Life In The Texas Hill Country
By Linda L. Steele
After moving to the Texas Hill Country twelve years ago, I soon realized that I had a lot to learn about living here! As an avid lifetime cyclist, each native of the area I encountered was quick to share one warning or another about life in the outdoors. For example, one warning was to watch for dead animals on the road. Just one buzzard landing or taking off in front of someone on a bicycle could cause disastrous consequences to a daydreaming rider. A deer could jump out from nowhere and cause serious injury. Watch out for snakes, mountain lions, cracks in the road! Good grief! The warnings went on and on.
One morning as I set out on one of my long bike rides, the hair stood up on the back of my neck as I rode past a mountain lion crouched in an attack position. There was no doubt in my mind that he was ready to seize upon the screaming fawn that had been separated from its mother by a tight goat proof fence. I quickly ran over my options. I could try to spray him in the face with my dog repellant spray. It would be against nature to interfere. Maybe I could scare him away and save the fawn or maybe in fooling around, both of us would be torn to pieces by that hungry mountain lion. I quickly decided to ride on and pray that somehow the fawn would find a way to crawl through the fence to its mother before being eaten.
Two hours later, when I circled back, there were no signs of the lion and there was no evidence of a fawn. Maybe the little guy had managed to escape and hopefully the lion found something else to nourish his body other than baby venison.
A few days later, my son found large cat pawprints in our pole barn and then we noticed that our sweet feral cats seemed to have disappeared. Only the one who managed to slip into our garage each night while we weren’t looking seemed to still be around. A day or two later, we saw buzzards hovering over several areas of our property. Upon investigation, after chasing away the buzzards, we found our poor cats, torn to pieces. The same day, our neighbor lady telephoned to complain that her chickens were disappearing in large numbers. This was getting serious. She was ready to shoot and ask questions later!
Happily, it never came to that. Mr. Mountain Lion must have determined that pickings were getting scarce because he disappeared. Nobody at our house ever heard gunshots coming from the neighbor’s home and there never seemed to be any other wildlife injured or killed. I think he simply wandered off to find something more plentiful and tempting to eat than poor little kitties and those chickens with all the bothersome feathers. The herd of deer that lingered all over our property seemed to be healthy and uninjured.
This is wild country, much like it was in far West Texas where we lived as college students many years ago. If you dare to walk in the grass during warm weather, invisible little chiggers are waiting to cause bites in the most undesirable of places. I have learned to always wear my special snake boots when walking outside in the grass and to watch for rattlesnakes whether they might be in the grass or sunning themselves in the lane that runs out to the road…or while riding a bike.
I encountered my first rattlesnake when I was on my bike, many miles from home! One spring morning I was slowly peddling up a steep hill when I found myself looking eye to eye with a large rattler who was about to crawl across the road. His presence caused me to have a spurt of energy and suddenly that hill wasn’t so steep. I flew up the side of it at record speed!
There are many interesting and sweet little creatures out here too. Just this morning I stopped my bike to watch one of my armadillo friends crisscrossing the road in front of me, enjoying a nice bug breakfast. Those fellows have very poor eyesight, so he never noticed me as he scurried back and forth. A tiny bright green grass snake determined that I was less of a threat to his person than that armadillo as he squiggled towards me, looking for refuge. Once he was at the tip of my shoe, he turned and hurried to safety in the grass.
On my way home that morning, I reminisced over those first days living here. I had a Border Collie who was interested in everything that could move! One night, just after we had a play yard erected for her, I heard her barking and growling and lunging at the fence.
“Pepper!” I called. “What’s all the fuss about?”
Once again fear raced down my neck as the bushes outside of the fence rustled, sounding like there was a strong wind blowing. Twigs and leaves started flying out of those same bushes.
“Come on, Pepper!” I cried. “Let’s get the heck out of here! It must be wild hogs. They’ll knock the fence down and kill us both!”
I yanked at the leash I had dropped around her neck and pulled my reluctant warrior towards the house, but before we could get to the door, a big old armadillo came lumbering out of the brush!
What? How could one armadillo sound like a whole herd of wild pigs?
Now, after twelve years, I am one of the natives. I still love my rides. There’s no place closer to heaven than riding over one of those hills and seeing more hills and valleys, cattle grazing in the distance, and rain showers, way over there, pouring water out of one little black cloud while the sun shines brightly all around the outside edges of that cloud! This place is a haven for all who venture out to the hills and have the heart to see the beauty!
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com