December 2011

December 2011

People usually do not perceive a forest that has just been
burned as beautiful. But fire is a part of the natural world, just
like the wind, the rain, and other natural forces. Wildfires are
an essential feature of ecosystems; both plants and animals
are well adapted to fires and benefit from fire. Fire is an agent
of change performing a variety of functions and producing a
range of effects.

Ecological Communications Lab
School of Natural Resources
The Ohio State University

Wildfires -

Of course the quote is referring to controlled fires. Anyone that owns a home near a forest would have an entirely different attitude towards wildfires.

The story back-splash -

I had planned a fact-finding trip to Bastrop State Park a few months ago. My dream was to rent a cabin for a few days and enjoy the Lost Pines (more on the Lost Pines a little later), which freakishly grow in a spot on earth that by all reckoning shouldn't be there.

I think many of my readers can relate to the expression "Best laid plans of mice and men." Ol' Mom Nature decided otherwise. The area in and around the park had been besieged by wildfires just a couple of weeks prior to my planned visit. I could have called the trip off but instead I called my traveling buddies to get their thoughts. We reviewed the obvious problems then modified, and reset the plan.

The Plan -

This was going to be a twofold plan. The area could use our money pumped into the local economy. The first aspect was the obvious; find lodging in the area of Bastrop and document the effects of the wildfires. Finding lodging was not quite as easy as I first thought it would be. Many of the displaced families were re-located in the local motels. We found applications, in every motel lobby, for living expense assistance for those who lost their homes due to the wildfires.

After searching relentlessly, we found lodging.

Part 2 -

The second part of the plan was to investigate the Barbeque Controversy of Lockhart. I don't know if y'all are aware of the family squabble that eventually created two BBQ joints where there was only one? I learned about it on the Food Channel and saw it on several YouTube videos. I asked the question, "Who are you going to believe?" I figured there was only one foolproof way to find out, I'd have to personally taste for myself.

Bastrop -

The town of Bastrop is named after a man of dubious character. It seems there was a man by the name of Phillip Hendrik Nering Bogel who was born in Dutch Guiana. He moved to Holland with his parents and joined the cavalry of Holland and then married Georgine Wolffeline Francoise Lijcklama a Neyeholt who bore five children. Leaving the cavalry, he became a tax collector. His excuse for leaving Holland was the French invasion. Those in the know said it was because; not only did he have a talent for marrying women with long names, but he also had a way with other people's money, money that they had paid in good faith for taxes. I doubt it was a coincidence that after the Court of Justice of Leeuwarden offered a 1,000 gold ducats reward to anyone that brought him back, Phillip conveniently changed his name to Baron de Bastrop.

While in America, the Baron acquitted himself well. On behalf of Moses Austin, he convinced Governor Antonio Maria Marinez to approve Austin's project to establish an Anglo-American colony in Texas. After Moses died he aided Stephen F. Austin in many of his efforts to establish Anglo colonies. Bastrop was appointed commissioner of colonization for the Austin colony with authority to issue land titles. His accomplishments were many. I think y'all see what an important cog he was in the machine that would eventually become the great state of Texas. He died a poor man. He could not afford to pay his burial expenses. His fellow legislators donated the funds to cover the expense of his funeral.

Regardless of whom the town was named for, it is one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

Page 2

Forest Floor

You can see Dozer isn't happy about it.

The major draw to the Bastrop area is the forest named Lost Pines. There are two parks in the area; Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park. The Lost Pines are reminiscent of East Texas. What gives these pines the strange name is that you'll have to travel 100 miles east to find anything that looks like these beautiful trees. I have read a couple of theories on how this came to be. The most widely accepted explanation is that the stand of trees shrunk during the Pleistocene period; what we know as the Ice Age.

As you can see by the above picture of Dozer standing among the pines, the wildfires of 2011 really did a number on the forest. Where he stands, the forest floor is ash and nothing else. The good news is, after a solid rain, there will be green sprouts working their way through the ash, stretching towards the sun. I saw evidence, even so soon after the fires were extinguished.


President Simpson at a diaster relief center.

Trucks Full of Relief

Fred (BAD) Simpson, Jim (Dozer) Dekan and I assessed the damage to the area. We stopped in a Church of Christ disaster assistance center where your president, Mr. Simpson, made a handsome donation.

First Responders

Some were lucky to escape.

There were homes spared even though their neighbor's houses were burned to the ground.

The Good News - Though Bastrop State Park will be closed for repairs for most of 2011, Buescher State Park, located just around the corner, near Smithville, is open for business and has cabins, as well as a large, undamaged stand of Lost Pines. There is plenty of camping. Give them a call at (512) 237-2241.

Well Buckaroos, Bastrop, the little town just 30 miles from Austin, was a real eye opener. We were all impressed with how nice the folks were, even after such a horrendous natural disaster. Next time we hope to stay in Bastrop Park, which is already well on it's way to being ready. We also want to try the barbeque we didn't get a chance to eat. That isn't to say we didn't eat plenty of barbeque when we were there. Next month I'll tell you all about the BBQ FEUD - and review four outstanding restaurants. It will be all about BARBECUE. Until then --

Ride em if ya go em!

Bonus PIX

Nothing left but a chimney

The area churches stepped up

Firefighers Rock
Fire Fighters are memorialized

Dead Tree
Couldn't save this tree

Great Outlook - Wonderful People