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One Woman's Opinion

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Pure Bliss, Part 5

by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 6Part 7

Urbanna, Va.— Oklahoma, our next overnight stop, was our first introduction to oil country. It seemed as we drove through the state that everyone had a rig in his back yard drilling for “black gold.” This was something new. We stopped for lunch in a small town and when we came back to the car the suitcase strapped to the top of the Olds was gone.

“Damn!” Chip muttered. “Someone made off with my suitcase!”

“Was there anything of value inside it?” I asked.

“All the sweaters my old girlfriends had knitted for me over the years and . . . a gift from a friend at a bachelor party . . . what I really hate to lose, an unopened bottle of Virginia Gentleman bourbon!”

I thought of all those sweet southern ladies busily knitting my husband something I had never done in my life—sweaters! Good riddance!

Then there was Texas, a state so large it took three days to drive across. It was 117 degrees that September of 1963 and as we made the first day of the long pass in our un-air-conditioned ’59 Olds, it felt as if we were in an oven. Each afternoon when we pulled into a motel, we raced to our room to turn on the AC.

One evening we stopped at a roadside inn along the desolate road but there was no menu. The cook came out of the kitchen holding a few steaks and we chose the size we wanted. He threw them on the spit and that was that.

Chip had arranged to stay in El Paso with relatives. Their son was a young lawyer named George with a fierce gleam in his eye. I should have immediately known by that devilish expression that he was up to no good.

“On your honeymoon, eh?” he said, winking at Chip. “Come on, we’ll show Ohio some sights tonight!”

We dutifully followed him to his car for a tour of El Paso with the first stop on a mountain ridge overlooking the twinkling city at night spread out far below like a starry sky. Next we entered Juarez, Mexico. “Ever been to Mexico, Ohio?” our jovial host asked.

“No,” I responded, not liking his constant references to “Ohio,” as if I were some babe in the woods. “Where are we going?” I asked beginning to worry.

“To a cat house, Honey” he answered, laughing with Chip who seemed congenial enough.

“Well, I don’t care for cats,” I told George I preferred visiting dogs. My response generated great howls of laughter from George, but not from Chip, who suddenly became quiet.

Before long we pulled up to a small, seedy nightclub ablaze with red neon lights. No cats in sight. We followed George into a room filled with ladies dressed in all kinds of strange and skimpy outfits . . . lots of heavy “pancake” makeup and feathers, of all things. The women eyed us as if they were cats and we were delicious mice that had come to dinner.

“I don’t like this place,” I whispered to George who was laughing at his idea of a good joke. Whatever he thought was so funny, I had no idea. Chip said it was time to leave and we bolted the joint.

On the way home we stopped and bought a gallon of native rum in a straw-covered glass jug, which we enjoyed for months. Many years later I met George again at a funeral. The look of devilment in his eyes had vanished, and he had become a dignified Texas attorney.

Later Chip told me where Cousin George had taken us and I was actually grateful for the rich experience. A female writer developing in my day was greatly handicapped simply because she could not get as much “real world experience” as male writers enjoyed. I am happy to say that I now knew how to describe a “cat house,” in case I ever need to, that is. So far in my writing (at least up to this series), I have not.

The next night our entertainment in El Paso escalated to a much higher level. George’s parents, who had no idea of where their son had taken us the night before, took us as their guests to the El Paso Country Club, which was hosting the annual Cotton Ball where Texas debutantes were presented to society. “We’ve gone up the social scale quite a bit,” I remarked to Chip. We were both dressed in borrowed formal clothes for the evening to see the southern belles and their dashing escorts standing at attention with misty eyes as the orchestra played “Dixie.” The ladies in their full-skirted white gowns whirled around the ballroom with their gentlemen escorts. The scene reminded me of “Gone with the Wind” and gave me my first taste of debutante balls and southern society.

Pure Bliss. And certainly another experience a developing writer would never want to miss. (to be continued next week)


posted 04.12.2017

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