Late Season

What began in late September with temperatures in the nineties and insects buzzing ’round my head has now come to late December. The bugs are gone, as are the leaves and fair weather hunters. Short sleeves have been replaced by multiple layers and Gore-Tex. Coffee serves as stimulant and anti-freeze in the pre-dawn darkness, and I continually check weather reports for cold fronts and low temperatures.

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My hands are rough and cracked from the cold and the use of hard water from the well. Yes, it is Texas. Yes, it gets cold here. Not constantly, and not as bitter as friends experience farther north, but sitting in an unprotected tree stand when a blue norther blows through the Hill Country without the proper clothing will make you a believer. Our first snow this year hit the ground almost a month ago during one of my hunts.

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This is tough country. Rocky and arid, with many ranches focusing on sheep and goats rather than the requisite Texas cattle. The smaller and more hardy animals are better suited to thrive in this environment. Unfortunately some ranchers allow the sheep and goats to overgraze and damage the land. Cactus and junipers plague those places, which stand in stark contrast to the ranches managed by stewards of the land.

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Everywhere there are reminders of those who have come before. Historical markers. Tumbledown buildings. Cemeteries. Arrowheads.

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Before the immigrants, this was Comanche territory. It’s not hard to imagine them here. Mass graves mark the resting place of hapless wagon trains who crossed their paths.

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I think of them all, and give thanks as I make meat for winter with my high-tech clothing and bow.  As the cold north wind blows and moans, I wonder what ghosts are witness to my success.

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