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Taken on the Road by Charles Kuralt

by James Feagin
Early 1986, my parents had returned from their weekly rounds to the local bookstore in Columbia, Maryland. Sifting through their variety of books, I came across a title that would change my young life, On the Road with Charles Kuralt. Im not quite sure why that book fascinated me so much, however, at 10 years of age, every page and story impressed upon my mind the vast expanse of America. I recall reading a story about Mentone/Loving County Texas, the tiny population, a people who lived amongst it all, and I wondered. I would often stay up late into the night, look at my ceiling, and try to conceive what life was like in these places. Where do people work, shop, go to school, play? What were their homes like? Thousands of images danced through my youthful imagination.
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On the Road with Charles Kuralt
That Christmas I asked my parents for an Atlas, so I could explore this world through reading. My wish was granted, and I studied my Rand McNally Atlas for weeks and years. I found far-flung destinations, researched their populations, memorized locations, and thought of the possibilities. For some reason I felt a special connection to the people of Texas, a concept which was vaguely understood, but deeply felt. As the years mounted, that connection to people and places never waned, and a blessing that will never stop giving entered into my life.

I was called to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With over 300 missions throughout the world, I could have been assigned to any of them. Imagine my joy when I was called to serve the people of Texas! From October 2000 to October 2002, I traveled to every corner of West Texas. Each turn in the road was a fulfillment of a dream, as the people I came to love as a child became reality. Small-town Americana, their virtues, culture, wisdom; I was able to live it. Step by step, cities that I imagined became my places of service. From Texhoma to Van Horn, and each dot on the map between were covered. In each city I took meticulous mental and study notes, and made sure to speak to as many residents as possible. Upon leaving a city, I would take a photograph to commemorate the event.

A particular hobby came in the landmarks of the city that left the greatest impression on me, particularly the water towers of West Texas. These giant tin emblems of endurance hover over small dusty towns in a regal, almost protective light. They are historic symbols of community pride, a comforting welcome upon entering town, a legacy for generations who stayed through it all in their beloved city. It is my honor to share some of these memories with you.
James Feagin
They Shoe Horse, Don't They? June 10, 2005 Guest Column

Photos contributed by Jame Feagin

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