Will you dip a cup in a stream of water?

Living in the country, on a river, with acreage to tend to will make one pay more attention to nature, to wildlife and to the environment. A natural tendency is to compare the state of nature today to that of the days growing up in a farm and ranch environment.

Today suffers by comparison to the yesterday of 55-60 years ago.

As a young boy, my rancher father sometimes took me with him on horseback to check fences and to locate cattle he hadn’t seen in a while.

One lesson of that time had to do with quenching your thirst on a day-long quest.

In those early rides with him, he taught me how to take a sheet of notebook paper and fold it into a triangular cup which flattened so you could carry it in your jeans hip pocket.

When you got thirsty and were near a creek, you got off the horse and dipped the cup into the clear water and drank your fill.

How many creeks do you know where you’d be willing to do that now? Today, those chores are done with a motorized vehicle and a full water jug.

As for wildlife, occasionally riding fence on horseback, sometimes brought you face to face with wild animals. I can’t speak to today’s ranch exposure to wildlife, but there was an episode as a young boy with a neighbor that was pretty scary.

Neighbor John Knight farmed and lived off the land in other ways. He trapped for furs and pelts to sell as well as for food. Knight took me with him to run the traps once and we came upon a bobcat, whose right hind leg was caught in a trap. The clamp-type trap was chained to a small tree.

Knight had no gun, just a hatchet. As I stood a safe distance away, he taunted the bobcat into chasing him around the tree until the trap chain was totally wrapped around the trunk. At that point, the bobcat unable to maneuver, caught Knight’s hatchet to the head.

Today, we see a good many squirrels, more armadillos than we’d like, an occasional raccoon and an even less occasional (thankfully) skunk.

One beaver has made an appearance and, until a recent river surge, there was an identifiable beaver lodge. While we hear coyotes almost every night (there are cattle and dairy goat operations nearby) we’ve only seen those nocturnal howlers a couple of times.

There are tracks that are undoubtedly deer and feral hogs though we’ve had no sightings of either.

We’ve developed a live and let live attitude toward most of these critters but there’s a shoot-firstmake identification-later policy with all snakes.

While our river is, during normal flow, clear enough to see bottom in six or seven feet of water, there are strong reservations about dipping a cup and drinking.

Nature tends toward extremes here with two-to-three-year droughts, then deluges of rain ushered in by El Nino.

The urbanization of much of Texas, while bringing business and jobs, has its price. Towns near us are growing outward. Wildlife patterns in general are affected. That growth is what discourages dipping a cup into our river.

There are, of course, areas of Texas still relatively untouched by urbanization, the accompanying pollution and driving away of wildlife. Let us hope we keep much of what God and nature have given us.

However, not only is it disturbing to not be able to dip a cup into a stream without fear, but policies and attitudes of those who govern don’t hold promise in many areas, particularly in a safe water supply. That is particularly foreboding for rural Texans. Urbanization is leading to state law-making body that will more and more favor the big metropolitan areas. Current water supply planning revolves around policy of “how much are we going to use” rather than “how much we can conserve.” That mindset will affect wildlife and rural residents alike.

Voices must be raised for conservation and the preservation of the great natural resources Texans have long taken for granted.

Willis Webb is a retired community editor publisher of more than 50 years. Email him at

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2010-04-01 digital edition

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