wall of rain move in on our house at Briggs, Oklahoma, humility from listening to the thunder so strong, it shook the panes of glass from the window sills.
Maybe I’m just nostalgic for my own childhood, or maybe it’s just wanting to be included in the generation that my daughters belong to now. Still, I have the uneasy feeling that the further we move from the everyday workings of the earth, the less we know of the values that have carried us through centuries of living. Perhaps Kahil Gibran was right when he said, “your children do not dwell in the same house you live in….you can only visit them in your dreams.”