Anecdote – Travelling Around Texas in a Greyhound in 1971


Travelling Around Texas in a Greyhound in 1971

Texas was out of step with the rest of the States in 1971. I picked that up without any hard detective work.

Liz and I were on or homeward journey, virtually living on a Greyhound bus. We’d started off again in Los Angeles, headed for San Diego and then down to the Mexican border. Getting across that border with long hair was nigh on impossible so we’d looked across and boarded the bus again.

We were heading back to New York via our friends in Boston. We’d had a great time in California. Our experience of America was of long-haired youths, peace-signs, sharing, colourful clothes, great music, great vibes and a shared view of a desire for a better world. It looked like the whole of the young world was caught up in a hallucinogenic whirl. The world was changing. There was a new sensibility and a new era.

Then we hit Texas.

It wasn’t the long drive across open flat lands; it was the people. It was as if not only the sixties hadn’t happened yet but the 20th century was still on its way.

Our Greyhound bus rolled to a halt in a small Texas town. It was as if we’d gone back in time or washed up on the set of a Western film. There were wooden boardwalks with hitching rails on the front of old wooden shop facades and dusty roads. I half expected Wild Bill Hikock to stroll out of the saloon.

He didn’t. But everywhere you looked there were guys in ten gallon Stetsons, cowboy shirts, jeans, cowboy boots with spurs and big silver buckled belts. It was like we were in a movie.

I watched one of these guys, complete with big jangly spurs, walk down the boardwalk, duck under the rail and then climb into a station wagon and drive away. I could not see how he could operate the pedals with big spurs on his feet. Where was his horse?

We made our way into a diner and took a seat at the counter. There was an eerie silence. The waitress assiduously avoided us. She served everyone else. It did not take too long to figure that we could have sat there for a month or two and still not been served. We left.

There was a nasty atmosphere like that scene out of Easy Rider, except this wasn’t a film set and this was for real.

Back on the bus a group of young crew-cutted men got on. They spied us and made a bee-line straight for us. There was all the standard abuse – ‘Is it a boy or is it a girl?’ and ‘How about a dance?’ One guy in particular looked mean. He stood over me and made as if to stroke my hair. It looked like it might turn ugly. I was getting my head round the fact that I might find myself in a fight. I didn’t fight but the bus driver was avoiding the issue and nobody else was jumping to my defence. It could have developed but fortunately I kept my cool and they got off at the next town.

We weren’t sorry to see the back of Texas.

A Native American Indian girl on a Greyhound bus across the States.


A Native American Indian girl on a Greyhound bus across the States.

In 1971 I was on a greyhound bus with my girlfriend, now my wife. We’d spent three months in the States working in Boston and then hitch-hiking and bussing our way around. We’d been up to Canada, down to Mexico and across to San Francisco, the redwoods, San Diego and Los Angeles with a memorable night under the stars at Big Sur where the mountain lions howled.

There were numerous incidents and tales that came out of that trip, tales of cars, crashes and near death, friends, camping and music. But now it was nearing its end.

We were heading back from the West Coast to the East in order to get a plane back to Britain.

On that long bus ride I got talking to a young woman. She was a Native American Indian who had been across to visit her grandfather on the West Coast and was now returning home to the East Coast.

She told me her tale.

Her grandfather had contacted her and asked her to come and visit as he was dieing. When she got there she found him hale and hearty and full of life. He lived in a log cabin he had built himself. It was set into a ridge. He had carved it into the ridge and used logs to timber up the front. It fitted into the landscape.

She asked why he had summoned her. He told her that he would soon be gone and he wanted to share his life with her and for her to help him say goodbye.

Together they rode round all the places he had lived and visited. At each place he sat and reminisced about his life and said goodbye. For three weeks they had travelled round. When they returned to his cabin he dug up a number of artifacts buried in the floor of his home. They were ancient artifacts that had been passed down through generations. He was now passing them on to her.

She would not show me most of them. She told me they were too sacred. But she did show me one thing. She unwrapped it from a leather bag sealed with a thong. It was a large rounded rock about ten inches across. Around it there was a well worn groove. It looked ol but I could not tell what it was. She explained that it was a traditional weapon for killing buffalo. The hunter would ride alongside the buffalo twirling this heavy implement around and then bring it down on the buffalos head. The stunned beast would drop. He would leap off his horse and cut its throat with a knife before it could recover.

As I held that rock in my hand I could imagine the skill and bravery. To ride flat out, bareback, hanging on to a horse at full gallop with hand on mane and knees as it careered in the midst of a buffalo herd, where any slip meant death by trampling. To guide that horse and twirl that heavy rock at the same time and bring it down with precision; to spring down and kill a huge animal in the midst of a stampeding herd. That was skill and bravery.

I could see it in my head.

I have never seen or heard of such a device yet I held one in my hands and saw it being used in my mind.