When I was a kid, it was not uncommon to see strange cars drive by our rural home on a Sunday afternoon. As often as not, these were town people, driving out in the country on their one day off from the cotton mill, the water plant or one of the few stores available in a small village.
We would occasionally see these cars, or some very similar, when we went into town with our parents to buy groceries, go to the bank, or …well that’s about the only reasons we had to go into town. I didn’t know many town-folk, and probably thought it a bit strange that on their day off work they drove out into the country.
Doesn’t seem a bit strange now — I’ve spent most of the last 40 years driving out into the country as a big part of my job. It’s probably the best part. I get to experience through work what the townies were looking for back in the ‘50s and ‘60s on their Sunday drives — scenery, tranquility and open spaces.
I was reminded of how much I enjoy that aspect of my job recently on a trip to Oklahoma. I flew into Dallas, rented a car — had to wait in line for an hour to get it — and headed north to Altus, Okla., just in time to appreciate Dallas rush hour. The red taillights of slow-moving automobiles stretched for miles, serpentine ribbons of frustration slithering along at a snail’s pace. By the time I reached highway 380, just north of Denton, making Altus in time for a leisurely dinner and a restful evening in a hotel room was not in the realm of reality. And it was too dark to enjoy the scenery.
The next day was different. Our new Southwest staff writer Shelley Huguley met me in Altus, and we drove north and east into Oklahoma farm country. Within a few minutes we were reacting to those magnificent rock mountains that ring Altus. We stopped at a cotton field — a lake of pure white and infinite promise — where we shot photos of white cotton against the pink and blue backdrop of a sunrise.
We saw a flock of wild turkeys gobbling their way across a recently plowed field. Newly-emerged wheat fields were blankets of green between the brown of recently harvested cotton and patches of fresh tilled, dark earth.
We visited a cotton farm — an operation that’s been in the family for three or four generations. The cotton prospects were promising. We stood in the blustery cold of an overcast, windy November afternoon and shot pictures in front of a bright red cotton picker, framed by white cotton and slate gray sky. We made some new friends, marveled at grandchildren playing in the farm shop, took lots of notes then took our leave.
We saw deer on the way back, more wheat, more cotton, more picturesque hills — more God’s country.
Tomorrow, I drive back through Dallas traffic. Wish me peace.