An Almost Instinctive Urge to Head South

Every year during the second week of June or so, I start feeling an almost instinctive urge to head south.

At first, this might seem surprising to anyone who knows me. It surprises me, too. I’m not usually particularly interested in heading south.

Let me explain.

I was born, and plan to live and die, a Texan. This does not mean that I’m blind to the assets and blessings of other states. I find myself longing right now, for example, for some time in the mountains of New Mexico (and I’m particularly thankful for readers of this column who live there). My soul seems to require regular infusions of mountain air and beauty found there in such plenty. And, if you live as relatively close to the mountains as I live and you don’t get a white Christmas, you’re just not trying hard enough.

I do like where I live. No, not the wind and blowing dirt. But this place does have some seriously strong points (easier to find when a drought is not oppressing us), and ties to people (most of mine are here) are stronger than bullet points on a good tourist brochure. For good or ill, I’m seriously Texan.

But, truth be told, the part of Texas that I actually want to live in (I’m perfectly fine with visiting other parts) is on top of, not below, the Caprock Escarpment. The thing is, if you drop below “the Cap,” as we call it, well, you drop. You lose altitude, and you lose it quickly.

Say, for example, you drive from the Greater Muleplex (I’m talking about Muleshoe, Texas) to Post, Texas. You’ll drive 112 miles. Not that far. But you will lose, since you’re dropping off the Cap, almost 1,200 vertical feet. And with that loss of precious altitude, you will find yourself beginning to lose the cool night air of the Texas high plains. (They are literally “high.”)

If, from where I live, you want to find the ocean, you certainly can. Just drive south with me for over 600 miles (you’ll never leave Texas), and you’ll drop from an altitude of almost 3,800 feet down to, say, about 7 feet, if you’re visiting Galveston. Everybody needs to spend some time sometime at the ocean. And I’m in a wonderful hunt for a kind of seafood that I don’t like. But it doesn’t take me much time in that heat and oppressive humidity to reaffirm my preference for water that is frozen. A lake or ocean person, I am not. If I’m down south for more than a few days (even though we once lived in Houston as I was going to school, and it was good time), I find myself soon longing for cool night air—which is found at civilized altitudes.

So why the urge to go south in June?

Well, June beats August.

But the real reason is that, for all of my growing up years, our family went to Kerrville, Texas, on or about the second week in June. Dad had, years before I was born, started in Kerrville a training school for ministers and church workers. My older siblings remember Kerrville as home. Eventually, the school moved to Amarillo (as the students were having a hard time finding jobs in Kerrville; it was still years away from becoming a booming retirement community). But for decades after the move, the Kerrville “Summer Session,” a number of days of Bible training, singing instruction, and sweet fellowship, took place early in June. We memorized Bible verses, did short “talks,” learned to read Scripture, lead songs, and, along the way, catch fireflies and roll down the hills of green grass out beside the church. The little church had theater-style seating, and Mom always had a few of those old fold-out hand fans. Remember those?

I’ll never forget the wooden water keg on a stand out beside the side door of the church. The keg was tapped at the bottom and filled with ice water. The paper cone cups dispensed nearby were also perfect for catching fireflies. At night, you could see the little lights flickering through the white paper, if you’d caught one or a few. If they were inadvertently squished, they quit flickering, but they still glowed for a while.

We’d almost always stay at the Wagon Wheel Motel. (Shuffleboard, but no pool.)

On an afternoon or two during that time, Dad would take the family over to San Antonio. We’d go to the zoo, the botanical gardens, the museum, an old mission or a few, and even, thanks to my sister, the Lone Star Brewery (purely educational with, for kids and teetotalers, root beer samples). Also during that week, we might paddle around in the “river” at Hunt, Texas, or even go visit the Mooney aircraft plant.

Yep, the Kerrville “Summer Session.” It was in June. It was a big part of my childhood. About as close to being a vacation as anything Dad ever took. But it was a sweet time and a gift from God for some golden days that I will remember all of my days. Those “beginning of summer” days were a bit short on altitude, but they were long on blessing.

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!

Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Leave a comment