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My Heartland

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Texas, if you ask me, is the worst place on earth. Especially Dallas, Texas. It’s just way too full of cars, buildings, and people. I’m sure that it used to be beautiful, with green grass and trees, but once this city started to get built, it never stopped growing. From this, I guess you can tell that I am not your average seventeen-year old from Texas, USA. I hate shopping, refuse to go to church with my typical, all-American family, and I chose not to participate in our high school’s cheerleading team. In my own eyes, I’m an original Texan. Not the publicized, obese, tobacco-chewing bulls***, but the real Texan. The ones that owned huge ranches way back when, and survived on cold coffee and rabbit meat for weeks at a time. You don’t see those guys anymore, you only hear about them in a documentary on the History Channel, but I’m sure those bona fide cowboys are somewhere in this God-forsaken, city filled country. I just have to find them.

Before I get ahead of myself though, let me explain exactly how I discovered that I’m not cut out for this Americanized Texas crap. It all started with a pair of pink tights, a skirt, and a leotard. Ballet. My dear mother enrolled me in ballet classes when I was five, and I quit a week later. She had good intentions, and understood when I quit, but soon pushed me into gymnastics. By the time I got to high school, I had tried ballet, gymnastics, ice skating, ballroom dancing of all kinds, and softball. So of course, my mom knew that she shouldn’t hope too much for cheerleading. She was right. After a day at tryouts, I was done. The only thing that I stuck with through those years of torture was horse-back riding. See, after the week of ballet, my mom rented The Lone Ranger and I fell in love. I begged her to let me start horse-back riding lessons, but she didn’t relent until after her gymnastics phase. Once I started, I never stopped. I’ve been a pseudo cowgirl ever since. I’ve got the jeans/plaid/boots look down, as well as the whole roping the cattle thing. The only part missing is a big open ranch, complete with acres and acres of nothing. Nothing man made, at least. I could use the occasional tree or mountain or whatever. I even took a class in survival skills. Needless to say, the class was very small. No one ever thinks of survival skills in Texas, it’s really not needed here. So by last year, I was pretty much at the stable everyday, using a little bit of my survival skills, and living off the fact that I only had to get through my senior year and I would be able to get out of Texas and go somewhere nice and remote. Like Nebraska.

It was November of my senior year. Too early to get senioritis, and to late to sign up for those AP classes that might help me get into that remote college in Nebraska. Senior year was turning out to be s***ty already. My best friend, Carla, was only in one of my classes, and all of my horse-ey friends had graduated last year. This year, there were only three other girls at my school who also went to the stable, and they had their own group of friends. By the looks of it, I was stuck with Carla (which wasn’t so bad), and her tennis playing friends. It wasn’t horrible, that’s for sure, but I would have been happy with last year’s group. November, however, was the month of our homecoming football game. In Texas, that’s a big deal. Let’s just say, since I don’t like football that much, the homecoming week wasn’t the best week of my life. By the end of November, I was fed up. Fed up with my school, with my parents, with those damn cars and buildings all over the place. Basically, I was fed up with Dallas, and even Texas. It seemed worse since I knew I would be out of here in less than a year, but I really really couldn’t take it anymore. I started to plan.

I was going to jump ship. No, correction. Jump states. I had my eye set on Nebraska for that remote college, and I happened to know that Nebraska had a LOT of open ranches. Those kinds of ranches where you can wander through and no one’ll know. That was my destination. My means of travel? The trusty greyhound bus that left every Friday morning for who knows where, but I was pretty sure I could get to Nebraska by those means. I started planning, and had a plan ready by the beginning of December. Because of the snow, I would have to wait to leave until late March. I would leave Friday morning in late March as if I was going to school, but go to the bus station instead. I already knew that there was a Greyhound bus that would actually take me all the way to Grand Island, Nebraska, and then I’d take a local bus to Broken Bow, which sounded pretty remote and isolated to me. My parents had been giving me $5 a week for food, so I decided to stock up on all those $5 bills, until I reached $100. I would stock up on food there, and head out to the plains. Just me, my backpack, and the land. It sounded perfect. Plus, it was legal. I’d be eighteen by February. Not that I was going to tell my parents, however; I’d just leave a note on the table and hope for the best. I couldn’t wait until March.

Friday, March 13th dawned like any other day in Texas. I stuffed what I would need -- $100 in $5 bills, my jacket, boots, and a change of clothes -- into my backpack, and put my books under my mattress. I made it to the bus station and onto the bus with surprisingly no trouble. Carla knew where I was going, and that was it. I had reservations about getting on that bus for only a minute. As I was stepping on that greyhound bus, I looked around and realized that I’d be leaving the only place that I had called home. That only lasted for a minute, though. All hesitations fell away, and I stepped onto the bus. Toodeloo Dallas, and Toodeloo Texas!!

The ride was long and dreary. I changed seats enough times. I was at first trying to sit in each seat at least once before I got to Nebraska, but I conked out completely in seat number 14, and stayed there for over three hours while I slept. When I woke up, there was some hunky hick sitting next to me. While I’ll admit he was definitely muscly, his thick accent canceled out his hunkiness. It was one of those accents that you can barely understand, someone that came from the middle of Louisiana and then moved to Texas so the accent got all mixed up, and was talking through chewing tobacco. Nasty. After trying to talk to him for a tiny bit, I gave up and turned my head to go back to sleep. I slept on and off after that, waking only for the three transfers I had to go through. Finally, a day and a half later, I finally arrived in Broken Bow. I had been right, it was remote, isolated, and looked almost abandoned. There was only one other passenger on the local bus, and he waved sleepily at me. I jumped off the last step, said goodbye to the bus driver, and watched the bus drive away.

It was dusk now, and the sun was starting to fall from the sky. The temperature was dropping by the second, cold air suddenly biting my face and hands, and I hurried to put on my jacket. As the sky filled with brilliant, vibrant colors and the sun descended below the horizon, my heart slowed down. For the first time in ages, I stood still, my awe of finally being in this amazing place took over my senses and left me standing in the middle of the long empty road.





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