Friday, April 6, 2012


Several years ago, we sold our longtime family place. It wasn't that far out of Houston, and was wooded and had a large year round creek flowing through the middle of it. We owned it for right at 40 years, and then it just had become such a shadow of it's former self that it was too sad to go around there. The area that it was located near had always been sorta white trashy and having more than it's statistical amount of parolees, but with the advent of crack cocaine in the mid-eighties and the resurgence of the meth epidemic that reared it's ugly head in Texas again in the late 90's and 2000's, it became a place where stuff got stolen and folks regularly trespassed looking to poach deer or for some kind of metal to steal and sell.

Back after we had the property for four years or so, we had some parolees who knew the family who owned the place before us, and one of them had been there numerous times as a kid with that family. A neighbor alerted us to the encampment on our property back then, and when the local sheriff's deputies and assorted other nearby smalltown lawmen raided the place at our request, they found the parolee commune was growing pot and had been stealing from local stores.

They never came back to bother us. But unfortunately, what was once a pristine East Texas creek, 12 feet deep or so in front of our land,  about 15 years ago became polluted with untreated sewage and other untreated waste water from the neighbors who'd moved in upstream in their mobile homes and pay by the month land ownership.

That plus these folks now saw our land as a great place to poach deer and hunt hogs. Although fenced and posted, that didn't deter our "good neighbors" from setting up feeding spots and clandestine deer blinds. 

About 20 years ago, the cabin got destroyed by one of those 100 year floods. We knew it would ultimately happen, and there was not way to move the cabin from it's locale near the creek without spending more money than the cabin was worth. But we got lots of good use out of it for 20 years or so, and it had been built there out of cedar back in the 1940's by an architect from Houston whose family place it was before we bought it.

Back in the unpolluted days of yore, all one need really do was perch yourself on a high spot overlooking the big creek around sunup or sundown, and sit a spell and you'd be likely to see all kinds of creatures coming to water themselves at various times of the night and day. Except for poisonous snakes and hogs, it didn't seem fair to nail the bobcats and raccoons and skunks and deer that came to water themselves when I'd stake out the creek.. Hogs have always been a problem at that place, and anytime you can shoot a hog in Texas is a good time to shoot a hog. Also, those hogs we've killed over the years have almost always (unless nasty looking or sick looking) gone to the butcher and are donated to the local food pantry.

Fishing then was great as well. There were channel cats, blue cats, yellow cats, skinny largemouth "river" bass, perch and crappie of various types and white bass. I never saw any of the gar that filled so many other rivers and creeks in those areas. We had a pier for about 20 years, and literally the sloping sandy beaches that filled the access points on our land made for great fly fishing spots. There was an island in the middle of the creek, usually accessible by crossing a low water rock walkway, also offered great fly fishing around the undercut banks that opposed the island.

So over several decades, although we had lots of good family and friend times there, shooting and fishing and just generally hanging out in the out of doors, the place just wasn't the same and certainly the neighbors were much worse.

So anyway, we finally parted ways with that property, which had some good value due to the old growth timber present on it and large deposits of pea gravel running through and around the sandy bottomed creek.

We've been looking around at different tracts in different parts of the state. Some reasonably priced, some not so reasonably priced. Mrs. El Fisho has, to her credit, found some affordable yet very cool tracts of land in some different parts of the state. Ideally, we'd like someplace 4 or 5 hours tops driving from where we live. That can be in a variety of directions, although we favor the part of the Hill Country/Central Texas where it crosses back and forth towards being West Texas-ey.

In any event, for Mrs. El Fisho, and also me, water is a must. Ideally, the property would have a pond and a creek. A spring or spring fed creek would be nice. Note that, as an inherent difficultly in locating land with a creek or river view is that usually gaining access to these properties often involves crossing one or more low water road crossings. Mrs. El Fisho is not down with low water crossings and will not consider buying a property where that is involved. Period. End of story on that issue.

I'm not crazy about low water crossings, or some of them anyway, but realize there is a price break in property values when the land is located on 'tother side of a low water crossing.

Different parts of Texas fared differently during the "drought of record" that we had in combination with something like over a 100 days of over 100 degrees. Rivers that had never run dry or had not run dry in many decades ran dry. Some have recovered somewhat with the recent heavy rains we've been having in my part of the state, but the rains need to keep on a'coming.

East Texas tends to have less water issues than Central Texas and the Hill Country. Nonetheless, there were some places in both locales where springfed creeks ran hardy and strong, perhaps not as prolific as in rainy years but plenty good to keep the fish and plants and cycle of nature going. I made it a point last year to check on the rains and flow rates (or going dry) of various rivers and lakes and creeks in the parts of the state that we'd consider buying a place near.

I found one very nice place, at a very reasonable price, with frontage on the Concho River outside of San Angelo, Texas and with a heavy flowing spring that ultimately flows into the Concho River. Unfortunately, the property had a deal pending on it when I found it and ultimately did sell per that deal. It was about 12 acres in a small community near San Angelo, which is just about the right size of town to have a place in the country.  It had a decent cabin/house with all amenities set up and going except the dreaded septic tank. Although city water was available, city sewage was not.
The house was way up on the highest part of the property, well out of the 100 year flood plane areas around the river. So you stood a better than fair chance of not having your house flood during a raging flood, although the hundred year flood plane is kind of a fluid (pun intended) concept. Floods have been known to exceed any prior flood and to do so greatly and tragically.  So anytime you live near live water, be it the beach or the bay or a river or creek, nature might decide they want to take your land back for awhile.

