Monday, August 11, 2008

Texas Road Trip

I recently had a chance to motor west to attend a watershed conference in Luling, Tx.

Let me preface this by the following assurance to the geographically insecure reader:
You probably have not heard of Luling, TX. No one holds this against you. Of Luling, like many places, it can be said "if you blink, you'll miss it". However, in Luling's extraordinarily miniscule case, that maxim applies not only while traveling 70mph down 10, but also ON A MAP.

It's a wee little place. The type where most of the signs are handmade, and probably all the better for it.

As those of us expats who rarely venture forth from the fortified stetsons-and-lattes city-states of Austin/San Antonio/Houston are invariably amazed at, life exists out in the rural "hinterlands" of Texas. And almost equally invariably, these small towns are pretty much like small towns everywhere else, except with a certain extra portion of that unique Texas weirdness.

First of all, Luling is obsessed with watermelon:


Really obsessed with watermelon:
No, I mean REALLY obsessed with watermelon: (picture from web)

They have an annual watermelon festival that apparently, from the otherwise abandoned whistlestop appearance of the town, forms the vast majority of their local economy. Coming from an area whose yearly events were headlined by a Dairy Festival, I am engaged less in mockery than in fond reminiscince of agricultural enthusiasm gone awry.
I wandered about at lunch with my camera, and ran smack dab into the other set of curiousities in Luling: the "gussied-up" oil derricks. Out in mid-west Texas, tiny single oil pumps are common sights in fields and along roadsides. They are accompanied, whether up or downwind, by a characteristic smell of petroleum...not the dizzy sweet smell of gasoline, but the dirty, rancid smell of unrefined crude.
Luling has the distinction of having several of these derricks in the midst of their downtown and residential neighborhoods. In an effort to prettify what, anywhere else but the Oil Patch, would be a shocking variance from traditional urban planning, and in the grand tradition of vaguely humerous country garden folk art (oh hey the old lady is bending over, ha ha, pass the cheese curd.), Luling's residents have gathered together to offer the following:
The football player - just off main street (as the derrick moves he makes the pass!)
The gardening girl (as the derrick pumps, she picks flowers!)
The Cow jumping over the moon (it, well, you can guess. Sorry for quality, out the car window from a distance)
And these are just a FEW of the ..somewhat disconcertingly cheerful camoflauges on derricks around town. A phenomenon so cherished there is a museum of sorts along the main street. Oh, and the train literally runs along main street. Right. through. it.
I may be presenting this with a bit of a laughing smirk, but having carted a rusty and dented trombone in threadbare uniform through countless local parades for all manner of agricultural and other celebrations, I bear a certain fondness for the ability of a small community to bond over any common ground. I may be hypocritical for turning around and having at disaffected urbanites after a post that admittedly has a bit of the "oh dear, the provincials are sooo ...provincial" to it, but there is a certain grounding in places like Luling that Houston will never have, and will always secretly covet.
(?species) Lizard, Luling, TX

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