Because it took a significant amount of time to get anywhere important, other than Tyler, (that is, if you consider Tyler important,) when we went anywhere it was considered a long trip. Dallas was an hour. The great childhood Mecca of Six Flags, over an hour and a half. Even traveling to football games in other rural communities required a good chunk of your day.
Many times our excursions outside Chandler took us away until late at night. Because I've mostly been an early riser all my life, I would generally be asleep during these long trips. But strangely enough, for my entire childhood I would always wake up at the same place every single time. The intersection of Highways 31 and 315, when I was a young child, was simply a blinking red light, the kind where you wait your turn, but don't really need any more assistance than the compass of kind behavior. Later it turned into an all-out traffic signal, complete with red, green, and yellow. But as long as I can remember, at the northeast corner of the intersection a small bank has sat with a short tower perched atop the building, just diagonal from what used to be a downtown square. On top of the tower, visible to any child just waking up from a long journey, is a large clock, hands and all.
There are digital clocks spread all throughout the "new urbanism" developments springing up like crazy around the country, but those analog clocks rising above old city centers had a binding power that no amount of fancy landscaping and shiny numerical time-tellers can compete with. Of course, you can't bring these things up to many around you, especially those who worship at the altar of "progress," trading in time tested routines of work, play, and rest for a continual drive to get places faster than the next guy. If you're lucky, they'll say you are "resistant to change." Usually, though, the snickers and stares will be of a more condescending variety, with a mention of Andy Griffith thrown in or insinuated, as if that were an insult.
To those who came before me, that clock served as a reminder of where they were. Because everyone had equal visual access, it reminded them who they were with. It's location showed them where they were headed.
For people like me, as a road-weary child ready for the comforts and familiarity of that little brick house on Neches, it rang out silently that home wasn't far off. Remember the journey, celebrate the homecoming, and take a moment to look into the faces of your fellow travelers. Because time doesn't stop at the intersection of Highways 31 and 315.