It has been many years since I left Texas. I remember well looking into the rearview mirror as we crossed the state line into Oklahoma. It was 1974, and my first husband and I were returning home to Illinois after his four year stint in the Air Force.
I probably missed out on a lot that Texas had to offer. I was pretty busy being homesick and poor. We did make friends with a wonderful family who owned a small Mexican restaurant called the Taco Hut. They were life savers, often feeding us when we were broke and always giving us a place to just hang out and capture some family time.
We drove down to Padre Island and camped on the beach with equipment rented from the base. Our first Thanksgiving away from home as spent in the mess hall, eating turkey under horrible fluorescent lighting. It gave everything a blue/green cast, including me.
I did pass through San Antonio on a road trip shortly after my divorce. I looked up old friends and generally had a good time, but my stay was short and the weather was bad.
Eleven or twelve years ago I logged on to the internet for the first time and landed on a gardening website forum that became my new home for the next 8 years. A couple years into the forum, friendships started blooming like mad and a bunch of us planned a get together to be held in, of all places, San Antonio. At the time I reflected on the oddity that I never appreciated Illinois until I left and I never appreciated Texas until I left. I was longing for the hill country, the Alamo and the Daughters of the Texas Revolution.
The Farmer and I discussed the cost of airfare and determined that it fit into our budget. Thanks honey!
The long weekend was everything I'd hoped for and more. It was a pajama party of old friends that I was meeting for the first time. That sounds odd, doesn't it? I've met such fantastic people online and later in person. We ate all the Tex-Mex our bellies could hold and stayed up all night telling ghost stories. I gave them a heads up on all the local dives and warned them against Tejano music. ACCCCKKKKK. Think Mariachi's with an oompah beat. We walked through the hushed spaces of the Alamo and sat at the bar in the Menger Hotel, where Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders. I bet you didn't know they were just a bunch of drunken Texans straight off the Chisholm Trail, itching for fight.
We rented a white convertible and drove up Gruene (pronounced Green) and shopped till we dropped. It was in Gruene that I was faced with a terrible dilemma. Since the airfare, hotel bill and my share of a white convertible were stretching my budget to it's limit I had to decide on one of two souvenirs. There was a beautiful rabbit that would be a fabulous addition to my bunny collection. But there was also a terrific mosquito, hand crafted from black iron. The decision was hard. The rabbit was so beautiful but the mosquito was unusual. I'd never find anything like it back home. I forked over my hard cash and took possession of my very own mosquito.
Now I had a big problem on my hands. How would a get a 2 foot long mosquito home to Illinois? The shop owner offered to ship it for me but that would cost more than I paid for the thing. It wouldn't fit in my luggage, but my carry on resembled a small duffel bag and would be a perfect nesting place for a 'skeeter.
The night before our flight I carefully laid a pair of jeans in the bottom of the bag. The mosquito fit perfectly, laying upside down, surrounded with dirty laundry to keep him comfortably cradled for the ride home. Done! Ready to go.
We arrived at the airport when it dawns on me....you're going to need to get this through security! Oh well, I raised teenagers, how hard could this be? The lines moves forward. I place my bag on the belt and walk through the security gate. I think I'm prepared for what comes next.
The eyes of the person running the x-ray machine get as large as saucers. Everything stops. She asks her co-worker, "What's that?"
"It's a mosquito," I offer. "He's upside down."
"Huh?" she asks, "A mosquito?" (in Spanish, no less).
"Si, el mosquito."
Her line grinds to a stop and passengers are directed elsewhere. Supervisors are called. Walkie-talkies are buzzing and I'm looked at with a great deal of suspicion.
"What's THAT???" the supervisor hollers as he stares at the screen.
"I told her, it's a mosquito. Upside down. An upside down mosquito."
I'm told to remove the entire contents of the bag onto the belt and stand back. I do as I'm told because now there's uniformed police on hand. Dutifully I unload a bagful of stinky socks and underwear onto the conveyor belt and slowly retreat to my position next to the police sergeant.
The security supervisors edge closer and closer to the bag, finally peering into the dark, stinky depths.
"I'll be damned!!!" one of them shouts. "It's a damned mosquito and he's upside down!"
I thought I said that at least four times.
The mosquito is carefully lifted out of the bag. Everyone takes turns holding it, removing it's wings, asking how much I paid for it and where they could buy one.
"Gruene. Get up to Gruene quick before they're all gone!"
Thankfully it was a domestic flight because I don't think I could have survived explaining an upside down mosquito to a customs agent.