Tag Archives: Texas State Highway 16

Central Texas Christmas Eve 2011

Circulating around Christmas Eve and coming into Christmas Day, I have taken some photographs that illustrate rural and town life in central Texas.  These photographs were taken near Mingus, Llano and Fredericksburg.  Mingus is the town that is designated on my mailing address, although Hannibal (no longer having a post office) and Gordon are closer to my ranchito.  (The Mingus post office is slated to be closed because of cost-cutting measures.)

My Uncle Floyd and Aunt Lennie had a ranch at Cherokee, near Fredericksburg.  I spent summers and holidays with Floyd and Lennie as a boy and teenager.  My Aunt Lennie prepared chicken-fried steak that was actually a recipe for wienerschnitzel (lightly breaded veal steaks) and serve beets that were purple and sweet and icebox cold.  My cousin, Allan, and I literally begged her to prepare chicken-fried steak.  Little did I know then that she obtained her country cuisine largely from the Fredericksberg German culture.

Christmas variety cookies at Fredericksburg Bakery, December 24, 2011.

The Fredericksburg Bakery has been producing cookies and breads since 1917.

Here is Dooley's Red Angus bull, my neighbor to the west (December 22, 2011).

There is nothing wrong with the drooling Red Angus. He has been feasting on shortgrasses and hay, perhaps a few Christmas cookies.  He’s a very gentle fellow and will amble away when you approach him. The Red Angus breed is noted for its weight-gaining ability. I have considered purchasing some.

Red berries beside Highway 16 near Llano, Texas (December 23, 2011).

These berries look good enough to eat, but don’t! If you see berries or fruits that are red and you don’t know the variety, don’t eat the red!  These berries are not to be mixed into any Christmas recipe for cookies or breads.  Please refer to your favorite cookbook for ingredients in your cookies.

Texas boots on the last shopping day before Christmas (Fredericksburg, Texas, December 24, 2011).

Cottontail rabbit eating spilled grain, December 22, 2011.

I like this pre-Christmas Eve image. I had fed Star before dark and left the light on in the barn and stalls. When I went back down to turn off the lights, I saw this cottontail beneath Star’s feed and hay bin, delicately picking up stray nuggets of Horseman’s Choice 12% feed. I watched the rabbit for five minutes and snapped several shots with my iPhone, the one I include here being the best in low light.  The rabbit probably favors a sweeter fare, like the Purina sweet feed for performance horses.

Heron and squirrel along Baron's Creek in Fredericksburg, Texas, December 24, 2011.

Baron’s Creek runs through Fredericksburg, Texas. I walked along the creek yesterday and today. This afternoon I spotted a heron in the water and framed the heron with the pecan tree on the left of the shot. When I looked at the results, I saw a squirrel in the tree. Do you see the squirrel?  The squirrel had been gathering pecans, the heron waiting for the stray frog or fish.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day.  I hope to have another post about rural and town life in central Texas as well as the flora and fauna.  Be sure to note my attention to juniper on Christmas Day.

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Severe water restrictions and Palo Pinto evacuation order 19 APR 11

I drove thirty-six miles this afternoon along SH 919, US 180, SH 16 and there was fire and smoke, large plumes of newly-erupting fires and smoldering cedar trees emitting smoke across the highway like a fog.  I wish it was a fog.  Ashes fell out of the sky, the wind blew steadily from the north, a welcome change of sorts that turned serious for Palo Pinto, Texas.  Thirty-six miles I drove and saw this fearful landscape and that was only the southern perimeter of the Possum Kingdom-Palo Pinto Complex Fire.  Some of these areas are still burning from days ago.  Fire crews with red lights turning appeared all along the highway.  Game wardens entered ranches to warn inhabitants.  Farmers and ranchers unlatched their gates along the route to Palo Pinto to allow crews to enter.  TV crews and their satellite vans were set up — NBC, CBS, ABC and others.

Everywhere I looked on the thirty-six mile southern perimeter there were plumes of smoke and fire like miniature volcanoes in the gullies and along the hillsides.  I have traveled the same circuit for several days and the smoke still rises about the countryside.

I came home and found messages from our Co-op water company.

