TAKING AN unacknowledged cue from the Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman film, The Bucket List, the March issue of Texas Monthly magazine offers its own list of “63 things all Texans should do before they die.”
For native Texans, especially those in the twilight days of a long life, this has a high degree of interest. And the question is raised: should one try to make up the missing links while there’s still time?
Twenty-three of the magazine’s writers and editors contributed their choices.
Gary Cartwright thinks every Texan should make the drive from Dalhart at the top of the Panhandle to Brownsville at the bottom of the Rio Grande Valley. His route would take you past Amarillo, Lubbock, San Angelo, the Hill Country, on to San Antonio and Corpus Christi, passing through the King Ranch on the way to the final destination.
I’VE BEEN ON most or all of those roads, just not on the same trip. So I’ll check that off my list.
Patricia Sharpe says eating barbecue at Snow’s in the tiny town of Lexington, about an hour east of Austin, is essential. Tricky, because it’s open only on Saturdays.
A booklet attached to this issue of the magazine lists the top five barbecue places, all concentrated in a triangle east of Austin. No. 5 is Louie Mueller’s in Taylor, where I’ve eaten many times. The setting is picturesque; the smoke-stained high walls are in a downtown building that once housed a ladies’ basketball court and a grocery market. But the barbecue itself does not please me as much as our local Bodacious or others I could name.
But I digress. On to some of the other choices.
See San Antonio from the top of the Tower of the Americas, and walk the San Antonio River at Christmas. Been there, done that.
ATTEND A STAR party at UT’s McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis. Check.
Visit the State Fair of Texas. How about annually?
Learn to ride a horse. Accomplished many decades ago.
Drive the River Road near Lajitas along the Rio Grande. Check.
Explore Palo Duro Canyon. By car counts, and I’ve done that.
Buy a pair of custom boots. A lifetime investment; no more horse, but my boots are still good to go.
Order a Brown Derby at the Dairy Queen. Who hasn’t? This was Andrea Valdez’ choice. It’s noted that in his book, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, Larry McMurtry “summarizes the vital necessity of this fast-food chain to rural Texas” (as a place to meet and talk.) I’ve long noted on my Texas travels that when you see a Dairy Queen, you know it’s a real town, though the population sign may seem to indicate a mere village. Texas has 600 Dairy Queens, more than any other state, naturally.
THE CHOICE of literary light Don Graham, is, read McMurtry’s first novel, Horseman, Pass By. I did that early on, and have the first edition. An alternative would be to see the Paul Newman movie made from it, Hud, recently available on TV.
This prolific author crops up again when Nate Blakeslee recommends buying a first edition in Archer City, where McMurtry’s Booked Up store fills four downtown buildings. My several first editions of his novels were not bought there, but I did once make a special trip to Archer City to book shop.
I came away with no purchases. As McMurtry readily admits, he makes no attempt to catalogue the books, just buys them in bulk, often when independent stores are going out of business, and dumps them.
MEMORIZE THE Texas Pledge of Allegiance, is one anyone could achieve with minimum effort. For what could be more simple: “Honor the Texas flag. I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.” A little repetitive, but a short and snappy way to show you’re a proud Texan.
Ride the ferry from Galveston to Bolivar Peninsula. Check. A must.
Sit in silence in the Rothko Chapel in Houston. That’s something I did for sentimental reasons. The building is dark and the paintings darker, nearly solid black, but the chapel stands on a lot on Sul Ross Ave. that was once the site of a rent house occupied by my aunt and uncle. I often visited them and went there to recuperate in the 1930s after a tonsillectomy — a dark and painful time.
MOST OF THE rest I could pass up, though celebrating the Day of the Dead in San Antonio on Nov. 2 is enticing.
As on most such lists of Texas “bests,” East Texas gets short shrift. The only attraction in our region worthy of the Bucket List is that old standard, Caddo Lake. Charlie Llewellin chose “fish with your kids” at Caddo, Texas’ only natural lake. Your offspring might even meet the mythical Bigfoot, he speculates.
The Bucket List is introduced by a headline, “Life is too short not to live it in Texas.” The list is based on what you would do if you had only one year to live. The editors say they expect readers will have more than 12 months to finish the list, “but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get started right away.”
With gasoline expected to top $3 a gallon by summer, short distance travel has appeal. Touring in the largest state in the lower 48 is not necessarily low-mileage, but how rewarding it can be.