Texas (Sun to Sun)

I spent Tuesday in Texas. We had crossed the state line from Louisiana the night before, stopped at San Antonio early in the morning, and by breakfast time we were in Del Rio, the “queen city of the Rio Grande.” We spent the rest of the day rolling across ranch country, cactus flats and through small faded towns like Langtry, Sanderson, and Alpine.

It seemed like a minor-key kinda day. The vastness of the state is overwhelming; it’s harsh and beautiful and unforgiving. Whatever you think of Texas politics and Texas culture, you cannot deny the power and the history of the state and the incredible fortitude of the people who created it. It has a bloody and brutal history, but so does this entire country; as always, Texas did it bigger and badder, but there’s a little Texas in all of us.

Today’s song is “Texas (Sun to Sun).” Before the advent of the eight-hour workday, agricultural workers who worked from sunrise to sunset were often said to work “sun to sun.” The sun rose and set on the train today without us ever leaving the state.

Texas (Sun to Sun)

We rode across Texas
From sun to sun
Mile after mile we’d see no one
Telephone wire overhead
Barbed wire below
All the way from Beaumont to El Paso

I can’t imagine riding here alone
Wondering if the Texas sun would bleach my bones
The sagebrush and the cactus
The rocks and the emptiness
The endless sky, the wind and the loneliness

But they came and built a country here
Scratched a living from this ground
Spilled a lot of blood, spilled a lot of tears
But they never did back down
Modern eyes are horrified
This history upsets us
But we’d be a smaller nation without Texas

I was sleeping when we stopped in San Antonio
At breakfast we pulled into Del Rio
Across the Pecos High Bridge into the mountains
Up to Alpine, elevation five thousand

All these towns they look so old and faded
You look around and wonder how they made it
But it was never easy here
If you were weak you disappeared
They looked back at their families, did what they did

This trip is so easy on the train
Sheltered from the dust or the rain
Meals three times a day
The miles roll away
I never have to see these towns again

Years ago this journey took much longer
And the people who made it were stronger
I’m not sure that I would have made it through
I guess you just do what you gotta do

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