Apollo over Texas

It was 1969 and Apollo was on its way to the moon,
but we were down in the Texas panhandle, working the pipeline.
We got up before dawn and drove across the pampas and into the scrub fields
where cactus and briars were kings, drinking coffee
and staring out at the blue light coming up over the silos.
Old men on sagging porches, beginning a long, hot day of doing
nothing with a vengeance, spat tobacco juice into their dirt yards as we passed.
I followed the line through Oklahoma and Texas with my father
that summer, grading roads and cutting fences for the pipe trucks. It
was life near the bottom of the labor chain, where rednecks
worked twelve-hour days, seven days a week, drank themselves
into a mumbling stagger every night, and arrived in stupors
the next morning, thick-tongued and guzzling water
until the numbness burned off. They drove shiny red macho trucks
with gun racks in the back window and Confederate flags
crossed on the bumper. At midday when the rocket
was almost there, the radio was out of breath
with the momentum of it all, the pipelines jigged around the sand dunes, cracking
jokes about the moon, about the man in the moon,
about moonings under red lights. That night I slept
with my face on the windowsill just to get some breeze
in a dust-bucket apartment that had no air conditioning
and that I shared with my mother and father.
The next morning my mother woke us a half-hour early, saying
“Y’all get up! That thing is landing!” and we sat around
yawning at a half-broken television with foil-enhanced rabbit ears
and reception saturated with static and snow and hog prices
breaking in from another channel. “Hot-damn! Something, ain’t it?”
my father said as he put on his work boots.
“Yeah, and what will they be doing next?” my mother said
as the astronaut stepped out onto the moon,
and it was the same moon you could see if you looked out the window
and up into the sky above that Texas town.

:: David Tucker, Late for Work (2006)

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