* * *

Our water Co-op, Barton Creek Water Cooperative, left two urgent messages one hour ago to stop using water except at a minimum.  The Possum Kingdom Fire Complex is currently draining the Gordon Water Supply Cooperative and they have terminated water connections for us on Barton Creek Water Cooperative.  We are ordered to restrict or terminate usage and haul water for our livestock.  We are to be conservative in usage at the very most.  Power poles have been destroyed in the fire and the electric company has cut off power to the Gordon Water Supply pumps.  Gordon is six miles north of us.

The outlook is grim if our area does get any rain and more water restrictions may occur.

Here on our place we have a large stock pond that is down in elevation, but has plenty of water for Star and other livestock.  I have offered to place several horses and cattle on our place since the stock tank is large.  I have a small well, but the water is not potable for animals and humans, but we may use it to water plants.

We have filled up our two bathtubs and collected water in pitchers, jars and crock pots.

The Co-op has just called — 8:55 p.m. — and said that the water restrictions will probably be temporary, but again stated to be conservative.

* * *

Late this afternoon, Palo Pinto, a town north of us some twenty-five miles, has been ordered to evacuate since the winds have shifted from the north.  A large jail is being emptied and prisoners transferred to other units.  The fire jumped the Brazos River and the fire crews have concentrated at Palo Pinto, the county seat of Palo Pinto County.

Before the cold front came through in late afternoon, my thermometer registered a high of 109 deg., but settled at 103 deg. for a couple of hours with a humidity at nine percent.

The winds have died down after dark and we are preparing for bed.  Weather forecasts tell that rain may fall tomorrow night — scattered showers, but we’ll take it.

* * *

Here are some photographs I took this afternoon at the SH 16 and US 180 intersections and a few other places as captioned.  With a click of your mouse you may enlarge and find the obligatory detail in these matters.

Sunset and smoke over Strawn, Texas

Dead broomweed from last season that is tinder for a spark. This field is on the road to Palo Pinto, Texas, along US 180.

A round-up of cattle in holding pen for transfer in case fire comes, on SH 16, north of Strawn.

Crews and trucks assembling for the dash to Palo Pinto, Texas. This is at the intersection of SH 16 and US 180. Possum Kingdom is eight miles away in the background.

Possum Kingdom Complex Fire, southside of lake.

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Local news links to Possum Kingdom Complex fire in Texas 19 APR 11

Lone Camp Volunteer Department Fire truck, US Forest Service auxillary, at idle north of Strawn, Texas, after fighting SH 16 west fires.

The following local news links have detail about the Possum Kingdom Complex fire:

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Wildfires-Burn-700000-Acres-Federal-Help-Sought-120070209.html — NBC5i in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.

http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/04/18/3009662/20-more-homes-burn-at-possum-kingdom.html — Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

* * *

Our county, Erath, and neighboring counties are under a Red Flag Extreme Fire Weather alert for today.  Risks are very high until late afternoon early evening when a cold front will move through the area.  Shifting winds may be a problem.  Temperatures may reach 102 deg.  Winds, however, should not be as high as they have been in the last few days, say, 15-20 m.p.h.

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100 degrees and fire at Possum Kingdom 18 APR 11

After transferring items between two trailers here on our place, I ate a ham sandwich and departed for the northern part of our region, up SH 108, FM 919 through Gordon and up to US 180, approximately twenty miles away.  I turned west on US 180 and drove to the Stephens County-Palo Pinto County, Texas line.  I had not driven farther two days ago than the SH 16 highway intersection.

The magnitude of this fire stuns me.  From Ioni Creek to the Stephens County line on US 180, about ten miles or so, the country is blackened and hot spots still smolder in the hills.  As I approached the intersection of US 180 and SH 16, I looked out the window of my F-150 and saw the beginning of a huge fire eruption at Possum Kingdom East.

Click the photographs with your mouse to enlarge and get detail.

Looking north from US 180 near intersection of SH 16, PK East Fire.

I drove farther from the SH 16- US 180 intersection — Highway Patrol blocked SH 16 north — and saw blackened countryside all the way to the Stephens County line.  I turned around and came back down US 180 and here is a shot of the smoke cloud.

Smoke cloud of PK East Fire on US 180 headed east back to SH 16 and Strawn.

I saw at least ten fires — not counting the hot spots — along US 180 and SH 16. Rio Vista, Joshua, Granbury and other volunteer units were scattered along the highway. With the outbreak of at least two fires northwest of Strawn, I saw the Cunningham Fire Department go into a ranch, led by the rancher and authorities.

