Tag Archives: Hill Country

Rattlesnake at Nadiana’s door

We have an email chat line in our neighborhood, and news gets around pretty fast. This is what showed up today: a photo of the rattlesnake that tried to get into Nadiana’s house, lying dead on her doormat.

Nadiana’s daughter discovered the snake this morning when she opened the front door and almost stepped on it. Nadiana killed it with a hoe. Shannon lent the hoe and took the photo.

Jacki chimed in that her husband ran over a small rattler with the lawn mower a couple of weeks ago. Never noticed until the next time he walked by, when it was lying there in four pieces. Didn’t last long, though: by the end of the day, the fire ants had eaten every bit.

Other neighbors are complaining that Shannon didn’t save the rattlesnake so they could add it to their chili at our next neighborhood chili cook-off.

The Hill Country is a whole ‘nother place.

Standing Shoulder to Shoulder

Live oak on riverbank, 12-30-11The changing of the year was exquisite in our corner of the Hill Country

My husband and I never get tired of walking down to the river. With the variable weather, the rising and falling waters, the freely roaming animals, the constantly changing light and shadow, the wind like ocean surf and our unique neighbors, this is the most alive place we’ve ever been.

Sometimes we’re stunned that we ended up in this place, though moving here was a deliberate decision. We’re also stunned that we–who can go for days without wanting to speak to another human besides ourselves–we’re stunned that we like so many people here. And there are so many worth liking.

It’s not like we’ve been holed up somewhere all our lives. Each of us has lived in other states and traveled extensively. We’re originally from New York, my husband from the City and myself from the Island. But now we become uneasy when we cross the Cibolo River into the moderate congestion of San Antonio. The little town of Blanco, north of us, is as bustling and cosmopolitan a burg as we want to visit.

We’re not withdrawing from life. We’re doing the opposite. We have more positive human interaction than ever before because the people here are different.

Perhaps that’s because this area retains some of its frontier quality. This place was the edge of Comanchería before the 1860’s, and Apachería before that. Settled mostly by mountaineers from Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas, and then by German immigrants just before the Civil War, Texans here count their generations on a single hand. The past is recent. There are fewer people, but more interconnections among people.

On a frontier, it’s vital to know the character of your neighbors. People talk to each other here. People measure each other here. Each person is an asset or a liability. Can your neighbors be trusted? If you help them in an emergency, will they come to your aid when it’s your turn to need help? Will they stand firm? There’s a degree of solidarity, of standing shoulder to shoulder, that seems to be handed down from an earlier time. It’s a strange but wonderful feeling to stand shoulder to shoulder with people you know you can trust.

On a frontier, people’s jobs don’t define them. They define their jobs. They do what they have to do. They make opportunity. Conchay and Mari opened a Mexican restaurant that revived a dying shopping center, then opened a Chinese restaurant next to it. Derek runs a 300-acre ranch and is one of the two fire department captains. Paty sells the best tacos in 50 miles from a tiny trailer on the side of the road. There’s confidence and self-sufficiency here that we’ve never seen in a city or a suburb.

People are more individual. Not that they try to be–they are. Katie, who worked in a factory, has such an original mind that we’ve thought about walking around after her with a pad and pen, writing down what she says. Her husband built an airplane in their living room.

Most amazingly, there’s no propaganda–or, at least, propaganda is recognized for being just that. Only after we left the East and West Coasts did we realize how bombarded the rest of the country is with constant propaganda.

This isn’t Pollyanna-land. There are plenty of problems, including underemployment, poverty, drugs, drought, flood and fire. But we’ve found what feels like normal life. Standing shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors, we mean to hold on to it as long as we can.

By S.J. Driscoll

The Other World (2)

Deja Vu BlogfestThe post below is my contribution to today’s Deja Vu Blogfest, co-hosted by DH Hammon, Katie Mills (Creepy Query Girl), Lydia Kang and Nicole Ducleroir. It first appeared on October 19, 2011.

***

Another world intersects with our city world of work, cars, media, shopping. Our ancestors knew it. Few of us do.

This other world isn’t supernatural. It’s not in another dimension. It’s where we came from. It’s still here, but we left.

So sometimes it comes to visit.

The squirrel steals the figs off our fig tree. The armadillo roots up our newly planted rosebush. The deer eat our young crepe myrtle down to the roots. The feral sow, with her thirty-six piglets, feeds in our garbage can. The coyote pack, which we hear howling at night at the edge of sleep–howling until the neighborhood dogs yelp in envy–the coyotes disappear our cat. The panther, en route from Colorado to Mexico, growls at us out of the brush at the side of the road when we take our evening walk.

They’re just saying hello. They’re saying, we’re here whether or not you acknowledge us.

They’re saying, come out of your house.

A deer trail angles across our front yard. When we first moved here, we were shocked every time the deer passed through. It was as if someone’s herd of cows was roaming free, browsing on our grass. Fawns are born twenty feet from our front door. They and their mothers bed down at night on our side lawn.

Now, when I go into a city, I’m ill at ease. Something’s missing. Everyone’s human. Where are the other beings?

There’s a legend in this area that a herd of bison once escaped through a break in a fence. A whole herd of bison. No one ever found them.

They’re here, though, living down in Devil’s Hollow. If we hide in one of the caves tonight, we’ll see them pass by.

By S.J. Driscoll

The other world

Another world intersects with our city world of work, cars, media, shopping.

Our ancestors knew it. Few of us do.

This other world isn’t supernatural. It’s not in another dimension.

It’s where we came from. It’s still here, but we left.

So sometimes it comes to visit.

The squirrel steals the figs off our fig tree. The armadillo roots up our newly planted rosebush. The deer eat our young crepe myrtle down to the roots. The feral sow, with her thirty-six piglets, feeds in our garbage can. The coyote pack, which we hear at night howling at the edge of sleep–howling until the neighborhood dogs yelp in envy–the coyotes disappear our cat. The panther, en route from Colorado to Mexico, growls at us out of the brush at the side of the road when we take our evening walk.

They’re just saying hello. They’re saying, we’re here whether or not you acknowledge us.

They’re saying, come out of your house.

A deer trail angles across our front yard. When we first moved here, we were shocked every time the deer passed through. It was as if someone’s herd of cows was roaming free, browsing on our grass. Fawns are born twenty feet from our front door. They and their mothers bed down at night on our side lawn.

Now, when I go into the city, I’m ill at ease. Something’s missing. Everyone’s human. Where are the other beings?

There’s a legend in this area that a herd of bison once escaped through a break in a fence. A whole herd of bison. No one ever found them.

They’re here, though, living down in Devil’s Hollow. If we hide in one of the caves tonight, we’ll see them pass by.

The old oak


This is the view from my desk: the middle of the old live oak. Because of the drought and the devastating fires in Bastrop, two days ago some friends thinned its branches away from our house. It was wrenching to see the old limbs drop, but the rain came and the tree is fine. Now my view includes a tiny triangle of the far ridge.

My third desk

The photo at the beginning of this blog shows my work desk and my writing desk in my office. Now I now have a first draft desk, too, in our converted garage, where I can turn my notes into a first draft in longhand. While writing early in the morning, I can look out into the woods to see the deer crossing the yard and the squirrel raiding the fig tree.