“A hundred and eighty were challenged by Travis to die
By a line that he drew with his sword as the battle drew nigh
A man that crossed over the line was for freedom
And he that was left better fly
Then over the line crossed a hundred and seventy nine
Hey up Santa Anna, they’re killing your soldiers below
So the rest of Texas may know
And remember the Alamo.”
I was singing that song the night we blazed down Route 66 past the exit to Shamrock, Texas; I still wonder how my life would have turned out if we’d pulled off.
That was back in a more fluid time when solid citizens trusted agencies to deliver their cars to the far reaches of the country. Just go to a bustling little office in Times Square, brandish a driver’s license, and they’d toss you the keys of a Caddy, or in this case, a brand new Audi.
And so, along with a friend, who for discretion’s sake we’ll call the Taxi driver, I set off for San Francisco one frigid December evening. So what, you might inquire, were we doing way down on Route 66? Suffice it to say that the motoring skills of NYC taxi drivers do not translate well to interstate highways.
We hadn’t even made it past the Poconos before we skidded on black ice and jack-knifed into a tractor-trailer. The Audi, as you might imagine, fared badly in this encounter, and to add insult to injury, we were detained for reckless driving. After our release, we hit a blizzard in Indiana and, upon consideration of our luck thus far, thought better of crossing the Rockies in a battered jalopy that was losing more oil than an Iraqi pipeline.
And so we headed south on an alternate route through the Lone Star State, although, to be honest, I needed little excuse to visit Texas - mythical country for a kid who haunted Wexford’s Abbey Cinema. In short, I wanted to see the Alamo; not to mention that a spin down Route 66 was as important to a rock & roller as a visit to the Vatican by a country curate.
Besides, my seafaring father had shipped out of Texas City to work the oilrigs in the Gulf of Mexico and intimated in no uncertain terms that Texans were the friendliest and most generous people in the world. He slyly winked at me when my mother wasn’t looking, leading me to believe that Texan ladies were not without their charms either.
Well, we never made it to the Alamo though we were greeted with open arms everywhere, particularly when the taxi driver let it be known that I was a long lost kinsman of Hugo O’Connor, the first governor of Texas. A little exaggeration, perhaps, but this discreetly dropped nugget literally and figurative raised spirits in the grandest of saloons and the humblest of cantinas.
Now maybe Shamrock is no great shakes but on that wintry night as the taxi driver was putting pedal to metal, the very name summoned up visions of big flowing pints and plates of corn-beef and cabbage. Who knows, if we had stopped I might still be ensconced there - the proprietor of my own saloon. The taxi driver, no doubt, would be operating his own car service, we’d both have accents the like of JR, and be living in bliss with a couple of beautiful cowgirls.
Fantasy or not, it would have been far preferable to our immediate fate. For some miles down the pike, the taxi driver flipped a lit cigarette out into the frigid night. Unbeknownst to us, it reentered our opened back window. Soon thereafter the back seat went up in flames, putting the final nail in the Audi’s coffin.
Let’s just say that I did not grace Texas with my presence for some time after this fiasco. Nonetheless, I never lost my fascination for the Lone Star State and someday I hope to hit the stage at the North Texas Irish Festival where I’m told over 60,000 Celts whoop it up every March.
I’m sure there’ll be some Shamrockers amongst them, maybe even a cowgirl or two denied me by fate and a New York City taxi driver on a frigid December night. Until then…Remember the Alamo!