Beach property is insanely overpriced, and although the inherent risk of your beachfront property escheating to the State is a very real possibility after a hurricane in Texas, I'd still risk a small lot down in Port Aransas if I could afford it. Once again, if I knew then what I know now, I'd have taken every penny I earned and bought cheap lots in Port A a few decades ago. Bay houses are also cool, and generally the bottom floor is the game room and garage because of the flooding during hurricanes issue. Usually the water doesn't make it up to the second floor, and it's SOP to have the living quarters upstairs.

But the reality of the past few hurricanes and tropical storms that hit Texas destroyed all four of the places we seriously considered buying some 15 years ago. Beach houses in Matagorda, Port Aransas and Galveston blew down and away as if they had never been there. 

So we've been looking inland this time. We'd like to find a place where we'd ultimately retire to as our next family place. San Angelo would be a damn decent place to be retired near to. Lots of medical services and amenities and even educational opportunities or a part time college professor gig for El Fisho in his retirement, likewise for Ms. El Fisho.

So San Angelo is not the be all, end all of places we'd like to end up retiring to, but you could do so much worse. So much of rural Texas is plagued not by armed robberies but by thieves who strike your car when you're out fishing somewhere nice. So many folks who live in rural Texas these days become victims of copper wire thieves as well as just regular meth head home burglers.  So it helps to know the social problems and crime problems that affect any area where you're considering buying a rural place.

Of course, in a perfect world, we'll find a place between 10 and 20 acres, some cleared and most wooded. It'll have some running water, and although I'm totally into small river and big creek fishing on a regular basis, I also would like to have my own pond/lake of an acre or two. As I mentioned, it's not unheard of to have several springs on properties that have live water coming through them, and a nice pure spring would be great for not only filling a lake but also diverting to a purification systems for water for the house.

Having a spring fed lake would enable you, in the right circumstances, to stock trout that might last near year round. Certainly, small mouth bass could last year round in such a small lake if springfed.

So we're looking around using all the ways we know how to. Local newspapers that are online. The various for sale by owner and real estate agent listings, ebay, craigslist and others.

We're flexible about a structure, if any. We'd prefer to have some kind of functional dwelling there, even a mobile home or travel trailer.  We plan to build our own house, and if in Central Texas or the Hill Country, it will be a rock home. We've come across a few tracts that have burned out rock shells of homes, just add plumbing, electricity, a roof, some windows and doors, flooring, but the shell of the home is already there.

Again, we're flexible. I'm hopeful of a big enough tract with enough springs and an existing pond or lake. To me, any pond over 2 acres is a lake. I'd like to have enough land to expand that pond or lake (also called a tank, as in a tank for cattle to water at) with a sort of canal system.

When I was growing up, there was a place nearby that had a huge lake, probably about 3 acres, that had a huge canal system that resembled a creek that ran out of one end of the lake and meandered around over the acreage and then joined back up at  the other end of the lake.

We got permission to fish and shoot there, as the owner wasn't running cattle on it anymore. We fished that lake and canal for years and years. We had nice fishing spots at several points on the canal, and built seats and even a fish house and pier at one part of a big lagoon in the middle of the canal length.

Another thing I'd like to have is a small boat house or pier house with a pier extending into the lake.  One of my redneck friends who lives in East Texas found it too expensive to have a large pier and pier house built on his exisiting lake, so he built a small pier and bought a used barge/houseboat affair and put a 5 h.p. motor on it and a bunch of trolling motors and batteries. He's got about a 2 acre lake, and just takes the houseboat all round the lake, fishing and swimming and such.

I know another fellow who father gave him an old sailboat they had, a Hunter 22 or 25 as I recall. It had a marine head, a nice small galley and had a small outboard and even an air conditioner on top of the cabin. My friend ended up putting that boat in his 1 acre or so lake, as sort of a houseboat. He couldn't sail it on that lake, but it made a nice fishing spot and place you could spend the night on the water. It was powered by some ancient tiny outboard I believe was called the Mighty Mite.

It was a pretty cool setup. You could sleep six comfortably in that sailboat, with two in the bow compartment, two on the converted dining table, bed, and one berth on each side of the aft or the boat, underneath the crew compartment above.

In my youth, when lucky enough to spend the night on the boats of friends, it was nice to sleep on one of the crew compartment bench seats in nice weather. Throw your sleeping bag on the padded seat and sleep away. You were down in the compartment so there was no way a wave in Galveston Bay would knock you out of the boat whilst snoozing.

With a sailboat, when the main sail is furled around the boom, you can stretch a canopy across the top, which provides shade and rain protection. Likewise, on top of that canopy, you can have roll down sides as well as mosquito netting if those critters are around. I thought it was a pretty neat setup. It was his man cave on his East Texas lake.

Anyway, those are some of the possibles for the future place. I'll keep you posted on the search.

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