Rural Life in the Texas Hills

Rural Texas Hills: the continuing series of the best sections of North America in which to pursue rural life, including population, jobs and crime, real estate and taxes, and education and health.

| July/August 1988

Cream of the country: The Texas Hills. The continuing series of the best sections of America to live a rural lifestyle. (See the photos of the Texas Hills in the image gallery.)

Rural Life in the Texas Hills

In less than 30 minutes I'd left the bustle and fast traffic of Austin—Texas's dynamic state capital—far behind and entered a wide-open, undulating landscape embroidered with the pink of blossoming peach orchards. A turnoff on a county road at the tiny town of Dripping Springs led to a rolling, curving ride through charming countryside, where, although it was only early March, bright clumps of daffodils and wild redbud trees hinted at the spectacular show of wildflowers that would erupt during April, May and June. These same fields and roadsides will then be covered with far more than their share of the 5,000 wildflowers found in the Lone Star State: bluebonnets (the state flower), cherry red Drummond's phlox, bright yellow Engelmann's daisies, fiery Indian blankets, pink evening primroses, black-eyed Susans and purplish lemon mint, to name just a few. But in March, as throughout the winter, the most prominent color was that of dark green huddles of fat cedars thickly dotting the rocky, dun-colored hillsides. Old limestone ranch houses squatted long and low under stands of live oaks, which were just starting to shed last year's still-green leaves in preparation for a burst of new foliage when spring rains would green the entire landscape.

Rounding a curve, I had my first encounter with a resident of this unique and much-loved section of the Texas Hills: a man getting out of a pickup truck to check his mailbox. He gave me a friendly smile and a wave. I suddenly felt right at home—and that, to me, proved to be the primary attraction of the Texas Hills: a sense of being welcomed.

The Texas Hill Country: Bigger Than Life  

The Balcones Escarpment is a great crack in the earth that bisects all Texas, separating the Rocky Mountains upland from the coastal lowland. In only one section of the escarpment, however, is the distinctive topography of a fault in evidence. Along its edge is an area known as the "Hill Country," ranging over a dozen or so small central Texas counties. I chose to spend most of my time in five of these: Gillespie, Blanco, Hays, Comal and Kendall.

People accustomed to the soaring heights of the Rockies, the Sierras or even the older, round-shouldered Appalachians might scoff at the reverent adoration given to these modest protuberances of central Texas, but to the natives of the flat, humid coastal lands and the seemingly endless high plains, plateaus and deserts that make up so much of the rest of the state, they are little short of a miracle. On closer look, the awe is justified.

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