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Pecos

October 16, 2013

Texas – Tuesday, October 8

Pecos looked the same by daylight as it did driving in at night – flat land with oil rigs here and there, lots of trucks and the smell of oil. It wasn’t quite the western town I was expecting! Although I did see a big sign saying Pecos was the home of the world’s first rodeo. I wasn’t sure I would find anything donation-wise in town, but I did some research and read that there was indeed a food pantry in town. I drove over to the church that was listed in the website, and they told me that although they could take my donation, the actual Santa Rosa food pantry was at a different church. They told me the food pantry was only open 2 days a month, and as luck would have it, today was one of the days, and some of the volunteers were already there. So I drove over to the other church and met a couple of the volunteers and asked them if a financial donation was best, or if I should go shopping for items they were low on. They told me it was my choice, but that they could stretch a dollar pretty far by shopping once a month up at one of the big food banks. So I gave them my donation, and they introduced me to the other volunteers coming in. They were interested in my story and invited me to stay for the lunch they all eat together before the food pantry opens up. I certainly didn’t expect that, but they were so welcoming, I took them up on their offer. I had time to get Tula out for a mile of walking first, then I got back and met some more volunteers – there were about a dozen of them altogether. They had been setting up the tables to get ready for all the people to come, and the local stores had provided some baked goods, breads and produce. When lunch was ready, there was a big prayer circle with a prayer said in both English and Spanish, and then we dished up – homemade chili, cornbread, and apple empanadas for dessert. It was a delicious lunch, and I never would have guessed when I first got up this morning that I would be enjoying a homemade lunch with a new group of friends! They had questions about my journey and in turn they answered my questions about the oil business in town, and how it impacts the local people. I mistakenly thought that an oil boom was good for the whole town, but it has driven a lot of prices up at many places, which has a big impact on the local people. There are not enough places for the oil workers to stay, and there aren’t many restaurants in town, and prices seem to be going up all the way around. They told me that the oil workers aren’t as well paid as one would think – I think it’s the people at the top who benefit most from the oil boom. In Pecos, the current oil boom started last year; it tends to run in cycles. They have also discovered natural gas reserves, and are doing some fracking (I’m not really sure what that is although I’ve heard of it) which they didn’t have the technology for during the last oil boom.

While we were talking during lunch, one of the ladies – Betty – told me that her son has been a career military guy who has been stationed all over the place. He’s currently a lieutenant colonel stationed in Germany with the US Army active reserves. I asked her if she ever sent care packages because it’s been a long time since I’ve done that, and I ended up giving her a donation check to shop for items for a care package that her son and his unit would enjoy. She said she would pay for the shipping and that way my whole donation could go for food/treats in the care package – in the past I would have to keep about $13.50 out to cover postage, but Betty was going to take care of that. So I ended up making 2 donations in Pecos, and I wasn’t sure I would be making any!

We finished lunch and they got ready to open the doors of the food pantry. People start getting in line about an hour before the doors open, and they asked me to stay to see how things work. They were very organized which is a good thing, because there was a long line of people. When they first come in, they take a big empty cardboard box, and check in at the table, or register if they’re a new client. From there they go get non-perishable food depending on the size of their family; then they go through the baked good and bread line; and then into the kitchen to get frozen things like chicken and hamburger and then they get whatever produce is available. They have an efficient system and were able to help a lot of people in a relatively short period of time. They told me it’s always really busy when the doors first open, and then people continue to trickle in and out for the rest of the hours they’re open. My visit was a wonderful welcome to the big state of Texas and I enjoyed talking with Sena, Mae, Lois, Nora, Betty, Yvonne, Elisa and a couple others. When I was leaving, Sena, the elegant oldest volunteer, pushed some bills into my hand to counteract the ridiculously high price of the Motel 6 last night. I tried to return it, but she insisted that I keep it and told me I was doing a good thing. Thank you, Sena.

So I left Pecos and started the long drive toward San Antonio. The next town I came to was Fort Stockton and Tula and I got out for another mile of walking. There was a statue of a giant road runner in town – it’s said to be the world’s largest roadrunner and he is called Paisano Pete. I really want to see some road runners! I drove a couple hundred miles east and the next town I stopped at was Ozona, where we stretched our legs for a mile and a half. These west Texas towns aren’t big, and I would have liked to walk a bit more in each town, but after a mile or a mile and a half, I had pretty well covered everything. And then another half hour up the road I came to Sonora, where we walked another mile. Sonora was obviously a football crazy town – there were posters and signs and pictures of their bronco mascot all over town. By the time we finished walking, it was starting to get dark, plus I had crossed into the central time zone and lost an hour, so I drove on another couple hours and made it to San Antonio, where I would stay for a couple nights.

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