Mowing in the Nude

Everything is bigger in Texas; except the trees. What Texans call a tree, most people call a shrub. Oh, and one other thing, the hills. In west Texas, the elementary schools have berms in the playgrounds so there is one place that will block the prevailing 20 mile an hour winds, but more so that the children will have the experience of walking on ground that is not pool table flat. Land so flat, arid and scoured by sandstorms does not offer sanctuary to trees or people who have the stately grace of a tall oak or a spreading maple. You have to have a hard shell to grow up hunkered down against the wind and sun.

Bart Collins is the stereotype of the people who have spent their whole lives in a culture of extracting the oil that is the soul reason for people to live amongst the coyotes, rattlesnakes and ground squirrels. If he had grown up in some other part of the world, he probably would have gone to college, earned a degree in business and gone into corporate sales. Instead, he learned to weld in high school when he was not playing football and never thought of a higher education because it would not help him get work in the oil fields. It is a life that develops a hard shell on a man.

Deb Collins is the woman that grows up watching young men finish – or just drop out when they can no longer play football – high school in west Texas. She took some college classes and worked in the offices of the oil companies. Saturday nights in cowboy boots, tight jeans and fringed shirts with snaps swilling long neck Lone Stars and dancing in a honky tonk were a highlight of single and married life. Her hard shell was just as thick as Bart's. She once told me that she and Bart had been arguing, “oral sex in the front yard.” When my jaw dropped, she explained this little bit of west Texas slang as those arguments that are reduced to yelling “F*** you!” at each other.

This brief description of the Collins serves as the setup the story that follows. For all of the hardness of life in the high desert, they both loved to laugh. Their favorite movie was the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” and Bart could tell stories that would make Larry the Cable guy blush. You knew when they were coming because he would develop this impish childishness under his cowboy hat. I think I first heard this story while sitting in his “west Texas hot tub”, a stock tank big enough to seat eight filled with the coldest water available.

Streaking Gardener

About two years after I heard this story, Bart's high school sweetheart called him. She had become single again and wondered what he was doing. Thirty-five years after the last big dance, after the last big game, Bart walked in and announced that he was leaving Deb to marry the love of his past. It is a life that develops a hard shell on a man.

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