The ranch I visited last week was purchased a chunk at a time by a single minded man who wanted to make sure the land doesn’t all end up as houses (or other such land-devouring things). It’s now a substantial spread, 5000 acres, and you get the feeling as he drives you around (gleefully elliciting tiny screams as he bumps over a steep incline, or roars across a waterway) that he knows every single inch of it. He points out the ferns growing under a ledge and pauses so you can peer through the shadows to a stand of palmettos, “the only ones on the ranch,” and you half expect him to tell you the names of the elks who barely move off the trail. “That’n is Dover,” but of course he doesn’t.
Inch by inch, a man is taking out the cedars that have spread like a fungus over the landscape, choking out native wildflowers and grasses. He points to an open meadow where there were bluebonnets in bloom a few weeks ago, and a wide, pale green pasture. “This is all finally getting back to its natural state,” he says. We climb to the top of a hill and look out over the river and canyons, and he tells us what he’s done to protect it into the future, how the taxes will be paid, how he’s thought ahead so it won’t just be protected for now, but into perpetuity. I stand on the hill and see nothing but unspoiled land–river and hills and trees, wildflowers and no doubt nests of evil things I wouldn’t like but deserve a home in natural balance. Osprey’s fly overhead.
I believe in the land. I love humans who use their wealth to leave a better world behind them, and this is powerful stuff.
One more note: there were live oaks around the bunkhouse and they must be the most graceful, sheltering, mystical trees I’ve ever seen. In one place, their arms reached almost to the ground, long, long, long limbs, strong and sturdy and dripping with atmospheric Spanish moss. They gave the air beneath a greenish cool and as we sat there eating lunch one afternoon, I looked up and spied a prickly pear cactus thriving in the joint of one branch. A big prickly pear, too–it had obviously been there a long time. Charming symbiosis–live oak and cactus. Sort of like Texas itself.