Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
People respected Sophie, not only because of Li Du but also because Sophie would take care of them when they went out.
For example, before getting on the bus this time, Sophie gave them yogurt and recommended them to drink more yogurt on the road and less soda. Such a long journey was not very good for the stomach, and yogurt could subdue road sickness.
It was easier to drive with more people, and there would be no inertia fatigue. The 250 kilometers drive took only two hours.
The convoy entered the town at sunset.
The town of FortDavis was really small. As far as Li Du knew, only about two thousand people lived there. There were more inhabitants in his hometown.
Nevertheless, it was a small town equipped with all kinds of facilities and even a large library.
Li Du noticed the library because the hotel they booked was right next to it.
The library was beautiful, and after they had unpacked in the hotel, he went together with Sophie to have a look.
Like the town itself, the library was a landmark in the area. It was one of the oldest buildings in town, with a history of more than a century.
There is an information plate at the gate of the building. In the early days, this place was the location of a commercial organization. Merchants who shuttled between San Antonio and El Paso would conduct business here if there were midway transactions.
The owner, W. Keeley, was a celebrity at the time, but the building changed hands several times before the local government bought it and built the library on top of its original part.
The library’s decor was simple and lovely, with cartoon motifs on its shelves, plush pillows on its sofas and a piano in the lobby.
Sophie played a little tune there. She loved the piano, so when she saw Cao Yulin’s extraordinary talent during the Lantern Festival, she had the irresistible urge to buy him a piano.
Seeing her staring at the piano, Li Du went to the front desk and asked if she could play.
The lady at the front desk nodded kindly, so Li Du lifted the cover and Sophie sat down to play.
Sitting on the sofa at the door, Li Du bought a cup of tea with milk from a vending machine. He drank the milk tea as he listened to the music, and once in a while looked at the sunset. It was indeed comfortable.
Fort Davis was a very different place from Phoenix, surrounded by fields and tall trees.
There was an acacia tree at the doorway of the library, with a bird’s nest among its branches. A big bird flew in, and a few tender beaks popped out from the nest, fighting for food.
There were people strolling with their dogs here and there. The pace of the town was serene, as if time itself passed more slowly.
Before he even knew it, Sophie finished playing the piano. By this time, she was surrounded by several people who became her listeners.
She put down the cover, and her audience gave her a round of applause. The front desk lady also came up, smiled and said, “You played well, young lady. The evening was more beautiful thanks to your music.”
Sophie thanked her and said to Li Du, “I like it here.”
This was Li Du’s first time in a western town. He had not come to Texas before, but he had heard that the people here were rough, and so were their towns.
However, Fort Davis was different. It felt like one of those Nordic towns you see on TV.
After walking around the library, Li Du came out. The treasure hunters were waiting for him to have dinner with them.
The town was full of restaurants and bars, and prices were low.
In addition, Fort Davis was also a famous stargazing resort. McDonald Observatory was located there. The surrounding environment was natural and free of air pollution. The limit of the star magnitude could reach 6.5.
Many astronomy enthusiasts and stargazers would drive from afar to observe the celestial bodies. Their appearance has promoted the local tourism industry, so there were many restaurants in town.
Soon there would be a spring star party, and the town was getting crowded with tourists.
Li Du and the others went into the restaurant. The waiter arranged a big round table for them. They sat together, drank beer and chatted.
As they began to talk, a fat old man turned around and asked, “Are you here for the star party?”
Li Du said, “Yup, you could say so. We have plans to attend.”
The old man smiled and said, “If you like stars, why don’t you live here? That way you could raise your head and see the Milky Way when you have a barbecue in the backyard at night.”
“Yes, it is a beautiful town with good living facilities. It’s nice to live here,” someone added.
In other places, it was taboo to butt into a stranger’s conversation, but it was normal in small-town restaurants.
The place was like a combination of a bar and a restaurant. It was crowded inside, there were laughter and chatting voices, and the atmosphere was very relaxed.
Carl stroked his mustache and pointed to the men around him. “You’re not going to welcome us. We’re savages. We are rude and noisy.”
The old man said, “It does not matter. We were rude and noisy when we were young. To be honest, I want to be rude and noisy even now, but I don’t have the energy for that because I am too old.”
Li Du understood why these old people wanted to invite them to settle here. Not because they liked them so much, but because the American rural population kept flowing into the cities, and the countryside was gradually becoming abandoned.
Many of the towns lost so much population that they had to merge with other local councils. After all, fewer people meant less infrastructure and services.
Someone asked where they were from. Li Du said they were from Phoenix.
“Phoenix is a big city, but there are so many people there. Why go to the big city? Isn’t it nicer here in town? Don’t you think so?”
“We have a library, and if you like reading you will never find life boring. We have an observatory, which attracts tourists and brings money. The Davis Mountains is great for guys who like to explore, and we’re not far from the Chihuahua Desert and the Big Bend national park…”
The treasure hunters laughed and shook their heads. Hans said, “Our hometown is right there. Fort Davis is great. It’s better than Phoenix, but our hometown is better.”
The old men smiled and nodded, and the first fat man to speak raised his glass and said, “Here, let’s drink to our hometown.”
“Cheers, old boys!” The treasure hunters laughed and began to drink.
There were people coming into the restaurant on and off. Some of them looked like they were here to participate in the astronomy gathering. They took umbrella flashlights and other daily utensils out of their cars, and some also took out telescope lenses to wipe after entering the room.
Li Du drank a mouthful of beer and said, “Which day exactly is the Star party?”
“In four days.”
When he got the answer, he nodded and said, “I hope we can find a telescope. I’m getting a little interested in this opportunity.”