California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 8 – Ozona, Texas

“Ozona’s been dry since 1891!” the old cowboy croaked. Frank’s heart sank…

A lot of this country looks the same. Especially the east coast. It’s all woods wherever you go. But once we left Sealy and kept on highway 10 the landscape starts to dramatically change. Texas becomes miles and miles of rolling chapparelle country. That’s when you know you’re far from home. Most of our days were spent on the road driving six to eight hours a day. I remember when we first hit the high desert. It was the first day the sun had come out. Frank pulled a couple of bottles of Harp out of the cooler and we sipped them in celebration that we were well on our way to California.

There’s not a lot to tell about this part of the trip. We just took turns driving the van and kept going towards our destination. There were great sights to see along the way and I was happy to be on an adventure with my buddy. No parents. No curfew. Just us and the open road. I’ll never forget this wonderful trip with Frank as long as I live.

The desert gets cold at night. There’s nothing to hold the heat in because it’s so barren. I remember one morning Frank got out of the van to take a piss. I’ll never forget when he said: “For fuck’s sake, Chaz, I’ve never been so cold in all my life!”

From years of my dad taking the van on the beach to go surf fishing. The salt air and water coming off the wheels had rusted out a small part of the floor boards on the passenger side. If you lifted the rubber mat you could see the right front wheel spinning and the road under you through a four-inch hole. “Fuck sake! The wind is coming up through hole and freezing my leg!”

I just laughed and handed him a little box of cereal and a banana to shut him up.

 

We pull into Ozona late that night. It felt like a one horse town.

Ozona is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) that serves as the county seat of Crockett County, Texas, United States. The population was 3,225 at the time of the 2010 census.  Ozona is the only Census Bureau recognized community in Crockett County, which is named for Colonel Davy Crockett, a hero of the Alamo.
Ozona is called the “Biggest Little Town in the World”. Located on Interstate 10 some 200 miles (320 km) west of San Antonio, rural Ozona is also 82 miles (132 km) southwest of San Angelo. Crockett County is one of the nation’s leading producers of wool and mohair and is situated in the Edwards Plateau region at the western edge of the Texas Hill Country. Hunters come to Ozona in search of white-tailed deer, javelina, and game birds.

The county was organized in 1891 under a giant oak tree, which still stands and shades the historical marker describing the event. The Davy Crockett Monument is a large statue in the City Park on the town square. Across from the monument is the Crockett County Museum.

Ozona was known as “Powell Well”, after land surveyor E.M. Powell, when it was founded in 1891. In 1897, it was renamed “Ozona” for the high quantity of its open air, or “ozone”. A flood in 1954 killed 16 people and destroyed about half of the homes in the town.

A “Heritage Appreciation Monument” honors pioneer families who came to settle the land. The three-story Crockett County Museum at 404 11th Street features a blacksmith shop, ranching artifacts, and a wool/mohair room. A scenic drive from Ozona to Lancaster Hill, west on Texas State Highway 290, provides a panoramic view of the Pecos River Valley.

We crash in this little motel owned by a nice old couple. She’s chubby and jolly and he’s a skinny grizzled old cowboy.

“Hey man. Can you tell us where we can buy some beer around here?”

“Ozona’s been dry since 1891!”

Frank’s heart sank. But I suddenly remembered something.

“Go back to the room Frank. I have a solution.”

I went out and opened up the back hatch of the VW bus.

I remove a box and head up to the room and set it on the table.

“What’s all this?”

“Open it.”

Frank reaches in the box and produces a bottle of Beringer Merlot.

“There’s like six bottles in here! How did you…?”

“At the last-minute my dad put that in the van before I left Jersey.”

“We’ll drink to your dad tonight!”

“Sounds like a plan. I miss him.”

“I miss my ma and dad as well.”

I could see we’re both getting a little misty.

“How are we going to open these?”

I reach in the box and feel around then produce a corkscrew.

“Your dad is the best!”

“That he is my friend. That he is.”

 

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Author: phicklephilly

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