Almost The Weekend

October 17, 2013

Well, it looks like I’ve coasted through another week on the strength of a lengthy, Monday post.  How lazy of me, I know.

The truth is, I just haven’t had a lot to write about of late.  I mean, there’s more to write about the lead ammo ban, but I expect many of you are sick to death of that one, and for now, there’s not a lot that I can say beyond what I covered in Monday’s post.

I know what some of you may be thinking.  “WTF, Phillip?  You moved to the Texas Hill Country where hunting is probably the second biggest industry, next to oil and gas drilling!”

And you’re right, of course, except it’s not exactly like you might think.  I was semi-surprised to learn that hunting is pretty much taken for granted out here.  While plenty of locals hunt, they do it right out their back doors.  Once in awhile, someone will mention that they had to shoot another hog in the yard, but it’s just not as common a topic of conversation as you’d expect.  Killing exotics, like axis deer, is just pest control.  Nobody seems to care much about turkeys.  Even during whitetail season, which in some parts of Texas is the High Holidays, the thread of hunting conversation is barely a loud hum.

You don’t hear much about people’s “hot spots”, or who just killed a big axis buck.  There’s not a lot of talk about where to find game on public land, because, well, there’s not a lot of public land.  And apparently, nobody out here hunts it.  Everybody has their own place, or their family place, or their friend’s place.  The big, guest ranches don’t advertise (at least not locally), and if I didn’t ask around I’d probably never even know some of them were here.

Maybe I’m just not hanging out with the right crowd.

Which is a whole ‘nuther thing…

There’s a pride that comes from having deep roots in a place like this.  The folks who settled this canyon were tough, brave individuals.  This part of Texas was still a wild frontier near the end of the 19th century, and early settlers were still braving raids by the Comanches, Apaches, and Mexican bandits.  Even a hundred years ago, this was a harsh place to make a life.  But these people did it.  The names of those pioneers are still here, mingled now with the names of the natives they displaced… not just in the people, but etched into the landscape itself, in the names of creeks, canyons, caves, and ridgelines.  You see them on maps, and on historical markers along the roadside.  The family lines that remain run strong, and have a deep, personal claim to this place that they’re not ready to give up willingly… especially not to interlopers from the east. (And yes, there’s an irony there, but you’d do well not to point it out to them.)

I’ve lived enough of my life in the rural outback to know how country folks look at city people. I’m no stranger to that odd strain of xenophobia that you see in a place like this… the tolerant, smiling facade that hides disdain and ridicule. I’ve certainly felt my own distaste for folks who bring city noise and attitudes into the bucolic paradise of my backcountry home.  In my non-native naivete, I guess I expected some sort of oral tradition of dislike for folks from Dallas.  I anticipated hearing any number of jibes at the expense of those weirdos in Austin.  But honestly, you don’t get a lot of that here.  Instead, it’s Houston.

True, working at the smokehouse last year, an overwhelming majority of the deer tags I recorded included addresses in and around Houston.  There were one or two from down near Corpus Christi, and some locals, but a disproportionate number came all the way across the state.  Many of the leases around here are held by folks who live in the eastern side of Texas.  I can’t really recall meeting any visitors from the Dallas or Austin areas.  Maybe they all spend their time in the northern Hill Country, near Fredericksburg and Boerne, or up in Brady.

No, most of our out-of-towners are from the Houston area.

And it’s not really a hatred I hear when locals talk about them. It’s more of a tone (not completely unlike the tone with which my friends and family back in North Carolina would use when someone from New Jersey moved in).   It’s sort of an expect-the-worst-but-give them-a-chance-to-prove-themselves kind of thing.  Ironically, a fair number of Camp Wood’s leading citizens are transplanted from the Houston area. They’ve settled in well, and are, by-and-large, accepted.

But they’re not from here.  That doesn’t change until you’ve outlived anyone who can remember when you moved in.

So, being from Houston is one thing.  At least those folks are still some manner of Texan.  If you really want to be an outsider, try being from California.





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