Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Texas Hill Country

I awake and prepare for a day in the Texas hill country. Prior to coming, I commented that this sounds like the locale in a slasher movie where a group of teenagers travel  on spring break from which they never return. I am relied to discover that it is not like that at all. As we journey away from the center of town the city seems to break up and splinter. Tract homes and strip malls transition into ranches set in rolling hills sprinkled with old, towering trees. Steel gates emblazoned with the name of the ranch mark the entrance to each. Hawks float over head searching for prey as cattle graze and cool themselves in retention ponds.

We come to the small town of Navasota. Time and urban development seem to have passed it by. Late 19th century storefronts line it's main street. As we begin to walk and read the historical markers we find that many of the structures are built of stone rubble. After a fire destroyed the original wood frame buildings a mandate was passed requiring future construction be fireproof. Some of the stores along the street now sell antiques and country crafts to day trippers since a local Walmart serves the needs of the local population. Some buildings sit empty, sun faded for rent of for sale signs in their windows or tacked to the front of them. This is a scene played out in any number of small towns in America.

We have lunch at a small cafe where everyone seems to know every one else, also the case in many small towns. As we prepared to leave, the proprietor tells us of a tropical storm forming which could possibly be heading towards the Houston area over the next few days. We begin to watch it's progress to see how it might affect the rest of  our plans for the week.

We continue down country roads to the county seat of Anderson. The town was named for the last vice president of the Republic of Texas after his passing at the nearby Fanthrop Inn. The imposing structure of the brick courthouse can be seen from some distance away. It sits in the center of the town's forlorn main street. A historical marker outside informs the visitor that a member of Clyde Barrows gang was once tried here. Inside, along a central gallery with a pressed tin ceiling high above, there are photos of county officials dating back to the late 19th century. there is also a plaque memorializing the town's namesake.

As we exit a man ambles by who seems to be a caricature of the country Texan. He sports a straw ten gallon hat and cowboy boots. His lean legs and hips are encased in tight jeans and a huge belt buckle glints in the sun under a belly which makes it appear that he has swallowed a beach ball whole. He stops to chat with two other men whose faces are creased and withered by age and exposure to the fierce Texas sun.

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