This coming Wednesday, July 27th, my wife and I are driving to Colorado Springs to visit her daughter and family. New transplants from Fort Worth, Texas to the liberal and hip state of legal pot and “mile-high-hipsters.” We are making a bucket list stop along the way to the small Texas town of Archer City.
My wife Mo, is accomodating, but she thinks the head injury I suffered two years ago has effected my mental priorities. “What the hell is an Archer City?” she asked. I can’t explain without choking up. How can a writer explain the reverance of visiting the holy grail of litature. I get so excited, I piss my pants a bit, but that’s because I am 73 years old and cancer did a whammy on me.
For the illiterate non-book readers who are followers of my blog, Archer City is the hometown, and for 70 years, the home to one of the greatest authors in American literature; Larry McMurtry.
Born, raised, and recently died there, he is the fair-haired favorite son that put this one red-light town on the map. A true son of Texas that accepted his many awards in jeans and Justin boots. He may have lived in New York City for a spell, but he got back to Texas as soon as he could. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his book “Lonesome Dove” in 1986. A good ole boy from hicksville Texas writing about the famous cattle drive inspired by Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, both legendary and larger than life figures in the old west; bet it pissed those Swedes off but good.
Like many great novelist, he was an educater at North Texas State and Rice University; but I don’t hold that against him. He wrote on a portable typewriter and didn’t own a computer or a cell phone. He could play the rube with the toothpick in his teeth then write an essay that would bring tears to a grown mans eye. He also kept a rebelious streak in his back pocket as he was one of the Merry Pranksters along with Ken Kesey and his Acid Test for a few days when the circus stopped at his home in Houston. He said the LSD made him a tad anxious and preferred whiskey. For reasons unknown, in his last years, he married Ken Keseys widow and moved her to Archer City.
One of his novels, “The Last Picture Show” was a Peter Bogdonovich movie that raised a public ruckus in 1971 for the nudity and taboo liason between a high school football player an the coaches wife. A young Cybil Shepard even showed her little titties in a swimming pool scene. Good Lord.
The cast of characters in his books was drawn from the townspeople he grew up with and even with the slightest of name changes, they were easily recognized and plenty pissed until the movie and books put their one horse town on the tourist map. The movie was shot in black and white and filmed in a ramshackle Archer City which took on the 1950 look and name of “Thalia, Texas.”
As in many of his books, the places folks spent their time was at the Pool Hall, The Kwik Shack, The Movie Theater and the Dairy Queen. I plan to visit his book store, “Booked Up,” and of course have a burger and a shake at the famous Dairy Queen. One more thing striked off my bucket list. Who knows; I might see Jacy and Duane eating a chicken fried.