We had hammered down Highway 35, open top, shades on heading towards Austin. Late afternoon, full after cheeseburgers and Cokes after Fort Worth, the sun a ball of fire in the hazy distance when the tyre blew out. The old Chevy slewed into the roadside with a groan. Okie switched the motor off and cursed.
Picking his Stetson from the back seat he didn’t look back and headed off back the way we came. Adjusting the driver’s mirror I watched his lean shape slowly fade. Two ragged goats scuffing up the sand in the hope of a root gave me a passing look then took a ‘walk along cattle drives’ as I rolled one and lit up. The hazy smoke drifted carelessly away with the ‘tumbleweeds’, the soothing sounds hummed with them.
Gonna be a long wait.
Soon bored, I rummaged in the glove box. A lighter, a parking ticket (naturally ), the usual rubbish blokes collect, some ‘lazer burn’, even a book ( Accordion Crimes.) I’d never taken Okie for a reader but there you go. There was also a worn cassette probably left by ‘Elijah’ who had warned us about ‘danger in the dancehall’ in Abeline last night. We went nonetheless. We left after seeing the ‘cold blood’. The local ‘chain gang’ were looking for trouble and one ‘broken bottle’ was enough for a swift exit.
The evening was balmy, there was ‘gold in the air’, some big bird soared high above and looking at it almost made us bling. The road stretched on towards the horizon. I examined the cassette tape. ‘Jesse Woods – Get your burdens lifted’ scrawled in biro.
“1, 2, 3, 4” the voice counted. As the sun fell below the horizon the sky became orange, yellow, purple and an evening star sparkled above me. I was surrounded by the perfect soundtrack from the stereo. Blissful shimmering Americana with enough left field touches to intrigue.
Sometimes a restrained string arrangement or some cavernous percussion and odd electronic wizardry and pedal steel. Lazy, yet meticulous, haunting and ghostlike songs of angels, whiskey and broken hearts . Soaring harmonies and finger picked guitar. Masterpiece might be a step too far but this is one damn fine work.
The tape clicked off and broke my musings. I pressed rewind, rolled another. In the far distance over Huntsville way the night train wailed.
I waited some more.
Words: Keefy How