This morning I awoke from a dream in which I had somehow managed to bicycle just a few miles into the backwoods in Arkansas, and yet somehow come out in Russian east Asia. Unfortunately, just as I was riding in the desolate terrain into the village, taking the left path so as to avoid the red-scarved Moslem fundamentalists, I realized that it's Oklahoma, and not Russia, which is the undiscovered wonderland just a few miles away from Texarkana, so I knew in my dream that it was a dream and I was awake back in my Texas tract home again. I must work on that lucid dreaming technique, so that I figure out it's a dream and then go to Atlantis or something, but instead I returned to the dreamy land we call Awake. This beat my nightmares last night--I used to have lots of them as a kid, but not so many lately. I'll take bike rides through Russia over nightmares anytime.
We live 25 miles north of Dallas, but this morning, for a work-related reason, I had to drive 30 miles south of Dallas, so my early morning was consumed with "how do I go through Dallas without actually going through Dallas?". I must admit that I chose a path that managed to be both heavily trafficked and circuitous, which is contrary to my usual genius for choosing the road less travelled and making all the difference.
The area south of Dallas is a huge wetlands forest. Dallas' great river is the Trinity River. The Trinity River, though, is not really a "great river". It's instead an endless array of forks and creeks, loosely termed a river. Every creek one crosses is either a tributary of or an actual fork of the Trinity River. They must print up dozens of "East Fork of the Trinity River" signs. If north Texas were a bit less forbidding, they'd no doubt call the whole thing a Delta, but Deltas have cool gators and great fried catfish, and Dallas gators are brutish, nasty and short, while Dallas fried catfish is 150 miles northwest of "good catfish". But the Trinity does one thing very well. It preserves wetland.
I have a theory about most urban wildland preservation. My theory is that the only really effective conservation that people are capable of doing is conservation of land that nobody wants anyway. For example, if you visit inland Simi Valley, California, home of the Ronald Reagan library, residents will frequently boast of their near-complete success in keeping all new construction off the attractive Santa Susanna Mountains which wrap around Simi Valley like little oases of rock and shrub. The "true fact", though, is that the Santa Susannas are seismically unsound, so that any modest tremor will bring hilltop housing down to the ground. The "preservation" movement by the folks there might instead be termed the "self-preservation movement", or "whole lotta shakin' goin' on" preservation..
The Trinity River bottoms are quite similar. Nobody wants to build on land which is a waterlogged wetland woodland, which would not make good tract housing country even if assaulted wholesale. The result? One of our nation's largest wetlands forests is entirely intact. It's a "miracle of environmentalism"--saving land that nobody wants.
Now, in California or Florida, someone would have set aside a huge tract of the Trinity river bottoms as the "Trinity Wildlife Reserve", and made cool hiking trails. But in Texas, you just drive by the Trinity bottoms, and the trees and stuff are there, and it's very much a seen from the car kind of experience. Still, I did see it from the car and from the car it looked very nice to see indeed.
My destination was Waxahachie, Texas. Waxahachie is the sort of town that Horton Foote probably should have written a play about it, if he has not already. It's got a quaint little downtown, and a nice tree-ish ambience, and gorgeous old frame homes. I was unfortunately going to the temporary something or other "down by the Home Depot, not far from the Auto Paint place", so I did not have one of those Judge Roy Bean moments.
Still, I did pause for a moment at the daydream notion of living in a small town again. I now live in a 40,000 person suburb to the 220,000 person high tech suburb to the 1,000,000+ city of Dallas. It's got a nice neighborhood feel, but it's not a place where you call people "Red" or "Stony" or "Dub", in the way men were called in Gurdon, Arkansas, when I was a kid. I don't have teary eyed fantasies about small towns. I know the world of everyone knowing everyone's business co-existing with deep dark secrets nobody knows, endless vague disputes between business people for no reason, co-existing with failed dreams and foregone courage, coupled with some folks' truly beautiful quiet dignity. Small towns are different from large cities, but there are pluses and minuses.
I drove back through Sterrett, Texas, behind the man in the pick up truck with the bumper sticker that said "I brake for lizards", and sharply regretted by passing the rural donut shop. I try not to eat donuts these days, but when one is driving in rural Texas, one can make allowances for oneself.
I recently heard of a home in a very nice neighborhood in the small town in which my parents live which sold for 40,000 dollars. I wonder what it would be like to be able to buy a home for 40,000 dollars, live graciously, know everyone in town, and have great hiking nearby? Would that be Heaven? I don't know. After all, maybe Heaven is a place in Russian east Asia, and now I've awakened in Texas. But I could certainly do with a bit more of stately red courthouses, gorgeous trees, wetland forests and nice people who give one directions to the temporary headquarters of the district cler