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.