Saturday, October 20, 2012


I know folks who are lucky enough to know where they want to live ther rest of their lives. Some are folks with family land they inherited, and some are folks who found places and homes that they never want to leave.

I'm not that guy.

While I love the place we currently live, and have some history here, there are better places to live. Smaller towns, with decent medical facilities, and less allergies and humidity and heat.

We love Texas, and I'm a native Texan. We may end up spending our retirement in Colorado or New Mexico, but the chief locale that we like is in the Llano, Texas area.

We've tried for years to find our ideal place in Texas. Places where we might've bought cabins and land or homes ended up being destroyed in hurricanes and  being located in areas that in 2011 were ravaged, I say ravageded, by unprecented drought, a "drought of record" and rivers literally ran dry.

The Llano area of Texas, in the Hill Country, is one such area we looked for a place in. Rolling hills and stone filled terrain, it's home to granite quarries that supply the pink granite stone for our Capital as well as those of other states. Live Oaks, Pecans and Ceders fill the countryside, and springs of water (in normal times) gush forth from hillsides and the ground with clear, clean and damn near pure water.

I spent much time in college hanging with a couple of dorm mates who were from Llano. Damn decent fellows. Still talk to them to this day, as they live more near to me than to Llano. More opportunities for careers near the bigger cities.

One of these fellows had a family ranch outside of Llano, near Casteel, Texas. Hundreds of acres on the Llano river.  Their place was a combo of cleared pastures, stone filled areas and hills, stands of trees tens of acres in size, about 4 large ponds or tanks, several creeks, numerous seeps and springs, and all the land along the Llano River with cliffs in some parts and access to the river bottom in other areas.

You can't ignore the pink granite dotted with quartz that dominates the geography of the area. It's beautiful. There's also a native stone called the "Llanite" that is commonly found among the quartz and pink and gray granite that juts through the ground frequently.

It was a cool place. It had the pretty deluxe and very cool 2 story house that his grandfather had ordered in 1929 from the Sears Catalog and put the pre-fab house together himself. They delivered it on the train, and horse drawn wagons took the parts to the ranch. 

The family ran cattle over much of the land, having lots of grasses and pastures cleared of stone long ago by their ancestors, and with ample water supples (normally). They also cut and sold lots of hay. Like a lot of other area ranchers, they rented cabins and leases to deer hunters because of the huge and plentiful deer in the area, one of the big deer hunting places in the world.

I would only go out on the ranch itself in the spring and summer, after hunting season was over. When deer season was on, their land and the surrounding land was filled with doofus hunters and hangover Harrys who I didn't want to be around with guns in their hands and deer on their minds.

So it's good we never got land in that area, or a bit to the southwest in Bandera or a bit further from there in the Uvalde area. The droughts that ran rivers, creeks and springs dry in the Llano, Bandera and other Hill Country areas were devastating. Of course, I'm sure most of the tanks and small lakes dried up, and the biggest lake in the area, Lake Buchanan, is still way down to this day.

Surprisingly, I'm getting good reports from Llano river fishing, and apparently it's sprung back much faster than anyone imaged. It looked healthy the last time I visited the area this past summer.

Likewise, it's good we passed on a great beach house in Matagorda, Texas or one of the two we almost got in Galveston. The beach houses are gone-gone. We would have gotten about 8 years of use from the Matagorda house and maybe 10 from the ones in Galveston, and it would've been a tragic ending.

Having already lost one weekend family place, "the cabin",  to a freak "100 flood" in the past, I've always been leery of getting another place where Mother Nature might battle my house, vehicles and other structures. If you're gonna live on a place with Llano River frontage, you want your house to be as high up away from that river as possible, because sometimes those 100 year flood events come multiple times in a 100 years.

The Llano area is still a bit wild west, as are the surrounding counties. Although Llano is only about 60 miles outside of Austin, it's far different from Austin in terms of lifestyle. There's lots of refugees from Austin, Dallas, Houston and even places like L.A. who come to the Llano area for a better style of living.

Actor Tommy Lee Jones is from neighboring San Saba County, and has a large ranch there.

Meth has always been a social and law enforcement problem in the area, even going back to the early 80's before the current meth epidemic. The wide open spaces and many empty and abandoned barns and buildings found on land around Llano lend themselves to meth labs and grow houses. It's not anything like the illegal culture around places like Humboldt, California, but there is a certain amount of crime connected with all the folks who are in orbit around Planet Meth in that part of Texas.

By and large, there is far less random violent crime in the counties around Llano. Most murders involve folks who know each other, and are often those who are in highly dysfunctional mental, alcohol or drug type circles of folks. Since folks in Texas like their drunk driving, we lose a lot of good and innocent people on the highways from drunks who wreck out and kill or injure folks. And that's bad all over the state.

Other than that, thefts occur not infrequently, like in many rural counties, but with some safeguards you can sometimes prevent that too.

It's not a bad place to live. It reminds me of parts of Colorado, except there are no rainbow trout here. The water is chilly but not cold enough year round to support the temperatures the rainbow need. I've often wondered if one had a small, spring fed pond with a nice cool temperature, if you put a roof over a small tank and kept it shady at all times if you could keep water temp cool enough for rainbows, as some of the springs gush forth from the ground at quite cool temperatures.

Probably wouldn't work and would be too expensive, but it would be nice to have a tank of Rainbows for endless grilled and blackened Rainbow trout dinners. I like Rainbow trout to the exclusion of all other fish, even Salmon. I'm just that way. Red Snapper and Speckled Trout run close second and third, by the way.


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