Posted by: MC | February 18, 2009

Cattle Trail

Kerrville, TX


The interstate from Albuquerque, NM to Kerrville, TX is … well … long. On either side the land is vast and mostly empty. Exception springs from the brief chorus of rush hour and billboards in Las Cruces and El Paso – fraternal twins of Mexico and the Territory of New Mexico (what we’ve known as the state by the same name since January of 1912). 

In the 1950’s, the Eisenhower administration began stamping in this solid band of asphalt where it stretches now like a well-worn cattle trail. All day and all night herds of semis trundle across these deserts and on through bayous and farmlands to convey commerce among the communities rooted to the southern soil between our shining seas. 

Dodging in and out of the procession of giants are little cars like mine. In NM we of smaller wheel-bases can get away with 80mph. In TX it nudges up to 85, but drops to 74 or so after sunset when the black signs with white lettering read “NIGHT 65.” The rule: 9 miles over the posted limit usually passes, but don’t even think of cresting 10. The word ‘usually’ and the signs showing lone leaping deer are worth taking under advisement. Driving records can be seriously impaired by being lax in attention to either. And, for all you aspiring road trippers out there, six dark hours of this requisite level of attending, albeit vital, gets mighty wearing. 

I’d never pushed my little car into the 80s before yesterday. But the combination of time, distance and a bit of an achy heart served to be all the rationale needed. Environmental sensibilities notwithstanding, I pushed the limit across every mile. And despite its bruises from early in the month, the Mini rose to the occasion without complaint. 

Just before noon yesterday, I left my one-and-only at the Albuquerque airport – right where I’d picked him up the evening of Valentine’s Day. I could have stayed in town another night. I was learning my way around the area near the university. There were very fine people who would feed and house me – who would join me again in that rich tumble of conversation exchanged in rooms beneath stars. But the miles of road between Albuquerque and Kerrville offered something more necessary. So, I chose the road. 

Love is one of those precious privileges in a lifetime defined necessarily by paradox – by ever increasing measures of joy and pain that pitch me consistently beyond every earlier understanding of either one. Delicate as a sigh, relentless as the contagion of calendar dates and more reliable than the ground beneath our feet, love in any form keeps inviting us to show up. 

Time and distance unrolled beneath me for the 11 hours. Strains of country music mixed with news of the day: 

“Obama signs a stimulus package in Denver.” 

Here’s to the trains I’ve missed. 

“Stock market deflates toward 7000.”
Chasin’ that neon rainbow, livin’ the honky-tonk dream. 

The achy heart part of this day and its night fit well with the persistence of highway and the vastness of sky – plenty of room for every song and circumstance, for showing up to love and to every other possibility. 

Tomorrow time will empty into its next stream and I’ll wake up to learn from the words and wisdom of Texans.

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