Saturday, September 20, 2008

Luchenbach, TX. vs Plains, GA.

Ever look for Luchenbach, Texas? It’s on the map, but not on the road.

Luchenbach—you know—Waylon, Willie and the boys. After Willie Nelson made it famous in song, the Texas highway department can’t keep signs on the road. People keep stealing the Luchenbach city limits signs.

Luchenbach isn’t your typical town. You won’t find it looking main street. Luchenbach is more of a dead-end road. But if you look hard enough you can find it in Texas Hill Country. At the end of the road you’ll find a bar, post office and mercantile all in the same building, with restrooms out back. You can even birdwatch there. The bartender told me there was a red-headed woodpecker in the side yard. It turned out to be a red-bellied but I didn’t try to explain the difference to him .

He also told me a local tractor salesman had just run off with a farmer’s wife. He said the farmer just got a John Deere letter. Willie wasn’t there but he was coming soon to play dominoes. It was going to be Willie against everybody in Luchenbach—should have been a short game.

Luchenbach claims a population of three. The town motto is "Everybody’s Somebody in Luchenbach." I’m not sure who the bartender was but as a resident of Luchenbach he was definitely somebody. He was an incredible guitar player. He was left-handed with a right-handed guitar which meant he was playing it upside-down and backwards. And he played it better than most people play it right-side-up and forward.

Traveling can take you to the most exotic places if you get off the beaten path once in awhile and do a bit of exploring. I’m not saying it is always an enjoyable adventure but most of the time you will end up with lasting memories.

Take the time my wife Gaila and I were headed south on I-75 for Florida. The weather was nice, the traffic was not heavy and we were making good time. All of a sudden we felt adventuresome. We were in Georgia and not far from Plains—home of our new President, Jimmy Carter. "Hey, let’s go to Plains and find Billy’s gas station." If you know your Trivial Pursuit history you will remember that Jimmy’s opinionated brother Billy owned a gas station in Plains. He not only sold gas he doled out free advice to anyone who had a question.

By the time we reached Plains they had already rolled up the sidewalks. Billy’s station was closed—in fact, the whole town was closed. The town’s people had been under so much demand to answer media questions during the campaign that after the election they were wore out.

When you live in a small town in Georgia and one of your own runs for President it is your civic duty to have an interesting story to share with the world about that person. Every one in Plains did their part, sometimes fighting over camera time. But it was over. The town had its fifteen minutes of fame and on the evening we arrived everyone was already home in bed. Not a soul to be found.

We turned our rig around in the entrance to the Plains Country Club. I’m not sure what they did there but it looked like it might involve roasting a pig. The trip back to I-75 was dark, foggy and confusing. I almost hit a hound dog chasing a rabbit across the road, then a kid on an antique motorbike going the wrong way in my lane, and yes, a chicken trying to cross the road.

By the time Gaila and I made it back to the expressway I could have used a Billy Beer. My eyeballs felt like they had been glued open searching the dense fog for Georgia road obstacles. We have never been back to Plains but I’m sure there must be a Walmart there by now. If you arrive and find everyone is still going to bed early, Sam Walton will let you sleep in his store parking lot for free because he’s from Arkansas—but that’s another story!

—Keep Smilin’, Dick E. Bird

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