I spent much of the last week in the Texas Hill Country – it was beautiful, filled with scenic views and bustling with wildlife – and miles away from modern communication. It was the kind of hell men only dream of.
Okay, no, it wasn’t that bad really. But, given that I had a ton of things to do for school and work, and that I was really hoping to hear back about some recent writing gig openings, well, it was a touch maddening. And to be fair, I’m sure the locals had reception and internet, but my coverage was nil.
First, the obvious: Eating lunch a local diner, my wife and I had to sit for the first time in give-or-take ten years without any kind of device distracting us. She noticed I grew a beard. I got the chance to remember her name.
Then we found out the diner had free wifi. So we sent at least a few minutes of every day quietly parked outside. Burgers were dang good.
We did get to see tons of wildlife – deer, buzzards, roadrunners, wild turkey – of course, the only ones that sat still long enough to have their mug shots taken were the buzzards. Friendly fellows though.
Driving in, we saw a dozen of these guys dangling from a barbed wire fence:
I’m not sure if it was a warning to humans or the animals, but not even the buzzards would touch the rotting carcasses (and carcasses they were, some had rotted down to the bone, others still had flesh and fur).
Had the chance to hit a few antique stores. I love doing that in small towns.
Interesting to see that when it came down to establishing etiquette or preserving vintage books, local mores won out.
Also visited Garner State Park. Nice place and great for families. The hiking trail was a bit more challenging than I would have expected for the place, but nice. A word of advice though, if you go hiking for “Painted Rock” as listed on the helpful guide map, you will find it is exactly as advertised. It’s a rock. With paint on it. Similarly, “Big Cedar” isn’t so much a landmark as it is one of several hundred other, identically sized cedars on the hill. Don’t even ask about the caves.
On the other hand, the river’s beautiful.
By day three, I couldn’t take much more. A few minutes of wifi a day was not cutting the mustard. To think, my wife still picks on me because when we first started going out, I made fun of people who had cell phones.
I did get the chance to read up on local history – something I try to do whether I have internet or not – and was grateful to find local historians had recently collected dozens of stories, some over a century old, in a handy magazine-style book. I’m still going through the tales of early settlers, Indian raids and family reunions, but my favorite so far is this one:
The Enigma of the “Mexican” Shepherd
Mr. Kincheloe had recently employed a shepherd, whom he supposed to be a Mexican, and who lived in a tent not far from the house. […] later, Mrs. Bowlin and her girls went to the Bowlin home to do the chores. They were surprised to find the shepherd there ransacking their place and fled terror-stricken back to the Kincheloe home. There they excitedly informed Mrs. Kincheloe of what the had seen. At the same time they astonished Mrs. Kincheloe by declaring that he was “no Mexican but as white as any man.” […] Mrs. Kincheloe was astonished at his apparent transformation, he was indeed white! When he saw Mrs. Kincheloe with a gun, he again fled, and no member of either household ever saw him afterward.
Emphasis mine. Sure, the story may be from sometime in the 1800s, but it’s interesting to note how some brownface could qualify someone as a potential hire, and completely prevent someone from being later identified. It’s also interesting to see how quickly they turned to “white” equaling “man.”
That being said, I did not notice any casual racism among the modern-day natives. In fact, everyone was pretty cordial to me and mine. Also interesting, although I don’t know what to make of it, was the fact that I saw a preponderance of Texas flags, but only a few examples of Old Glory and zero examples of the Southern Cross.
On the road I found myself thinking wistfully of the open brush and rolling hills. I admired the resourcefullness of local ranchers who could turn this arid dessert-like location into a thriving home for horses, sheep, goats, longhorns and even some exotic game.
Then I noticed my cell was working again.
Oooh, four dots and 3G!
Post script: Turns out there was a movie made recently about this area, I haven’t watched it yet, but it looks interesting.
This story was originally published on the Kinja blog of Kevin Garcia on March 7th, 2014.