A cynic once offered this description of West Texas: “miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles.”
Maybe it’s true some of the time, but not now. Rains have drenched much of the sprawl of the Lone Star State. Now, there’s colorful evidence that God has used all the paint brushes for unending acres of spring wildflowers.
The crop is the best in years. When a few grouches complain about mosquitoes, they are told, in the memorable words of Archie Bunker, to “dummy up.” They’re advised to splash on insect spray, then busy themselves drinking in the beauty of drives in any direction. Some may even want to make pictures of photographers making pictures of youngsters amongst the blankets of bluebonnets…
On a recent drive, I spotted an old nester, leaning back in a cane bottom chair. He was stationed next to the unleaded gasoline pump, peering out at a field of wildflowers as he engaged in what appeared to be breathing exercises.
“I’m takin’ in nature’s beauty while getting whiffs of gasoline,” he said. “So far, lookin’ and sniffin’ are still free.”
I’ve driven a few thousand miles this spring on both freeways and side roads. Sometimes I choose the former mostly to see if there are any clever new billboard messages. And there are…
Score one for Starbuck’s, whose billboards subtly underscore growing similarities of freeways to speedways.
Before exits to their stores on the super slabs, an ad urges: “Ladies and Gentlemen, start your blinkers.”
(Starbuck officials, by the way, have quashed the rumor that they are enlarging their restrooms to make room for additional Starbuck locations…)
One sign in Granbury, Texas, advertises “Jackham-mer Tattoos.” The big boys down at the pool hall say the name makes them cringe a bit. They think the name could put a damper on the body piercing side of the business.
And what about that discount diaper store in Tyler? It’s called “A Little Behind.”
The U.S. Post Office should not be overlooked in our ad-clad world. How about their Star Wars promotion: “May the stamps be with you.”
Time was when stamps commemorated presidents, national monuments and such.
One Fort Worth woman, lining up to buy 2-cent stamps for add-ons to her inventory of outdated 39-centers, grumbled about first-class mailing increasing to 41 cents.
“Do you mean it’s going to cost 41 cents to mail a letter from Fort Worth to Houston?” she questioned.
The clerk answered, “Ma’am, you’re looking at it all wrong. That’s just a penny a day.”
Some businesses feature big marquees; the plan is to post clever weekly messages. And sometimes, creative juices run dry.
That happened to Green Oaks Inn in Fort Worth several decades ago, so humorist George Dolan was hired on to write clever weekly postings. The late writer did so for several years, usually brilliantly.
Once when the University of Alabama football team lodged there to get out of the Cotton Bowl melee in Dallas, Dolan wrote: “Welcome Coach Bryant. We have TWO pools for you to walk on.”
A message on several marquees around the state promotes road safety.
“Don’t drive faster than your guardian angel can fly,” it implores.
One gigantic motor home was spotted lumbering down the highway. It was pulling a tiny sub-compact car. Perhaps depending on humor to keep his mind off gasoline being guzzled, the driver had an eye-catcher sign in the little vehicle’s back window: “I go where I’m towed.”
Finally, some businesses feature unusual combinations of goods and services. One southern town has a “funeral home and grocery store.”
Another’s sign touts “hot doughnuts and fishing worms.” As an entrepreneurial 14-year-old, I talked the owner of a firearms firm into making room for my summertime snow cone stand. I painted a large sign that served us well: “Snow Cones and Hand Guns.”
Happy trails, thoroughfares or country lanes to you. Just remember always to take the high road. Even a cave man can do it…
Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org His Web site is www.speakerdoc.com.