Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Visual Trip Across Texas

Thought I'd blog a little differently today. I actually wrote this blog entry in September of 2007. My grandmother had just died and we were heading for Midland, Texas from Central Texas. Prior to this time, I’d been writing Kaitlin's Silver Lining and I'd never been to the part of Colorado where the story took place. I wanted a clearer picture in my head of the terrain and at the time I could find very little in terms of details. We all know how much writers crave details to insert in their stories. With that in mind, I decided to work up a visual journal of our trip across Texas in hopes another writer might find it of use.

September, 2007 While cloudy, we managed to escape the rain until reaching our destination. We headed northwest on FM 485, a rather straight unimpressive route. Most of the farmland had been tilled in preparation for the next crops, but a few fields still had cotton. Puffy white clouds dotted the dried plants. We passed a large baler and I wondered if he was on route to one of these crops. Rolled bales of hay lined the pastures. Folks with acreage receive tax breaks if they use their land for agricultural benefit and those not interested in growing crops or ranching will often bale hay. Out front of a two bedroom home with faded, chipped paint, four black gentlemen played bones (dominoes) on a worn out card table. The weather was very pleasant for this activity with the temperature about 89 degrees.

Turning onto Hwy 53, I noted tall grain silos. The land was mostly flat, but rich with oak and mesquite trees. One house had a string of laundry hanging to dry. Once we passed Temple, the land became less flat. Rolling hills denoted the edge of hill country. Creek beds were lined with limestone. Vegetation included prickly pear cactus, mesquite, cedar and juniper trees. We crossed the Leon River which looked more like a lake. I believe it feeds into Belton Lake.

West on 84, our drive took us through more hills. The land was wide open with few trees. I saw a herd of sheep, several herds of cattle, but very little farm land. The gold carpet of grass that graced our earlier route changed to a greener shade. Past Goldthwaite, we passed lots of goats. Mills County is known as the goat capital of the world, or so I'm told. One sight made me chuckle as we passed goats that were being herded by a mule.

Past Brownwood (the location for my second historical western, Julia’sGolden Eagle, btw), the land became very hilly and then suddenly tapered into flat land again. The majority of trees along this route were mesquite. Once we hit Hwy 67, we found farmland on one side of the road and cattle on the other. It's interesting to note that in Texas, farmers and ranchers co-exit next to each other. Eventually, we lost the trees to shrubs and the land became very flat and open. By this time the temperature had dropped to 77 degrees.

On Hwy 158. I saw a crop of 6" maize struggling to grow in the hot, dry clime. We passed a dead porcupine. We see so few porcupines, yet the woods must house plenty. Mostly we see raccoons, deer, coyote, skunks and possums. You have to be out in the country to see bobcats and other wildlife. The color of the soil had changed from sandy dirt to red. I suspect due to the iron content. Outside of Sterling before Garden City, we found our first oil well. The iron horse bobbed its head up and down in beat to its own steady rhythm.

File:Storm midland tx.jpg
Midland, Feb 20, 1894 Sand storm from
United States National Archives
and Records Administration
Midland, our destination, was unusually wet. Midland is more likely to receive a dust storm than rain. Most of the houses have tall, cinderblock fences to help block the sand and the tumbleweeds. As a child, I remember playing in the sand dunes, acres of nothing but sand between Midland and Odessa. Sage is a favorite shrub tree and I now have one in my own yard because I love the purple blooms.
On a personal note, my grandmother, coming from great Swiss stock, died one month shy of her 101 birthday.


  1. I grew up in Lubbock, so I am familiar with sand storms! I do love that you wrote of the changing topography. In school, I had only traveled from Lubbock to California or Lubbock to Southwest Oklahoma, and when we studied the Piney Woods, Hill Country, Big Bend, etc, I was puzzled and couldn't believe those were in Texas.

  2. Thank you, Caroline. I wish more folks would do something like this for their area. It's hard to find those little details like are there really scorpions in Texas. Well, yes, in rural areas, but we don't see them at all in town, so someone writing a scene where they get stung by a scorpion in a larger town like ours would be wrong. It could happen but it would be rare.

  3. Ciara--all of this is so familiar. We had family in Odessa and Midland, I grew up in Levelland, and drove to Lubbock with our mother to shop for school supplies and shoes. Now we live in the Hill Country, San Marcos, and often we drive out to Odessa or Lubbock or Levelland to visit relatives or go to a funeral, and oh, how wonderfully you described the land. You are very descriptive and I could see...and know...of which you spoke. It's somewhat reminiscent and I did love reading it. Thanks so much..what a good, creative post.

  4. Thanks Celia. When I first wrote it, my plan was to write a series of these visual documentations whenever I traveled as I tend to travel a lot, but alas all good intentions don't always produce results. I still want to do it as I hope it helps others get a better idea of what the area looks like.


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