To one of the many passing tourists driving motor coaches and towing campers, Home Texaco is just another stop on the road to paradise. This is the place to refill your propane bottles from the thousand-gallon tank at the edge of the lot before continuing on to Penrose Point or Joemma Beach, or to top off your gas tank with leaded, unleaded, or diesel before heading home.
To locals, it is a social hub at least as important as the Homeport Restaurant next door. Here you stop as much for gas as to find out how far down Herron Road the County is going to be chip-sealing this week and when George and Leona’s 45th anniversary celebration will be held. You already know it will be at the Longbranch Improvement Club because that’s where all local parties and dances are held. Pete’s knowledge about the lives and circumstances of those he serves makes him a far better source of information about happenings here on the Key Peninsula than any newspaper you can imagine.
Home Texaco is also the place to go and borrow a tool that you don’t happen to have on hand for an auto or tractor repair. Pete doesn’t get to do as many mechanic jobs as he might if his service station were in Tacoma, serving all those city folks who don’t know a darn thing about an engine, but he doesn’t mind. He likes the slow pace of life here and having friends for customers and customers for friends. In fact, if Pete’s Home Texaco were located in the city, it wouldn’t be a gas station. With its view out across Jones Bay to Anderson Island to the East, it would be a fancy eatery or a luxury condominium complex. But it’s in Home, where such views are commonplace and thus not particularly expensive.
You might also cross the street to Home Texaco from the Home Laundromat to break a five for some quarters to feed the washers and dryers. The Korean couple who run both the Laundromat and the Home Grocery have neglected to install a coin changer, although no one seems to care, unless it’s raining and they get wet running across to Pete’s. Certainly Pete doesn’t care. It’s just another opportunity to catch up with people and what’s going on. Few bother to go to the Home Grocery for change even though it’s just on the other side of Home Texaco, probably because folks enjoy the chance to chat with Pete. The Korean couple who runs it does a lot more smiling and nodding than talking, which isn’t nearly as interesting.
Pete is generally more of an ear-witness than an eye-witness because he hears about what happens to people rather than seeing it most of the time. But he did get to watch one of the most exciting events to occur on the Key Peninsula for the entire year of 1996 when Jason Barns raced his souped-up ’77 Trans Am northward up the Key Peninsula Highway – Pete figures he was doing about 120 – careening down the block of road that runs through Home and past Home Texaco. The road makes a 30-degree turn at the end of town, just feet from Pete’s doorway. When Jason tried to make the curve, the Trans Am rocked over onto its two right-hand wheels and then flipped. The car was wrecked. Jason walked away. We all thought that would be the end of Jason’s racing, but barely six months later he was back to it. We just hoped we weren’t in his way the next time he flipped. Pete said that Jason’s wildness started when his mother died the year before, which kept folks from getting too mad at him, even though he was “an endangerment to the community.” But that’s what Pete does. He helps everyone understand everyone else in some way.