Tuesday, October 31, 2006


In the lexicon of my youth, a lake was a tidal flat surrounded by marsh, the only bayou I knew was a Gulf pass, and anyone who wanted to go skiing needed a boat.

A "coke" might have been a Diet Coke, or a root beer or a Sprite. But it was probably a Dr. Pepper.

Getting a double meant taking two ducks with one shot.

Where I grew up, we went to the movies at Cinema 35 ... so-named not because it was a multiplex with nearly three dozen screens, but because it sat alongside State Highway 35.

The movie changed on Thursdays, as I recall.

When I was a kid, going "out to eat" meant a trip to Whataburger or Dairy Queen. I thought we fished because we were sportsmen and ate a lot of fried chicken because we were Southerners. I later figured-out we were just poor.

Our parents gave us a lot of love and free reign to roam as far as our sturdy dirt bikes could take us -- so long as we were home by supper.

The shitty tourists were snowbirds and snowy seagulls were shitbirds. Dark, diving anhingas were water turkeys, but the other kind -- the kind we ate at Thanksgiving -- lived in the woods on the other side of the bay.

Pinfish were perch, but so were pigfish, though neither are, really. Cleats were found on the decks of sailboats, though there may also have been some on a playing field somewhere.

If we were on the verge of doing something, we were "fixing to" do it. If we'd already done it, and it was an adolescent misdemeanor and we were caught, the cop was "fixing to" call our parents if we didn't high-tail it home and stay there the rest of the night.

In those days, "family" meant the folks and my siblings, but also all the crazy old aunts and uncles, scores of cousins and everyone's grandparents.

It still does.

About this blog ...

I'm not sure if it was the first time a manatee showed-up, or if it was the raggedy pair of flamingos on the back bay ... it might have been just at the moment I realized I had not heard a human-generated sound in half an hour.

It occurred to me, then, that the broad, salty basin that stretched out before me ... connected to another to the north and yet another to the south; separated from the vast Gulf of Mexico by a thin ribbon of sand and grass ... it occurred to me that this place is no less a wilderness than a remote corner of the Rockies or some sere desert landscape.

Some areas on the Texas coast are truly remote. Out of cell phone range, with little or no human traffic in a given day ... far from comfort and convenience. Other places just appear to be that way, unless it's a weekend or there's a nationally televised fishing tourney in town.

But for all the buzzing about of outboard-driven boats, or the lazy wheeling of Navy trainers in the sky above ... people are only scratching the surface.

Above and below, and -- especially -- at the edges, strange and wonderful life abounds.

Bull sharks as large as a man glide above the bottom, feeding a million-year-old hunger. Dolphins frolic and hunt and chatter and sometimes come over to check-out the bipedal stranger in their midst. Crabs forage in the spartina marsh, and wild hogs wade the shoreline. Alligators lie in wait in the mud and, overhead, a frigate bird soars, watching a noisome flock of laughing gulls as they dive on a school of bay anchovies.

There is great beauty here, and mystery and sometimes just a little danger.

It is, to my mind, truly a water wilderness.

So ... this blog is about that. About the place where I grew up and return to as often as I can. It's also about other places in Texas, places that are different or beautiful or just a little bit wild.

Texas boasts more than 3,700 named streams and 15 major rivers. In some places, these waterways are truly wild, by any definition. In others, they bring a little bit of the wilderness to neighborhoods and back yards. Streams -- especially in areas where residential and agricultural development is booming -- serve as corridors for wildlife, and it is there you are most likely to encounter the wild side of Texas.

This blog also is about how people -- I and others -- think about and use and enjoy that water wilderness. There will be a lot in here about fishing and kayaking, because those are ways I often interact with the environment.

It's an opportunity for me to ask questions, and seek or propose answers, about some things I've been pondering for a while or maybe just popped into my head today.

It's also is a place for me to gather some stories I've written at other times for other publications and put them all in one place. So there's some old stuff in here. Maybe it's stuff you've seen before somewhere else.

No doubt I'll go completely off-topic from time to time and post the most inane thoughts about things that have nothing to do with Texas waters or the natural history of Texas at all.

That's because, well ... it's my blog and I can do that.

Anyway ... hope you enjoy it. Have a question or complaint or topic idea? Shoot me an email. Want to say something nice, or even not-so-nice, about a post? Leave a comment.

Thanks for stopping by.

About me ...

I was born in Nacogdoches, Texas, but moved back with my family to the Coastal Bend at the age of 3. After a few years in Ingleside, we returned to Rockport, where both my parents grew up. I graduated from high school in Rockport in 1987.

Growing up in Rockport, I often felt deprived -- no skating rink, no mall, no McDonalds; later I realized what a blessing that was, as I spent my free time instead exploring the peninsula, fishing, hunting, sailing. It was the foundation for a life-long interest in the goings-on at that imprecise, shifting boundary between land and water.

The next years included a liberal arts education at the University of Dallas, a year of religious life in New England, a couple of years in the world of politics in Washington, D.C., Army deployments to 13 different countries ... marriage, fatherhood, divorce.

I've lived in Rockport for an extended period again, and hope to get back permanently one day.

Currently I am a news writer for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, based in Austin. Along the way I've written for Texas Fish & Game magazine (where I was boating editor), Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, Texas Outdoors Journal, Gulf Coast Connections, Lone Star Outdoor News, Texas Sporting Journal and scores of other publications.

I am currently at work on "Paddling Texas," from FalconGuides, and a major series on coastal kayak fishing for Texas Sporting Journal.