Monday, February 08, 2010

Saturday, on the beach of a Prehistoric Ocean in the Texas Hill Country

Two things which, by fluke, I had never done: driven a four wheeler, and hunted deer. Saturday, I drove four wheelers - with great relish - up and down my friend's mountain on the northern edge of the Texas Hill Country. I had a big grin on my face, like Gretchen:

Some of the happiest adults in the world are people who either 1) have just squeezed a trigger, or 2) are driving a four wheeler. In both instances, you frequently see wide involuntary grins emanating from otherwise jaded and cynical adults.

Unlike Gretchen - I was bypassing the mud as much as possible, because going up and down the mountain was already enough fun as to not require adding mud to the equation. However, it was impossible to miss all the mud, so the mud added itself to the equation. Four wheelers fling mud into the air - sometimes machine gunning it, and sometimes flinging it up upwards and forward so that you drive splat into the mud which just got tossed into the air. By the end of the day - between riding four wheelers and planting trees up and down the mountain - we had mud splattered and smeared over us, which I loved. When you rarely take opportunity to get splattered and smeared with mud, you oughta fully embrace it when you do.

I didn't hunt deer, but did receive a college quality tutorial about deer, and saw, I don't know: a couple dozen deer. And I put out feed for deer, and checked deer feeders to ensure the good protein pellets were loose and available, and saw tracks for who knows how many deer(?), and intently studied photos of deer from strategically placed cameras up on the mountain, and tasted the finest venison steak and the finest venison/pork mixed sausage.

My married-to-each-other friends, JJ and CJ, have achieved nice financial success. On this day, JJ took me down to visit their ranch, which is just west of the back side of the largest military installation in America: Fort Hood. JJ and CJ have 800 acres which encompass and surround a small mountain: Franklin Mountain, elevation 1400 feet. The mountain has commanding views in all directions - including overlooking the Lampasas River Valley. JJ and his son run Black Angus cattle in a "cow and calf" operation, which means they keep most of their cows and sell most of their calves (for approx $500 per 6 month old calf).

It's deer heaven. JJ and his son are now deer experts. JJ said he doesn't want to bring in deer hunters in a for-profit operation, yet: he's erected 7 miles of 8 foot high fence to contain his deer population, he's eagerly shaping his deer population to a point where it will contain some of the finest trophy bucks in Texas, and he casually mentioned that a hunter typically pays $10,000 to shoot a true Trophy Buck (i.e. a buck which scores between 160-170 on the Boone-Crockett scale). Hmmm.

Conservation note:
Hunters, via eliminating the best deer, encourage smaller deer to breed and produce smaller deer. Therefore, in a new program, the State of Texas will survey your deer population and allow you to kill a specified amount of small and medium sized deer, with a goal of creating a population of larger deer. Texas has specified that JJ can kill 50 small to medium size deer this year. JJ has to measure the kills and send the statistics to the State.

I much enjoyed getting JJ's take on what their land was like when they purchased it, and on what improvements have been made, and on what his vision is for the future of the land. For instance: the mountain has hundreds of trees spread across a number of thick groves, but JJ is shaping his land to fit his vision, and his vision includes certain pretty trees in certain locations up and down his mountain. It's a man at his best thing: throughout history, man has looked at land and said: I can make it better. And man has gone about doing just that. And has succeeded. JJ stands in a long line of men. The line stretches back through all of human history.

Maybe the coolest thing about JJ's and CJ's property: south of their mountain, the ground is covered in sea shells. It's not Sanibel, but I thought of Sanibel as I walked amongst and atop tiny shells. North of their mountain: no sea shells. We know prehistoric Texas was largely covered by ocean. Could an ocean, for one section of history, have come right up to the northern edge of the Texas Hill Country, right up to Franklin Mountain, yet no further?

Not Lampasas County ========>

But, Lampasas County might've looked like this, 30,000 years ago. Imagine a mountain which is just out of camera range on the right.

From the southern base of the mountain, JJ's and CJ's land gradually falls away to the south, and the fall away encompasses a wide area. Could that gradual fallaway be part of a miles wide topographic fallaway? From the base of their mountain, they command a long view to a distant southern horizon. When a Texan says a horizon is distant, it's best to take the descriptor seriously. Texans know long horizons. It seems logical that the land on the south side of the mountain was the beach of a prehistoric ocean.

No comments: