Monday, May 15, 2006

The Beach Ranch

My brother is a relentless searcher of herps (to herp, v. to search for reptiles/ amphibians, herps, n. reptiles/amph.). Discovering the lizard in the haystack, stalking it like prey and then lovingly talking to it to it when its in his hands never ceases to excite him day in and day out. He would make a really great hunter-gatherer…now my mind is wandering... In my atavistic Flintstones fantasy I’m decorating the cave with buffalo, my father (a psychiatrist) is shrinking heads and my mom is cooking a buffalo over the open fire…perhaps we are living in Crystal cave. (Cave in PA)

My parents flew out for a visit this weekend. Friday Moose took us to one of his hunting grounds, the Beach ranch. The Beaches have 8,000 acres of land they want used for conservation purposes. 98% of Texan land is privately owned, so my brother is happy to have permission to use the property. Accidentally wandering on someone else’s property here in Texas can get you shot. Some years back a grad student who had permission to use a private property got shot in the leg when the rancher mistook him for a trespasser. “Don’t mess with Texas,” an environmental sign used to express itself to would be litterers, has multiple meanings.

The beach ranch is located 50 miles south east of Lubbock (,_Texas) on the Caprock escarpment. There is no comparing the rolling landscape of the Caprock escarpment and the even more spectacular nearby Caprock Canyons ( to Lubbock, which is on a plateau. I look out the window as we drive there and think, they don’t call this big sky country for nothing, there is not a mountain or a molehill in sight. There is an occasional dust devil, bail of hay, cow, random house and oil pump field. Playing I spy wouldn’t be much of a challenge here. I closed my eyes and thought it was raining, but soon realized it was only the sound of millions of bugs exploding on our windshield. This is the flatlands where 2 D people with “Jesus is the only” way written on their tee shirts drive in oversized staypuff trucks 10 miles below the speed limit into the sunset. In the car we listen an audiotape titled “The World is Flat” by Thomas Freidman. It sure looks flat from this vantage point. From here I can see into the offices of Beijing where the Chinese are beating us in the global technology race.

Driving off the plateau the landscape changes dramatically. Somehow in any context whether it be mood swings, the stock market or your EKG, peaks and valleys are always more interesting than simply flat. Once on the dirt roads of the ranch I have a new appreciation for oversized trucks with 4-wheel drive. Luckily I am in one although as I accidentally drench my shirt in an attempt to hydrate myself, it is not a smooth ride.

Its 95 degrees outside and even though everyone keeps telling me it’s a dry heat I fail to see the significance. I am melting, especially since I’m wearing a sweatshirt with a hood up so I wont get further sunburned. My mom agrees and we spend a lot of time between the shade of a tall mesquite bush and the air conditioned truck while my brother and my dad romp around the scrublands searching “for stuff”. They bring back collared lizards, racerunners, a baby ornate turtle, a ground snake and some pretty rocks to our nest, but unfortunately no horned lizards for a photo shoot. Moose and Dad’s latest digital SLR’s capture the creatures for all eternity (or until this latest technology becomes archaic). Ironically, the one family member with an MFA in photography (me) has only a point and shoot digital camera. So far I’ve taken a lot of blurry “expressionistic” photos of lizards. I think I can better capture their personality, the essence if you will of a Phrynosoma cornutum or Cnemidophorus sexlineatus viridis with just the right amount of camera shake.

Keep checking for great photos of Texan wildlife and landscapes.
Also here is the links to my pics

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