June 10, 2009

Five Views of Highway 290

Any writer worth his salt could make a career, à la Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, out of the “little postage stamp of native soil” between Dripping Springs and Fredericksburg surrounding Texas Highway 290 in the hill country. Back out of sight of the road, the whole range of human activity must be spread out, from first dates and church services to meth labs and murder.

1. Around Stonewall, there’s a peach stand just about every hundred yards, from Dutch-door shacks to full-size red barns and inn-like two-storey houses. Peaches in quart and peck baskets, pies, cobblers, ice cream, jam, salsa. The Stonewall Peach Jamboree is held every year on the third Saturday and Sunday in June. In recent years, vineyards have been growing up near the peach orchards, the hopeful new vines only a couple of feet high on their upright stakes, the ground sandy and bare. Are the peach growers and the vintners at each others’ throats like the cattlemen and sheep farmers of the Old West? Is there a song yet, “The grape man and the peach man should be friends”?

2. The historical resonances of the name Stonewall have changed through the years. Are the residents prepared?

3. The mascot of Stonewall Elementary School, on Peach Street, is a billie goat; the team is the Billie Kids. The Billie Kids! I could just hug them. (The school has a 76 rating on a scale of 100 among Texas schools.)In sharp contrast, Stonewall Elementary in Clear Brook, Virginia has the Wildcats.

4. Two camels graze on a roadside pasture. Raised for…what…milk? meat? camel’s hair coats? Shriner Circus rides for kids? roles in Arabian-adventure films? training for desert commandos? tax breaks?

5. Tierra Mañana –- Land of Tomorrow -– a gated community planned for the site of a former ranch. It’s got a big gorgeous gate with a sandstone wall, and a sign proclaiming seventeen lots with acreage and views; and there’s no evidence of dwelling sites or construction. Just fields and meadows of purple flowers, all with acreage and views.

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