Texas: The Wild West
The Texas Story Project.
It was dangerous, unpredictable, and wild. This was my ranch, a part of Texas, a part of me.
The ranch, or as we call it, 9 Pine Ranch, from the nine pine trees lined side-by-side at the entrance, was my second home. Something I always looked forward to.
I grew up in the city, but I was a ranch kid. I felt at home at the ranch. I was free to run from sunrise to sundown.
The 100-acre property our grandparents owned near the small town of Brookshire (one of the many small towns in Texas, rich in history and cowboys) was a haven for us, a place where we could leave the stress of the city behind, and lead new lives out in the country for just a weekend.
My best memories were here. They shaped me into the person I am today. I learned to be tough. Being a girl who grew up with only guys, I was always competing with them, proving that I too could do all of the difficult tasks of helping around the ranch. I would help in herding the sheep, feeding the chickens, tending the garden. I would help mark the bulls with the Texas sun beating on my back. The same sun that cracked the ground, making the snakes viscous and the vultures come often.
Although we were free to roam around anywhere, we had some ground rules at the ranch. Since we were in Texas, there were dangers out in the wild. Texas, the Lone Star State, is home of some of the most dangerous and aggressive animals. Because of that, we were not allowed to go into the tall grass, where the snakes lurked, and the insects hid. At night we were only allowed to play where there was light, because of the coyotes that hunted our chickens. We were in the wild west, where the cowboys dwelt, and only the toughest survived.
The ranch-style house in the smack dab middle of the property was surrounded a variety of trees and a pool. It was a brick house with a full balcony and huge windows, capturing the beams of sunlight. The inside spoke Texas. Antiques dotted the house along with cowboy decorations, and a lot of paintings of the wildlife, including bluebonnets, horses, and cows. There were many rooms for guests, and hidden corners perfect for hiding. It was stunning, but we only went inside to eat, sleep, and to shield ourselves from the blistering Texas sun.
The ranch made me curious, and the curiosity made me hate listening to my parents’ safety rules at the ranch. I always had an itch to go to the tall grass and into the river. The tall grass that flowered in the spring, and became yellow in the winter, which grew up to my chin. We waited for it to be tall, so we could use it for hay. The more they told me not to go, the stronger the itch got, until I could no longer contain it.
So I put my snake stomping boots on, and I took my younger brother. I waited for my parents to go inside, and I headed for the tall grass. My heart was pounding with anticipation. I was scared my parents were going to get mad at me, but I was determined to find out about the tall grass and river and prove to my parents that it was not a threat to our safety. Just in case, I took a stick and hacked at the neck high-grass, to clear it out and to make sure that there was nothing there. The grass concealed us, and made me itchy.
My younger brother, also extremely curious, was the kind of person who climbed every tree he saw. So he decided to climb a half-dead pecan tree, a home of many dangerous animals. I was so focused on getting to the river, and not getting bit by a snake that I did not notice my brother disappear.
After what seemed an eternity of hacking at the itchy dead grass, I finally got to the river. As I cleared out the grass, I expected to be marveled by the flowing clean water, and insects flying about. Instead I saw a dry, cracked river full of dead cattails. The river definitely had seen better days. I felt a mixture of disappointment, anger, and frustration bubbling inside me. I was upset that my parents did not allow me to go here, when in reality there was nothing living here. I was so upset that I threw my stick in the river, and stormed back up. There, I came across a creaky wooden dock that needed a lot of repairing. It read dangerous all over it, my favorite type of place. As if it were a magnet, I ran over to inspect it, and decided it would be a good place to read. It was a good place to hide from my parents—and the heat. The tall grass gave me concealment, and the trees shade. It was perfect, and I was so happy about my discovery. The anger and frustration soon trickled away. No wonder my parents did not let me go here: they did not want me to find this treasure! They were probably keeping it to themselves!
During the trek back I debated whether I should inform my brother about my discovery. I was about to come to the conclusion, when my mom broke my train of thoughts.
“Hey, Vittoria. What do you guys want for dinner?”
“Ummm, I don't know, food,” I responded, not really paying attention to my mom.
“OK, make sure you come back for dinner when I call you, not an hour after... Oh and where's Paolo? I haven't really seen him.”
I realized that he was with me when I started out on my adventure, but then disappeared.
Ohhh nooo, I thought. I totally lost him!
I raced back outside to try and find my brother, before my parents did. The whole time I was thinking how I would be discovered, and grounded. How my parents would never let me go outside again.
I heard my brother before I saw him. He was screaming at the top of his lungs for help. He better shut up before my parents hear him. Ughh why does he have to be so stupid? I ran through all the trees, cutting myself, and tripping trying to locate his voice. This better be worth it, or I am totally gonna kill that brat. I finally found him, at the top of a half dead pecan tree, ghostly pale. Then I saw what was causing him distress, up by his head were a couple wasps swarming him. Not a lot to do much harm, but enough to cause pain and scare a child.
Apparently he saw this tree, thought it looked cool, and climbed it. To me, it looked pretty dead and boring. When he was climbing the tree his shoe got stuck in a hole, and he had angered a small wasp nest. I ordered him not to move. (Well, he couldn't actually move, so that was good.)
I climbed up the tree, careful where I placed my hands. I slowly instructed him to loosen his shoelaces, then slip his foot out. With my assistance I finally got him out, careful not to fall off the delicate tree. He had to pick the worst tree to get stuck in.
