11.12.2007,8:40 AM
250 Tales: Small Town Texas

I wasn't born under a bad sign but I sure was born in the wrong place. Growing up in a city in New York I always felt out of place. Like I didn't belong. Because I didn't.

My mother's favorite tale to embarrass me is when I ran away from home at the ripe young age of five: walking down the sidewalk, butt naked, pushing a stroller filled with my shoes and pajamas. I don't remember that but the photo my Dad took is evidence that I can't refute.

I do, however, remember the next attempt at running away from home a few years later. Just after reading Tom Sawyer I borrowed my mother's scarf, piled food in the middle and tied it closed. Then I tied the bundle to a broken mop handle and sauntered around the neighborhood pretending I was in the swamps of the Mississippi searching for alligators and boogymen. A nearby vacant lot overgrown with tall weeds and cracked concrete was my hideaway until it was dark enough that everything turned spooky. Then I heard tigers and lions roaring, ghosts boo'ing and monsters rattling chains. With my heart pounding in my ears, I grabbed my mop handle and ran full speed for the comfort of bedroom. And a stern "Don't do that again until you're sixteen!"

Our family moved out into the suburbs when I was eleven and was fortunate to have pastures and woods bordering two sides of our acre house lot. I spent all my time outside exploring, ice skating, building forts and igloos and sleeping on the lawn in my sleeping bag memorizing the constellations. My parents couldn't keep me in the house. I still had wanderlust.

I waited until after graduating from high school at the age of seventeen to run away from home again, this time with my parents blessing. I wasn't running away from anything but the city and to rural America; out in the woods and lakes of Maine where I would live for the next thirteen years. This was when my life really began.

It wasn't until twenty-four years later that I returned to living in a city, moving from the coastal mountains of Oregon to Austin, Texas. You can take me out of the country but you can't take the country out of me. It's in my blood. Somehow.

The last several years I've been in search of rural America again; the countryside, country living and country folk. Where life is real. At least to me. And what better way to explore rural areas than on a motorcycle. The combination is natural; it is meant to 'be'. In essence, it is 'me'.

My bike is my horse and my saddlebags carry what I need. Whether on the 250 or the 650, I'm still Lewis and Clark, exploring wild and rural America. That's where my heart is. One doesn't have to leave their own state to find it.

Rural Texas is where I was introduced to real Texans. Those that were born and grew up here. Many with family history going far back, several generations. I don't have that kind of history; I'm a nomad at heart. I can't even comprehend living in the same area I grew up in; it doesn't compute. Nor do I miss it; my roots are shallow and wide and easily uprooted.

Yet stories of other people's family history and their towns always interest me. Traveling on a bike seems to be an invitation for the local folks to talk and share their stories and their lives. Perhaps the openness of riding a bike entices their curiosity or invites them to be open as well. Or maybe it's because we are more obvious and visible than if we were in a car or a truck. Everybody drives cars and trucks; fewer ride motorcycles. We stand out from the majority. And we are different in many ways because despite the risks, this is our passion and what we choose to do. Perhaps that, too, sparks curiosity and even envy.

So in a sense, I'm still that little kid with the bundle strapped onto my bike and the spark of wanderlust ever in my eyes. I don't ride away from anything, instead I ride to new places and meet new people. Next to the remaining wild places in this country, my favorite is rural America (and Canada): the towns and their people.

Having ridden through Aledo once, I wanted to return and explore the town. So Ed and I took the long way to Aledo from The Malt Shop. Riding west towards Weatherford we turned southeast on Bankhead Hwy , riding past farms and ranches for several miles. The wide and well-surfaced road at an intersection suggested a highway, but we saw no sign indicating its identity. We gambled on Ed's intuition and turned right in a southerly direction hoping it was FM 5.

The road was smooth, sweeping through cattle and horse farms, pipe fencing and white stone houses, small and big stately barns, and large round hay bales in fields. We rode over gentle hills in North and South Annetta and soon approached the typical gargantuan 'burb' houses clumped together suggestive of a larger town nearby. Sure enough, we found ourselves at the intersection of FM 5 and FM 1187 just south of Aledo. FM 5 meanders south and then loops west to end at FM 1187, a busy road connecting I-20 and Hwy 377 to the south and which dissects the small town of Aledo.

I remembered that the town center was just north of the intersection and we rode up the hill and over the railroad tracks to a rough old street (N Front St.) intersecting Hwy 1187. On the east side was a row of stores and cafes with a covered porch or boardwalk spanning the entire length. Several hundred yards from the end was the typical small town monolith that graces many rural towns: grain elevators. The tall twin cylinders hovered over the town and the hill, aglow with golden light from the setting sun.



I backed the Sherpa up to the wooden porch as a car pulled in next to us. An older man unfolded out of the driver's side with a leash which he snapped onto the color of a miniature collie. We all walked out onto the partially paved and gravel street and parking lot where a livestock trailer was parked. We exchanged greetings with the man and the little collie was the sweetest dog I've met in a long time. She was truly a little lady and she obliged me while I photographed her.


Strolling around I photographed the buildings and general area, then sat for awhile on the wooden boardwalk relaxing and enjoying the quiet and the view.



A white Bronco-style car pulled up full of teenagers chattering and waving to get our attention. Although they were all talking at once, we surmised they were on a scavenger hunt of some sort. They had to fulfill requirements typed on a sheet of paper and apparently involved getting photos of certain items or places. I suggested I take their picture next the the two 250's and they thought that was a great idea. Out they piled, three girls and two boys, standing next to and behind the bikes while I snapped their picture with one of their cameras.

A mass of giggling and squiggling, they retrieved the camera and ran for the car jabbering as they piled in and the Mom piloted away. I stood there and shook my head wondering what just happened, "What was that?!"

Peace and quiet was restored after they drove away. While we sat I watched traffic buzz by at a constant pace only a few hundred yards away, lights and car traffic noises going south and north, over the railroad tracks and over the hill. We were far enough away that it all seemed so removed while sitting there in the light of the setting sun and immersed in quiet peacefulness. It was as if an invisible demarcation separated the world of busy life flowing by and the quiet relaxed one we sat in amidst old buildings and facades. It was almost surreal.

Few vehicles came our way except to stop at the local pizza place and a big truck that rolled slowly by. By that time the sun was splaying colors on the sky as it set and all the color magic began that accompanies the setting sun. With camera in hand, I found many photogenic opportunities. Once when I turned around to face the store front, I saw the entire colorful performance unfold reflected in the windows. It offered an exciting and different perspective.







We sat watching the entire sunset performance, relaxing on the boardwalk as the darkness settled over us and this small Texas town of Aledo. I suspected that in five years it would no longer be the quaint quiet town it enjoyed right now. It seems to be the way of 'progress.' If you want to call it that.



Time passed by before I realized that darkness had fully descended upon us. The lights in the shop behind me were aglow in the window, cool air now beginning to blanket the hill. It was time to say goodbye and go home.


Next: Springtown

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posted by Macrobe
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