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The Say-Town Lowdown



Now in the Beginning, there were no Brand Names. Our Italian designers still priggishly awaited a hell warm enough to be born into; Nike refused to pay even premordially low minimum wages; and Faded Glory’s gelatinous seed had yet to penetrate the rudimentary canal linking the impoverished East with the destitute West.

Raw materials lay all higgelty-piggelty; and ignorance of commerce covered the face of the Earth.

Then one day, Deep Desire (who looks a lot like Sanjaya in drag, btw) breathed upon the waters, and hungry creatures in golf shirts and chinos rose up, declaring, “Let there be Bling.” And there was Bling.

And the hungry creatures divided the rich from the poor so they wouldn’t be confused about whose hands to shake.

And there was evening and morning: The first day.

So these hungry creatures petitioned the Powers for a marketplace in the midst of the waters. And politicians annexed the Wild Places, divided the waters into little plastic bottles, and created taxes to secure their share of the loot. Wilderness was called a “Resource,” water “Luxury,” and taxes were cursed universally as a dirty rotten trick.

And the evening and morning were the second day.

Now these hungry creatures (or developers, as they are known today) turned Texas’s wild resources — her trees, water, minerals, and people — into lumber, power, gold, and clerical temps. Wet lands were filled and high lands leveled and all manner of engineering feats were celebrated. (And, yes, there were third, fourth, and fifth days, and so on … )

Yet that cursed and unquenchable land hunger created conflict with the Original Tribe. More than once, tribal members took the lives of developers and stuffed the corpses’ mouths with the dirt these strangers craved. But the Indian Resistance, like so many good things, eventually fell before the waves of pre-fabricated houses, rental furniture, mega-malls, and Chinese plasticware.

Only after the last of the good land had been stolen, sectioned, and fenced, did the notion of limits begin to gain notice. There were, some asserted, only so many acres of habitable land left to be exploited. As the airs became clouded and sick and the waters turned bitter, others warned that only Wild Places could create clean air and healthy water.

Still the whine of the Earth Movers cried out for a Trans-Texas Corridor; a La Entrada al Pacifico; and an even shadier shade of real-estate chicanery. A billboard rises: “We sell Hill Country — Until it’s gone!”

But a few tracks of land were set aside as parks. Within these green groves, Small Ones listened to the whisper of the trees and Big Ones to that of grilling flesh. As need arose, park coffers were mined and their forests felled and everyone agreed this Conservation was a grand idea, after all.

Venerated sites like the Alamo, where pilgrims honor those who gave their lives for land speculation, and the Confederate Reunion Grounds, where celebrants speak of “Yanks” and “Darkies,” became part of that parks system. They were heady days, indeed.

But all was not well with the parks. There was a cost to maintaining these open lands. The pressures for more amusements were great. And Small Ones, humiliated for talking to trees, learned to prefer the comfort of simulated violence to the sound of rushing springs and smell of charcoal fires.

Politicians siphoned what money the parks had and badgered them for more. These were the Perry Days of Texas.

Others fought equally hard to save the parks. In a strange twist to this morbid tale, a new Resistance grew. From the Four Directions, anger over the loss of the Wild, the state of urban wastes, and an earth that trembled with a growing heat rained upon the Politicians. And the Politicians relented.

Though the tide turned this year in Conservation’s favor, the future of our remaining Wilds is still uncertain. Those forces that washed this state in asphalt are busily set to finish their deadly work. They follow the veins of highways, sewer lines, and power poles. They fill the green spaces black. The heart of Texas is sick still.

Yet a Rumor drifts through this land, that somewhere among these still-peopling hills are spoonfuls of earth reserved not for the destructive tramp of development, but for the mouths of those that bring it.

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