At this point I was so mad at him, because I was going to get in trouble for going into the tall grass, and I would not be able to go into my reading place. All because of him! I should have gone by myself.
I started climbing down the tree, hoping he would follow. I looked back up, and he was even more pale, which I did not think was possible, and he was frozen in fear. I was so fed up with him, and I wanted to get down before my parents found us.
I started yelling at him, how he never listens, and how much I hated him. He showed no emotion to my yelling, but started pointing at the yellow grass, like a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man, so I looked down, and seeing only yellow grass I told him,“Wow, yellow grass, I have never seen that before! Now, seriously get down, before mom finds us out!”
He looked at me dumbstruck.
I decided I would climb down myself, and just leave him, so only he would get in trouble and not me. I was really proud of myself for thinking of this, so I started climbing down again, when I heard something. At first, I thought they were just crickets jumping around, but I then realized that crickets do not make a hissing, rattling noise. I put two and two together, and slowly looked down, not wanting to see what was underneath waiting for me. There it was, an angered rattler, waving its tail around. My heart dropped to my stomach. I almost fell off the tree. I could not believe it. How did I not step on it on the way there? I for sure thought that this was the end of me. I was going to die, because I broke the rules. My parents were going to be so disappointed in me, when they saw my dead body. My brain was so full of fear, I did not know what to do. After staring at the snake for a while, I decided I would do what kids do best: I screamed for help at the top of my lungs. Soon my brother joined in. We yelled in unison until our voices were hoarse, hoping our parents got here before the snake got to me. My adrenaline kicked in, and I started thinking straight. Looking square at the snake I slowly climbed up the tree, watching its every movement.
I joined my brother up at in tree, who was frozen in fear again. I climbed up as high as possible hoping to get as far away as I could from my opponent. Thinking about it now, we could have just hopped out from the other side, but we were so scared our bodies just shut down.
Thankfully, the annoying wasps had left, so our only worry was to not get killed by the rattlesnake. I continued to cry, frustrated for getting into this mess, and was scared. I did not want it to end like this; it was not a good way to go. After tears blurred my vision, and I could no longer scream, my mom and dad suddenly showed up running.
They were about to yell at me for disobeying the simplest rules, when they saw it too, the rattler sparkling in the sun, doing its warning dance. My mom froze (now I know where my brother got it from,) covered her mouth, not knowing what to do. She was scared, but did not want to show it. Thankfully, my dad, a quick thinker, called the man who tended the ranch.
He was a true cowboy, always ready for whatever Texas’ unpredictableness threw at him. Whenever he was present, I felt safe. He told us tales and taught us lessons. He was the kind of man who would risk his life for us. We saw him every weekend, but he was still a mystery to me.
The guy came quickly in his truck.
He slowly came out of his truck, walking with confidence, giving me comfort and a hope that I was going to live. He loaded his rifle, lifted it up, winked at me, and shot the snake.
It happened so fast. One, two, three bullets and the snake was dead, gone forever, unable to harm me.
In reality it did not really hurt me, but I had no remorse for the snake. The cowboy helped me get down the tree, like a gentleman, whispered something I do not remember, and left.
Just like that, he was gone with the wind. The dust and the dogs chased after him. He was a legend, a hero. I looked up to him for the longest time, wondering how he did it, how he never flinched or showed fear. I always wanted to be like him—wild, fearless—but I soon learned that even he had struggles, but that never made me not like him any less. I always thought he was not human, that it was not possible for a human to be so fearless. I always asked him this and he told me that he was made out of the Texan dust, and the Brazos river water, with the help of the wind. He was baked in the crackling Texan sun.
“You can't just become a cowboy. It happens over time, a title you earn,” he would tell me.
But he was born a cowboy, made by Texas itself.
I ran to my parents, thankful to feel their love. I studied my arms asking my parents if I was alive, or if this was what being dead looked like.
“You're as alive as you will ever be,” they responded with a relieved laugh.
My parents then snapped out of their fear, and got my brother, rushed him inside, leaving me alone out in the open vulnerable to the animals, the vicious ones who smelt fear.
Yes, I was scared, but the adrenaline was still coursing through my veins and my brain was still trying to process what had just happened. I sat on the ground, thinking, processing, and mostly thankful that I was still alive. I was also ashamed that this was all my fault, and that none of this would have happened if I had listened. I was in deep thought, baking in the blazing sun, until the sun left, and the coyotes started howling. I snapped out of my thoughts, and ran inside as fast as I could, not wanting the recent events to reoccur. I went inside to the sweet smell of barbecue sauce and meat making my mouth water. My mother, who was cooking, asked me where I was. I responded after a minute, trying to remember what she had asked me.
She gave me a weird look, then going back to what she was cooking added, “You better not have been in the tall grass again.”
I waited for more to come, for her to yell at me for messing up, and for being a terrible child, but to my suprise, nothing else came. I almost asked her if she forgot to yell at me or something. So I left to look for my brother. He was upstairs building a puzzle, his red wasp stings covered in ointment. We looked at each other, and a thousand words were exchanged without opening our mouths.
Then we laughed, relieved we were here, and that our parents did not kill us, taking off the stress of the recent events.
The ranch made me brave and wild. It also taught me many lessons, and made me respect the rules of my parents and nature. The ranch shaped me into the person I am today. I will forever look forward to the weekends in the small town of Texas, no matter how old I get.
Posted January 09, 2018
TAGGED WITH: Rural Experience