Texas - The Land of Fences

Texas is always talked about as being big. So far it seems not so much big, as bland, and has very little free space - it's almost all privately owned. Partly that's geographical, and partly it's historical. Geographically, the west half or Texas is pretty much flat and dry. That makes it easily accessible (no huge mountains that you can't do much with except leave them alone) and it's so dry that you need a fair bit of land to do anything with - it won't hold many head of cattle per acre, for example. Historically, when the south seceded from the union in the 1860s, all the federal troops pulled out, and vacated the forts and the other federal land. The locals moved in and took over much of this now-unallocated land and called it there own, which was encouraged by the new confederate government. After the civil war, the federal government had to buy the land that it wanted back off the new owners, which made National Parks expensive and meant there was little or no 'free land' on the books to hang on to for a rainy day or later uses. Coincidently, the lack of troop presence meant it was a field day for Indians and lawless groups. Indians, Mexicans and "rebel white men" (some accounts just describe Indians, some describe the west of Texas as full of basically roving gangs, including Indians) roamed around attacking settlers, wagon trains, etc. This reversion to lawless "wild west" was a direct result of the secession, and it set back Texas, and its settlement, several decades at least. Texans eventually pleaded with President Grant to send back federal troops, and he did; a new system of forts was built right across Texas from east to west, protecting the major trails and water sources (they are often positioned slightly uphill of springs). Eventually they sorted the place out, and the troops moved further west into New Mexico and Arizona battling different tribes of Indians. (The period is known as the Indian Wars).

Interestingly, Fredricksburg, where I was the other day, was never attacked. The founder of the town was a german businessman, and having settled the town right at the time Texas started going downhill, and it being, at that time, the western-most town in Texas, he quickly recognized what was required. He brought together 8 local Indian chiefs and negotiated a treaty to cover Fredricksburg and its immediate surrounds from all of them, which was apparently very effective.

Unfortunately all this means that in the Texas I've seen so far, there is very little national park, or even state park, or anything else that isn't a privately owned ranch or hunting property. Far from open plains and large areas of park and recreation land, the western half of Texas is a land of endless fences - low ones to keep the cattle in, and high ones to keep the deer in so you can shoot them.
Location, location, location.


This kind of undermines the whole basis of my trip...I'm here to travel alone in remote areas.


Featureless plains are common - but can you see the endangered little bird I found?


Bang! This is where these folks are heading.