This past week I've headed further north to the 'Pan Handle' of northern Texas where the land is flat & the roads are long & straight. There are cotton fields everywhere & they stretch for miles in every direction. This is also home to the world's largest rattle snake population though to date I'm yet to see one! Mind you, I did step within a foot of a 5ft bull snake... close enough. I left Junction City last Monday morning & walked up to Menard & then further afield to a town called Eden. In Eden I stopped at the town library & met a lovely elderly woman called Ivy who was very welcoming & invited me to stay with her & her husband on their small farm just out of town. It was just like staying with my grandparents! It was great. They fussed over me & didn't stop talking the whole time. I just wish they'd waited until the other had stopped talking before beginning a new conversation. I had to keep on my toes! After dinner we stepped outside & Ivy walked me through the northern hemisphere astronomy, star by star, & so now I actually know what I'm looking at as I trundle along in the twilight hours. They sent me on my way the next morning with freshly washed clothes, a bag full of food & a request for notification upon completing the walk. I headed on towards the town of Paint Rock & was filled with anticipation as a close friend from Australia was flying into Housten & driving up to visit me on the road for a couple of days. He was also bringing with him new socks (see the old pair in the photos to the right) & a new book to chew through. I spent the entire day looking over my shoulder wondering how much longer it would be until he pulled up alongside me but as it was, I arrived at Paint Rock well ahead of him. There was only one store so I bought a lot of food & waited... & waited. By night fall I was concerned as to where he was but with no phone in this small country town I had no way to contact him. A kind local allowed me to use their internet & at 9:30pm we finally made contact - after 6months of planning we'd stuffed up big time with our communication (where I was exactly) & he wasn't going to be able to make it. It was very disappointing. I trudged down through the darkness to the Paint Rock picnic ground to set up my hammock. The picnic area was spider infested & dark & because of my not-so-good mood I packed my bag up & hit the road to walk through to the next hotel some 30km away. I marched the whole way there without taking a single stop & roled into the hotel at 2am. Time to sleep. The next day I was still 'not pleased' with not having seen Damian but I at least had the rest of the day to slow down as I was already at 'todays' destination. Later that day I met Fr Wade & Fr Bob, two ex-servicemen who had given their lives to the church & their hospitality was extremely 'blokey' & relaxed but always Christ-centred. I loved it. Holy has never looked so real :-) I made my way further north from there to a town called Wingate. I'd only walked a kilometre though when a Sheriff's car pulled up behind me & I was asked to explain myself. Apparently someone had seen me (a stranger) walking down to the road & so... rang the police. I was free to continue but it wasn't the last I'd see of the sheriff's department for the day. 7miles out from Wingate I ran out of water & so stopped at a farm house alongside the road & rang the door bell. There was no answer so I continued on but 15min later another Sheriff's car was behind wanting to know why I was ringing someone's doorbell. I explained & the sheriff laughed. He then threw me a bottle of water. Thankyou! Wingate was a lot quieter than I had hoped for. In fact the grocery store, cafe, bank & post office had all closed down leaving only... a cotton storage shed. As it was already the evening twilight I decided to hitch a lift to a town some 20km away to get food & water & then return to put my hammock up, but after standing on the edge of the road for a minute I decided to swallow my pride & just knock on someone's door. I walked right to the edge of town until I saw the very last house, which looked 'welcoming'. I knocked & enquired of the elderly gentleman if it would be ok if I strung my hammock up in his front yard for the night. He was more than happy for me to do so & even helped me put it up. I was then invited inside the house of Mr & Mrs Poehls who shouted me a Dr Pepper & some smoked venison. I still had few muslie bars in my bag as well so they made up the rest of dinner. After a lengthy & animated chat with the Poehls I nestled into my hammock underneath the Texas stars. Their guard dog came over for a visit so I threw him some smoked venison that I still had & all of a sudden I was his new best friend. So much so that he slept beside me for the night & snored the whole way. Ocaisionally he'd wake up & poke his head up over my hammock, resting his head on my belly, & moan, presumably wanting more venison? Then he'd rest back on the ground & continue snoring. By 5:30am I was ready to hit the road again. The guard dog trotted down the road with me for a good distance but we finally parted company & I was going solo once more. With a full container of water but only a tiny amount of food it was an intersting walk to Sweetwater. I trusted God that he wouldn't leave me hanging & simply walked on. As the sun rose I found myself walking & praying through the largest wind generation tower array I've ever seen. Wind turbines filled the landscape from east to west & up to the north. I was in complete awe of these massive turbines & most likely walked for 20km with my mouth open. Apparently it's the world's largest array. I ran out of food & water at around 12pm & I was in the middle of nowhere. I stopped at an intersection & looked down the roads wondering where they led to. A fellow drove up beside me & asked me if I needed help. I explained my situation & he offered to drive me to a remote restaraunt set up for the wind turbine workers & then to return me to the intersection to continue walking. Mr Dale Finch drove me 4miles to an outpost town called Nolan where he bought me lunch, organised for someone to take me back to the intersection & then headed on his way. Lunch was great & then the owner came & gave me the money Dale had used to pay for the meal. I got to chat with all the locals there about what I was doing & Mary (the towns 'grandmother') was very passionate about praying for unity. A farmer drove me back to the road & I continued on into Sweetwater feeling very blessed from my unplanned trip to Nolan. Yesterday I moved on to a town called Hermleigh, where there was nowhere to sleep once again & so I perched myself up in the football stadium & slept there. It was uncomfortable. Oh, and I couldn't find the stadium in the dark to begin with so I asked a fellow who was sitting up on the back of his truck if he knew where it was. He just sat there & didn't reply. Turns out 'he' was a gas cylinder - no wonder he was tight lipped... Oh well, can't win them all. Today I am in Snyder & after arriving just in time for mass, I've been invited to spend the afternoon & evening with parishoners Scotty, Wendy & family. I am exceptinonally sore from pushing to make up for the extra 15 days (now at 11) but the hospitality of the Texans & constant prayer are keeping me motivated. The weather has been cooler than normal (high 20's) & with autumn setting in it's finally becoming a tadmore comfortable day in day out. Plese pray for me & particularly for Christian unity. 4:01. God bless, Sam.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." John 14:1