After lunch with my daughter Gael in south Austin yesterday, I drove Highway 290 west towards Johnson City. My friend Gale and I drove this route in February last year when we came for the San Antonio Rodeo. Yesterday the oaks and cedars blazed back at the sun, as if to say “Give us your best shot. We’re still standing at the end of summer.”
As the detritus of development thinned out the farther I got from Austin, there were more and more stretches of untouched Hill Country. Clumps of cedar and oak scattered across parched grass fields. The temperature was in the high 90s, but I could feel the cooling relief of the shade under the oak trees as I had many times after tramping across an open stretch under the Texas sun. If you watch for the rough patches between fields or near dry stream beds, you learn to appreciate how much work goes into creating these cleared spots under the trees where cattle, and humans, can find refuge from the sun.
Where there are no cedars crowding under the oaks in these untamed patches, the dry grass and weeds reach towards the lowest branches of the trees, leaving no room for other living beings except the occasional scraggly cactus. As uninviting as these uncultivated spots appear, they do not repel as do some patches, now choking with balls of grey moss. It breaks my heart to realize that the only spots of green in these cancerous clumps are just the leaves of invasive vines.
But such spots, fortunately, are few and far between as I pass by hills and fields decorated with tough oaks and cedars laughing in the face of the searing sun. Occasionally I come up a rise and see for miles across the hills covered with blankets of cedar and oak.
I get off 290 before reaching Johnson City and head south on Route 281 straight towards San Antonio. More development but still many soothing sights of shaded oases. Then I turn west on Route 46 towards my son Joe’s house in Pipe Creek. Although the road has been widened and although there are more stores and houses near and through Boerne, I drive in peace along most of the route lined with cedars and oaks. Thankful for this visit with Bibi, Gael, and Joe, and for this time wandering through Hill Country Texas.