For every little thing that is bigger and better in America, according to Americans, it’s that much bigger and better in Texas, according to Texans.
When describing a spider and saying 14 inches, a Texan will hold his hands out at full arms breadth. And of course there’s the story about the Texas rancher bragging about his family’s property to an East coast farmer. “My Daddy can drive his truck from dawn to dusk and still not cross our property.” To which the East coast farmer replies, “Yeah, my Dad had a truck like that.”
There is no doubt that Texas is a big state, 268,601 square miles (bigger than Spain and Portugal combined), the largest state after Alaska so driving is a daily pastime. “We might drive a hundred miles to the grocery store. To a European, that’s a vacation,” our neighbor in the campsite boasted to us. We drove 49 miles to the interstate the next day and didn’t encounter another soul on the lonely road.
The 22 million of population in Texas is concentrated in the east of the state. Parts of west Texas have a population destiny of less than one person per square mile – no urban sprawl, in fact no urban – with vast tracts of desert and mountains.
The parched and empty landscape is tranquil in winter but deceptive. Wide dry river beds and deep gulches, new patches of road and new bridges where the gulches run through, give an inkling of the ferocious rains and flood waters of summer. During the previous September floods had caused extensive damage in Big Bend National Park.
Texas weather and conditions include tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, floods, wild fires, earthquakes, tidal waves, plagues of locusts, snow, searing desert heat, biting cold and sometimes all at once. Texans are given to exaggeration though, as a tsunami erupting from the Rio Grande in west Texas where we learned of this lively weather seems unlikely.
If the wild extremes of weather aren’t enough, they have their share of horrifying creatures in Texas – tarantulas, black widow spiders, funnel-web spiders, vinegar bugs, scorpions and ninos de los terras, which I was given to understand were scary little snakes, but the only reference I can now find to those words is children’s shoes. Still dangerous but slightly more warm and fuzzy are mountain lions and bears and even a big cat that was thought to be extinct but lives an elusive existence amongst the 309,331 square miles of Big Bend National Park, but that’s all according to Texans.
Our first sighting of the comical roadrunner was of said bird running on the road – Beep! Beep! – just like his cartoon persona. Also new to us were javelinas – cute little bristly pig-like creatures that are not pigs.
Click pic to enlarge.
We had attributed all of these real and imaginary creatures and phenomenon to Texas but we were new to the Southwest and all the marvels it had to offer.
“And how about your skin?” I questioned our waitress, Rebecca, who had moved recently from the humidity of Florida to the arid atmosphere of Ft. Davis. “How does the dry air affect it?”
“Well my lips are so dry and cracked they feel like they are going to fall off and my arms and legs are parched. Other than that I’m perfect,” she said endearingly. But she lives in a tree house so I’m not sure I can take her word for anything.
So how ‘bout it. Any Texans out there? Just what are ninos de los terras? Am I even spelling it correctly?