Fence Riding in Texas and Louisiana

Ideas and Issues Labor Organizing

P1010001Canyon Flying, I’m herded from winged silver cylinder from city A to city B, and once there jump into the messy lives and chaos of people and our times.   For a decade or so every winter Orell Fitzsimmons and I used to take a week, plus or minus, and go fence riding, as I would call it, through the far reaches of what was then our Texas jurisdiction for Local 100 with SEIU (now the world is our oyster!).  This weekend, it has felt a little like those trips while driving around the Ark/La/Tex and then north of Dallas to the Texas Panhandle along the great remnants of the buffalo plains and the more modern cattle drives, and staying in working men’s motels outside of Shreveport on I-20 and now in Canyon on the lip of the great, though unheralded Palo Duro Canyon just down the road from Amarillo.  There are things you forget that are good to remember.

Like how important pickups and suburbans are to working stiffs.  Pulling into the lot outside of Shreveport in a motel filled with Anglo and Latino oil field hands, a car was a surprise among that long beds and tall racks of the trucks.  Equally common in these motels is the small smoker or grill perched on the motel railing or the pickup flap next to a couple of six packs.  These have now become the standard carry-on’s for fence minding just as wireless, cable-TV, and coffee and juice has become the fare even at $50 buck motels.  Filled parking lots at midnight are empty before 8AM.  One of our caravan commented after a mandatory stop at Southern Maid Hot Donuts, which Orell and I will argue is simply the best donut spot in all of north Louisiana, that she had never had a hot donut, and thanks.   I’m 100% for healthy, but can you  believe that that is possible without a benchmark for comparison?

North of Dallas and Fort Worth once past the sprawling D/FW airport, I was still surprised in the depths of the recession to uncover the planted ½ acre mini-mansion suburbs that had been planted in the plains and rolling scrub oak literally in the middle of nowhere, and were still standing somehow.  The Texas Speedway incidentally is so big that as we approached from a distance one passenger thought that might be the new Cowboys’ billion dollar stadium on the horizon.

The small towns along the trail continue their slow deaths.  The Wal-Mart had actually closed in Bunkie, Louisiana, which shocked me since I could remember when it opened 25 years ago as I would drive by on the way to Shreveport to negotiate nursing home contracts, sometimes 3 in one day.  In many there are more antique stores than most anything else.  Fast food outlets are more of the same and equal in number to boarded up restaurants with nothing but signs on the windows.  Just the way of these things, I guess.

On the other hand there are three Thai restaurants in small Canyon alone and twice as many or more locally owned and run Mexican places giving a run to the last couple of steakhouses that are still mandatory in this town.  Fence riders still need a chicken fried steak sooner or later, but I would probably have to draw a picture of that for you to get the full sense of it.  For the record, I always hold the gravy.  Just never have been a gravy man or liked sugar in my coffee.  Just keeping it real on the road.