As you probably know, I travel a bit from time to time in the course of performing my job. I meet relatively few cotton or grain farmers in the Dallas suburbs, so I need to get out into God's country fairly often to scare up a story or two.

Usually, I enjoy the jaunts. But travel comes with occasional wrong turns, rocky roads and bad beds; so I take it as a personal goal to pass along observations that might help fellow travelers.

For instance, slow down as you drive through Brownfield, Texas.

And when you check into a hotel, don't put your room entry card in the same pocket with your cell phone. I just figured this out. After taking the card back to the hotel front desk for the third time, I asked the pleasant young lady if a cell phone could disrupt the workings of the card. She told me it was a slam-dunk certainty. I admired her restraint in refraining from looking me straight in the eye and saying: “Duh! Ya think?”

Also, if you stop to gas-up at the Wal-Mart service station (Murphy USA) in Childress, Texas, don't drive off without paying for your fuel. But you also should know that the Childress Police Department employs some very understanding people.

I didn't really mean to welch out on paying for my gas. It was an honest mistake. The pump credit card reader was a bit balky, so I had to take my card inside and present it to the clerk, who took it, gave it a look and handed it back.

“I'll turn the pump on,” she said.

I filled up my truck, went back inside, took a bathroom break, selected a soft drink to assure myself that I would soon need another bathroom break, paid for the drink, and went on my way.

I got home about three hours later and was just settling down into my most comfortable television-watching chair and decided to check messages on our home phone.

“You have one new message,” I was informed. “This is officer Jones (name changed to protect myself, just in case) with the Childress Police Department, please call … (and he left the number).”

I don't remember hitting any pedestrians as I crawled through Childress, I thought. I didn't recall doing more than three miles over the posted limit. I didn't perform any bank heists while in the vicinity.

I called immediately.

“I think you forgot to pay for gas,” the courteous officer said.

I allowed as how that was more than likely, recalling that the clerk never actually swiped my debit card and that the pump reader never actually logged in my pin number. Oops. I apologized.

“Don't worry about it,” the officer said. “It happens all the time. They really need to get that thing fixed.”

He checked in with the gas station manager, and called me back a few minutes later with contact information. I checked in the next day, apologized profusely, got an address, was informed of the amount I failed to pay, wrote a check, and put it in the mail.

I still haven't figured out how they tracked me down.

But it is a comforting feeling no longer being a fugitive from the law.