On stormy days, you can see the rain falling in sheets for miles. Past some distant farmhouse, beyond a rusted windmill spinning up toward the clouds, the water becomes a solid gray wall as it meets the fields. As a child, my father would run across my grandfather’s golf course and dive in and out of the drifting sheets. He’d stick out his arms on either side, one caught in the downpour, the other waving in simple, humid air.
Rain is rare in most Texas towns, an inch of water a blessing. Most of the year is dry with no humidity to speak of. My grandparents live in Slaton, a small town that lies on the imaginary line separating the Texas panhandle from the rest of the state. I was born in this town, but my parents left for South Carolina the day after my third birthday. Twice each year, my family makes the trek from the coast back to this dusty town. After years of visiting the same relatives and looking at the fields of cotton I had seen just a few months before, I became bored with our constant journeys to Texas. There’s something exciting about taking trips to exotic places, to countries you’ve never seen before. I yearned for the chance to see something new, instead of the miles of dust that greeted us at the Texas airport.
Like the rain, the dust storms are visible for miles, too. The land is flat in every direction, with a couple houses and phone towers sticking out against a whole world consisting of cotton fields. It’s strange to leave my home outside of Charleston, located in a suburb stuck between forests and rivers, and arrive in a place where I can see a truck miles before it reaches the house. At night, my cousins and I would lie in the spaces between the plants and try to name different constellations. Stars blanketed out across the sky until it felt like I was in the center of a snow globe and the falling flakes had been plastered against the walls. I have never been able to find another place whose night could compare to that of a Texas sky.
I won’t say it happened immediately, this realization of mine. It came slowly, like the crops that opened their leaves over the course of weeks. It came whenever I watched my brother lean slowly over a canyon wall to look at the plants that grew along the sides. It happened when I watched my sister’s face as she rode her first horse across a neighbor’s field. And it came when I, like my father before me, danced in the slow moving clouds of a rain storm. I learned a place doesn’t have to be exotic or new to become perfect for a visit. Sometimes the most rewarding trips are to places visited before, because there is always something new to discover.
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