Along the journey from Houston to Big Bend, I had a specific route mapped out in my head. It was the product of a little bit of research, too much overthinking and lofty goals of planned “interesting things” to present here. When I stopped at King’s Smokehouse, after gorging myself on delicious burgers and learning about their process, I was provided an alternative route that allowed for crossing the Pecos River.
I find that in my regular existence of daily life, if I can stick with a plan I do; until something physically presents an obstacle which in all practicality voids the original plan or process. From there, I look for adaptations to work around, over or through the obstacle. On this occasion, I trusted the advice of a new path after regaining some strength from my food coma. This was a new course, but as I was technically traveling (and in a traveling spirit), it felt very different than my normal routine.
The new route through Del Rio, Texas, included a long and straight stretch which at the time transected a normal migration pattern of butterflies. It was a beautiful and tragic swarm to move through at posted highway speeds. Much like the the adage “some days you are the windshield, some days you are the bug”, I watched as dozens of butterflies met their fate at the front end of the transportation. As I saw a Texas historical marker in a small stop along the way, I pulled off to read and grab a shot with my phone. The air was permeating with the sweet smell of nectar that the now defunct insects had consumed. I was shocked by how covered the front of the car really was. So much so that I was not sure that a run through a Bucee’s car wash alone would do the trick.
I stretched my legs, phone in hand to capture the marker. As I turned to move back to the car, I noticed the small swarm of other fluttering and migrating butterflies landing on the front end resting on the still hood. While it was not as voluminous and plentiful as some beautiful Mexican folk art I have seen, the butterflies were standing in scattered formation on the front bumper and hood of the car, even if just for a moment as a slight breeze. In what I once thought a pretty cannibalistic move, it occurred to me that the resting butterflies were actually consuming the nectar of their fallen comrades to carry on in their own journey. It was both natural and disturbing. Sacrificial and savage.
Upon returning to the car, I turned the air up, the radio louder and kept moving. When I reached the Pecos, there was another historical marker at the high bridge to cross. But, alongside the elevated bank with a large drop, there was also safety fencing. I carried a staff along this trip, which was actually presented to reader Max after winning the 2018 DIY Boombox challenge last year, along with a sweet record bundle. (This year’s prize does not include a wooden staff, but is really rad. You still have time to enter, rules are listed here: https://wp.me/p9A8iZ-cP) I, hoping to not find nor disturb any local wildlife, walked around the fence to take in a view that I could only describe as expansively barren. The footing on which I stood was rocky yet flat. I walked near the edge of the limestone gorge, looking around at what was by this time a midday peek at the water a couple of hundreds of yards below. The bridge to cross the river appeared to be only 4 lanes total or maybe 6, which in my mind felt extremely limited for as far as one would travel to the other side at this day and age. Travelers on their family vacations, regular commuters as well as heavy duty trucks all crossed. The bridge is not the longest I have ever traveled, but I remember that the width felt uncomfortable with oncoming traffic, especially with 18 wheelers. Dessa once wrote “You all don’t fear the height, you only fear the fall. Go to the edge sometime and prove your body wrong.” While I stayed well within the centermost lane traveling my direction, I couldn’t deny that falling from the tallest highway bridge in Texas to the water below seemed impossible at the time. The bridge itself is not overbuilt with much above you to focus on for the drivers who might usually look up to avoid shifting your eyes to the minimal appearing railing at your sides.
The general premise behind bridges is that they metaphorically symbolize moving from one point to another. Accomplishing something by overcoming an obstacle. When I think about the route that I took through Del Rio, I remember the Bridge and the River. I remember taking a moment to walk to the edge of the bank. I remember worrying that the wind from passing traffic would knock the boombox down from it’s concrete perch into the water below. But I also remember making that a part of the journey and not the destination. I don’t see the obstacle.
So many of my Grandparent’s favorite movies (on my father’s side) when I was a kid were John Wayne westerns. “McLintock!” always stands out to me from their repeated showings or the VHS cardboard cover that was stacked near their television. While I know that only 2 of Wayne’s movies were filmed in Texas, “The Alamo” and “Hellfighters“, the Iowa born actor always had a way of making it feel like you were in Texas with his westerns.
I get the same feeling about Willie Bobo’s “Old Man River”, this week’s track. It’s a latin infused jazz track, but I imagine with the strong trumpet, that I could easily see The Duke charging across the West Texas dessert, on horseback at a rapid pace to send word of an arrival. Arrival of what? I am still unsure.
Maybe it is the butterflies.