Pipevine swallowtail larva, Blanco County TX, April 6, 2006
El Rancho Deluxe, the rural seat of the Fasters in Blanco County TX, in tres partes divisa est. There’s the hilly, woodsy part where the deer and the antelope play and where I’m building my new HQ, and there’s a big old flat pasture that should be planted in coastal bermuda but which instead lies fallow because I am a gentleman farmer pretty much in name only, and then there’s the ridge.
The ridge is a dozen or so remote hectares separated from the rest of the farm by a creek running north and a big-ass bluff. Because of geological, climatic, and riparian happenstances beyond the scope of my expertise, the ridge has a wilder and woolier ecosystem than the rest of El Rancho D. Rocky, sandy, cactusy, and snakey, it’s a whole nother undiscovered country up there. If I were writing a 19th century Gothic novel, the ridge is where I would set the heroine’s encounters with the brutally handsome, dark, melancholic, reclusive sauvage. It is there that she would eventually find his mangled body, partially devoured by the wolves he’d spurned in order to be with her.
The ridge is especially otherworldly when you get up to the top. If you look to the west, the grand vista greeting your discerning eye will be the collection of old junk cars and rusted washing machines curated by my insane redneck neighbor.
But if you look any other direction you can see for miles, which distance is something all humans enjoy seeing for. I’m no different, at least insofar as my innate appreciation for majestic vistas, so the other day I saddled up the dogs, forded the fjord, and up the deer path we did hike.
Here’s a nice turkey vulture I found sailing around up there, but I wish I had thought to snap a picture of the fucking anaconda I nearly stepped on while walking around in non-snakeproof kicks with my head in the clouds. Unfortunately for my bright career as a snake photographer, my attention was diverted by the necessity of keeping Bert, my golden retriever puppy, from using it as a chew toy. I am not an accomplished snakeologist, so I treat all serpents as potential venom delivery devices until I can identify’em with my trusty field guide, which of course I was not carrying at the time. It may have been a diamondback rattler, or it may have been a rat snake, but it was 5 feet long any way you slice it, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t emit a whoop of startled surprise—or, okay, I admit it, discomfiture—upon encountering such an improbably jumbo reptilian entity, and you’d have done the same.
Anyway, the aforementioned close encounter of the serpentine kind reminded me to keep my eyes on ground, which is how I happened to glimpse the excellent caterpillar pictured at the top, the posting of which photo is the sole excuse for this whole dorky nature hike post.