Thanksgiving In Luckenbach
©1998 by Spider Johnson
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The famous Waylon Jennings song "Luckenbach, Texas" wasn't on the charts when I discovered the enchanting little hideout during my college spring break in 1973. It was my first Texas Hill Country camping tour away from the bleak, windy landscape of Lubbock. And what a Shangri-la, this Luckenbach! The old German settlement, frozen in time, with turn-of-the-century intact buildings and artifacts, teemed with movie stars, musicians and fellow travelers who, like me, inadvertently stumbled into a delightful dimension, full of warm, green fog-kissed glens right out of a Dalhart Windberg painting.
Of course it wasn't like that at all. Not
in the least. In fact, I wondered if I had somehow missed the
magic portal and got us transported into Luckenbach's evil Twin
city. Upon arriving, the weather turned cold and wet, thwarting
a sizable hunk of our plans. There went the outdoor table setting
and dining, the nap, the frolicking and the campfire. Worst,
where were my hospitable friends and proprietors of Luckenbach,
and who were these unfriendly, unsympathetic ogres in their place,
forbidding us to camp out or even have dinner? I was mortified
The ogres finally granted us a couple of
hours under the creaky shelter of a nearby abandoned cotton gin
and we set up as best we could against the worsening norther.
We quickly ate lukewarmed food with freezing hands, somehow making
the best of it I went home pondering how the rise and fall of
the Luckenbach legend had taken less than a year.
In the 25 years since, I've dutifully celebrated Thanksgivings of all types: with family, alone, pot-luck with friends--but none so memorable. I still travel to unknown places with a romantic's longing for the real Shangri-la. Do such places really exist outside the fevered dreams of irredeemable romantics? Or do we, teased by an unquenchable hankering for terrestrial heavens, seek the earth in vain?