They were huddled on the shoulder of the highway.
A man and a woman, next to their pick up truck, parked on the southbound side. The wind was blowing stiffly out of the south, and slate colored clouds were scutting across the November sky.
It was Thanksgiving morning.
The truck was a dull, dark green; not old, but no longer new.
The man was wearing a fresh pair of jeans, dark blue still, cinched against his slender frame by a shiny brown dress belt with scuffed cowboy boots, dusted to a faint shine. A plaid shirt was tucked in. He was dressed up, head bowed, hands clasped behind his back, on the side of the highway.
The woman was dressed in pink, and she was sitting on the ground, elbows on knees, face held in her hands, as if in prayer. That's when I noticed the cross.
That's what had drawn them to this particular spot, on this particular road, on this particular Thanksgiving morning.
A fresh mylar balloon danced in the breeze, and two vases of freshly cut flowers stood sentinel next to the wooden cross. The top and side bars of the cross were capped with a metal, five-point star inside the squared ends on the cross pieces.
A brass name plate noted the pertinent facts: "In Loving Memory of Samuel David Garza, Jr., 12-02-1973 to 3-21-2009. We love you. Dad, Mom & Jeremy."
Only 36-years old.
Not a kid, but a father with kids, and a sibling, and parents cursed by having to bury a child before his time.
In Texas, roadside crosses are legal, and apparently encouraged by the State as permanent behavioral reinforcements against traffic fatalities. For $300, the State of Texas will even erect a roadside memorial sign with the name of a lost loved one, as a reminder to drive safely.
For me on a blustery Thanksgiving morning, this scene was the only reminder anyone should need: A family still grieving over the loss of a son, father, brother, and friend. The image has haunted me all weekend. My foot involuntarily eased off the gas pedal as I whizzed past the melancholy moment, headed towards my own family reunion.
The tacit warning worked.