HOME RANGE: Notes on Literature, Nature, Working Dogs, History, Other Obsessions and Sundry Annoyances by Henry Chappell

Restoring Longleaf Pine

October 25, 2016

Tags: Longleaf Pine, Texas Conservation Alliance, Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine

In the course of some other research for an upcoming magazine article, I ran across this nice little video produced by the Texas Conservation Alliance. This isn't anti-logging propaganda, but a case for restoration and sustainable forestry. Back in 2009, I wrote “Saving a Piney Paradise” for Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. Here’s the opening, on the Texas’s longleaf pine forests:

“The dead, brown pine needles on the footpath catch my eye before the green ones growing 50 feet over my head. I pick up an especially long one and lay it on my forearm. The needle extends from the base of my hand nearly to my elbow.
Longleaf pine. It grows in nearly pure stands on well-drained uplands from southeastern Virginia to East Texas. Left to mature, longleaf pines can reach heights of a hundred feet or more. The boles run straight and uniform. Its tough, porous outer layer protects it from hot fires that kill hardwoods and other kinds of pine. Its home — the dry, sandy uplands — burns easily and often.

The first chroniclers in East Texas described giants. Old photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries substantiate their claims: vast stands, open and park-like, and trunks of 350-year-old trees more than 3 feet in diameter.
Early Anglo settlers called the longleaf forests “pine barrens,” and tended to skirt them. Corn and cotton are far less adapted for drawing nutrients from the upland soil than are longleaf pines.

Amos Parker, traveling west of Nacogdoches in 1834, had this to say of the longleaf pinelands:

“Immediately after leaving the town we came into pine woods again; to all appearance, the same we had already passed over — rolling, sandy soil; the trees straight and tall, but standing so far apart that a carriage might go almost anywhere among them. The grass grew beneath them, and we could see a great distance as we passed along.”
A wagon and mule team could easily wend through longleaf forest. As could a skidder. A house built of unpainted longleaf boards will last a century.

Today, only a few good longleaf stands remain in Texas. One of the best can be found here at Boykin Springs.

Along the trail, skinks, warmed by the February sun, rustle in the dry duff. A few sluggish grasshoppers flush. Just like in the old photos, the woods are open, with knee-high grass growing amid healthy, fire-blackened boles.

Mostly, these are vigorous middle-age trees, less than 80 years old. In earlier times, as ancient trees succumbed to red heart fungus, red-cockaded woodpeckers bored into the softened heartwood and made themselves at home.

Perhaps they will again, someday.”

Enjoy the video. Note the red cockaded woodpecker segment around 7:00:

Growth or Plunder?

October 18, 2016

Tags: Texas, urban growth, Joel Kotkin, Wendell Cox

In yesterday’s Dallas Morning News, urbanists Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox celebrated Texas’s unprecedented urban growth:

“Overall, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston have emerged as the nation's fastest-expanding big-city economies. Between 2000 and 2015, Dallas-Fort Worth boosted its net job numbers by 22.7 percent, and Houston expanded by an even better 31.2 percent. Smaller Austin (38.2 percent job-base increase) and once-sleepy San Antonio (31.4 percent) have done just as well. New York, by way of comparison, increased its number of jobs in those years by just 10 percent, Los Angeles by 6.5 percent and San Francisco by 5.2 percent, while Chicago actually lost net employment.

“And the Texas jobs are not just low-wage employment. Middle-class positions, those paying between 80 percent and 200 percent of the national median wage, have expanded 39 percent in Austin, 26 percent in Houston and 21 percent in Dallas since 2001. These percentages far outpace the rate of middle-class job creation in San Francisco (6 percent), New York and Los Angeles (little progress), and Chicago (down 3 percent) for the same period.”

Not everyone is thrilled.

Cox and Kotkin’s priorities come through loud and clear:

“In fast-growing Cinco Ranch, a suburb built on an expanse of Texas prairie 31 miles west of downtown Houston, 1 in 5 residents is foreign-born, well above the Texas average.”

Eventually, we’re going to run out of countryside to plunder.

Another little teaser ...

October 18, 2016

Tags: Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut, teaser

"Though its fortunes waned during the tumultuous decade following the U.S. war with Mexico, the community at San Antonio Viejo remained largely intact, maintaining continuity with traditional Spanish-Mexican culture of the rancho. Yet the upheaval of revolution and war, and the uncertainty of the Bourland Commission’s adjudication, would soon seem transient compared to the changes about to be wrought by newly freed economic forces, specifically raw capitalism.

