Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

Columns

October 19, 2009

SWEETTALK

Scenic country drive not what it once was

In 1922, A.E. Housman wrote a series of “Last Poems.” One of the verses expressed my feelings on an unexcelled day this week as we drove through the Palo Pinto countryside. He wrote, “Th(is) is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, the happy highways where I went … cannot come again … Be still, my soul, be still; the arms you bear are brittle …”

I am referring to the day this past week when the sun was brilliant, the air was warm and the wind was still, quite unlike recent days of winter weather. As Colon and I drove “the long way ‘round,” as he says it, we encountered some eye-searing sights on the road we traveled. No, this is not going to be an especially poetic column all the way to its end, because the countryside was blemished and unpleasant and downright ugly in some places. The thought went through our minds and mouths, “can it ever be fixed?”

Our midday “wanderings” took us down roads we had traveled many times before, enjoying both the summer and the winter scenes as we drove. Narrow, winding roads are not inconvenient for us. We both grew up in the country and love the natural (emphasize “natural”) beauty of our surroundings in all sorts of weather, so a winter drive can be as pleasing as we want to make it. Unless …

Well, first our eyes were stricken by the multiplicity of gas and oil (I suppose) holding tanks. Several acres of “used-to-be” countryside were being utilized as tank farms. The presence of these tanks precluded the inevitable, that of encountering large tanker trucks, drilling rigs, new graveled roads penetrating into former grasslands, across homesites and everywhere.

Also very upsetting was the fact that former smoothly-paved roads no longer existed. Left in their places were dippy, cratered, rough roads with dirt and sometimes spotted gravel surfaces, all of which bounced us around, raised dust and caused general havoc with our drive. These may not seem so bad if you are driving an 18-wheeler and pulling a large tank-trailer, but they were a nightmare to us and our little Toyota.

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