Alpine: July I’m on the wrong side of the tracks, where the hotel and saloons were when Big Bend’s cattle were herded to railroad tracks where trains took them north. The hotel has gone to ruin, two walls left. The saloons have moved across the tracks to the gringo side of town and are called bars. Here houses are weatherbeaten. Blocks have empty spaces where mesquite and desert petunias grow and sheds and barns fall in. We face a hill. Sounds travel. The train. Music.
It’s late twilight. I hear singing. I follow the sound. Valensuela Reunion 2014 a handmade sign taped to metal carport says, and beyond is the band. Mariachi, the accordion, the guitar, the fiddle, and the nasal, heartfelt singing. Someone is grilling. A woman sits in one of a row of empty folding chairs listening. The man grilling sees me, waves me forward. No. The woman turns and waves for me to come in, also.
Why not? I think. I go in and sit down beside Tina, who explains the band is practicing for the party tomorrow night. You need to come, she tells me. The man grilling shakes my hand and tells me his name is Jaime. Come to our party tomorrow, he says. I sit in the long summer twilight listening to Mexican love songs, their wistfulness rising to the hill. It’s neither lonely nor strange to be sitting in this back yard with people I don’t know. It’s Alpine.
Experiences like that stick in my memory for a long time.
Also, I will concentrate on learning when and how to write a sentence like, “Blocks have empty spaces where mesquite and desert petunias grow and sheds and barns fall in.”
Perhaps because it is a brutal place of wind and drought so un-friendly to tender plants and animals, the land of West Texas grows the friendliest people.
I think that’s why you’re a writer–when new experiences invite, you walk through the door to meet them.
What a wonderful sharing experience ! ! Stories like this give me hope for the future of humanity. A simple invitation to a party, by a total stranger, can do that for me. I’m glad you had the courage to walk in.