It was released fifty years ago, but Jack Kerouac had been paying his dues for a long time before that. I discovered On the Road on a library shelf when I was 12 or 13. I remember reading the first page there in the library — and I was transfixed; then taking it up to the desk to check out. Perhaps the librarian hadn’t read it, because back then it didn’t even warrant a concerned look from her. I wonder if that would hold true today.
* * *
Years later, I pulled into Dalhart. It had been sunny and hot and dry and dusty all day, and I was looking for a cool, shady place to sit down and relax and have a cold one. I parked behind a bar out of sight of the road — I don’t remember the name now, but it’s just one building off the corner of the main crossroad, and still painted gray with a black star on the wall — walked in and sat at the bar. It was mid-afternoon. I exchanged a few pleasantries with the barkeep and asked for a Lone Star.
After only a few minutes of sitting in the cool, dark bar, the sheriff wandered in — in full modern regalia — and proceeded to sit down beside me and be neighborly. He must have watched me pull into the back and wanted to see what was going on. He started out by pushing his hat back on his head and adopting that yokel demeanor that was supposed to hide his interest, and then settled in to tell jokes so bad that even I knew the punch lines.
Well, I wasn’t in the mood for that, so I started stepping on his lines. After about three more jokes I could tell he was getting annoyed, so I finished my beer, got up and got the hell out of there.
I never stopped in Dalhart again.
Neither did Jack Kerouac.
The road must eventually lead to the whole world. Ain’t nowhere else it can go — right? But no matter, the road is life. — on the road, Jack Kerouac