Chuck only had three things he wanted to do / see during this entire two-week trip: stop in Roswell, NM; stop at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock; stop at Crater of Diamonds State Park, AR to look for diamonds. Everything else was from my personal agenda, and he tagged along for those activities with a degree of patience I found utterly astounding. I know that if the shoe were on the other foot, I probably could not endure three different stops to meet another person’s relatives nor spend hours in houses filled with people I had never met before. He’s a trooper!
So when we arrived in Roswell in the late afternoon just in time to find a CLOSED sign in the window at the UFO Museum and Research Center, I was more than a little disappointed in my own failure to plan better. Exhibiting the good humour that I’ve come to learn is typical of him, Chuck settled for a trio of hokey souvenir shops.
Our next stop was Artesia, which is where my mom’s sister still lives. Aunt P is my godmother and housed me like a sibling to her other two kids for long periods of my childhood when my mom had to be in L.A. with my brother at Children’s Hospital for his multiple surgeries. I have very fond memories of those stays in New Mexico when I was small. It was so great to see her again. We took her to dinner and spent time on the sofa going through photo albums.
After a restful night in one of Aunt P’s guest bedrooms, we set out for Lubbock, home to the Buddy Holly Center and Museum. I was absolutely certain we had scheduled our departure from Artesia in time to enjoy the history of regional rock and roll until Chuck pointed out the change in time zones. I’d failed to account for that!
“You are seeing the Buddy Holly Center even if we have to spend the night in Lubbock,” I insisted, getting peeved with myself for again failing to plan well. We arrived in Lubbock, however, with plenty of time to enjoy the exhibits and even watch a documentary film about Hardin’s short life and even shorter ballistic career. I learned so much about this amazing young man and his music. Later in the gift shop I got my brother a souvenir tee shirt and a memorial CD set for Chuck, which we enjoyed in the car all the way to Little Rock. Many of the tunes in this special collection had never before been released in the U.S., and some do not sound anything like what a die-hard fan would expect from the artist. Case in point: Smoky Joe’s Cafe.
We spent the night in Wichita Falls, TX and in the morning headed for Crater of Diamonds State Park. By the time we got to the area, a long and steady rain reaching all the way to Little Rock was making the idea of diamond hunting less and less appealing. Oh, well. Along with all the life birds I dipped on, we have to save some treasures for next time, eh?
When we passed a sign that Chuck thought would make a good story, I offered to double back so he could get a good picture.
“Don’t you want to be in the picture?” I asked. He assented and posed in front of the green road sign just long enough for me to snap two or three shots. No sooner had he crossed the highway back to the parked car than he was frantically brushing little biting insects off his ankles, calves, thighs and from inside his urgently removed sneakers. As soon as I saw the ants, I joined him in brushing them away as fast as I could.
Our next impromptu stop was a pharmacy.
Sightings of Chihuahuan Raven in the western region soon gave way to a plethora of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Northern Mockingbirds.
As we neared my mother’s home in North Little Rock, my dreams of authentic southwestern cuisine began to be replaced by fantasies of black-eyed peas, turnip greens, fried okra and catfish, gumbo and corn bread, and diners where the tea is sweet unless you request otherwise. Before leaving the area, we would taste most of those and more.
…to be continued…