Monday, November 17, 2008

The drive to San Saba.

I've measured my drive, four days a week, and it turns out to be a 150 mile round trip. So it's good that it's such a pretty drive. Goin' up 183 from Florence is probably the prettiest part of the trip. There are lots of beautiful trees turning a mix of wonderful colors along the rivers and creeks that flow under the road now and then, and then wide prairie vistas like the one above.

There are a few big cattle ranches and small farms along the way, with windmills pumpin' water up out of the aquifer for the cattle. These things used to be a normal site along the roads of Texas. When I was a kid and we were driving back home from Missouri to see my grandparents, or wherever we were living. My sister and I would kill time by counting the windmills. There are fewer of them now, with city water and power systems spreading further out into the countryside.

About fifteen minutes after turning West off 183, getting back on 190 just north of Lampasas, you'll cross the county line dividing Lampasas and San Saba counties. Those counties are divided by the Colorado River, and there's a cool old bridge over that river, and a historical marker on the road on the Lampasas side.

This historical marker tells the story of a mill and cotton gin that was once here on the river from the mid 1870s to 1915. That's the mill stone the marker is mounted on. The marker says that the mill was a central location here, with power provided by the course of the river and a water wheel. Local folks would bring their lumber to be cut, or their corn to be ground, or their cotton to be "ginned".

When we talk about Cotton Gins, the term "Gin" is short for "Engine". A Cotton "Gin" was actually a "Cotton Engine", but folks always shortened the name, giving it a masculine connotation because it was operated by men. The very first industrial machine, the "Spinning Jenny", basically a set of spinning wheels operated by one person, was introduced in Britain in the 1700s. In that case the term "Engine" was reduced to "Jenny", because the machines were operated by young girls.

Anyway, while the customers of this mill waited for their turn at the wheel they would swim and fish here, where a dam had been constructed to move the course of the river through the water wheel. Eventually a hotel was built, but the course of the river shifted in the early 20th century and the whole place fizzled out.

The view from the bridge is pretty. You're looking down stream here. The Colorado is one of the most important rivers in Texas. It's been dammed several places, creating the Highland Lakes, providing water for farmers and ranchers in the hill Country, as well as city folks along the way. It was our version of the TVA. The river flows down through the hill country to Austin, where a dam turns it into Lady Bird Lake. Eventually the water flows down into the Gulf Of Mexico.

You're looking up stream here. Just beyond sight is the place where the San Saba river flows into the Colorado. My buddy Ellis, who owns a long stretch of that river bank, tells me that there's an old pecan tree there at the confluence of those two rivers that's very important to the local folks. He says that's the spot where the local pecan industry began. The thin, paper shell pecans that grow all around here started with that one tree, which was grafted by an early settler.

When you drive into San Saba you are welcomed by signs advertising the local pecan industries, and welcoming hunters to the rich game available in the area. It'll be fun, over the next 15 years, seeing how much of the local fun I can get myself into. I'll keep ya posted. Cheers!


BRUNO said...

Some toy manufacturer should make a talkin' doll of you, that gives out trivia, when ya' pull the string in it's ass!

Of course, since you'd be made in CHINA, there'd be a LOT lost in the translation of "Fat, Hairy Bastard".....!!! LOL!!!

Mushy said...

Pretty country, but I'd miss my hills and mountains. No wonder ya'll have so many twisters out there...nothing to slow'em down!

Man, I really feel for you and that dive. I lived 11 miles from work and I dreaded it most days.

Suldog said...

That's some kind of pretty river, with the colors in the trees and all on the banks.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Bruno - Get with the times brutha! The new FHB doll, made in China, will be fully functional, both as a life sized marital aid (no sweaty orifices, thank you!), and educational tool. Along with lengthy lectures on all sorts of trivia, it will be battery powered (lithium D cells, thank you!), and buttons on the nipples controlling digital recordings of such popular phrases as "Oh yea, baby, that's right!", "Yea baby, suck it hard!", and "Who'se yer daddy?"... I'm just sayin'.

Mushy - Yea, you'd hate it after a while. Anyone who's used to the beauty of your area would find this dull as hell. I love it, but I could easily find myself growing to love your little spot and calling it home. If I didn't have to make a living, and if Mom wasn't around...

And Ii hear ya on the drive. I'm getting used to it, and you'd be surprised how the time flies when you've got the cruise set on 74, the tunes blarin', and the cigar smoke waftin' out the sun roof.

Your trip was probably all twisty, turny. I can see why that would be tedious, even in that TA. Mine's mostly fast, with mostly trait roads. Still, the plan is to move MUCH closer some day.

Sully - It's beautiful! One of the best views on the drive.

Jerry said...

That's a pretty drive you got. Snack on some pecans on the way.

CharlieDelta said...

Toss a line in the water for me would ya? Looks like a good time FHB!

What are you pullin' outta there?

pat houseworth said...

Great stuff....I love old bridges, and their stories.

Christina LMT said...

Beautiful pictures!