How Would You Rather Die—and Tamales!

We’ve had just two adventures outside the campground here in Livingston, and they both make decent stories.

First, the Tamales

You guys know that original Star Trek episode when the tiny alien guy insists that Kirk and his landing party drink with him before he’ll fess up to all the trouble he’s caused them? He says, “But first, the Tranya,” and raises a fancy martini glass, which they all sip from and raise their eyebrows in approval.

I’m gonna insist on the tamales first.

We’ve passed a million taco trucks while we’ve been traveling with the Airstream behind and haven’t been able to stop at any, so here in Livingston, as soon as our truck got back from the shop (clogged fuel filter they say; we’ll see), we went out in search of authentic tacos.

Turns out we’re in the only county in Texas without a taco truck on each corner (as promised us), so we stopped instead at “Tacos N More,” an actual building.

(All the buildings around here seem to have been built with an expected lifespan of about three years. Maybe that’s how often hurricanes wipe them out? Seriously, town halls just the same as liquor stores all look like they were built of plywood and tin sheets.)

So Tacos N More seemed like a good stop. See in the top photos all those eggs stacked outside the front door like a welcome display? Turns out that’s the door to the kitchen; the front door is around the side. Everyone knew that but us, including the tall fella missing some teeth who came in to see what they were hiring for. Went something like this:

Tall guy from the actual front door: “I just wanted to know what y’all were hirin’ for.”

Older woman making tamales at a table near him: “We’re hiring for the kitchen!”

Someone from the kitchen, “Bill, Sally said you came by and didn’t say ‘Hey’ to her!”

Bill: “Well, I musta didn’t hear her. Hey, how about that guy in the wreck?”

Shouting conversation commences between Bill at the door and girl in the kitchen about the motorcycle accident that had happened yesterday in front of the taco shop. People point to various places on their faces to indicate where the cyclist was hurt. We try to follow the conversation and say sympathetic things, which is hard because although we’re right in the center of the people shouting, we’re the only people with masks on.

Finally, Bill leaves.

Girl in the kitchen: “What did he say?”

Woman making tamales by the door: “I don’t know, he can’t hear!”

That portly lady set up in the corner making tamales turns out to be the shop owner, and she enjoyed the chance to chat me up while Tracy placed our order.

On retiring she had wanted to travel full-time in her RV, but her husband never could get the hang of it. She said he kept wanting to get things done everywhere they went. “Fish? Check. Go to the next place. Hunt? Check. Go to the next place.” That irritated her, so they settled down in Livingston where she opened this taco shop instead. She didn’t say what he’s doing. Maybe fishing and hunting.

She did say that she’s now ready to retire from her retirement job of running the taco shop, but she still wants to make the tamales.

I’m glad, because they were good. The young woman making them got my order wrong though; makes me wonder what Bill would have given me if he had the job.

We didn’t hang around to find out; we grabbed our random tacos and a tamales order to go and took them to this boat launch by the river that feeds into Livingston Lake. The sun was warm, and we saw two bald eagles circling with a bunch of vultures high in the sky.

Plus we watched this guy throw a net and catch a huge bunch of bait fish in an instant, and then when he yelled at the couple down the way who were also fishing to see if they wanted any, we could hear them all being surprised that they knew each other. As they were the only black folks I’d seen in Texas, practically, I wasn’t as surprised. I guess I’m not getting around enough.

In any case, it was nice hearing people be friendly to each other, both in the taco shack and here at the boat ramp. Just simple exchanges, no one trying to convince anyone of anything. It almost made me forget they weren’t wearing masks. Almost.

Death by Dog or Car?

Here’s where we put down the Tranya.

This morning we decided to ride our bikes down the little rural roads that lead away from the campground, to see what we could see.

I’d walked partway down one road with Banjo one morning but turned around quickly because of a dog in the distance, running toward us down the middle of the road, barking madly. Abort, abort!

I somehow thought that road would be safer on our bikes. But dogs of course will chase you no matter how you’re traveling.

I’ve mentioned before that we’re in a really rural, really economically depressed area. Lots of tarps on roofs, lots of abandoned cars in yards (one today had been propped up on its side by a log, I’m guessing so the undersides could be picked easier), lots of Trump signs, and lots of dogs.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, in Texas puts a fence around their property and a big-ole electric gate at the driveway like a mansion’s entrance, but most of the fences leave enough room for the multiple dogs per house to be able to run out and terrorize strangers.

We rode down a three-mile stretch of dirt road with a house on both sides as far as you could see, and I don’t know how many dogs ran out at us. Literally, I lost count.

I do remember the two who stood in the ditch and watched us ride by without even a bark: one border collie mix and one German shepherd. I remember them because of their astoundingly polite behavior. I wonder if they’ll get in trouble later.

But for us riding our bikes, when the dirt road ended at the highway, we had a choice on how we could return to the trailer. Return the way we came and face certain death by dog mauling? Or take the highway and risk death by car side-swiping?

Note that we knew that the highway has a 70 MPH speed limit with tons of random, small pull-offs and only a narrow shoulder for us to ride on. We’d already been amazed by how treacherous it was, and that’s when we were driving it in our one-ton diesel truck.

Tracy looked up and down the road and said, “There really are just three dogs we need to be worried about; the others didn’t chase us far.”

Right. I picked death by car.

So we rode the three miles back on the shoulder, really quickly.

Here’s Tracy pulling into the campground behind me. Don’t be fooled by this calm picture: we were passed by cars, trucks, RVs, tractors, motorcycles riding side by side, you name it. It was only here at the campground where I dared to turn around and take a picture, and disappointingly no one was there.

And yet my choice was the right one, because we survived the ride home and had tamales for lunch after.

We have three more days here in Livingston before we move east, to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. For election day, we’ll be at a place called Tate’s Hell State Forest, no kidding.

You guys stay safe, and vote.

15 thoughts to “How Would You Rather Die—and Tamales!”

  1. Ha! Yes, that wasn’t intended to be snarky! LOL. Am interested to hear more about what next for your Texas experiences. I’ve been to Texas many times, but what sticks in my mind is a journey when I was about 10. We were pretty poor, single mother with four children, and we had to cross the country. Texas then (about 1970) also lived up to its caricatures. Everything was bigger in Texas, whether it was toast or the horns on the cows. And Texans were friendly. Kind. Friendly. Generous. Over and over and over. That was a long time ago. My more recent visits — many in past decades — did not give me that sense, but mostly we were driving through or dodging hurricanes, all without the need of the kindness of strangers… You’re going to learn much more about the place.

    1. I feel terrible saying such negatives things having been to so few places. Your experiences sound more informative.

      1. Yes, but a long time ago, and what you see is what you see! Hence I am super interested in what you seen next. And next. And next. 🙂

    2. Louisiana, as you no doubt know, was so much better. It’s a shame we only spent one night. It will definitely be on the list for a longer visit.

      1. Yeah, well, there’s something special about that state, though it has plenty of weird along any dimension you care to go!! And to be honest that something special is spread across the gulf coast pretty much all the way to Houston, which of course is as far from New Orleans as you can be and yet they welcomed tens of thousands of us after the leveed broke, many of whom made it home. I do love America.

  2. Terrific post! Loved the Taco shop event. You may not know that “ANNIE” is a song about me on a bus from Brownsville to Tuscon…but that’s another story. The flat lands and cactus were all new to me back in 1975.

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