Our destination for the day was the town of San Angelo
. We drove over to San Angelo State Park and set up the Gypsy Wagon in a big meadow next to a nearly dry lake. The scene was beautiful and peacefully quiet. There were trees sprinkled about and lots of singing birds in them. The rangers had told us we might see some of the park's buffalo herd out there. I scanned the scene and sure enough, just three hundred yards away was a family of buffalo chomping the grass near the dry lakeside; Mom, Dad, with baby in- between. They were a beautiful sight, so still......mesmerizingly still.....a little too still actually. Ilana said, "Marty, I've been watching those buffalo and I swear they haven't moved an inch in the last five minutes. Is that possible?" We took Chance and went over to investigate and found our buffalo family was a bit on the lean side.....bout an half-inch thick actually and cast in rusting wrought iron. "Gotcha!"
As we drove further south the land got greener and greener with real trees. We were heading up into the Texas hill country and the German town of Fredricksburg. A German town in the middle of Texas? You bet your wienerschnitzel! As the story goes, some German immigrants sailed to the coastal town of Galveston in the mid nineteenth century hoping to find more space and better opportunities. They had formed a group in Germany and bought some land in the hill country of Texas sight unseen from some irreputable land dealers. It was said to be rich farming land with plenty of running streams
. They made the difficult trek overland from the coast by foot, fighting indians and disease along the way, some of them losing family members in the hard journey. What they found when they got there was a land under siege by hostile Commache indians, with a rich top-soil that was too thin for good farming, concealing a thick underpinning of hard limestone. Things were looking grim. To their aid came a German Baron, who, putting together a protection party for the immigrants, traveled to the new land and established the town of Fredricksburg. He soon signed a treaty with the Commaches and they became trading partners rather than enemies. The town flourished and more Germans came over, more than 25,000 of them eventually. They built their homes from the local limestone in the German style, some of them with half-timber construction. The homes and businesses have been lovingly preserved and the town is really something to see. As Ilana went shopping to find gifts for her relatives, I rode around town on my bike taking pictures of the houses of Fredricksburg.
Welcome to Northwest Texas. If New Orleans is called "The Big Easy", I'd have to call West Texas "The Big Empty", because it's flat as a griddle and nothing's cooking but the road-kill, including possums and deer, skunks and badgers and an occasional feral cat. Some of the towns are little more than a block long and we learned you better stop anywhere you can in them to relieve yourself because there's often not a rock or tree for the next 50 miles big enough to hide behind to pee without sticking out like a cow behind a fence post. We're talking empty here, Big empty. In West Texas the oil wells and natural gas pumping plants are everywhere, as far as the eye can see. For mile after endless mile the air is high octane, a mixture of oil and gas fumes foul enough to make the smell of passing a dead skunk a welcome relief.