The Writing Traveler: Where Nothing Ever Changes

Downtown Kennedy, Texas. Photograph: Rene Library.

There is a strange kinship among those who grow up in small towns. The relationships are deeper and closer. In small towns, no one ever forgets.

I love small-town cafes.

During my life, I’ve wandered into a lot of them from one end of the country to the other.

They look the same.

Eggs fry up the same.

Coffee tastes the same.

The bitterness waits for the cream to calm it.

But the stories are always different.

There is a strange kinship among those who grow up in small towns. The relationships are deeper and closer than simply being members of the same fraternity.

In small towns, no one ever forgets.

Caleb Pirtle III

I had been hired by a one-man public relations firm to write a book on the famed King Ranch in South Texas.

The King Ranch was Jay’s account, and we were driving down from Fort Worth so he could introduce me to the Klebergs and the other ranching heirs.

The King Ranch, by the way, is so large that the seasons change on the north range a full month before they change on a south range.

That’s the hard truth.

And you can take all of the fences around the ranch, stretch it from end to end, and the fence would reach all the way from Kingsville, Texas, to Boston Massachusetts.

Jay wanted to spend the night in Kenedy, which was fine with me.

He had grown up in Kenedy and had not been back for twenty years.

He wondered if it had changed.

It hadn’t.

We were up long before the sun the next morning, and he drove down to a little white frame café that had been perched in the same place for six or seven decades.

“This used to be my favorite place for breakfast,” he said.

“Every little town has one,” I said.

He nodded.

We walked in and, sure enough, the tables were all pushed together. The farmers and ranchers had already arrived.

These were tables surrounded by denim Levis, or maybe it was Wranglers, scuffed boots, wide-brim cowboy hats, belt buckles that were large enough to protect you from the rain, if it ever rained, and pearl-buttoned shirts. Scattered amongst them were a few pairs of overalls and Massey Ferguson tractor gimme caps.

There were two empty chairs at the end.

We sat down.

Neither of us spoke.

A man beside us glanced around briefly, pulled his hat a little lower over his eyes, and said, “Morning, Jay.”

Then he kept right on talking.

He had not seen Jay in two decades.

It was as though Jay had never left.

The old-time, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball Facebook pages never fade away.

They last forever.

Many of my travel stories have been published in Confessions from the Road. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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