It dawned on me about 3:00 Sunday afternoon that the weather outside was perfect, that the bluebonnets are supposed to at an all-time level of beauty, and that I had made no effort to do anything other than work and homelife in a long time.
So, I loaded the trusty Nikon and headed up 290 toward Brenham. I figure, if I’m going to live in South Texas, I might as well do the South Texas thing.
Honestly, I had done the bluebonnet thing when I lived in Texas before and hadn’t had very much success, so I wasn’t holding out too much hope.
The first (funny) thing was that, just past Prairie View, traffic on the freeway stopped. WHY!??! Because there was a huge line of people stopped on the shoulder AND the freeway, and all of them were up on a bank of the freeway, covered with bluebonnets and indian paintbrush. There were 100 people on that little embankment! Folks, folks---if you’ll go a little further and look (Google is your friend), you can find the best spot to stalk the wild bluebonnet in its natural habitat (the rolling prairie of South-Central Texas).
Turning off at Chappell Hill, I actually (for the first time in my life) secured some nice bluebonnet pictures. (click on the photo for larger size)
All my life I’d been hearing about Baylor University’s beginnings at Independence. Since I was so close, I decided to go see the ruins. Not only did I see them, I got some of the better bluebonnet shots I was to get today.
Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas (with its capitol at nearby Washington-on-the-Brazos), Baylor University made it 41 years before merging with/taking over the failing Waco University. The Waco campus was larger and (more importantly) was on the railroad—which Indpendence was not.
The only things left of the original campus are ruins.
(It’s crooked because the plaque is crooked on the wall)
Since Independence WAS near the capitol, the President lived nearby—in fact, across the street. Sam Houston’s house is gone now, but there’s a marker to mark the spot. The spring house is still there, though, and there are pictures of it below.
Sam Houston drank water from this springhouse…
…and had a spectacular view of the hills, covered with bluebonnets and indian paintbrush (and today, tourists).
Who would think that a humble little wayside flower could engender the kind of love Texans have for it?
I had a great time touring around looking for bluebonnets, and I really enjoyed my trip to Independence. The Capitol moved from Harrisburg (nee’ Houston) to Washington-on-the-Brazos to Austin (and back to Washington-on-the-Brazos when Austin proved too close to the Comanche nation for comfort).
When I moved from Texas to Tennessee, one of the things I did was tour Sewanee (the University of the South). Sewanee is not easy to get to NOW; it was virtually impossible “back in the day”. They have the ruins of their “first campus” and we toured them. It’s a hike on foot up a genuinely scary mountain path. It is out in the middle of nowhere even now, in the days of Jets and Interstates and direct-dialing Tokyo from an iphone that has more computing power than existed in the world when man first went to the moon.
I thought of that as I trolled around Independence today. The isolation! There’s just nothing out there; farms and cattle (which were NOT there when the school was).
I thought of Fayetteville, Arkansas, a tiny mountain hamlet when the University was founded there; about the students having to hunt their own game and slaughter their own hogs and cattle, and tend gardens for food.
How vast this country is, and how vast it must have seemed from the back of a horse or a wagon. I marvel at the abilities and gumption of my ancestors (while bemoaning lack of same in myself).
And I bemoaned the fact that it took me a whole hour and a half to get back to Houston (when it took them days).
There was, however, 3G wireless service at the base of the old pillars at Independence—so I guess a little of the modern world encroaches from time to time.