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A Walk Across Texas

Jon McConal

Publication Year: 2013

Part travelogue, part natural history, and part documentary, A Walk across Texas is the record of three friends’ journey from the Panhandle to Granbury—a 450-mile walk across West Texas. Jon McConal and his two friends, Eddie Lane and Norm Snyder, hiked for twenty-eight days through the less traveled byways of the Texas outlands, and in the process they encountered a world that is now as foreign to most Americans as the Taj Mahal.

Researching places they wanted to see in advance, the trio selected a route that crossed as many creeks and rivers as possible and offered amenable campsites. Not young men, McConal, Lane, and Snyder conquered the harsh environment of West Texas, dealing with blisters and backaches, severe weather and low blood sugar while still remaining friends. Along the way they met unique local characters and visited out-of-the-ordinary sites. With his seasoned journalist’s eye, McConal blends personal interviews and keen descriptions of the countryside they trekked. As he spins the narrative of their journey, local legends, histories, flora, and fauna unfold.

Published by: TCU Press

Table of Contents

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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-xi

Throughout his long career as a columnist and author, Jon McConal (his friends call him Bunky) has earned a position of trust among his readers. He has done this by listening to everyone he interviews as if they are disclosing to him the secrets of the universe, the meaning of life and death, and the formula for Coke. But they’re telling him no such things. ...

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pp. xiii-15

Adistinct enjoyment to me is to travel by auto, canoe, or on foot down the many paths and rivers that cross Texas. The best way to discover these byways is by traveling across the state’s roads and rivers that disappear over the horizon and leave civilization and its irritations behind. To hike in the footsteps of explorers, whether they were the Native Americans, Mexican ...

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Chapter One

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pp. 1-7

Texas’s majestic sites have always beckoned to me. I spent my childhood in the far regions of West Texas that have won a variety of descriptions, few of which are complimentary when it comes to commenting on the countryside. Those often sarcastic jibes never bothered me because I loved that area and its awesome sunrises and sunsets and the invigorating wild smells ...

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Chapter Two

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pp. 8-11

Our departure looked like a family reunion. We met at the Lane’s house with our wives. Jane and I also took our dog, Cleo. Eddie and Jane’s dog Mattie joined the entourage outside as we laid all of our gear near the tent trailer that would be our home for the next month. Eddie was more proud of the trailer than Norm and I. He should have been. He only paid $300 for...

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Chapter Three

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pp. 12-16

Two owls talking to each other woke me up on our first day to walk. I lay there and listened to them and wondered if they were the same ones I had listened to last night. I finally unzipped my sleeping bag and walked outside.A fifty-nine-degree temperature greeted me. The smells of coffee brewing came strongly from the camp stove. Strong wind blasts rattled the sides of...

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Chapter Four

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pp. 17-22

Coyotes woke me up singing a wild symphony about a mile off in some pastureland. I lay there and listened and then kicked my sleeping bag off and crawled out of the Highway Hilton. Eddie had the coffee started and it smelled delicious. ...

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Chapter Five

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pp. 23-26

The owls sent me a wake-up call about seven A.M. My back felt like somebody had inserted a pinched wire down in the right hand corner. I decided not to join Eddie and Norm on the walk. Eddie gave me a series of exercises that he thought would help stretch the strained muscles in my back before they left. ...

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Chapter Six

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pp. 27-32

Eddie had awakened me several times one night battling with the raccoons who seemed intent on finding something to eat at our camp. They had ripped into a plastic bag of groceries the first night. We thought we had anchored everything down properly after that but never underestimate the power of a raccoon driven by hunger. They had torn off the end of a ...

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Chapter Seven

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pp. 33-54

Last night’s weather forecast brought a small change in our plans. The weather person had predicted temperatures in the upper thirties and heavy thundershowers. We knew that our camping rig was not equipped to handle such conditions so we decided to stay in our first motel in Pampa for the next few nights. As we made our last preparations to leave this camping ...

