Story-telling is a daily art in the Texas Hill Country.
I had breakfast at the cafe in Austin last week. The older-middle-aged-men's table was in full swing. I didn't recognize the speaker, an animated man, straight brown hair, pudgy features. His story was in process as I settled on a bar stool, my back to the men.
"It was on my first trip to Libya, mid-1970's. I'd been in the international tax unit one month." He shook his head. "Lowest guy on the totem. I was the man with the least chance of getting it done."
" Anyway, this guy picked us up at the dirt airstrip in a rust-bucket and hauled us to the back side of nowhere. Brown, dusty and blowing. Nothing but rubble where he stopped."
"As we got out, he pointed at the top of the hill. 'Old hotel there. Always need repair. When Air Force pull out, they leave Quonset huts.' He pointed down the hill. 'Thirty-two. Take pick.'"
"I could see the rust from where we stood but it was that or sleep in the open," the accountant said. "So my next question was 'Where do we eat?'"
"Used to be restaurant. Now commissary." The driver pointed at one of the huts. "You buy food there and cook yourself."
"After I dumped my stuff in a hut, I went over to the commissary and looked around. The quonset was full of metal shelves. Most of them empty. But close to the door was a full section. I looked at the cans. All green beans. Nothing else. So I went back up and found the guy."
"Well," the driver said, "supply plane come once in six month. Next here month after you leave. You can have all green bean."
"I asked him, 'Well what did the people who were here before us do?'"
"Green bean." He shook his head. "First two, real sick. Third die." He paused. "You want all green bean? I give you good price."
Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.