Sunday, April 10, 2016

five in the morning

five in the morning, at a bridge under the interstate, a giant tumbleweed appeared out of nowhere; it was at least as big as my small car, but i swerved suddenly and avoided it. i was confident that there was no one beside me, though now I have my doubts; was I really sure or was i just lucky that it was early in the morning? i was on my way to the airport for an early flight. up on the interstate, people flew by me going 75, 80, 85. i stuck to a timid 65, my confidence damaged. I knew that these things were fairly common, but i still wasn’t used to them.

a small one had darted out at me one time, and it had some cotton stuck in it on the side, so i’d thought it was a rabbit, and i’d swerved that time too. i should be careful, because I figure you do more damage swerving a car suddenly then just running the things over. when i got to the airport i told people what had happened. the parking shuttle guy said that winds were supposed to be at 50, but were at more like 35, he knew this was no 50. i was a little rattled again, trying to imagine how this would affect an airplane.

at the starbucks the woman told me that they were prickly things and could puncture stuff. when you think about it, that has to refer to tires, because what else can you puncture on a car? i thought of the turtles in southern illinois, which we used to avoid, because they’d puncture a tire. actually, i’d even stop my car, get out and save their lives, because i figured, on some level, someday, a turtle would get out and mylife.

on a windy day out here, you can sometimes see lots of tumbleweeds flying by, on a single field. tumbleweeds are an imported bush, called russian olive, and i don’t think anyone imported them to harvest the olive; in fact, i’m not sure why they imported them. they took well to the high, dry plains of cowboy country. but they also have this habit of blowing around like crazy in the spring. i’m not sure how people do it. once i saw one stuck to someone’s front radiator like an old wreath. maybe you just hope to hit it head on, keep it away from the tires, and live with it for a while. never carry balloons in the front of your car.

tumbleweeds are brown and you can almost see the thorns as you come up to them, and screech to a stop before they can slam into you, with their thorny weightless bushy essence. i’m sure these thorns can puncture stuff, and I’m also sure they’re not so great on the paint on cars. if a 30-35 mph wind kept pushing thorns like that up against your car, you’d probably have some damage to the paint, but I’m not sure. my impression is that if you live in the country, you get to buy a new car every year anyway. out there people are pulling cotton out of the ground like there’s no tomorrow. and they’re selling it at lucrative prices.

in new mexico i asked an older lady about tumbleweeds once, thinking i’d get some insight; that was around the time i thought one of them was a rabbit. she said she had a son at the white sands missile range who was working three stories under the earth, when they called him up one day because of a tumbleweed emergency. apparently some huge tumbleweed had flown by, and it was on fire, and they were worried that it was going to catch some cars on fire out in the parking lot. he, apparently, had a truck and some tools, presumably a shovel, because i can’t imagine what else he’d do about it. i assume he lit out across the white sands missile range, on a kind of white sandy desert that goes for miles, and i imagine we was the kind of guy who would drive faster than a tumbleweed would fly, and would hack at a burning one with a shovel, or whatever people carry around in the back of trucks. i can’t imagine what else you would do. And i’m a little skeptical that one of them could catch a car on fire, but it must have been a problem, or they wouldn’t have bothered.

around texas people always know the wind speed, and they get pretty good at estimating it – 25, or 30, 35, 40, up to 50 which is a downright hassle, sand in your teeth, driving becoming unpredictable, that kind of stuff. it’s really a kind of progression of wind getting more bothersome, because some dust gets in your teeth even at the lower speeds, and the dust that people actually breathe is known to cause health trouble later on, or what was called during the Depression, dust pneumonia. you don’t want it. you don’t even want to think about it.

i was playing fiddle the other night, and the wind was blowing, maybe 20, maybe 25. it felt like if i played out of tune, the bad notes would float away, and people would only hear the good ones. the park was green, and with the city green as well, the amount of dust was limited, but in fact, i don’t really want dust in my fiddle either, and i’m pretty sure the other band members feel the same way, as they’re from around here, and know this stuff better than i do. the mando player actually carried around a little wet thing that dried out and humidified his mando; he claimed that he had to start over every day, it was so dry. he wanted the mando to have some resilience against the dryness, and not lose its tune constantly. i myself don’t seem to have problems with the fiddle going out of tune; the night at the park was actually the first time I’d even had to adjust it, in several years. my fiddle is happy that it’s come to Texas. I pull it out of the case and just play it. there’s no special complication, no tuning fork, no nothing. the world is what it is, and you either get out your fiddle, or your shovel. you do what you have to do.


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