Borderlands: Leaving West Texas

West Texas, a peculiar mirage. Far from the veneer of Ft. Worth, the landscape hardens into a fossil of dead oceans. Dust and mesquite replaces the tree-lined avenues; copper-color skin replaces dimestore cowboys. Tourist traps become one-road towns. We are leaving the soft, fleshy bounty of the east for a new world. Measurements differ. Dominion of the blinding sun.

Through Eastland with its snakes and semi-trucks — stopping to pee at a roadside rest stop, panels tell West Texas mythology of oil towns gone dry, horny toads that refuse to die, illustrated panels full of small birds and hawks to be caught out of the corner of your eye.

Story of the Lazarus Toad of Eastland, TX. Photo by J. Max Hun

West past Walmarts; west past dirt devils skidding off the surface of dry fields. The landscape sheds trees to sprout windmills and oil derricks, methodically keeping time with the sun across the shadeless sky. Green fading to gradients of brown, miles to eternity, the radio station fades in and out. Cops swarm like horse flies and the industrial drama goes on.

Is there anyone who loves you, West Texas? How long since your cracked soils felt the soft tread of naked feet or saw the buffalo roam? Where did you bury your vaqueros? Somewhere out on this dreadful plain of industry and burning byproducts…. Who listens to the beat of your midnight drums? Or is the only drum left oil, oil, oil, gas and man’s great phallic excursions into the salt-rimmed crust of bygone sleeping memory?

Up ahead, a sign says: Eunice, N.M. Sixty miles. And the sun burns bright on the horizontal table of your cloudless skies, beckoning us away, away, away….

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