The Octoberfest in Austin from the Sauerosa

      Though I can close my eyes and remember how Fall looked and seemed to me in New England, and other foreign spots north of the Rio Grande, here in Austin, Fall looks pretty much like Summer, but with the school-aged kids rounded up like they’re supposed to be, unseen nor heard, for the better part of the day.  It gets a lot cooler though, sometimes in the low nineties, so that’s a treat.  But we’ve really only two seasons around here: Summer; and what I call “Gray Slop”.  Gray Slop is really sort of like Winter, and for the most part, it’s usually cold ( a relative issue for sure(but rarely below freezing)) and gloomier than an art critic with his or her mouth duct-taped shut. Gray Slop doesn’t start up until mid November, and is usually over before you can get used to it, mostly by February.  Of course, this varies as some days are sunny in Gray Slop here, in spite of my pessimistic outlook today. But every once in a very long while Austin gets some ice and snow, for which no one is ever prepared.  The few times this has happened, it’s treated like a natural disaster here, where there is never enough sand and/or salt for the roads, and the bridges or overpasses become ‘slip and slides’ for the gleefully surprised commuters as they incounter one of these rare and celebrated snow storms.  Most native Austinites (that would be me, though ‘can’t cop this plea ) have no experience driving in icy conditions; ergo, every one hits the road ’cause it’s so white and purty and all fallin’ down like white rice at a wedding. So what we have here becomes more like a bumper car ride, than the”over the river and through the snow to grandmothers house we go”road trips that are experienced up north.  Must be because this is so rare and we’re all so curious here, that we just can’t help ourselves from the temptation to go for a ride to become one with the very unusual snow. That or we all want to think “Physics” is somewhere in east Texas, and has nothing to do with us .

      I guess the older you are, the years, the months, the days all blur, and merge or become stagnant as they pile up, as so many of any will tend to do. That could lean toward disenchantment, if not an extreme case of bad attitude. But this was not always the case, and I was not always this old, or this scarred by what horrific, but uniquely personal damage the exposure to all those accumulating yesterdays has done to me, the ever popular but lonely recluse that I am.   Time has a way of shuffling the cards and always handing me the joker, which though a constant occurrence can be a useful entity to expect, as life goes on for me: but it’s getting kind’a old and losing that humorous quality that this sort of  consistency might have for a much younger person.  Luck has ‘done left the building’ around here for quite some time; but this seems to be just the way it goes for me.   While others contend with how they deal with their ever changing and complex ‘hand’, here I sit with the usual smirk.  Time does, with no exception for any of us, have the tendency to slip right on by, as we struggle to live with our past as well as what possible future that is dealt to us, come Hell or high water, rain or snow.

     When I was in my mid-twenties (back in the McKinley administration), I had the finest 1969 Mustang any one ever dreamed about owning.  It was the fast back model, and painted a wonderfully flashy – but at the same time irregular dark green – that did not mock the trees -but was unto it’s own unique presence.   My parents gave me this as a surprise for the unbelievable occurrence of my having graduating from college (hard to believe, but it happened.) It  had a stick shift with a way too powerful of a motor for a car that size, and for a stupid idiot like I was back in those days. But my “Stang” had a sound that was a deep rumble, with a given authority and possible power that could not be ignored.  By it’s very nature, being a relatively small car with an enormous engine, ’twas trouble for one such as I, in any circumstances. I loved it for it’s “pick up” as I easily joined into my place among speeding cars; as it’s ability to enter the highway with an unbelievable take off speed was, as I expertly popped that clutch into gears with an experienced manner, very unlike your average young woman in those days of my memory’s finest.   Back when I had that car, the early 1970’s, the highway from Austin to Houston (where my folks lived) was flat and rarely traveled, unlike today where the population has exploded along with this idyllic dream of an empty road and a car that could easily do 100 miles an hour in fourth gear with an easy grace.  But as it had rear wheeled drive, with that disproportionate weight of the engine up front, it was a true hazard to drive in ice and snow in the high country for sure.

