I’d passed through a Texas a couple of times. Once as a little kid, and once in 2002 for work. I didn’t come to Texas with many preconceptions. Those first 3 1/2 weeks in Tilden went a long way towards shaping my picture of the state. A year later I can say that Texas is a big state with a whole lot of variety. But for now, I’ll just stick to what I learned about Texas in Tilden.
The first thing I saw in Tilden was the grocery store. Joe’s Food Market was a one of a kind store, not just in the sense that it was unique, which it was, but also because it had one of each kind of thing: 1 jar pear cactus jelly, 1 roll of paper towels, 1 slab of pickled pimento loaf, 1 bag of dog food, 1 string of dried red peppers etc… It was kind of pricey but a very friendly little place.
We didn’t stop at Joe’s that first night. We hurried on down the pocked road to our first assignment. A fella I’ll call Bubba, who was the Field Supervisor subbing for Larry, was sitting in his pickup, wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots propped on the service wagon, waiting impatiently when we finally rattled and bumped up to the gate just before sunset. Yep, we weren’t in
Kansas , Iowa, Oregon anymore!
Bubba did our initial gate guard training which consisted of handed us a clip board with log sheets, containing the 5 entries he’d made while waiting for us to 1. get a new Jeep battery, 2. find Henry and the lost RV and 3. take the 175 mile short cut.
He said: Y’all just needa do it like I done it and don’t let’em catch you with thar gate open and lockerup anigh fer your own sakes.
That was it for training. Then he gave us a rather unusual speech about how we’d have to pay a very large fine if we quit the job without giving 2 weeks notice and if we did quit, we’d never work for the government again (kind of odd since this isn’t a government job).
Bubba hooked up the electric and water and promised someone would be out with the septic in a day or two. We didn’t find out his water pump wasn’t working until after he left. We also didn’t know who we were working for, what we were guarding (frac tank), or what exactly we were supposed to do, except to do it like he done it. I’m not really the just wing it type, so I felt pretty unsettled. More so after Bubba described our ranch.
Bubba was a man of tall tales. He told us we were on an exotic animal ranch with zebras and albino deer and other ‘large game animals’. OK, nothing he said that first evening proved to be true, but it made for an interesting first few days, since we were a pretty afraid of walking more than a few feet from the RV for fear of being eaten by something or shot by someone. Turns out the only exotic animals were cows.
They weren’t particularly friendly cows though. It was in Tilden that Henry and Heidi developed their Bovinophoia which remains with them to this day. Bubba was right about it being a hunting ranch. The owner, an attorney in Austin, had a $30,000 buck that he kept for breeding. The hunting lodge was just a little ways behind us.
It was a private hunting ranch, for his friends and family. By invitation only, they would come, and for $1500, they would get 3 set shots at a buck. If the shooter missed all 3 shots (unlikely since the deer were fed in designated areas right beneath the blinds), it was up to the discretion of the owner, whether to give them a ticket to return and try again.
I have friends in Iowa and in Oregon who hunt. They eat what they shoot. But to be honest, this Texas type of hunting doesn’t seem very sporting to me. However, I’m a Yankee and I know that hunting ranching are a way of life in parts of Texas. It was just new to me.
There was only one restaurant in Tilden and eating there meant eating among the trophies. It was a little intimidating. I only ate there once and I didn’t look up much. There were things on the wall, I didn’t even recognize. I’ve become real familiar with Texas wild life since then. But back in Tilden, they were just scary dinner companions.
Most of folks we met on the ranch and in town, drove around with a shotgun on their dash. That was new to me, too. Everyone seemed alarmed that we weren’t armed. After a while, so was I!
Texas! I felt like I’d just crossed into an old Twilight Zone episode.
So began this Yankee city gal’s adventures in Texas. I won’t write any more about hunting. I don’t mean to cause offense or make a political statement. The point is just to highlight how entirely out of my element I was since I used to cry if I ran over a squirrel with my Camry.
Tomorrow, if the internet allows, it’s on to caliche that’ll suck your shoes off and the Disappearing Dump.