We woke up Tuesday morning at 8:00, a shocking feat, and after a quick breakfast and some pick-me-up showers we were on the road. The road in question was I-44, which goes through the state of Missouri diagonally from St. Louis to the Oklahoma border. Missouri has always been interesting to me. Here we have a state that is anchored on the west and east with awesome cities—Kansas City and St. Louis, respectively—with hundreds of miles of absolutely nothing in between. On Tuesday, we traveled the hundreds of miles of in between. Things improved little when we reached the Oklahoma border, where not only did we have to drive through hundreds of miles of dull landscape, but we had to pay to do so—I hate toll roads. Our drive was briefly livened by some friendly Oklahomans driving a souped-up, CB antenna sporting pick-up loaded down with shingles. These hillbillies were the victims of KMart’s ‘conservative’ driving and when they finally got the chance to pass us they gave us the finger not only through the front window, but the back as well. Good times. The rest of our day long journey was uneventful, and we pulled into KMart’s driveway just in time to eat a little supper, watch a little Planet Earth, and hit the hay.
Wednesday, Texas. We began the day with a hasty breakfast prepared by yours truly, before heading out. Waking up around 11 everyday has its perks in the fact that rest of the world has been functioning for hours in preparation for your arrival. First, we ventured to the alternative school where KMart’s mom is the principal. We met a few interesting characters, then continued our journey, which took us to the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum. We may not seem like the art museum types, but we do like to appreciate the finer things in life from time to time and we spent an hour or so taking in an Andy Warhol exhibit. Class acts, that’s what we are. We grabbed a quick bite—Stronghand’s first Whataburger experience—then headed for the homestead. KMart’s mom was hosting a church group, so were quarantined to the back porch, where we took up station next to the firepit with a trusty cooler full of friendly longnecks. We tried to light a fire, but to no avail. Correction: by “tried to light a fire” I mean we squirted lighter fluid on a log and threw matches at it, then squirted more lighter fluid on it. The ensuing blaze was underwhelming. Once Bible study concluded, we turned the TV towards the window so Stronghand could watch American Idol while we floated in the pool. Luckily, someone had moved the cooler next to the pool, ensuring the beer didn’t go bad before it could all be drunk. After a few hours of soaking, we returned to our sleeping quarters for another restful night.
Thursday began with a drive from Ft. Worth to “the ranch” in nearby Rio Vista. After lunch at Fat Albert’s—classic smalltown joint—we went to KMart’s grandparents’ house. There, we met Mimi and Papaw, the saintly forebears of our own KMart. After some requisite chatting, Papaw offered to mix us a drink, since it was, after all, almost 2 o’clock. The offer was for a bourbon and water, which we all accepted. It’s a good thing we weren’t too picky because, according to Papaw “water’s all I got to mix it with and y’all don’t get any scotch.” We watched the first half of the A&M-Nebraska game while Papaw spouted wisdom to us from his easy chair. The most treasured gem was, of course, “Do your loving while you’re young, you can drink when you’re old.” What a guy. After a muddy rip around the pasture on the 4-wheeler we set to our “chores”, namely sweeping out the barn where KMart’s sister’s engagement part would take place on Saturday. This took, like, twenty minutes, followed by more bourbon and waters and shooting the same Dr. Pepper can over and over with a .22 until we ate supper and headed back to KMart’s house. I don’t know if it was the sun or the bourbon or just the last couple days catching up with us but we were lights out by 11 o’clock. Embarassing.
