The way people talk, you might think the entire Texas Hill Country has been divided up into 5-acre ranchettes, with towns like Fredericksburg selling faux Texana and cotton candy to Houston tourists in plaid shorts.
I’m on the Llano uplift now, past the ancient granite domes of Enchanted Rock and onto the twice-cooked gneiss west of Pontotoc. Here I see none of the oppressive ash juniper. Post oaks and mesquite are more common, scattered across the landscape. I can’t yet tell which of the trees have been killed by the drought of 2011. Many, but perhaps fewer than in normally wet Houston.
The soft April wind blows into the seventies, warming from near freezing nights just a few days ago. The bluebonnets are blooming, more casually than along the Lady Bird highways. Other wildflowers are not yet out. The mesquite looks tender, green frills on the thorny branches. Some of the prickly pears have fat new pads with fleshy imitations of spines.
I hear field sparrows that remind me of Missouri. A vermillion flycatcher, improbably brilliant, reminds me of swampy Elm Lake at Brazos Bend State Park. The black-chinned hummingbirds remind me of nowhere else but here.
Soon my youngest son will turn the dials of the padlock and drive up the crushed rock road, past the cattle tank and windmill and into view. Then we’ll have longhorn hamburgers and apple tart and wait for the big Texas stars to come out.
written at the Double Helix Ranch writer’s retreat.