There are some days when it just seems like you need a small adventure or a short trip. But with current fuel prices, you need a good reason to waste the gas it takes to get there. I needed milk. Right now, at the local farm I buy milk from, the most productive milking goats are waiting to have baby goats, which in turn means the supply is very low until the end of October. After a search on realmilk.com, I found a farm, about an hour's drive, that sells fresh milk from a type of dairy cow called Brown Swiss. Visiting a farm out in the country always has a particular pull for me, and so soon I was on my way.
The freeway I took to get to the farm is the kind of road people often think of when they think about driving through Texas; a long, boring stretch of road without much in the way of scenery. But when I finally exited the monotonous road, I found myself surrounded by green trees and wide fields and white fences, and a whole different world that was somehow obscured by the seemingly endless freeway.
As I turned onto a narrow, paved road, I passed a well-outfitted bicycler taking a break under the shade of the trees that thickly lined it. I followed the road as it curved around, not knowing exactly what to look for, and there appeared one of those ubiquitous portable roadside signs. They're the kind I wish I'd taken pictures of as we've driven around different towns. In Texas, those signs are everywhere, often with an arrow that's built into them, most often with marquee lights, and almost always with a white-lined background and black block letters stating their purpose. "SWISS CHEESE & MILK HERE" it said, nestled underneath an overhanging tree, and my best guess was that it meant the very next road, so I took it. Eventually the paved road became a dirt road, and a hand-written sign that read "get milk" pointed straight ahead to a small building with two white french doors as an entrance. Though there was no one in sight, I still had faith in their "open daylight to dark" claim, so I pulled up and parked my lone vehicle there.
I opened the door, and as I did, a friendly, stocky farmworker said "you want milk?" and then "how many gallons you want?" I'm sometimes easily overwhelmed in an unfamiliar place, and with his thick accent it took me a few seconds to understand and acknowledge his second question. "Just one," I replied, and he took an empty plastic carton from several that sat on a portable metal cart. Taking up about half of the space in the room was a large cylindrical steel tank, and the man used a hose attached to it to fill up the plastic gallon container with milk. Just to make sure, I asked him if the milk was raw, and he smiled as he said yes.
To the left of me on the wall was a bulletin board pinned with various bits of information; as I gazed up at it, out of the corner of my eye I saw something move. A little black and white kitten, who'd been asleep in the corner, was stretching and rolling around as it got up from its nap. The man sealed the carton, rinsed it off in the sink, and then placed it on the steel countertop beside the door. I inquired where I should pay, since there wasn't any cash register in sight; the man pointed to a small box on a shelf attached to the wall beside the bulletin board. The box was padlocked, and it had small slit towards the bottom where you put the payment. I slipped my check into the slit. By this time the little kitten had wandered in my direction, and so I scratched the top of its head. "This is a good place to be if you're a cat," I said. The man smiled, I thanked him as I took the gallon of milk, and headed out the door.
Back on the freeway and driving home, I passed a dump truck piled high with orange pumpkins, and a retro roadside diner called "Yesterday's" displaying a big marqueed "EAT AT" arrow beckoning hungry travelers. I thought about the farm. It was so quiet out there, in the middle of acres of open land and occasional houses. I thought of a song by Lyle Lovett, whose music was one of the things that first entranced me about Texas.
"I live where I can breathe,
ain't nothin' but a cool breeze,
nobody that it won't please,
out here where you can breathe."1
Living in Texas has ruined me for the city. All I want to do is live where I can breathe, wherever that may eventually be. I daydream of a farm, with its requisite chickens, goats, and a donkey; I imagine enough space for a very large garden and several fruit trees. But for now, when the impulse to roam becomes overwhelming, I know with a couple hours to spare, and the cost of a little gas and maybe a gallon of milk, I can head out and catch my breath again.
(1) From the song "In My Own Mind" by Lyle Lovett, My Baby Don't Tolerate