Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Road Babe Dispatch From East Texas

It’s never fun to have your car break down. Worse when you’re a white woman traveling with a black man through rural Texas. When I left for Mexico, my friends hassled me. “The drive’s going to be dangerous.” They were talking about the Mexican side of the border - me in my ’98 Honda Accord pulling a 5-by-8 trailer loaded with all my belongings and getting pestered for mordidas. Yet, their prediction was way off. Narcos and corrupt police aside, the rough part was on American turf.

I was driving to an AutoZone in Decateur, after the car had already once sputtered and died. Not being one for directions, maps are this traveler’s best friend. Even so, a few wrong turns took me up the only hill in East Texas. I guess you could say I’m lucky. When the car stalled out, my friend and I tried to push the smoking heap up the lone curve to no avail. Just then, a telephone salesman named Mike stopped to help us in 103 degree heat.

"What's yer problem?" he called out from the truck. While moseying over, he eyed my friend up and down. "Y'all better be glad I stopped and not somebody else," he said, resting his hand on his belt buckle under a half-keg belly. Before we had a chance to ask why, he said, "Some people `round here don't take kindly to a black travelin` with a white." I thought about telling him that my friend was actually half Georgian, as in The Republic of Georgia not the nearby state, but I figured it wasn't worth the breath. We'd traveled back in time to the pre-civil-rights South, and as Mike probably would've told us, even a percentage meant we couldn't share the same water bottle.

Mittie Babette Roger is from Louisiana but lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University and authored the book It's Better to Visit the Shaman Without Questions to Ask. She travels the world volunteering to help disadvantaged children and promoting Blue Iguana Tequila to empower serious drinkers.


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