My father made Dairy Queens pop up all across Texas. We’d be rolling down U.S. 75 with the windows of our ’55 Buick down and a block of dry ice on the floorboard for air conditioning, dying for something cold. My father would suddenly announce that he would “magic a Dairy Queen over the next hill.” Sure enough, we’d crest the hill and a town would appear, Dairy Queen and all.
I was suspicious of my dad’s magic powers. My younger brother was impressed, but I had 3 more years of accumulated wisdom behind me. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure how he managed to make those Dairy Queens appear with such reliability. He’d fail every now and then, but usually those failures involved an unexpected Tastee Freeze or a local independent ice cream stand. I didn’t complain about those near misses because we still got ice cream.
After I learned to drive I discovered my father’s secret. If you drive the same road over and over, you learn where the landmarks are. It doesn’t take magic. You just need to pay attention. But I still wanted to see a Dairy Queen in the next town, with or without magical intervention.
I think that’s what I’m missing more than anything else during these COVID restrictions. I love to stop in a Texas town and go inside the Dairy Queen or other local diner for lunch or a treat. I’ll settle for drive through if necessary, but the dining room lets you know about the town you’re in.
The folks behind the Bandera Dairy Queen counter were among the first we got to know when were looking for property in this part of the Texas Hill Country. Some of those same folks are still there. I miss seeing them fix my burger or sundae. I miss watching the customers come and go. I miss running into a friend when I’m there.
If my father were still here I’d ask if he could do a little more than magic a Dairy Queen over the next hill. I’d ask him to magic me inside.
(This story also appeared in The Bandera Prophet.)
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