Many of you are clamouring for a description of our evening, how-we-find-a-place-to-camp routine. By many, I mean no one, but I'm hoping to generate interest after the fact. So quit'cher potential yelling and begging already, get a nice hot cup of tea, put your feet up, and settle in for a not-at-all-idiocyncratic account of our sunset tradition. We'll take two nights ago, somewhere east of El Paso, as a classically-representative example:
Barc, pulling over and pulling headphones from his ears: "Son! It's getting all twilight-ee. We'd better start thinking about a place to camp."
Emer, pulling over and not pulling headphones from his ears: "What?"
Barc, gesturing to his delayed child for bud-removal with less patience than good-parenting books would advocate: "We need to find a place to camp!"
Emer, with a certain insouciance uncommon to many delayed children: "You think?"
Barc, jamming his headphones back in and starting off again, expecting blind obedience from his Middle Child: "Follow me!"
Emer, with a forbearance even rarer in children thought-to-be-delayed by their fathers: "Yup."
So we plodded along and, as I searched for 8'x 8' pieces of earth unlikely to experience gunfire or tire tracks over the next 12 hours, I reminded myself that we're now in Texas where, if rural legend is true, property owners have the right to shoot trespassers and, depending on the county, even collect a bounty; extra care is required. (I think I'll speed up my account, your tea's probably getting cold)
A copse of trees appeared on the north side, between the road and a train-track embankment. It was about the size of an elementary-school gym in a small town with an insubstantial tax base - make that an abandoned, inner-city, primary-school gym that, even in it's finest days, oozed a lack of team spirit and barely enough room to set up a tent (okay, now your tea's cold). Signalling politely to an imaginary safety-counsel audience, eyes squinted in the gloaming, I directed my bicycle woodward.
The centre of the mini-forest was somewhat dense. What you're probably thinking was: are wild boars territorial? That would be good, for "we" would only have to kill the one with our 3" Bear Grylls knife. Emerson, clutching hardened steel, waded into the heart of darkness, his father's advice to slash-first-and-ask-questions-later ringing in his ears. There were sounds of a struggle, some grunting, an unearthly cry that neither man nor beast could make, then Emer returned, licking the blade. "We're good." he said. I love my son.
A clearing between discarded tires, about the size of the vice-principal's office, made an excellent spot for our tent. The first of approximately two hundred and forty-seven freight trains passed by, about 4 feet away, while we were setting up. My fear-generator noted our perfect location on the outer-apex of a sharp curve of the track, so that when the train derailed, which it almost certainly would, we could fully participate in the event.
But for some reason that didn't happen. And we weren't rousted by the selectively-vigilant Border Patrol (Mexico was about two miles to the south). And we weren't shot. If anyone owned the 50 feet of property between the road and the train track and happened to spot us, they must have been out of bullets (perhaps not all of the clickety-clack sounds in the night were of choo-choo origin).
So we had another "free" night. Yay. FYI, the money we save, living like dogs, or boars, on the side of the road, is allocated to the Save the Dowd Children Fund, a profoundly non-profit family trust. All contributions gratefully received.