A Long Way to
By Paul Greeley
Published: May 25, 2010
For many North Texas moms and dads, the end of the school year at Texas Tech in Lubbock triggers the annual trek in station wagons and SUVs via ancient migratory routes (in my case, RT. 114) to collect their sons and daughters for the summer. So like the swallows of Capistrano, I joined a flock recently to bring home my freshman son.
But this bird didn’t fly far before getting his wings clipped by a
policeman for speeding. I tell the policeman that if he’d give me a break, he’d
be preventing a crime. Bridgeport
“What crime is that, Mr. Greeley?”
“Murder,” I say, “’cause my wife is going to kill me if I go home with a ticket.”
Sadly, issuing speeding tickets trumps crime-prevention and humor in
My first plan was to drive out one day, spend the night and drive back the next. When I tell my son that I plan on sleeping in his dorm room, he too fails to see the humor. I think the thought of his old man walking down the hall to the showers carrying a shaving kit with nothing but a towel around him must be horrifying.
So I decide to make the trip out to
and back in one day. Alone in the car
for 6 hours through empty miles of black cows and brown horses on a sea of
green Texas grass puts me in a reflective mood. The years peel away to my
freshman year at a college in Lubbock .
I didn’t realize then that it was my first step on a journey away from my
parents that would take me around the country eventually depositing me here in Pennsylvania . I think about my
son and wonder--no, I know--that this is his first step, too. Texas
I stop for breakfast at the Green Grog diner in Jacksboro, where a group of guys joke with the waitresses in the corner. In the parking lot after, a big old good-old boy in denim over-all bibs who follows me out asks me if I got my share of abuse from the waitresses.
“No,” I joke, “I didn’t see it on the menu.”
“They serve it up anyways,” he says, laughing as he heads off, working a toothpick back and forth.
The road kill is mostly armadillo, skunk and unrecognizable with an occasional coyote to break up the monotony. I’m in the middle of nowhere where even cell phones can’t reach. My GPS shows nothing but a featureless straight line---no Starbucks here for sure. I drive past
and Cattle Company, Since 1933, and into Dickens, a town where even if you know
where you are, you’re lost. Where the Dickens are we? Pitchfork Land
Eventually, I pull onto the sprawling and beautiful campus of Texas Tech and find a spot right outside my son’s dorm. I’m anxious to see him. As he walks across the parking lot to my car, I hardly recognize him. He’s taller, straighter, wearing glasses and a broad smile. There’s no sign of a mustache. We hug and I tell him, “I like your goatee.”