After the Grandparent goodbye hugs Duker and I crawled into the Hog, turned the radio on high and drove off into and toward a new part of the world. A new life. As I merged onto the highway would you believe the song coming across the radio waves was, "These Boots Were Made for Walking," by Nancy Sinatra. My pink boots were tappin' to the best and as the song played on it seemed to exhilarate my brain which led to my foot to become much heavier than usual on the pedal. I was on my way.
I hit US Highway 71 out of Austin headed for Llano with a hard fast destination of mind. Amarillo and Route 66. It wasn't long before my hard fast attitude went south. I had checked the map again after we found our way due West to Mason on US Highway 29 then to Brady and San Angelo on US Highway 87. I was jig jaggin' all over the map. I had pulled off the highway for a pee stop with Duke at a roadside park outside San Angelo. It was then I realized what a serious trek we had ahead of us.... 637 miles total and I had only gone a grand total of 210 miles. My pink boots felt like they'd been walkin' instead of drivin'. That being said, I removed them and opted for my white tennies and bobbie socks. Yes with Granddad's knife tucked gently inside the left sock. And yes I carried another piece in the glove box. One of Grandad's collection "pieces" he sent with me after the fiasco's I had encountered on my journey from the upper Boundary Waters of Wisconsin where I got sidetracked by a thumber in Illinois. Although he instructed me not to shoot anyone, but to shoot everyone who attempted any harm my way. He had taught me to shoot at an early age so I wasn't afraid. There she laid, soft and gentle, the little killer.....My brand new 1966 model Baby Browning 25 automatic pistol. I was instructed not to keep the chamber loaded because if jarred seriously it could go off on its own. "What?" So I kept the clip laying directly next to her in case of any emergency. I did wonder if there were an emergency how I would get the clip into the gun while shaking violently. I think Granddaddy purchased it especially for me even though he said it was part of his collection.
I had never been to San Angelo. My mind was so set on getting to Route 66 I had forgotten to enjoy my surroundings. So Duke and I drove around the city for an hour searching for sites, history, anything. And we found almost nothing. When we stopped at a quickie hamburger joint I asked one of the locals about the history of San Angelo and if there were any interesting sites to be seen. I heard about some local lawmen and outlaws long since dead. Their best offering was Ft. Concho where the soldiers battled the Indians many times. A University and a State Park. That being said, I looked at Duke, Duke looked at me and we hit the road on US Highway 87 North. Considering my fear of water I had to travel next to the Concho River for way too long but not long enough or close enough to require my paper bag under the seat.
My mind was then diverted to a huge building on my right. We were about sixteen miles North West of San Angelo when I saw it. And the creeps it gave me were hard to find words for. The locals had mentioned it to me at the hamburger joint but nothing prepared me for this viewing. The sign read, Sanatorium Texas. It was the largest Tuberculosis Sanatorium in the State. People told me over four thousand children and adults died there. The number of TB beds had been reduced in the past few years to 550 and the length of treatment continued to decline due to new drugs and surgery techniques. The average stay for people in the beginning was three hundred and fifty five days. I felt hot tears flowing down my face thinking of the little children who had to stay there alone without their Mother's or siblings. So alone, and then died alone. It didn't help the radio was playing, "You Can Never Go Home Again," by the Shangri La's. Duke was now licking my tears as if he knew my thoughts.
I pulled the Cadi over to regain my composure and thanked the Universe for the new drugs and other procedures stopping the spread of that hideous disease. And then we pulled back out onto US Highway 87 toward the city of Watersalley and don't you know I couldn't wait to see why they named it that! I never saw Watersalley. It was listed on my map and all I could figure out is it was part of the Sanatorium. And so it appeared as though we were now headed to Sterling City, Texas and then Big Spring. All the while I had to try not to look at the North Concho River out my drivers side window. The radio helped divert my thoughts of a wheel flying off and the car plunging into the river. Not being able to get the windows open to get out. Or an oncoming car coming into my lane crashing into me so hard the Cadi went airborne in the opposite direction of dirt. My mind heard a huge splash. That is when I came back to my senses only to notice Duke looking at me like I was nuts.
We were a little ways outside of Big Spring when I screamed and scared the beans out of Duke. I said, "Sorry Duke," but look over there. Its "tittie mountain!!" I recalled as a small child driving with my Granddad past this very spot and him telling me to look over yonder, there is "tittie mountain!" And then he broke out in his hearty deep laugh. And sure enough there it was. The perfect little tittie made of dirt and rock.
My side kick Duke rarely understood my emotional outbursts but they kept him occupied and entertained. A bit later we came to Big Spring. What a beautiful sign that was. Even though very small.
I decided it was time to look for a rest area to spend the night. As I drove around the town I realized we would have to head north toward Lamesa to find a rest area and I was not willing to drive one mile more. Wait a minute, I have a million dollars. We can stay at the finest hotel in the area Duke. Sometimes I would forget I was rich. At that moment we were at the edge of town heading out with no where to turn around that I could see. As well as it was getting dark. Suddenly there it was... a REST AREA. Well why not I told Duke. Big Spring isn't a very big town. Probably not any nice hotels here anyway. And so we parked the Cadi, I took Duke for a short run, put him back in the car so I could use the Rest Room myself. When I came out to my horror, there, standing outside my Pink Cadillac was a tall black man. He was calmly talking to Duke asking him where his owner was. Duke wasn't barking in response until he saw me. I was dying inside. My God, how many lives do I have to spare on this trip? I felt like a cat who had already lost two or three. I tried very hard to gather my emotions and think clearly. My gun was in the glove box. I did have my knife tucked in the bobbie sock...... There were no other cars in sight. What had I been thinking? Why did I always think after the fact?
I gave a shout out to the black man.
"Hey, what are you doing out here all alone? Best be careful, my dog isn't so friendly when I am nearer him." My distant thought was telling me how a million dollars will do me no good in this situation. A bad motel would have.
He responded, "Well youse see Ma'am I needs me a lift to da Amarillo city or closest as I kin git. I gots me no money but I gotsta has a ride ma'm."
Any black man in Texas in 1966 knows better than to ask a white girl for a ride anywhere. It was a death sentence. But this felt like mine.