Through-traffic in Strawn is prohibited and I cut across the country, using Davidson Cemetery Road to get back home.  Highway 16 in Strawn is scattered with vehicles and fire trucks.

I don’t like disaster-pandering posts.  I think they are bad form and take the mind away from applying its powers to correct defects that caused disasters in the first place.  Tours of Chernobyl are disgusting.   These events in my region — I am about fifteen-to-twenty miles south from the fires that have gone on for days it seems to me — are uncommon.  I’ve lived most of my life in Texas, in this region, and I’ve never seen fires like this.  My immediate surrounds in north Erath County are green and we’ve been fortunate.  Mingus, my mailing address, and Gordon, six-miles away, were ordered to evacuate several days ago.  As soon as these events are over, I will be glad to post on verbena and milkweed.

Tomorrow the Fire Weather Watch forecast is worse.  Today, it’s 100 deg. and wind at 20-25 m.p.h., humidity low.  If it gets worse, I won’t go to teach in Abilene, but stay here and monitor the place.

Burned structures at US 180 and SH 16.

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North of Strawn, Texas (Palo Pinto County, PK East Fire) 17 APR 11

Field report and photo by iPhone (kind of slow to thumb a post).

Smoke and hotspots.  Looking south on SH 16 in the direction of Strawn.

Palo Pinto County, PK East Fire – The entire city of Strawn (pop. 764) and portions of Palo Pinto County, described as areas west of Highway 16 and south of Possum Kingdom Lake, are being evacuated. An evacuation order has been given for the Peninsula on Possum Kingdom Lake. The Peninsula has approximately 300 homes and a campground. Fire is estimated at 1,000 acres.

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Hot spots and Possum Kingdom Lake wildfire 16 APR 11

US Highway 180, south of Possum Kingdom Lake

I went out this morning to view and photograph the Possum Kingdom Lake wildfire event. I was not able to see Possum Kingdom Lake because I do not have press credentials and State Highway 16 was blocked at the intersection of US 180.

Today the winds are calm, but tomorrow afternoon a Red Flag warning has been issued for west-central Texas.  I drove the F-250 from our ranch north of I-20 on SH 919 to Gordon, cut west along the Schoolhouse Road north of Gordon to St. Boniface Catholic Church on Dodson Prairie.  The elk behind the high field fence on the Guest Ranch appeared unharmed.  After driving by St. Boniface, I turned north on SH 16 and journeyed to US 180, turning west and headed in the direction of Possum Kingdom and Breckenridge, Texas.

As I ascended the small mountains about Ioni Creek on US 180, I saw blackened trees and fence posts that had burned last night.  The pasture lands were turned to cinders, but I saw no livestock affected.  Hotspots of fence posts and erosion barriers emitted smoke and flames.  Towards Possum Kingdom Lake, the Highway Patrol blockaded SH 16, and after a few more miles going west on US 180, I turned around and started back to the ranch.

I turned south on SH 16 towards Strawn, past Schoolhouse Road and St. Boniface and then realized why the Texas Forest Service and state officials had ordered an evacuation of Mingus and Gordon last night.  The fire last evening had leapt the highway and was headed southwest towards the two villages.  The Forest Service, Brazos Volunteer Fire Department and the Lone Camp Volunteers (other volunteer departments were also involved) had stopped it last night, but the frontline of combating it today and tomorrow was east of SH 16, about six miles north of Strawn.  The Texas Department of Public Safety and Forest Service set up command posts in Strawn.

The winds tomorrow are forecast out of the south at 25 m.p.h. so the winds will carry any fire to the north and east.  The Possum Kingdom Lake fire will not affect us.  We will wait and see what else transpires when the dry line (nicknamed the Marfa Line) passes by tomorrow afternoon, lowering the humidity.  Our ranch lies south of I-20 and we will be prepared for any outbreak of fire in our area.  That means that we have trailers hitched, grass and lawns watered and the dogs ready to go with Star, our paint gelding.

With the exception of the sunset photograph, I have the photographs arranged in the order I traveled and time that I shot the pictures.  When I came back to the house, I had to take off my coat and leave it in the utility room because it stank of smoke.

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Notes:

Correction:  the church is St. Boniface, not St. Alban.

Changed verb conjugation: leap, leaped, leapt.

All photographs were taken NEF, uploaded JPEG.  NEF file sizes ca. 10 megs., a digital negative.

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