|Travel Photography Great Plains
He brought me a plate. "It's on the house. These are too big to be Chinese shrimps." 'Shineese shreemps.' The alarm rang the next morning at four-thirty, and shortly thereafter, I was driving north. This vast Plateau, the far border between the Great Plains and the Desert Southwest, is dotted with ranches, dry-weather trees, quartzite quarries, and the Texas prickly-pear cactus.
Because it is early morning, and I am surely the first on this particular one-lane road, there are a fair number of white-tailed deer, steer, sheep, raccoons, and other assorted mammals out and about. The smaller of these, I had heard in Fredricksburg, are referred to as 'varmints.' This includes most small mammals, except the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat, which consumes the worst of varmints in Austin. Worst means smallest in Hill Country. 'A glorious creature', according to two giggling ladies I met on the plane. They were off to a convention - The Council of Bishops and Elders of the Evangelical Orthodox Baptist Persuasion. The bats invaded Austin after a bridge was built that was to the particular liking of flying rodents.
had brought along some literarature on this subject, the largest collection
of urban bats in North America. I highlighted the following paragraph:
of their droppings collected at San Antonio contained remains of the
following insects: moths (nearly 90% of the total number of insects
eaten), ground beetles, leaf chafers, weevils, leaf beetles, flying
ants, water boatmen, green blowflies, and leafhoppers. A separate food
habits study showed these bats take small prey from 2-10 mm in length
and listed the following food items and proportions: moths (34%), flying
ants (26.2%), June beetles and leaf beetles (16.8%), leafhoppers (15%),
and true bugs (6.4%). T. brasiliensis often feeds on swarms of insects.
The huge summer colonies of these bats clearly would have a great impact
on nearby insect populations; they are estimated to destroy from 6,000
to 18,000 metric tons of insects annually in Texas.
am listening to the 'Lone Star Revival' radio station. "God's gonna
make you successful if you try. And God's gonna make you successful
if you try your darndest for him. He's our good lord and he'll make
you successful if you try."
song is harmonized by four or more, and brighter in tone than a John
Denver ditty, and when I pull into the Ranger Station, the attendants
nod, and wave me by. From here I walk into the hill country wilderness,
specifically over a series of well-tread pink granitic mounds known
as Enchanted Rocks. When I approached the wilderness, a gray bearded
man with yellow eyes approached me and began to speak about his travels
in the Pacific Northwest. This, I had been warned, is called 'visitin'-
the Texan propensity to chat.
won't let you go, they just keep visiting with you and making it hard
for you to leave,' said the wise ladies of the Baptist persuasion, in
a side-note to our discussion on bats in Texas. I wanted to test this
on the first Texan who visited with me, to see if I could outvisit him.
I asked what he did. Web consulting, he said.
that's not my real callin', you see. In 1981, The lord Jesus called
the telephone?" I said, thinking I can't believe I said that. "No, the
lord came to me when my wife and I were livin' out here in Hill Country,
he spoke to me."
"How did he do that?"
"It was a voice, he called on me to preach the gospel. Jesus Christ, the Lord spoke to me. He told me that I need to give away everything I own and do God's good work. So in the next couple weeks, I explained to my family that we would give away everything and sell the house."
"So, are you a pastor?"
"Well, I've been evangelizing since 1981, but I was recently ordained on the web. When the Lord spoke to me again, he said that I was a good man, and that I obeyed him, and you know what he told me? He said that I am fit to evangelize in his name, the Lord our Father. And with this," he said, after pausing for effect,"I leave you to your thoughts."
"So, is this your family?," I asked. "Some of them. Those are my granddaughters, good girls, and the others are our Indian guides."
This didn't make sense, since I didn't see any Indian guides, so I asked him some more questions about Methodists and his family, to which he responded, "Well, I bet you're in a hurry to get off now."
I left the man to sort out his breakfast and followed winding tributaries of the Sandy River a few miles out, to the far base of the Enchanted Rocks. Because of the pink texture of the rocks, the sand wash I am following is also pink. The woody base is dark at this time of morning; mossy and wet with ferns and the brown of a Central Texas winter. I decided to cross the Enchanted Rocks, along the polished bald faces interrupted only by vernal pools. These are pool pockets of erosion in the rock. Colorful infestations of moss, algae, tiny ferns, freshwater shrimp and small trees.
It began to rain, then pour. So I walked slowly on the slippery granite the three miles to the far end of the rocks - Buzzards Peak, from where I have the most distinct view of the west; the distant browning of the land, until Texas becomes desert. From Buzzard's Peak, I walked, then drove, to Kerrville, which I found to be a pleasant place.
I stopped in the local Quicky-Mart for a coffee and brought up the subject of the camels to the server. "I guess I've never heard of the camels," she said. But she was interested (which is maybe why I found Kerrville so pleasant), so I proceeded on the subject of Kerrville's great place in history. So the story goes, in the 1850's, when the importance of the West was rapidly growing, US Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, with his eyes on the Presidency, brought thirty-three dromedaries on a converted naval ship from Tunis to the Gulf Coast. At extreme inconvenience, the military transported the corps north and ultimately to Kerrville, which would serve as the base for reconnaissance and loaded transport missions to California. A Syrian named Hadji Ali (pronounced Hi Jolly by the US Servicemen) was hired as Chief Jockey.