A while back I had occasion to travel across 400 miles of Texas – about half the state – with my older brother, Redneck Dave. We call him that out of admiration for his unbending and unapologetic devotion to life as he sees it. He loves his nickname, by the way. Wears it proudly.
He is one who is not particularly talkative on long drives, but he does share a few observations between extended silences. In fact, he’s not very talkative anywhere. Even if six or seven guys are sitting around at the house shootin’ the bull, he’s not likely to say much. He’ll just be in the corner quietly whittling a stick. He doesn’t carve it into anything: he mostly whittles big sticks into little ones and then starts on another stick. Once in a while he’ll look up and share a thought or correct someone on something, and it is then that people pay attention because he’s got a tiny bit of Confucius in him, a tendency to nail down the truth in a way that sticks with you.
When I travel with him, which is rare because he doesn’t much care to travel, he is different from most riders because he doesn’t have a phone to distract him. He just looks out the window and watches the world go by, seeing things the average person would miss – because they’d be scrolling through their phone – or because the things that fascinate him wouldn’t even register in most of our minds. It’s like having your personal color commentator along for the ride.
So I made a note of a few things Redneck Dave said on our drive across Texas. They are these:
“Let’s take the FM roads as much as we can. Stay off the interstates. I don’t want to be looking at the butt-ends of 18-wheelers all the way.”
“I’d like to meet the guy that built that fence. Always liked a man who could build a good fence. We’d get along, him and me. Look at that. He’s got eight-inch round posts ever’ forty feet set in Quikrete and t-posts every ten foot in between. King Ranch fencing. Straight as a West Texas highway and tight as a banker. That wouldn’t stretched with a come-along, I’ll tell you that for sure. That was done with a tractor. Can’t get a fence like that that tight with just a come-along.”
“They built all these expressway bypasses around these little towns. Terrible thing. A bypass will save a man with a bad heart, but it’ll kill a town. Sad to see it come to this. These little towns is what made Texas Texas. Hell, where do you think the talent and know-how in them big cities come from? It came from these little towns. They’re killin’ off the farm teams.”
“You’re drivin.’ You can’t look, but there’s a beautiful Brahman bull back there about 200 yards in that pasture. Must be a troublemaker. Appears to be pastured all alone, separated from the herd.”
“That’s hell of a big pothole you just hit. I think you had to aim for half a mile to get lined up right.”
“These big ol’ windmills they have. What’s that? Turbines they call ‘em? Yeah. Well, to me they’re just windmills on steroids. I’m not against ‘em for what they do, but they sure do ugly up the place. Do they need so many? Looks like greed won out over pretty.”
“Heads up. You got a big freight truck comin’ up behind you doin’ 90. Ever notice that as you get close to a big city, about 40 miles out, everybody drives faster? The closer to your destination, faster you drive. Not true for old people though. They’re all closer to their final destination in life, and they drive slower. You’d think teenagers would drive slow, given all the time they have, and old people would be in a hurry, but it’s the opposite.”
“That was a good lunch. Used to they’d give you a glass of ice water before you sat down. Now you have to buy it for three bucks. Not even Texas water. Comes from Japan or one of them snowy countries in Europe.”
“I’m gonna have to see a man about a horse pretty soon. No, I don’t want to go to no rest stop. 800 people in those places. Might as well take a number. Just pull over there by that fence. I prefer the rancho grande. No line, no waiting. And I always go on the road side of the fence. Government land.”
“You need to lose weight. Here’s my diet for you. Work more than you sit. Don’t eat if you ain’t hungry. Big meal at noon. No second helpings. No eating after supper, which is at 7.”
“Thanks for the ride, brother. I’ll get on down there to see you soon. Just have to wait a while. DPS ain’t real happy with me right now. Supposedly I owe them some money. Best I’m not out on the public highways just now and sadly there ain’t enough dirt roads to reach you. When they settle down I’ll come see ya.”
Redneck Dave is always a delight. I’m sure most Texas families have one of their own, or wish they did.