Based in Williamson County, Texas, WHY ARE Y'ALL HERE? is a travelog by Spencer Darr. His posts explore Texas counties through photos, maps, music, videos, writing, and--most importantly--interviews with local residents about why we are where we are. Y'all enjoy!

Home Hunting in the Hills, Digital River Blobs, and the Vulture's Return

Home Hunting in the Hills, Digital River Blobs, and the Vulture's Return

 Chelsey's what-the-fuck-are-you-doing-up-at-this-hour-and-taking-pictures-of-me-just-kidding-I-love-you-come-here-snooooooore face. Days Inn Room 122, Boerne, TX, Kendall County

Chelsey's what-the-fuck-are-you-doing-up-at-this-hour-and-taking-pictures-of-me-just-kidding-I-love-you-come-here-snooooooore face. Days Inn Room 122, Boerne, TX, Kendall County

“Oh a dream is like a river, ever changing as it flows. And the dreamer’s just a vessel that must follow where it goes.”
— Garth Brooks

10:57 A.M. JANUARY 16. BOERNE, TX, KENDALL COUNTY

Tripod bag. Got it. Clothes bag...didn't bring one for this trip. External Mic and Beastgrip stabilizer, yup definitely have that. Chelsey, of course, hell, she was packed before--"I'll take the keys to the desk while you load up." Well, alrighty then! Whoever made up the myth that women slow down travelling is full of sexist shit, she is totally down with the new mad dash drive by shooting photos and footage approach to this trip. Days Inn check out was at 11 and we were packed and on the road with 3 minutes to spare. 7 counties and 7 hours 'till sun down. There is an added twinge of adrenaline to this journey now that reminds me of delivery driving, except we choose the destination. We drove through Boerne and admired the quaintness, the cuteness, the we've-spent-way-too-long-in big-city-apartments-ever-lit-by-florescent-sign-light-still-sneaking-through-gun-shot-siren-rattled-windows-over-shadowed-by-big-box-store-ubiquity-not-to-get-a-little-giddy-and-lovehome-struck-at-what-a-town-can-look-like-when-it's-not-tightly-shackled-in-too-many-chain-stores feeling.

11:24 A.M. BERGHEIM GENERAL STORE. BERGHEIM, TX

"Oh, there's a cute general store!" We pulled in to the gravel parking lot of a little stone building that looked like it had seen its fair share of centuries. Chelsey went inside, I took pictures of the outside. 

According to the Texas Historical marker hiding behind the ice cooler in the photo, Bergheim is German for "home in the hills." What would it be like to live here and shop at this store every week? Chelsey returned to the truck with sodas and described the store as having typical convenience store stuff, like sodas, but also Wrangler brand clothing, feed, and a little bit of everything else. We continued on FM 3351 swapping more what if and what would it be like questions regarding home and the Hill Country.

11:54 P.M. KENDALIA PUBLIC LIBRARY. KENDALIA, TX

We found ourselves in the small town of Kendalia, population 459, where the road goes from Farm to Market (FM) 3351 to Ranch to Market (RM) 473. According to Texas Department of Transportation, there is no difference between Farm to Market or Ranch to Market roads--they're all part of the same state maintained system and no FM or RM road has the same number--however, "local ranchers objected to being called farmers by implication." Oh, and only Texas has them :)

However remote this ranch town may have been, they had a public library and observed Martin Luther King Day. At times like these, I am encouraged by the hopeful fact that while there are 604 Starbucks in Texas and only 556 public libraries, Kendalia does not have a Starbucks.

12:33 P.M. BLANCO COUNTY LINE

Our second county of the day, Blanco is named for the Blanco river and also has the distinction of being 1 of only 18 counties that voted against secession from the Union prior to the Civil War.

I'm not quite sure why I brought that up, except to note that in a state this big, so much both embodies and defies the stereotypical representation.

1:45 P.M. PEDERNALES RIVER NATURE PARK. JOHNSON CITY, TX

We passed through Johnson City, named after a relative of Texan President Lyndon B. Johnson and also just a few miles from his ranch turned Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park. Not in the mood for anything political at the moment, we decided to skip that and on our way out of town, the sign directed toward the following caught our attention.

Drawn by the idea of river, flowing water, something moving while we were still sounded like the right kind of place to sit and just see what would happen.

 A Google Maps "Map" (as opposed to Satellite) view of the part of the Pedernales River we sat next to (if I had personal access to an Apple device with Apple Maps, I would have that screenshot on here...I'm working on it :)) This is from the Timeline feature/view, the little orange/red dots are your location in that point of time

A Google Maps "Map" (as opposed to Satellite) view of the part of the Pedernales River we sat next to (if I had personal access to an Apple device with Apple Maps, I would have that screenshot on here...I'm working on it :)) This is from the Timeline feature/view, the little orange/red dots are your location in that point of time

At work at Apple Maps, I see rivers, lakes, and oceans everyday represented as little blue blobs, tiles, and squiggles with names attached, a constant of calming, motionless color. It's easy to take for granted at a digital distance how much is going on beneath that static, two dimensional screen surface.

