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Getting the lay of the land


After piddling chores were done on Tuesday, it was time to go get some groceries.  The closest  Super Wal-Mart is either in Bryan or Rockdale – both of them are 30 miles distant. I chose Rockdale. First Star Bank  Calvert, TX It looked like a good opportunity to run some back roads and check out the country. Our work situation is a bit different from a normal commuter. We work and live in the communities for months some times. I make it a point to patronize the local merchants whenever possible and integrate into the community. It sure is interesting to live in a new location several times a year. Central Texas has to be my favorite just because it is so varied and the history is so rich.

The city of Calvert, founded in 1868, was named in honor of Robert Calvert, a descendant of Lord Baltimore. Robert Calvert was a large plantation owner and was instrumental in directing the railroad through Robertson County.

In the same manner that the railroad brought prosperity to Calvert, cotton planters (many of whom arrived in the area following the Civil War) established huge plantations with an ambiance of prosperity and Southern hospitality.

Later, many of these families moved into town from their plantations located in the Brazos River Bottoms. They built a number of large and beautiful Victorian mansions, many of which are standing today.

The fertile red soil of the Brazos River flood plain

Calvert is very typical of literally hundreds of other small towns in Texas. Many saw their heyday 50 or even 100 years ago and the population has been steadily declining ever since. Though many of these small towns share a similar time line, they are all unique in their own way if you just take the time to really immerse yourself in the local scene. The railroad and cotton brought fortune to this area 150 years ago and the railroad and agriculture are still key players in the local economy. There is also a healthy oil and gas industry here.

Main Street- Calvert, TX

Main Street- Calvert, TX

It is hard for me to put in to words the affinity I have for these small towns. Maybe my liking is the same reason I shun the interstate highways and prefer travel along the State Highways and Farm to Market roads. You see, back in the day, I drove an 18 wheeler over a million miles. Every state in the Continental United States at least twice. I stared down the endless ribbons of every interstate highway in the Road Atlas and you would be hard pressed to see a difference between the businesses at any exit from one state to another. They are just vanilla boredom. And back in the day, I saw the belly of our economy. Every industrial area, warehouse district, manufacturing plant and produce house you could imagine. None of them were what you would call scenic or pleasing to the eye in the majority of the cases.

So maybe, back in the day, my soul was starved and I was numb to the back story that goes with each and every one of us.  I made a point back then to cause as little ripple as I could.  I didn’t want to know any of the details of how their oldest was doing in football or that their daughter was up for Homecoming Queen.  I just wanted to get on my way and join the melee like every one else.   Wasn’t that what you were supposed to do?

Calvert, TX street scene

I don’t know exactly when I had the epiphany… and stranger yet, I don’t know exactly what triggered it.

One day, I was a Suit in Corporate America doing the commute and festering in my own unhappiness. The next day I was jobless and it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. Looking back, I can only ascertain that if I did not break the chains I felt like my kids would follow the same path. I was horrified that it might take them 40 years to figure out the secret as had been my case.

I sure am getting preachy, huh?  Not my intention for sure!  I read a ton of those motivational, self help, personal enlightenment books back in my other life and you know what I discovered?  Nobody else can tell you how to live your life.  Humans are much to complex for that.   The books sell because so many people are searching for some intrinsic, elusive thing in life that will fullfill them. So far be it from me to be so high and mighty to preachify and tell you my way is the only way.  Cause it ain’t.  Not even close.

When I found the ‘key’ it felt just like that figuratively. It felt like a key sliding into a well oiled lock.  The lock fell away and my way in life was clear to me.  Corny and cliche’ as it sounds. I can’t make this stuff up.

End Note: Quiet time here on the Old Girl with the generator silent and the TV off.  A Jim Beam within hand’s reach and the Zune playing in my ears.  Listening to Wasp’s Nest by Ray Wylie Hubbard from the A:Enlightenment B: Endarkenment  (Hint: There is no C) album.   Sorta fitting don’t you think?

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