Saturday, February 9, 2013

Adiós to the Valley - part nine

Kevin and Linda are in my old place. The oranges, lemons and limes are being put to good use. For now, I’m in comfortable temporary accommodation at the same park.

Some final drives. First, I have to gas up. Whoops! Closed.

This is State Highway 186 on the edge of ranching country. 

Kilometre after kilometre of wind farms dramatizing the scale of the land.

To the north the King Ranch, 825,000 acres (3338 square kilometres or 1289 square miles) with 60,000 cattle.

It was even bigger and with more cattle in the Nineteenth Century.

Down the road, a lot of cocky deer. I suspect they know in town - this is Port Mansfield - they can’t end up on a plate.

I stop in dots on the map for a bathroom, coffee and chat. Even a dot may have a Whataburger, born in Texas and now in many of the southern states. Not only do they politely bring your fast food order to your table, but the chain has malts, a treat usually unavailable in Canada.

What happened to this motel?

Often, in a scrubby backwater, there’s little to cheer but the high school football team, an obsession in Texas. See a school football stadium in this previous post:

If you want to know what football means here, read Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger. I could care less about school football, but Bissinger’s Pulitzer winner is well worthwhile.

In La Feria, a town of little note, a parking lot mural honours Jim Hudson, who played for the high school and became a professional with the 1960s New York Jets.

La Feria’s gun club also celebrates Americans’ love of weaponry. Hearing what sounds like a local version of ‘shock and awe,’ I put pedal to metal and hit the road. Clichés anyone?

Small towns always have a fraternal order or service club or two - onetime male retreats - as in San Benito where the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks has a curious clock. Each lodge also has an ‘exalted ruler.’

The Valley’s unexpected moments, including on the Mexican side, have more than repaid the costs of my brief second home. Here’s a once stylish 1970s Chevrolet El Camino and watermelon man, just south of the border.

A ruined Catholic novitiate in Mission, Texas.

St. Helen’s in Rio Hondo.

Enough … an early evening visit to the sociable grackles occupying - in their thousands - telephone wires. They’re entertaining characters with an endearingly superior quality rather like crows.

I’ll miss the grackles, smoked brisket sandwiches and cheap margaritas. I’ll miss bizarre elections for judicial and law enforcement posts and conjunto music (based on the accordion and 12-string guitar). I’ll certainly miss Don and Jode.

After all this, can’t imagine you’d want to read about previous Valley winters, but here they are:
For now, a few more Valley sunsets and then time to head north.