       My former husband and some friends and I were heading for Santa Fe from Austin, Texas one winter back then,  for some unknown reason (the early 1970’s did little for most of my generation’s long term memory, as is shown here)in my beloved “Stang”.  By the time we got to north Texas (say 800 miles away from Austin) it started snowing, which we Austinites took to be a bonus indeed.  I remember dancing in the falling white wonder of snow in front of some little road stop restaurant, sort of like I was the sugar plum fairy’s evil twin from the “Nutcracker Ballet”. Yes, that was unusual behavior, but not for me in those days.  Everything seemed all gloriously white and unnaturally glossy with it’s coat of ice and carpet of snow. The cold icy scenery was so very wonderfully different for us, as we marveled at the snow storm on the flat highway there in North Texas that day. Even the strange scrunching sounds we made as we walked and the feeling of the snow falling on our upturned faces was ever so exotic to us Central Texans and made the day seem completely magic. 

     Until we got into that serious High Mountain Country in New Mexico.  By this time, we were inside of a blizzard, with some of the roads so iced over or packed with a questionable amount of snow, that the big trucks where parked along side ‘the truck-stops for the duration-showing a professional experienced reaction to the weather’s reality.  Trying to haul an 18 wheeler up and down those enormous montañas in those conditions, wasn’t gonna happen with out major destruction.  But we kept seeing other regular cars bravely hauling as if there was no problem at hand.  At some sections of this horrendous highway, there were New Mexico’s Finest at several locations with blinking lights flashing, so we slowed down and were told we could probably make it through since we had big traction tires on that “Stang”… the trooper must have thought we looked like we were “experienced snow drivers”, or heres a bunch to prove Darwins theory. 

      Needless to say, we weren’t all THAT experienced with driving that dang “Stang” up and over those humongous icy mountains, in which our front end was so heavy and the back end (you know where the wheels were going on) was so light in the loafers, it was sort of like being on a long sled with a couple of other squirming kids in back of a big fat kid in the front — hauling sideways and out of control. If and when we made it upside of one of those big mountains, we then had to contend with sliding on down in that manner, free falling, sometimes sideways.  At one section of the highway, the troopers at a rest stop were giving instructions and advice that was so unbelievably frightening  and confusing to me, that I did not notice my now ex-husband had gone to get coffee and wasn’t with us, as my mind was fearfully concentrating on the “how to’s”as I was at that time doing the driving. The highway beyond continued to glisten with ice and snow in the night’s strange light (the highway at that point was down to one travel-able lane) with several heavily dressed cops stationed at intervals, attired with the frigid weather in mind, with walky-talkys and thick white gloves, signaling traffic in an authoritative style, so there would be no unfortunate head-on/slide-into collisions. At that point, I locked eyes with the trooper in charge who was motioning for me to head forward-which I did, staying in 2nd gear most of the time and holding my breath or nervously laughing, ’cause what else could you do when you were fixing to die?

      As I bravely continued my perilous journey, suddenly from behind me in the white thick mist of the blizzard I noticed the flashing lights of a cop car in the dim mist of  the heavy snow, as we both attempted to hit the bottom of one of those sleigh rides and haul over to the side at the bottom. Out of the dim white mist I noticed a couple of guys getting out of that  police car and heading my way. The snow was coming down so thickly, you could barely make out who or what they were.  But, as they came closer up to my drivers side window, I saw them to be: one very highly amused trooper, along with my terrified, semi-frozen husband who was dressed for Winter in Central Texas, not for a Blizzard.   Which just goes to show, who needs him?

      We got to Santa Fe, where I stayed with a good friend of mine, while husband #1 continued to drive to California and pick up his blankidy-blanking fiber-glassed hull of the sail boat he was building, intending to sail the ocean all by himself, which was always his plan. There was a real clue with that divisional life goal, but I missed it until later.  I stayed a few days in Santa Fe experiencing Winter for nearly a week, then caught a ride back to Austin with another fine friend of mine with a 4 wheel drive truck. I got back to Austin, more or less no worse for wear, which could not be said for the state of my Mustang. That was a Hell of a car any way you look at it and I wish I still had it in A-! condition, but wasn’t meant for hauling sailboats ‘cross country.  Never had such a fine car been so misused and abused as that one: if it’d been a horse, I’d a had to shoot him.  So here I sit typing this tale of reckless frolicking in a snow storm, on second thought, looking forward to this year’s Gray Slop. 

     So happy October, yawl’s; it’s probably only gonna hit 92 to the south of our house, overlooking the Rio Grande way down in the valley, beyond which a gaggle of golfers continue their evil game.

As ever,

Kay Buena

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