Once still, you notice the river never stops moving and that the steady rippled rythm on the surface occasionally reveals the depths of fishy life below.

Water meets land and pen meets paper, always moving with, against, and through one another, heading downstream to unseen river banks and unknown readers.

2:49 P.M. BURNET COUNTY LINE

We went from the steady ripple of 0 mph at the Pedernales River to 75 mph on Texas Highway 281. It's harder to listen to intuition of where or whether to stop in a race between good lightening for pictures and a setting sun. 75 is too fast to really see much of everything, so I scanned the occasional truck stop sign dotted hill country horizon to see where we should turn off next. 

3:29 P.M. PEBBLE MOUND CEMETERY, BURNET TX

Nothing much is left of Pebble Mound, TX on the maps except for this locked cemetery off of Burnet County Road 108.

For the second time on this journey, we spotted a vulture, a Black vulture this time, and more than one. This species is slightly smaller, doesn't have a red head, and doesn't have as keen a sense of smell. They're diets are a bit more diverse, in that they eat garbage and occasionally live baby animals. While Turkey Vultures are loners when it comes to scavenging, Black vultures tend to eat in groups.

As state in the previous video, I was struck by the significance. Maybe I have found my new spirit animal? What is dead or dying in our society and what can I do to help clean up the mess and protect others from the danger of it? I also couldn't help but a draw a connection between the vultures at this cemetery and the next closest point of interest to the cemetery: this one doesn't show up on on Google or Apple Maps.

3:54 P.M. SEMINOLE PIPELINE--LONG MOUNTAIN STATION

The Seminole Pipeline is a 1248 mile natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline owned/operated by a Houston based company, Enterprise Products Pipelines, pumping about 47 billion dollars in revenue annually. What do buzzards and vultures have to do with pipelines? Welp, given that natural gas, like oil, a non-renewable resource, it is inevitable that it will die out, and sooner, rather than later, less than a 100 years later at current consumption rates for the United States. Not to mention the costs to the environment via fracking, pipeline leaks and the resulting emission of methane into the atmosphere. Plenty for vultures to pick at in the coming years, whether that's from the carcuses of extinct species, mass die-offs, victims of climate change fueled irregualar weather related catasrophes, you name it. On to a less somber part of Texas and this post.

4:16 P.M. LAMPASAS COUNTY LINE

We crossed into Lampasas on TX Highway 281. You can see the difference in road maintenance from one line to the other. 

The first wooden sign showing both counties on the same side of a county line sign was at the Travis/Bastrop County Line. Making a note to self to research the history of these very cool, seemingly discontinued signs.

5:09 P.M. MILLS COUNTY LINE

We had been in Mills County maybe 5 minutes while pulled over and taking pictures of the sign when an older man pulled up in a red truck and asked us if we needed any help. I was shocked into a brief, slightly awkward silence, grateful that this kind of generosity still existed. I thanked him and said we were fine, just taking shots of the sign. He waved, turned back around, and went back the down the driveway with a bunch of goats in the front yard. Onward!

5:26 P.M. HAMILTON COUNTY LINE

We're on a tight schedule here. Moving on!

5:42 P.M. EVANT UNITED METHODIST CHURCH. CORYELL COUNTY LINE

Yup. If ya map it just right and haul some ass, you can make 4 stops in 4 different counties in less than an hour. Next achievement will be to see if I can do 5. Or, ya know, maybe I could stop rushing through everything and actually take the time to stop, breath, and take a look around. A short distance from the Coryell county line while I photographed the county sign, I discovered yet another delightful contradiction in Texas.

That's right: a Protestant church that both welcomes hunters AND has a woman for a pastor. Sometimes, in Texas, if you're gonna exercise your 1st amendment rights, ya need to back it up with an exercise in your 2nd amendment rights :) Speaking of 2nd amendment rights, the next county is home to the largest military base in the state, the country, and the world: Ft. Hood, sprawling over 200,000 thousand acres.

6:57 P.M. BELL COUNTY LINE

Speaking of 2nd amendment rights, the next county is home to the largest military base in the state, the country, and the world: Ft. Hood, sprawling over 200,000 thousand acres. Since the sun set shortly before we crossed the county line, we couldn't get any decent film or footage of Bell County or Ft. Hood, so this is where our journey ends for now, on the side of Texas Highway 190 on the edge of the base....

 It may be night fall, but we made it through 7 counties in a single day, stopping at least once each one of them :)

It may be night fall, but we made it through 7 counties in a single day, stopping at least once each one of them :)

...389 miles later

 9 counties covered in 389 miles :O

9 counties covered in 389 miles :O

Front Yard Horseys, Henry's Diner, and Texas Pussies on the March

Front Yard Horseys, Henry's Diner, and Texas Pussies on the March

A Big Blue Boot, Republican Ants, and Running Out of Time

A Big Blue Boot, Republican Ants, and Running Out of Time