The Warmth of the Frio

The Rio Frio came by its name honestly. Spring-fed, shallow and clear, it’s a cold river: perhaps the coldest in Texas.  It can slow to a trickle in summer heat, and, when in flood, puts roadways underwater in a flash.  But if the Frio is flowing well, singing steadily over the rocks, its coursing is pure pleasure.

Other Texas rivers — particularly the Guadalupe, the Comal, and the San Marcos — are famed as venues for kayaking and tubing, but they flow through urban centers. When the season ends and river rats dry off for a final time, there still are dance halls and concerts, festivals, antique shops, and galleries to entertain the crowds.

Along the Frio, things are different.  As the weather turns and school begins, provisioning companies shutter their doors until spring.  Families continue to gather at Garner State Park for weekends of camping and fishing, and birders flock into the valley to track the autumn migration. Hunters fan out into ranchlands in pursuit of whitetail, while autumn bikers test themselves against the famous hairpin turns and steep grades of the “Twisted Sisters.”  Still, the pace of life begins to slow. As it does, the Frio and her people show a different face to the world: a face filled with unexpected beauty and warmth.
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Published in: on December 7, 2014 at 4:58 pm  Comments (97)  
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Schooled by Summer

Never mind the calendar. On the Texas coast, summer shimmers into being when she will, and when she arrives, the signs are everywhere.

Store shelves begin to be emptied of Gatorade and bottled water. Bandanas and straw hats appear. Yard workers stop more often to wipe their faces, and even the Ladies Who Lunch begin to sweat. They don’t “perspire” or “glow,” as proper Southern ladies should. They sweat right along with the yard crews, and they do it at nine in the morning. 

Soon, it becomes too hot to walk barefooted on a boat deck or dock. The sharp, metallic trill of cicadas replaces birdsong, and rueful humans can’t resist asking one another,”Hot enough for you?” It’s summer for sure, no matter what the calendar says.  (more…)

A Ghost of Texas Past

The site of James Briton Bailey’s land grant, known today as Bailey’s Prairie. (Click for larger image)

Twelve years after “Brit” Bailey succumbed to cholera on the hot, humid coastal plain of Stephen F. Austin’s colony, events had taken a turn. Texas had become a Republic, and word of the opportunities to be had there was spreading, particularly among the Germans.

In November 1845, German scientist Ferdinand von Roemer debarked in Galveston. Sent to Texas by the Berlin Academy of Sciences, he had been charged with the task of evaluating mineral assets on the Fisher-Miller land grant west of San Antonio. In the process of meeting his obligation, Roemer not only established himself as the father of Texas geology, through his association with John Meusebach he became an important player in the opening of the Fisher-Miller grant to settlement.
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When The Book Becomes The Story

It began, as life’s best days often do, with little thought and almost no planning. Eager only to escape the city and enjoy the long-awaited Texas spring, a friend and I prepared the simplest of picnic lunches, then headed south and west, into Brazoria County, to see what we could see.

As it happened, there were delights aplenty. We discovered Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) filling the ditches with color.
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Dobro Nights

Texans do love their dance halls. The ties remain strong even among those forced to leave the state, so strong that families often will hold annual picnics or reunions at their favorite pavilion or hall.

When the big oak at Crider’s burned, rumors began circulating that the dance floor had been lost, and people grieved. When the re-opening of Gilley’s in Pasadena was announced, urban cowboys everywhere rejoiced.

From Austin’s Broken Spoke to Gruene Hall to the old pavilions in Palacios and Garner State Park, Texans continue to waltz with Ernest Tubb, two-step with Willie and hoot-n-holler their assent when Asleep at the Wheel declares Bob Wills still is the King of Western swing.

But here and there, away from the halls and saloons, far from the honkey-tonks, pavilions and bars, music flows on, fresh and sweet like an underground spring, bubbling up through unexpected cracks in the routines of everyday life to provide beauty, solace and cheer. The harmonica tucked into a saddle-bag, the fiddle easily plucked from the wall, the well-worn guitar or mandolin carried onto the porch of an evening – these not only entertain, they help to give voice to the mysterious bond between a people and their land. (more…)

Published in: on June 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm  Comments (96)  
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