On US-I 27, Happy is a real place. It appears as a line of trees on an open plain, and a grain elevator rises from its center beside its water tower. In town, I see brick streets and storefronts—some shuttered—and outside of its post office, newspapers sit for sale: measurements of daily life.
A truck moves over a desert landscape beyond a cattle guard and a fence of barbed wire. Its tires rumble over dry caliche flinging dust skyward. In the cab, a country tune fills the air, and a father concentrates on the road. His son draws pump jacks. Soon the two will reach a drill site to deliver a rotary bit.
Silver rails enter the downtown, and hotels wait beside Railroad Street. Navasota is a town in the Brazos Valley. Here, I see residential ways and stately homes and, moving outward into the countryside, hear a key of G, 4/4 time and a train on the bridge.
West of Ozona, tires hum over hot asphalt. I see a canyon of limestone covered with dry grass and patches of prickly pears. From a rearview mirror, an air freshener spins. Ahead, lanes bend and twist toward a roadcut. I scan the dial for music and move over a cement bridge near Lancaster Crossing, a place on Lower San Antonio-El Paso Road far from the nearest radio station.