HELOTES, Texas—Drenched in yellow light and red fog, Robert Earl Keen scratches at his guitar and unloads the lyrics to his trademark anthem with several thousand boot-and-cowboy-hat-clad Texans howling along in delirium. This is the grand finale on a warm Saturday night at Floore’s Country Store, among the holy sites in the “Texas Country” music scene, and I’m likely the only soul here who doesn’t know the words. Luckily, it’s not hard to catch on; at the end of each of the eight stanzas, Keen and his mob of devotees belt out the line that made him famous around these parts: The road goes on forever, and the party never ends.
The song isn’t especially deep or meaningful—it’s the story of two small-town social misfits who fall in love, arrange a meeting with Cuban drug dealers, steal their money, then kill the lawman who catches them, only to end with Sonny in the electric chair and Sherry driving a new Mercedes Benz—but the chorus provides an ideal thematic backdrop for a meeting of my own.
Drifting amid the sea of bodies in the poorly lit pavilion is Will Hurd, the congressman who represents Texas’ behemoth 23rd District, which stretches from this suburb north of San Antonio, all the way to El Paso some eight hours west. Of the 36 congressional districts in Texas, 35 are safely controlled by Republicans or Democrats; Hurd’s is the outlier. Not only is his district the biggest in the state—encompassing 58,000 square miles, covering all or parts of 29 counties, and including 820 miles of U.S.-Mexico border—it’s easily the most competitive, with both parties pumping millions of dollars into the 23rd every election cycle. Hurd has agreed to let me drive with him across his district; over the next three days we will traverse infinite stretches of flat and long-forgotten highway, zigzagging between dusty outposts for discussions with constituents and local officials about issues as remote as the real estate they occupy. This is all part of the routine for Hurd, who, as a Republican in a 71 percent Hispanic district, must wage what is essentially a continuous, day-in-and-day-out campaign to keep his job. Serendipitously, before we depart on this odyssey, he wants to acquaint me with the stylings of Robert Earl Keen. The road goes on forever, and the party never ends.
Read more at Politico.