We don't always recognize how much we have until it's gone. The American model of conservation is unique and was born of immigrant people who had witnessed the systematic destruction of most wilderness areas in continental Europe. With all of our modern luxuries, it is easy for people to get wrapped up in what is easy or convenient.. but let's not let this one come crashing down. Not on our watch...
The flat screen casts shifting hues of light across the couch, but the volume is low. If our baby girl wakes up, I'm on baby duty tonight. Something about “make America great again”, followed by an angry looking lady in a pant suit purse across the screen. 2017; Sometimes I just have to ask myself what in the hell is going on?!! Reaching down deep to channel my inner Walter Matthau, a la Grumpy Old Men, I must admit that part of me feels like this world has left me behind. "Small town kids move to the big city all the time", I tell myself... "Quit your bitching".
Undoubtedly, the world today is drastically different than it was just ten years ago. Change is, and always will be a universal truth. Yet I can't shake the reality that things seem to be shifting at an unbelievable pace. Many of the institutions that used to be iron clad are no longer viewed as such. Some of my... most of my friends are either uninterested in marriage and the traditional family unit, immersed in shaky "teenage-esque" dating games, or playing the field harder than Jeter in his prime. This is all well and good. To each their own. Many walk around in a zombie like state induced by their smart phones, which they refuse to leave in their pockets for more than forty seconds at a time. Honestly, I'm guilty of this at times. But it wasn't always this way, and thank God. Social norms of today could have stifled my passion for the outdoors. Lucky me, Steve Jobs wasn't quick enough. Let me peel back the curtains on time and space and show you my own personal Garden of Eden.
Raised on the relatively wild coastal prairies of Texas in the 90’s and 2000’s, I developed my passion for hunting and fishing at a very young age. We lived in a small town, seven miles from the nearest store. The bustling scene in town really drew in the crowds. And I hope you’re hungry; Lucy’s Restaurant was/still is the hot ticket in town, cooking up authentic local Tex-Mex, mostly family recipes passed down generation to generation. You could even rent a movie if you were feeling bold. First capital of the Republic of Texas, and we are Damn proud of it. Funny, Bob Bullock in Austin seems to have forgotten. Spanish moss hangs off of ancient oak trees forming a sentinel of bearded giants standing guard against the mega sprawl of Houston and the degradation of true southern values. Muddy brown creeks, chocolate milk rivers, and black-water oxbows carve up the landscape and provide sanctuary for modern day dinosaurs. True giants! And it all reaches southerly starboard; A salty sweet mix of love that provides for an explosion of life, unappreciated by some and unbeknownst to many. This is home.
At a questionable age, I was entrusted with my grandfather's old homemade 410. The fauna in a three-mile radius were fully aware. Our five acres sat on about 80 acres with cattle and a man made cattle pond. This in turn set on miles and miles of cattle pastures, cotton fields, river bottom, and gorgeous oak forest dotted with the occasional ranch style home. The area was about as backwoods as it gets east of the Frio. Whether we were calling migrating snow geese to a spread on the sprawling farms cultivated by the Texas Department of Corrections, hunting whitetail in the woods between the San Bernard and the Brazos, or chasing tails in the expansive marsh systems of Matagorda…it was all very special. I owe my passion for the outdoors to my mother and step father. Although not my father by blood, he became that and so much more. Picture the quintessential image of a cowboy roaming the Texas plains 150 years ago, and you’ve hit your mark. Wyatt Earp in an old diesel F250. Hands like 10 pound hammers that my sister and I were very afraid of. Biased as I may be, he was and still is, for a 65-year-old man, a total badass. A Vietnam era Marine Corps vet and an outdoorsman to his core, his knowledge of the ecosystem along the Texas coast is simply profound and totally organic to boot. He and his three brothers hunted and fished Brazoria County for all of their lives, and no doubt learned from their father, who was of the same stock. In the mold of Aldo Leopold, they taught me to care for the land. It is not a blood lust, rather a connection with the very essence of what it means to be human. To reap the bounty this land has to offer; to hunt for, fish for and cook your own food… but never to abuse it. Never to overconsume.
The world has plenty of warm bodies, but not enough willing to make a difference. And as the earth’s population continues to explode, these problems facing our wild lands are not going to just go away. Take a drive down 290 towards Hockley. Take a good hard look at the Katy Prairie to the west. Savor it. I can assure you it will not look like this for long. Apparently, all this pocket of land needs is another Wal Mart, and you can almost be certain there are plans to turn it into a parking lot. Hunting, fishing and the great outdoors are a part of our heritage as Americans, and if our community of hunters and fisherman are not prepared to fight for it, this opportunity to connect with nature and our heritage could be lost to most. I want my daughter to be able to experience the world as I did, and I wish the same for her children. So this is my call to arms. This is our Alamo, and here is the line in the sand. Be vocal; sign petitions; write your local and national congressman (they are listening to their constituents). Get outside, especially with your kids. Bring the newb on the family hunting trip. It is critical to pass this knowledge on and introduce new people to the sport. The hunting and fishing industries fund an astounding percentage of conservation efforts worldwide. In fact, 100% of Texas hunting and fishing license fees are given right back to conservation efforts.
Theodore Roosevelt foresaw the problems facing our wild lands over a hundred years ago and gave us one hell of a foothold in which to preserve them. Now it is up to us to maintain this fight. It is up to us to ensure the health of our ecosystems. No one else is going to do it. Don’t let the great outdoors turn into a trip down the street to the city park.
On a foggy morning catfish trip down the Brazos, you can almost feel the energy radiating from the old civil war armory beyond Belles Landing. It's not hard to imagine the sound of the gun smith's hammer defiantly reaching its mark over and over again; the frantic exited energy, all to a prideful cause that we know was futile. Was this an early allusion to the fate of our beloved wilderness? Can this incredible place, and others like it around the world persevere? The cynic in me says we're fucked; my children's children will never know the world as I do. The realist in me says we have done irreparable damage and can only hope to hold on to shrinking pockets of wilderness. But the optimist in me knows that there is still hope. We are reaching the tail end of a modern day dark age, and only now on the frontier of a renaissance that is so sorely needed. There are tools in place to fight this fight, all the world needs are people who care. Be that somebody.
I am a passionate outdoorsman with over 25 years of hunting and fishing experience across the state of TX.