Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Long Way to Lubbock

A Long Way to Lubbock

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 Bridgeport policeman for speeding. I tell the policeman that if he’d give me a break, he’d be preventing a crime.

“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 Bridgeport.

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 Lubbock 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 Pennsylvania. 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 Texas. I think about my son and wonder--no, I know--that this is his first step, too.

At 80 miles an hour, the vast landscape seems other worldly. Oil derricks feed rhythmically on the ground like some strange robotic animal. In this part of Texas, head gear is dominantly of the cowboy variety and vehicles are predominately pick-up trucks, dirty pick-up trucks. Real cowboys drive dirty pick-up trucks. And like horses in these parts, trucks aren’t just for riding--they’re for working.

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.

After my freshman year, I came home with a wispy, see-through mustache that I thought made me look older and distinguished. My dad thought otherwise and said so. It was just another point of view among many on which we seemed to differ. I wonder what changes, if any, I’d see on my son, and vow to say nothing if he has a mustache.

At a pit stop in Seymour, on the corner of California and Main, an older couple sitting in a big older van with a raised roof and extended cab with “American Cruiser’ stenciled on the side tell me they’re California-bound. They must have seen me eyeing the van curiously. I point to the street signs and say, “You’re already there.” The old guy cranes his neck out the window to see the sign and laughs, “how ‘bout that!”


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 Pitchfork Land 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?


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.”







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