• Marilyn Gardner Woods

A nine-day, one carry-on, five pounds added return to Texas. Yes, I ate the waffle...

Updated: May 3




“So what was the highlight of your Texas Trip this year,” my spirited longtime closest Texas friend asked as she edged her sleek black Lexus next to the curb in front of Southwest at Dallas Love Field Airport.


Struggling to get my boarding pass into my Apple Wallet and my second pair of shoes into my carry-on, I couldn’t come up with an answer.


Heading west, somewhere over the plains of the West Texas panhandle, home of my alma mater Texas Tech, her question resurfaced in my mind. Still, I struggled for a definitive answer. Certainly, the unparalleled graciousness of both she and her husband during the precious moments I was a guest in their magazine-worthy home came to mind immediately.


It seemed like moments, at least. For my week plus two whirlwind tour of Dallas and points west and south, I moved with the speed of a tornado, touching down at highly anticipated, thoughtfully pre-arranged stops, all of which provided highlight material. A jam-packed sensory overload of art, entertainment, feast, friendship, and scenery:


  • A private tour at Dallas Museum of Art – extraordinary Thomas Edwin Church’s The Icebergs and Basquiat’s Sam F, featuring a suit-jacketed man in a wheelchair.


The Icebergs, Thomas Edwin Church, Dallas Museum of Art

Sam F, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dallas Museum of Art

  • Lunch of Sweet Tea and Chicken Fried Steak with Cracked Pepper Cream Gravy with colorful locals in Albany across from the courthouse.



  • Fort Phantom Hills - a pre-Civil War post near Albany - boasted of romance, mystery, and a little eeriness. As we hiked, we discovered it to be all that and spiritual at the same time.






  • Bluebonnet trail, Ennis – vibrant blue and white state flower of Texas (Lupinus Texensis) splashed glorious purple across barb-wired field after field. Note the one Indian Paintbrush standing tall in all it's fiery-orange glory!







  • Happy Hour mini-piano concert given by my Texas Tech roommate #1 in her home on her grand piano. Jazzy versions of “Over the Rainbow” and “In the Wee Small Hours,” beautifully improvised on her grand piano in her grand home. (Yes, she is the author of five books).


  • Peppered Beef Tenderloin (yet another serving of beef) and a Harvest Moon Cocktail (Brown Sugar bourbon, cranberry juice, homemade sweet and sour with a dash of orange bitters topped with nutmeg) at Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap


  • Tex-Mex, Mesquite trees, and endless mesas. (Buffalo Gap was established in 1857 at the site of a natural pass or "gap" in the mesas which herds of bison traveled through.)


  • Silver Buffalo Saloon for Shiner Bocks and onion rings. Got so cowboy-ed-up, we had to watch Urban Cowboy when we got back to the ranch. Oooh, Sissy and Bud…


  • Brisket Hash (more beef) and hushpuppies filled with okra at Good and Elm in Big D.


Deep Ellumphants, Adrian Torres, Dallas, Texas

Forty-two murals

featuring all Texas artists

except one Spaniard,

Adrian Torres










  • Carne Asada, Jalapeño and Cheese Grits, pecan pie at the Reata in Sundance Square, Fort Worth


  • John Wayne Museum at The Stockyard, Fort Worth. Loved this quote from the ultimate cowboy – “I have tried to live my life so that my family would love me and my friends respect me. The others can do whatever the hell they please.”



  • Real live cattle drive at The Stockyards at Fort Worth. John Wayne not the only superstar on the scene...





L'Asie, Henri Matisse, Kimbell Museum







  • Matisse’s L’Asie at the Kimbell Museum, one of Louis Kahn’s masterpieces...








Colonel Poltoff on His Charger, Kahinde Wiley, Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth





Yes, Wiley painted Obama's portrait.






  • Spellbinding storytelling performance by roommate #2 (yes, I had very talented roomies) who regaled us with "The Three Little Old Lady Pigs," "The Coming of the Bluebonnet," and "Meandering Melon." The last two are collected in Tales with a Texas Twist.


  • Pecan pralines (not the chewy version…the original!)


  • Lunch with sisters who grew up in the house behind mine on Wenonah Drive – non-stop catch-up amidst the art of David Bates, Dallas artist widely recognized internationally and one of the most acclaimed Texas artists.


Dallas Country Club

  • Beef everywhere except when I ordered the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Cobb Salad just before returning to seventy-degrees and sunshine of San Diego.




Any wonder I couldn’t name the highlight?

 


On reflection, however, I can.


When a person, at least when I, return to the scene of my childhood, my girlhood, my young womanhood—like the knobs, bumps, sockets, slots, innies, outies (whatever you call them) of puzzle pieces—previously uncovered memory blocks of the monumentally important stages of my life fit into place.


“Remember when…” or “I know it was you who…” or “I think his name was…”


In conversation with friends, neighbors, roommates, sorority sisters, docents, even servers or bartenders, little pieces of my puzzle fit into place. Pieces that I’ve been searching—make that hankering—for over the years. (Hankering – a strong desire to have or do something. Folksy, informal word for yearning). Kindergarten. Girl Scouts. Basketball State Finals. Dust Storms. School of Journalism. Tupperware parties. Pep Rallies. Divorce. Possum Kingdom Lake. Renault stick shift. JFK. Jack Ruby. KLIF. Under the Double Eagle. Iron Lung. State Fair of Texas. Palo Duro Canyon, Barbecue.


So many puzzle pieces from over the years remain to be put in place—the higher the piece count, the greater the difficulty.

The puzzle of what has passed in my life will never be fully completed. The frame is done and gradually the middle parts fill in. But there are countless blank areas. Which is why I return to Texas each year.

The highlight, without a doubt, discovering parts of my past.



 

PS...gas half the price of California's!


Loved reading about your time in Texas. Sounded magical. Especially the food 😆. Karen


·Beautiful! This is one of my favorite of your essays. I envy you the trip, the art, and, most of all, the food. I could taste it as I read about it! SB



· Loved reading about your long journey back while enjoying big’ole TX…AM


So glad your back,,, hope I will be able to grasp your Texas drawl., hearing aids. MP

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