Another clueless, airhead model

Thursday, September 03, 2009

You can't go home

The hills of my boyhood adventures in San Antonio, TX were the perfect escape for many children on my block.  My brothers and I would disappear all day with our parents having only the vaguest notion as where we were.  This was all seasonal and I can't recall ever being so hot that we had to come inside to watch the 4 channels on our TV.  The hills were a limestone formation covered with thorny vegetation and the Salado Creek basin at its base.  Swimming in the stagnant, fetid waters was never a concern.  A small 6 foot dam, old when I was a child, was our jump off point.  At small holes in the creek bank we would entice a crawdad with a piece of bacon tie to a fishing line. After clamping down on the meat the crustacean was slowing pulled up, inspected and thrown back in the creek. A fallen tree in the creek was our sweet spot for small perch.  We threw them back also.  I still remember the day I pull up an American eel.  On the hill ridge there were a series of limestone holes up to 15 feet deep.  We always found a way down into them.  My favorite was a dark hole requiring rope to enter.  Rattlesnakes were on our minds but we never encountered one.  I remember the coolness, the damp musky odor and daddy long-legs crawling on the walls.  My childhood imagination ran wild as I search repeatedly for hidden outlaw gold or a small opening to a larger chamber. 
One night in my early teens I told my parents I was spending the night in the hills.  It dropped to 35 degrees that night but I had a small fire and blanket to survive the night.  I came down with a bad cold the next day.
Today I walked the hills, retracing the steps of my younger days.  I came upon a development that cut a swath 1/4 mile into the hillside.  It jutted right up to the site where I spent the night 35 years prior.  My favorite cave hole could not be found but a little guess put it in the middle of the development, filled in with asphalt and concrete.  
With the houses came the trash, lining the fences that separated man from the boundaries of the wilderness.  I bounded around what was left of limestone outcroppings, botanizing and finding more garbage.  This site contained a species of sedum (a succulent plant) that remains unidentified to this day.  Only a small population has withstood the foot traffic.  I collected this a few years back and it's thriving well in a limestone garden in my front yard.  I may extirpate the last of this species before it's destroyed forever. 
Why so much trash? What happened to this society that "out of site, out of mind" is the norm.  Where is the connection to nature?  Why hasn't this lost generation been taught the simple act of taking your trash with you, to sit on a boulder and take in what has been present for a millennia?  I found a trail away from the houses and for a time I was transported back to my childhood.  Only the distance sound of an airplane and a worn foot path gave any indication of civilization.  Hackberries, elms, oaks and persimmons dominated.  I failed to see any fruit on the persimmons which was uncharacteristic for this time of year.  Not one dried husk or seeds scattered at the base.  Walking further down I leveled out at the creek basin where vegetation was characteristic of those species that survived a periodic flooding: cedars, hackberries, box elder maple.  Invasive ligustrum shrubs made me wish I had a axe and a spray bottle of herbicide. 
Approaching the dam I encountered the garbage again: empty boxes of paint gun ammo and plastic bottles, always the plastic bottles of toxic corn syrup masquerading as soda pop.  At the dam one side was littered with dozens of bottles.  The dam itself hasn't changed but sediment and drought had decreased the water level.  A few mile up or down the creek there are golf courses which suck the life out of this creek to give men in golf carts a vibrant green landscape of non-native, manicured grass.  In return the golf courses give the creek a abundance of fertilizers and pesticides as the water table continues to drop.  A good hike releases the endorphins that for a time offset the despair of what I've seen today.  It doesn't last.  In time developers will figure out a way to destroy the rest of the hills.  In the new houses sluggarts will come home to sit in front of the TV all evening, their children bloating from an inundation of video games and corn syrup. The trash will continue to pile up on the other side of the fence.  The last of my cave holes will be filled in and what species of wildlife that survives will scavenge for food from dumpsters and bird feeders.  The malaise will overtake this city and Texas eventually.  Once again something I cherished has left me.  


Unknown said...

You been bloggin your whole life, now you have a platform. Good stuff. Rob Graham of GJ, CO

Shane said...

Nature knows how to heal herself.