Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.

Highway 90

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This weekend, I drove up to Dallas for the Liberty/SMU game and to catch up with a few friends.

The trip is four hours, most of it long stretches of interstate. A decent chunk of it, though, is spent on highway 90; two lanes with a generous speed limit winding through tiny towns and sprawling ranches.

On my way up, kickoff on the brain, I barrelled through as quick as I could. Even so, a building here and a tractor there would catch my eye, and I couldn't help feeling a tug to slow down and take it in.

Driving back on Sunday, I decided to do just that. I promised myself that whenever I saw something and thought, even for a split second, that would make a great photo, I would stop or turn around and actually take a photo of it. And that's exactly what I did.

I took my time, adding an hour to the journey; cutting off onto every gravel road and making U-turn after U-turn. No ranch gate or storefront or street sign was left unexplored.

Most of my life was spent in Austin — a city that's grown into a viable metroplex. For the majority of my childhood, though, our family lived deliberately on the outskirts. My mom's parents have had various ranches and farms over the years, second homes for me; and their roots run deep in small-town Wimberley. My dad's are the more nomadic of my grandparents, but they're the kind of people who make and keep ties wherever they go; and their extended family are farmers, as well.

So I didn't grow up in a small town, per say — and I'd hardly call Austin "country" — but the connections are there, and I feel them strongly, especially when I'm in those settings. Add a healthy dose of regular Texas pride and independence, and places like Madisonville and Roans Prairie and Navasota and Leona —tiny but tough, standing stubborn against the growing cities their roads lead to — just fill me to the brim with affection.

The snapshots I take can't stem a concrete tide; but something about capturing these increasingly rare little places the way I see them lets me grab a fistful of their spirit for myself. I feel calmer and stronger far out and scaled down. Texas forever, six.

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