An errant boyhood in the Texas borderlands

44ea8054159099b6b90b5528233befe0_XLRoger D. Hodge at The Oxford American:

When I was eighteen years old, I packed up my car and left Texas forever. Maybe not forever, but I’m still gone. I spend as much time there as I can, and its landscapes inhabit my imagination, but since that bright, sunny day in 1985 when I drove off to college in Tennessee, unconsciously reversing my family’s long-ago westward migration, I haven’t lived in my home state for more than a few months at a time. The Texas that I keep in mind is largely defined by the Rio Grande and from my hometown perspective stretches westward from Del Rio—which sits at a crossroads of Texas geography, on the northern shoulder of that intermittent stream that we insist on calling a big river, where the rolling grasslands of the Edwards Plateau give way to the great Chihuahuan Desert—through Comstock and beyond the Trans-Pecos creosote flats and the steep draws along the canyons of the Rio Grande and the wide volcanic vistas of the Big Bend to the barren, sandy wastelands of El Paso. But also and especially it includes the rugged canyons of the western Hill Country that drain into the Devils River as it winds its way toward the Rio Grande. Beyond the immediate range of my boyhood domain, that long riverine landscape drops below the Balcones Escarpment to encompass the flat savannas and harsh Tamaulipan thorn brush of South Texas and the fertile lowland vegas of the lower Rio Grande valley. Beyond the Hill Country to our northwest, the Llano Estacado rises up and opens the infinite expanses of the high plains, whence the Comanches came down their raiding trails toward the rivers, where they preyed on their ancient enemies the Apaches as well as the precarious settlements and ranches of Texas and northern Mexico.

Above all, I think of Juno, now just a name on a map, a spot on a perilous winding road, no longer a town. The post office and the school, the hotels and the saloons and the old country store are all long vanished, the stones and the lovely old hardwood washed away by floods, carried off by interior decorators and “reclaimed,” or gone to dust.

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