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Chapter Eight

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pp. 40-45

“There it is,” said Eddie. He pointed to the large cross looming out of the haze several miles in front of us. We kept driving until we reached Groom and the parking lot near the cross. Many vans, pickups, automobiles, semi-truck rigs, and motorcycles had stopped for a view. I climbed from the car and literally had to lean backwards to see the top of the steel ...

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Chapter Nine

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pp. 46-48

With the wind hitting twenty miles an hour and the temperature hovering near forty degrees, we did not have a hard time deciding to take the day off and make a side trip to Miami, home of the National Cow Calling Contest since 1949. I had called Barbara Alexander who handles the planning for the annual event and she sounded excited that we would visit the city of ...

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Chapter Ten

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pp. 49-53

The almost instant response this country makes to a rain could be seen as we began our eighth day of walking. Where brown had been the predominant color of the countryside only yesterday, today the pastures and grain fields flashed vividly like a traffic light hung on the green cycle. The trees appeared darker and at first I attributed this to the rain but decided after ...

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Chapter Eleven

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pp. 54-58

Eddie announced at breakfast that we were two days behind schedule on our mileage chart. But, he did not seem too concerned. “We can walk a couple of twenty-mile days and go without taking a day off and we’ll be back on our schedule,” he said. ...

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Chapter Twelve

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pp. 59-61

Both Barbara and Jane questioned our decision to walk on their first day with us. A north wind hitting thirty miles an hour had sent the wind chill factor down to thirty-nine degrees. Eddie laughed at the suggestion that maybe we shouldn’t walk. ...

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Chapter Thirteen

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pp. 62-65

We had coffee with Douglas and Martha Lowe in the motel lobby. They told us more stories about Clarendon and the area. He’s a large, strong looking man and both of them are warm and friendly. ...

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Chapter Fourteen

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pp. 66-71

Heavy dew soaked into the ends of my sleeping bag after a tarp stretched over the bag pulled out. I felt the cold and wetness and tried to scoot my feet to a dry side but when I got warm and relaxed my feet seemed to slip back into the wetness. I kicked the sleeping bag off and quickly put on my ...

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Chapter Fifteen

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pp. 72-75

The evidence of rain lay everywhere as we began our thirteenth day on the road. Water stood between the rows of cotton as we drove down the highway. There also were more of the playa lakes filling shallow places in the land, reminding one of when grandma emptied her dishpan onto the soil outside her back porch. ...

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Chapter Sixteen

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pp. 76-80

Everybody talked about the rain the next morning and throughout the day. Of course, this country, like much of Texas had been in a drought that had parched the countryside for months. But, anytime rain comes in this part of Texas, it generates conversation. ...

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Chapter Seventeen

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pp. 81-84

We found Putoff Canyon on our walk to Jayton. It is named for a Mister Putoff, an early settler in the area, and was once noted for its freshwater springs that flowed strong enough to swim a horse. ...

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Chapter Eighteen

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pp. 85-91

I joined the ranks of the blister boys on this day. After showering I discovered a blister on my fourth toe. Norm and Eddie had already suffered blisters so I figured I was in good company. I remembered two days ago when Norm had discovered a blister and Eddie had given him a piece of sandpaper to sand down the skin left after the blister had been drained. ...

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Chapter Nineteen

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pp. 92-96

I said that anyone who raises alpacas in this part of the country would be worth talking to. So at the end of our walk, we headed down a two-lane road seeking the AU Golden Alpaca Ranch outside of Hamlin. After about thirty minutes of searching, we finally found the ranch, owned by Alan and Marian Tripp. She seemed surprised we had stopped. “We’ve been in the ...

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Chapter Twenty

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pp. 97-100

Eddie made an announcement this morning that lifted our spirits. By continuing our present pace, we should be in Granbury on October 31. I could not believe that we were this close to home and our great adventure was actually nearly two-thirds complete. ...

