Sunday, April 24, 2011

- Windy with a chance of fire: Hill Country living

Right after we moved to Cascade Trail last September the rain gauge recorded a 6" gully-washer. Flooding is a reality, so even though most creek beds are dry most of the time, signs at every low water crossing warn drivers against trying to get through when it's pouring rain. The Sink Creek crossing just down the road from our place is at least 10 feet below the road grade, but the flood marker is 5 feet above that. The public service tag line around here is "Turn around, don't drown" with good reason.

Unfortunately, it hasn't rained much since that first torrential downpour and Texas is getting way too much ink in the national press about the wildfires that have already consumed over one million acres in the western part of the state. It got a little too close to home last week when an Austin fire destroyed eight homes and a fire in Wimberley damaged three more. As I related the latest news to my dad, he commented that I probably shouldn't seek work at the Chamber of Commerce. "Not good for business" was his take on my story-telling.

Well, I'm actually kinda proud of the challenges we've encountered around here. Spoiler alert: if you intend to visit us at some point, you might want to stop reading before going any further. Still, for those of you who know me, you've gotta figure if I can handle this stuff, anyone can.

For instance, we see creatures in abundance, both great and small. Recent sightings of feral hogs by neighbors were confirmed with our own eyes as we passed a dead hog on Ranch Road 12 this weekend. We're pretty sure we spotted a coyote one morning, although I've been disappointed at not hearing their storied yips and howls more than once. And even though they're even uglier than the turkeys (which are pretty ugly in their own right), we actually appreciate the turkey buzzards, which do a fair job of cleaning up the roadsides after car versus deer collisions.

Less desirable are the creatures small. We saw more than a few scorpions when we first moved in, including this one in the master bathroom (and Meliss wondered why I hadn't taken any baths). Our neighbors recommended an outfit called Hired Killers to discourage future visits from multi-legged critters.  Even so, we keep an eye on the floor when we get up in the morning. We've also learned that they grow 'em big in Texas when it comes to centipedes. I have no pictures to show, which may be just as well.

We've got our share of cold-blooded critters in these here parts, too. Until recently, I had only seen snake skins in the yard, but as we walked past the low water crossing last Friday, Don spotted a live one. Now he says the snake was only about 5 feet long, but I'm here to tell you it took up the better part of half the road, which I'm pretty sure is wider than 10 feet. Later that same day, I was on the floodplain behind the house when I heard a chattering kind of sound. I'm not going to say it was a rattling kind of sound, but I did choose to walk rapidly in the opposite direction rather than investigate further. I must say, I prefer the little green anoles to their slithery relations.

The good news is we have an abundance of butterflies, birds, and wildflowers. In fact, one of the prettiest flowers is growing in a neighborhood field that burned last fall. Like a phoenix, the Prairie Nymph rose through the ashen clumps of grass, proving the resiliency of nature in the face of fire and flood alike. Even so, I'll continue to take it seriously when the weather forecast is windy with a chance of fire, and count our blessings (which are many) in the meantime.