Sunday, May 23, 2010

Don't Mess With Texas

Last Tuesday, I flew down to Texas. Destination: Seminole in Gaines County, West Texas.

I was heading down there to meet this town and its people who want me to teach them Biblical Hebrew. It's funny, because although my Dad is proud that I've dedicated (part of) my (academic) life to obtaining my "Masters Degree of the Obscure," I'm sure he's often wondered if those studies would ever lead to gainful employment. And, the common reaction I've received upon telling people my reason for heading to west Texas is: "Huh? Why?" And, really, it's a fair reaction: Biblical Hebrew is not the language or subject matter that automatically springs to mind when we think of special interest classes here in Toronto. We're more inclined to take a class on Sushi rolling or Spanish.

So, Mary - yes, of Jerusalem-roommate-fame - met me at the airport in Midland-Odessa. It's been a year and a half since we've seen each other and it felt like we'd left each other yesterday. My flight arrived late so we spent the night at the Howard Johnson's in Midland then drove the hour and a half north to Seminole the next morning. Here's the landscape:

That's right, Pump Jacks as far as the eye can see across this very flat expanse of the state. It was really cool when I was flying out of Midland-Odessa airport three days later to look down and see green squares of land stretched out below and in each square was a smaller sandy square amidst which was set a Pump Jack. Not one or two but hundreds.

Just before we slowed down to take this photo ("Hey Mary! I'll bet that burger is actual size - we are in Texas."), I saw my first State Trooper pulling a car over. My shutter-trigger-finger was too slow to get a shot of him, but how cool is that? He had on a big cowboy hat 'n' everything. Yes, I'm easily impressed by sighting lawmen that I thought only existed in movies.

This is the other sign I found heeelarious. This is on the way into Andrews, between Seminole and Midland-Odessa. Does anyone else want to belong, if they don't already, to a Complex (with a capital "C") Community? Or is that just me?

Driving into Seminole, TX, is like stepping back in time: there's no Starbucks, there's no mall. There is a McDonald's, a Subway and a Walmart, but otherwise there are none of the modern commercial conveniences to which we're accustomed. It was refreshing - but also necessitates owning a vehicle. The people, though! All of the people I met are warm, welcoming and eager to have me in their community and to share with them my knowledge of Biblical Hebrew - which I have to admit, is far from exhaustive but is something that I love. The other thing I have to admit to is really enjoying the company of these people and how grateful I was that they busted a lot of the stereotypes (and I truly love it when this happens in any situation) that we Northerners may have of Southerners. No one asked me if I were married, what my religious beliefs are, nor did they try to convert me to theirs. There were no snakes or talking in tongues or hellfire and brimstone at the Pentecostal church service that we went to, led by Bobby. In fact, and I hope he won't be offended by this, but I'd have to say that Bobby is a feminist: his sermon - which he warned "may offend some people, and for that I'm sorry" - was all about how if you don't understand women, you won't understand the Bible. He proceeded to outline how the menstrual cycle and gestation of a human baby line up with the holy-feast days of the Jewish calendar. It was interesting, to say the least, food for thought.

I was not in the middle of a Flannery O'Connell novel.

So, this next adventure isn't a sure thing yet, but we'll cross our fingers for it to be. Yes, I'll take Annie. And, yes, if I'm down there for any length of time I'm quite sure I'll pick up a wee twang in my voice. I already say 'y'all' and I can't seem to answer a yes-or-no question anymore without adding 'ma'am' or 'sir' at the end.