Friday saw the arrival of many party guests, including KMart’s sister and her husband-to-be, along with his family, his best man, and various relatives of both families. This jovial, party-like atmosphere was a change from the frat house, drink to get drunk attitude and I will say it was a welcome change. Finger foods abounded and a giant Shiner variety pack replaced Coors Light in our diet. Awesome. We put on our best “hanging out with adults” act and I must say we did an alright job at it. Well, at least I think so. The ladies headed off for a bridal shower, leaving us to our own devices. We ventured to the Stockyards, where KMart’s dad graciously paid the 12 dollar cover at Billy Bob’s Texas (thanks again, Mr. Martin). Billy Bob’s Texas is a giant ‘megabar’ that you could probably fit my entire hometown inside of. It features a bullriding arena and live music. Friday’s act was Mickey & the Motorcars. I would not recommend them to my friends. The stereotypical “Texas” crowd was out in spades. Cowboy hats, Wranglers, bigass beltbuckles, and starched shirts were the reg here, and along with the bright neon lights it was a definite change of scenery from the dingy bars stuffed with college kids we’re used to. After our spell in Billy Bob’s we headed downtown to a hookah bar. This was when the night took a turn for the strange. The hookah bar was staffed by sketchy looking Lebanese guys and smelled like falafel. So far, this does not differentiate from any hookah bar I have ever been to. The fact that Stronghand had to buy a one year membership ($10) and the hookah “lounge” was a tiny, crowded room furnished with tattered furniture and equally creepy blacklights and middle-aged dudes set this hookah bar apart from the rest. The tobacco was good though and our six-month hiatus did nothing to stop us from buzzing like bees. KMart’s parents, in wishing to avoid us coming back to the house at 3 a.m. had the foresight to get us a hotel in the lovely Park Central hotel downtown. This was a very cool old hotel in a very cool old building in a very cool old part of town. But, as I mentioned, it was old. Someone commented that it reminded them of the room Chigurh shoots up in No Country For Old Men while others thought it would make a great hideout for bank robbers. Either way, we were there for six hours, max, catching a little sleep before heading back to KMart’s for Saturday, the big day.
Saturday, aka Judgment Day. We rushed home from the Park Central for some breakfast burritos; it’s always awesome to be staying in a real house where someone cooks you food. Quick showers and we were out the door. We’d spent a bit of Friday setting out tables and chairs in the barn so all that remained were a few last minute detail and testing out the sound system for the outstanding party playlist we had compiled, which featured such jams as “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Kentucky Rain.” The rest of the day was spent milling around until we were allowed to tap the kegs. And tap them we did. The Texas Party was a marvel to behold. 50 pounds of brisket, 90 pounds of crawfish, sausage, potatoes, corn, mushrooms, onions and even some salad. This feast was improved on—no easy measure—by the two easy flowing barrels of monkeys in the corner. We laughed, we danced, we sang raucously. We became fast friends with total strangers. We drank. We reveled in the presence of two fine young people getting ready to tie the knot (congratulations, Stephanie and Chris). We set and broke our own kegstand records. I played flip cup on a team where I was the only one without kids. Someone’s mom tried to teach me to two-step. Good times were had by all. My hat is off to everyone who had a hand in that party, and I’m thankful that I was fortunate enough to attend. As the night wore on, though, the crowd thinned and the gusto for drinking beer waned. KMart disappeared to wander a pasture and I was fast asleep in our sleeping quarters—the back of the Nitro—before he returned.
Sunday was for recovery. Not much more can be said for a day where we had to be practically pummeled awake. Breakfast was ready, but the interest in sausage gravy and biscuits was at an all-time low. I struggled through a biscuit and a half while the adults looked on and laughed at our youthful stupor. We put away the tables and chairs, took out the trash and headed home for Planet Earth and naps. I had one ambitious beer with supper, but my enthusiasm for alcohol was pretty weak. We floated in the pool, watched some SportsCenter, looked at the pictures from the weekend, then grabbed some floor for a good night’s rest before Monday’s long ride back to Omaha.
We woke up Monday and wasted no time getting out the door. Our bags had been packed the night before and left by the door, so we made a quick escape after thanking our hosts (thank you, Martin family). Quick fact: I saw more donut shops in Ft. Worth than I have seen anywhere else in my entire life. This being so, we had to stop and check one out before we split town. We were served by the friendliest Japanese man wearing a towel on his head I have ever met in my life. This guy was awesome, and he gave us a free donut. Loaded up for the long haul, we took the northern road through Oklahoma and Kansas. On this drive we were dismayed to see snow for the first time in a week, forgetting tha spring break doesn’t always mean spring. More toll roads, more desolate, godforsaken brown countryside, and a few more plays of “Rhinestone Cowboy” and we were back to the place we call home, right here at 31/Chi.