Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Love of the West

I've always had a love affair with maps.

One of my favorite parts of a trip is planning the trip. I can read a map like other people read a novel. I'm aware of every mark on a map and what it represents. As I plan a trip, I can visualize what is down each road, and I get excited.

As a child, one of my favorite books was the Texas Almanac, which was published every other year. I loved the section that provided information on Texas county by county, including a small map of each county. I devoured that information: population of the communities in a county, major businesses, agricultural production, and various other related information.

I would spread  a Texas road map on the floor and pore over it from east to west, from north to south. My favorite area was the west, especially the area starting with the Hill Country and moving to the Davis Mountains and Big Bend Country. This was fueled, no doubt, by my love affair with westerns. Towns in that area had a romantic sound to them: Sonora, Eldorado, Del Rio, Pecos. I heard those same names on the Saturday morning westerns I'd watch on our black and white TV set.

So, once I completed my college work, it was no surprise to my parents when Donna and I moved west. I knew that as an educator, I'd never make much money, but I knew that I could travel the state as a teacher, moving from teaching job to teaching job. And I've pretty much done that, from Olton in the northwest corner of the state to Ozona in the southwest corner.

I do love West Texas.

I love those wide open spaces and that big sky. In the morning and evening, sitting out is so much more pleasant than in the humid east, and even during the hottest part of the day you can sit out if you can find some shade and a breeze -- and there is almost always a breeze in West Texas.

People who simply pass through West Texas often don't care for it. They say it is only desert and that there is nothing to look at.

I disagree.

If you know where to look and what to look for, there is plenty to see here. And I'm not just talking about what you can physically see -- I'm also talking about what you can visualize if you know anything about the history of this area. It's a rich and exciting country, and one worth spending a little time in.

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