by Kevin Carrel Footer
(Austin TX – 1 November 2015)
When you hit the Texas border, you come plumb up against the myth. Everything in Texas is big. The state is big. The trucks are big. The cowboy hats and flags are big. The attitude is bigger still.
At first it comes as a shock – but then it starts to grow on you. At least it grew on me. I like rednecks.
I am of mixed stock. Part of my heritage is refined; the other part redneck. My own upbringing has emphasized the more refined parts, but I have always been inexplicably drawn to people who spoke too loud, said things that weren’t appropriate, drew lines in the sand and who lived large unconstrained lives and didn’t think over much about it all.
If you dig around the roots of my family tree, you find immigrants and wanderers. Some came to the United States and started factories. Others lived and died in railroad yards. Some were peripatetic journalists. There are doctors and engineers. Others were hard-working telegraph operators and one was a champion markswomen who married a tycoon then ran off with a cowboy. Plenty of drunks and gamblers and fornicators in there too.
No wonder I am this weird mix of poetry and open road, wordplay and hobo adventures, contemplation and campfires down by the riverbank.
While we’ve been playing concerts around Texas, we’ve been dodging floods and tornados. Driving down I-35 from Nebraska through Kansas and Oklahoma, sunny weather greeted us at the Texas line but warning signs were everywhere, literally. “Flooding Possible: Turn Around, Don’t Drown,” said the electronic billboards. It was hard to imagine that these sunny skies could hold such malice.
But when the rain hit, it was determined and relentless. It rained for two solid days and never stopped. Sun came out then it dropped 14 inches of rainfall in one day.
Friday evening, on our way into Austin for our gig, twice we hit rivers that had overrun the road. “Turn around, don’t drown,” I heard the voice in my head say. We went for higher ground in the Walmart parking lot in Bastrop, Texas, where all the other RVs were taking refuge. The parking lot looked like a gathering of Old West covered wagons.
When rivers rise they don’t make a lot of noise. They come out of nowhere and silently wreak havoc. I met a guy last night who woke up in his house on a mattress that was floating.
I thought of the Austin guitar-slinger Stevie Ray Vaughan. His first album was called “Texas Flood.” His second “Couldn’t Stand the Weather.”
You can’t say he didn’t try to warn me.