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Chapter Twenty-One

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pp. 101-104

This rugged country of Shackelford County has been home to some equally rugged characters from the past. One of those was John Selman, a gunman who shot and killed several people while he served as a lawman. ...

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Chapter Twenty-Two

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pp. 105-106

Norm and I decided to go to church this morning. Eddie said he would start walking to Breckenridge that lay some twenty-four miles to the east and we could join him after church. “I don’t think I will be in Breckenridge by then,” he said. He laughed. ...

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Chapter Twenty-Three

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pp. 107-109

We made it a part of our routine to stop at local newspapers and tell them about our walk, and ask about local history and attractions. We also said we would gladly take time out for an interview for a possible story. Everyone we had stopped to talk to seemed appreciative. So after we checked out of our motel, we stopped at the Albany newspaper. The editor barely ...

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Chapter Twenty-Four

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pp. 110-113

Our original plans had been to camp out as much as possible. My back injury had changed that early into the walk and sent us to motels along the way. I figured that I could rest better on a real mattress instead of a pad and air mattress that I used for camping. But within the last few days, my back seemed fine. And, the blisters on our toes had all healed nicely. So we ...

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Chapter Twenty-Five

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pp. 114-116

We checked out of our motel in Breckenridge and headed east. We drove past used trucks for sale, stacks of pipe of all sizes, oil well pumps, and derricks. We drove about fifteen miles to reach our stations that would lead us into Palo Pinto. As usual, I had the first station. ...

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Chapter Twenty-Six

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pp. 117-123

Eddie greeted us this morning with stories about the huge camping rigs he had seen at Lake Mineral Wells State Park. He said some of them must have cost $500,000 and had everything from central heat and air to television and elaborate sound systems. Despite their ambiance, he said he felt right at home in the $300 Highway Hilton. ...

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Chapter Twenty-Seven

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pp. 124-126

We made today’s walk a short one. Eddie had informed us that we really did not lack many miles until we reached Granbury and since we wanted to accomplish that on October 31, it meant that we could either have several days of no walking at all, or walk shorter segments. We chose the latter. ...

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Chapter Twenty-Eight

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pp. 127-129

I’ve always had adventuresome dreams. Last night’s was no exception. I dreamed about the expanse of the Panhandle where we had walked and where we could gaze ahead and it was like looking into forever or some distant date. I dreamed I was there looking and the roads became blurred-out ribbons and the winds bent the grass and brought moans into the area. ...

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Chapter Twenty-Nine

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pp. 130-132

Norm had gotten up early and had changed all of the clocks he could find to the new Daylight Savings Time. Stephanie, who had already left for work, later told us she had arrived an hour early. Barbara and Jane had called and said they would join us this morning and we would go to church. While we waited, we talked about our trip. ...

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Chapter Thirty

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pp. 133-135

... “I wasn’t surprised at all. He’s always been a free spirit. I tell my friends about him doing this and say, ‘I think it’s pretty good for a seventy-sevenyear- old man to be able to walk that far.’” Then she told me that she planned to cook us a special meal tonight in celebration of us nearing completion of the walk. “We’ll have some champagne, too,” she said. ...

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Chapter Thirty-One

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pp. 136-139

I went to bed feeling a scratchiness in my throat, and my nose had begun running. I took some aspirin and echinacea tablets that are supposed to increase the body’s immune functions. I woke up at four A.M. My throat had gotten so bad I could barely swallow. So much for the echinacea. I took two more aspirin. ...

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pp. 141-157

One question that has been repeatedly asked of the three of us since we completed our walk is, “Are you guys still friends? How did the walk affect your relationship?” ...


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pp. 143-144

Works Consulted

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pp. 145-161


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pp. 147-153

E-ISBN-13: 9780875654706
E-ISBN-10: 0875654703
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875653631

Page Count: 154
Illustrations: 31 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013