In 1852, those forces appeared incarnate seventy-five miles northeast of the San Antonio Wells, in Nueces County, where a Corpus Christi businessman and part-time Texas Ranger named Gideon “Legs” Lewis and his new partner, a young riverboat captain named Richard King, established a rough cow camp above a spring feeding Santa Gertrudis Creek."

One of these days ...

October 17, 2016

Tags: Devil's River, flyfishing

I know it's out there, the river, but I keep telling myself I need to wait until I'm a better fisherman, or I've done more research, or something. I'm going to regret waiting.

The One and Only Wyman Meinzer

October 10, 2016

Tags: Wyman Meinzer, Yeti, video, Chasing Light

I'm pleased to have made a tiny contribution to this video about my great friend Wyman Meinzer - the finest photographer and outdoorsman I've ever known.

Cultural Appropriation Essay

October 4, 2016

Tags: Cultural Appropriation, The American Conservative

My new essay on cultural appropriation is online at The American Conservative. Having written from the point of view of a Comanche man, a black man, a black woman, a white woman, and numerous white men, I have strong feelings about this subject.

Old Hemlock

September 9, 2016

Tags: Old Hemlock, Setters, Gregg Barrow, George Bird Evans

My buddy Gregg Barrow has written a nice review of the video “Old Hemlock Setters: The George Bird Evans Legacy.” Gregg is a very experienced, all-around dog man with a heart to match his pro football player’s frame. When he talks or writes about dogs, I pay attention:

“The heritage and history that comes with an Old Hemlock Setter is a tremendous blessing, and no small responsibility. I have always believed that a breeder’s true strength is in his owners. You cannot keep them all nor would you want to. But Old Hemlock dogs are responsibly placed in the hands of people who understand the investment of time, sweat equity and the years of planning they represent.”

Read the entire review and enjoy the Old Hemlock website.

I read The Upland Shooting Life back in the early 1990s and never got over it. My thanks to Gregg for passing along the video and review. Enjoy!

Covey Rise Article

August 23, 2016

Tags: Covey Rise Magazine. Quail Hunting

I'm pleased that Covey Rise has published my Texas bobwhite hunting piece in its latest issue.

A Shot of Testosterone

August 19, 2016

Tags: Turnpike Troubadours, Ridiculous Old Man

I liked the Turnpike Troubadours before anyone had heard of them. I still like them. This song makes this old man want to go out and get in a fight. At a gun show. I highly recommend it. (Not the fight. The song. And ... hell ... the gun show.)

Words I Wish I'd Written

August 15, 2016

Tags: Cormac McCarthy, WIWIW

You stick with a Cormac McCarthy novel for passages like this one from All the Pretty Horses:

"In the evening he saddled his horse and rode out west from the house. The wind was much abated and it was very cold and the sun sat blood red and elliptic under the reefs of bloodred cloud before him. He rode where he would always choose to ride, out where the western fork of the old Comanche road coming down out of the Kiowa country to the north passed through the westernmost section of the ranch and you could see the faint trace of it bearing south over the low prairie that lay between the north and middle forks of the Concho River. At the hour he’d always choose when the shadows were long and the ancient road was shaped before him in the rose and canted light like a dream of the past where the painted ponies and the riders of that lost nation came down out of the north with their faces chalked and their long hair plaited and each armed for war which was their life and the women and the children and women with children at their breasts all of them pledged in blood and redeemable in blood only. When the wind was in the north you could hear them, the horses and the breath of the horses and the horses’ hooves that were shod in rawhide and the rattle of lances and the constant drag of the travois poles in the sand like the passing of some enormous serpent and the young boys naked on wild horses jaunty as circus riders and hazing wild horses before them and the dogs trotting with their tongues aloll and foot-slaves following half naked and sorely burdened and above all the low chant of their traveling song which the riders sang as they rode, nation and ghost of nation passing in a soft chorale across the mineral waste to darkness bearing lost to all history and all remembrance like a grail the sum of their secular and transitory and violent lives. "

Selected Work

"I regard Silent We Stood as being among the finest Civil War novels I have ever read"
  • David Madden, Civil War Book Review
  • "Blood Kin is historical fiction at its best."
  • Bruce Winders, Historian and Curator, The Alamo
  • "The finest book on buffalo hunting and the resulting conflict with the Comanches that I have ever read."
  • Doris R. Meredith, Roundup
  • Non-fiction Books
    "Sharp and colorful also describe the economical prose of sports and wildlife writer Henry Chappell"
  • Elaine Wolff, San Antonio Current
  • Magazine Work
    Articles and Reviews
    Feature Articles
    Columns and Feature Articles