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I. 4.A. . \\ t t, Appreciating the Panhandle By Donald Williams Canyon I went to the Panhandle to avoid fronting the essential facts of a Waco summer. My wife’s and my cabin in Canyon fronted on Essential Suburbia and had four bedrooms and probably 2,500 square feet of floor space, central air conditioning, and two and a fraction baths. But the Plains were out the back door, a half-mile away and showing every yucca spear, and the sky was about as close. In the Panhandle you can never get altogether indoors. I even found a pond, a 20-minute walk from our rustic quarters, across U.S. Highway 87 and beyond Buffalo Plaza and the last houses in the latest development. The cabin was easy. A professor at West Texas State University was taking his wife and kids to Lake Texoma, and we kindly consented to move into their house. It has a yellow-and-purple front door, a ceramic menagerie including a giraffe that stands on a lamp table behind the living room couch and reads over your shoulder, an arboretum of imported nectarines, plums and cherries that cast exotic shadows across the bluegrass in the back yard, and a next-door duck. The trees and grass might have joined their ancestors from Nepal and Kentucky after a summer of my laissez-faire groundskeeping, but the professor looked me over and engaged one of his graduate students to mow and water and shear. The next-door duck must have been either dismayed or delightedit was hard to tell whichby the late-May flood, which fortunately had not done 18 NOVEMBER 3, 1978 any appreciable damage in this neighborhood. For several weeks, the almost nightly thunderstorms roused the duck to celebration or protest: BOOMboom-boomboomboom, QUACKquack-quackquackquack. One day, the young groundskeeper was cutting the grass with a power mower, and his wife, just outside the window from the room where I was working, was pulling weeds. The mower came her way. She looked up and remarked in a conversational tone, “Quack.” “What?” her husband asked. “Quack,” she repeated. “I can’t hear you over this,” he yelled. “Quack,” she said. Though we, too, were affected by the duck, my wife and I never saw more than its white head, its round eye, and part of its yellow beak through a hole in the board fence. Our cabin had other natural sounds around it. They were natural, that is, in view of the fact that two pretty teen-aged girls lived across the street. More than 97 percent of the dwelling units in Randall County have automobiles attached to them, according to the 1970 census. The girls’ house must have inflated the average; it had dozens attached to it. To show their attachment, the boys drove past and honked. Cars and pickups, in fact, seemed to be the center of life across the street, and I do not know how many times the girls spent an hour and a half washing one of the family vehicles, which numbered from three to fiveit was hard to say which vehicles lived there and which were only showing a longer-lived attachment than that of the honkers. Sometimes cars or pickups stopped at the curb or in the driveway but did not yield up their drivers; the girls or their mother would stand beside the vehicle, lean an arm on the window sill, and talk to the driver. The older girl, who was tall, squatted on her heels to address the driver of a low blue sports car. The younger and smaller girl leaned into the cab of a pickup to be kissed, while the driver, in conformity with the code governing all fraternization between motorists and the infantry, kept the engine running. Most of the horns that ritually honked would not, like Thoreau’s rooster, have enchanted townspeople by their quality even if the vehicles had been wild instead of domestic. But once I heard a sound closer to enchantment; it was like an air whistle and reminded me oddly of an old-time train. I hurried to the door to collect another entry for my nature notebook. But it was not a boy on a John Deere tractor, as I had expected. It was a young man wearing sports clothes and standing beside a white leviathan of a Stanley Steamer that had stopped at our curb and was blowing like Moby Dick. Another man was looking at the world from the passenger seat and holding a delighted small boy. The driver introduced himself and we talked; I recognized the name as that borne by a local chain of grocery stores. I tried not to look too longingly at the open rumble seat. The young man remounted. “No telling what he’ll be driving next time you see him,” the passenger told me, and the boy waved as the apparition rolled silently away. I realized that the engine, in conformity with the code, had been running all the time we talked.