cold war paranoia is bigger in Texas

“Ya look like weird foreigners.  Where you freaks from?”  His words slurped from his loose mouth.  “You sure as hell ain’t from Texas.”  He muttered the foulest swear words as he slouched against a wall.  I felt like throwing him out the window, head first.

“Where you headed?” one of the farmers asked politely.  He adjusted his baseball cap.  It was covered with dust from fertilizer.

“We’re just traveling,” I said.

“Hippie, welfare-grubbin’ foreigner, lazy, good-fer-nothing’ …” the puffy-faced slob mumbled.  Everyone heard him.  I glanced over at Barbara to give her the sign that we’d better leave when one of the farmers, who had not said a word, walked over to the man, still swearing under his breath, and grabbed him by the arm.  He half dragged him out of the store.  I heard a pickup truck door open and slam.  The pickup wove down the road.  The silent farmer walked back inside, said, “Sorry about him.”  The farmer looked apologetic as he said, “Ever since ol’ Wilbur’s wife died, he’s been goin’ downhill.  Been drinkin’ from sunrise to sunrise.  They say two fifths a day.  Lost most of his farm and even stopped comin’ to church.  He used to be a deacon in our church.  Sad, ain’t it?”

Everyone agreed; one person nodded.  “Young lady, you people ever been in Texas before?” he asked.  He looked like a Southern Baptist preacher.

“Can’t say we ever have,” Barbara answered.

“Well, let me speak for everyone here and welcome you to the greatest state in the Union.  Ain’t nothing like Texas.”  Everyone agreed.  A bunch of them smiled.  “Fact is, friends, we’re glad you made it through Louisiana.  Now that place don’t even come close to comparin’ with Texas.  Ain’t no place in the world that compares with Texas.  IF you people are lookin’ for somethin’, then you found it.  We got everything there is to want and then some, don’t we, boys?”  He pointing the face into the west and all of Texas.  Any real Texan would have stood to attention.

I walked over to the refrigerator to get another Dr Pepper.  “Did you know Dr Pepper’s from right here in Texas?” the preacher commented.  I said no, I didn’t.

On the side of the refrigerator was a yellowed sheet of paper that had been there for many years.  The title was A Communist Manifesto.  It was a sort of summary of the Marx and Engels theory.  The man who owned the place noticed me reading it and spoke up.

“Now, boy, that’s one document you need to memorize.  You even seen it before?”

“No, I haven’t,” I said.

“Well, if you were a Texan, you’d know what that said.  That’s how the communists plan to take over the country.  Not one shot fired.  They’re doin’ it, just exactly like it says on the sheet today.”  His face was turning red with zeal.

A couple of farmers left.  I watched one drive down he road on a big red and black Massey – Ferguson tractor.

“Those commies know that they can’t take over this country in a fight.  They know that Texans still are ready to fight.  Ain’t we, boys?”  His eyes held a straight-line stare out the dirty window.  “Boy, you read The Communist Manifesto while you’re a’travelin’…. ’cause them people ain’t gonna fire a shot, ok?”

“OK,” I said.

The Walk West; A Walk Across America 2; published 1981; Peter and Barbara Jenkins.  And, of course, here we have shades of Bill Moyers in his 1970 “discovering America on the road” book.


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