photo by Sheri Dixon

Friday, September 10, 2010

How to Break An Ol' Treehugger's Heart

Anyone who knows us knows we have a little piece of earth we searched for YEARS for- 12 acres just up the road from where we are now, we're actually fixin' to start building our little dream cabin in a few weeks- we've had the land for almost 5 years, but building has been delayed again and again and again by Ward's health issues.

It took so long to find this place because we had very specific parameters in what we wanted- we wanted elevation, and wetland, and water, and tall trees. We wanted something near where we are now, but more secluded- we wanted meadow enough for pasture and wilderness enough for shelter.

And we found it- 150ft elevation difference from the tippy top of the hill on one end to the lowest corner of the wetlands on the other, live springs, year round creeks- special enough that the Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist who issued us our "TX Parks & Wildlife Private Landowner Wildlife Habitat Program" sign said "I go out on a lot of these assessments, and this is by far the nicest small parcel in the area".

There are electric poles on the property. Not the big metal ones- just the smaller "T" shaped ones with like 3 lines on them. They are just inside the lot line and run the entire 1200 ft length and to service the neighbor's house (one house- dead end for the line) they run thru the wetland. Per the biologist, I called the power company and told them about our wildlife habitat designation and that we did NOT want any herbicides or heavy equipment on our land to protect the various ecosystems.

They said "You live there?" No. Not yet. "Well, if the gate's locked we have no access and you need to keep around those lines trimmed- if something breaks- it's YOUR cost". Fair enough- and we've been watching- NOTHING has even approached getting near the lines- in fact in the wetland there are NO hardwoods, NO pines, NOTHING that would grow tall enough to interfere.

Everyone who goes onto our property is aware that there is to be NO trampling or cutting down of stuff as there are 5 kinds of ferns, delicate creek banks, a pair of Mississippi Kites nest on the edge of the wetlands every year and it's kind of a big deal because we're not really their territory. The contractors building our house are asking before cutting down trees as tiny as 2 ft tall, and the well digger picked a spot where he'd have to cut NOTHING to get in and drill the well.

They get it.

We've not mowed or anything for the entire time we've been here- the previous owners ran cows on the land a few months out of the year to claim an agricultural exemption and just that was enough to mess up the meadows and trample down the creek banks. We've been letting the land heal.

Until today.

I was just out there week before last with the guys unloading the year's hay into the barn, and today we met the well digger out there.

Sometime in the meanwhile, the utility company came in, CUT THE CHAIN ON THE GATE and laid complete and utter waste to 3 of our 12 acres.

Just to give you an idea, here's a little before and after tour-

Lets start with Heron Haven- the wetland area-


and now-

my beloved Dedmon's Branch before-

and now-

Prairie Creek's bank before-

and now-

and in a final act of "don't give a shit-ness", Alec and Ward's raised beds of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and herbs before-

I called the electric company's 800 number and you can imagine how THAT went.
"We're sorry- I'll leave a message for that department and they'll call you within 48 hours".
We went home and I got online and found the department's name that I needed and called again- "May I talk to someone in Foliage Management?"
"Why not?"
"I can call them and leave them a message".
"Fine. Give me the number and *I'LL* call them".
"No. It's not really a phone number, they're a department in this building".
"Good. Then you can transfer me".
"No. I can't. But I can leave a message".
(sound of me hanging up the phone accompanied by various curses)

Got back online and found that Oncor has district managers. Found the one for Brownsboro. Called the Tyler number and got an answering machine telling me he was out but if this is an emergency, here's his cell number.

Oh, hell yeah.

Left a message on the cell phone- "Your crews tresspassed, cut a gate open, decimated designated wildlife habitat and something needs to be done to fix it, NOW".

Called the sheriff's department and the deputy met me out there to take photos and notes to file the trespass and criminal damage report.

Called the Wildlife biologist who is just as sick as I am about it and who will get me in touch with the Ecological Assessment guy on Monday to survey the damage.

Called a lawyer friend (at the suggestion of the deputy) for a referral.

Called the district manager's number again to convey that I'd contacted the sheriff, the biologist and a lawyer and if he wanted to weigh on this matter any time now, that'd be swell.

The district manager called me within 30 minutes of that second call.

He's very sorry for our anguish (oh- he's got no idea of the anguish my family's lived through this last year) and he'll be talking to the Foliage Management guy at Oncor over the weekend and they WILL come up with a plan to fix this. Make it better.

And that's great. He's sympathetic, he's sincere, he's very sorry for this gross invasion and mismanagement. He could've said "Lady, we've got easement rights and it's a buncha weeds in a bog" *click* but he didn't and for that I AM grateful,and we'll appreciate every effort he makes to try to undo what's been done.

But here's the thing.

The springs are not running anymore. There's a chance the big equipment damaged them, squished them, did 'em in. And that would be so very bad. Springs that have fed the wetlands, the creek, burbled up for hundreds of years, gone for no damn good reason- there wasn't a hardwood or pine in their path. Not one. Will the Kites come back? That would be a shame if they didn't. How do you fix that?

There was one mimosa tree on the whole place and they cut it down. Mimosas don't grow tall enough to interfere with lines- that was pure spite. It draped over the creek and wafted it's fairy flowers into it every spring- one of the first things we'd see coming through the gate. How do you fix that?

All the ferns, corms and roots older than me- exposed now to full sunlight- doomed. All the arrowheads and waterlilies in the wetlands- shredded.

The raised beds? Ward and Alec made those right before we started our nightmare pilgrimages to MDAnderson. Some of ya'll remember that-

Twelve acres of this planet that we searched so very long for and held so very dear- fully a quarter of it now in ruins.

We're going to start building in a few weeks- carefully and respectfully- just as we'd planned and all our crew members are on board with that. And now we've got THIS mess to look at every day where once there was beauty.

Really? Fix it? I'm sorry, but I don't think so.

(a little oak tree next to the raised beds- all well out of range of the lines)

***update 9/13/10- the Oncor district manager called me at 10am with good news and bad news- the good news (for HIM- LOL) is that the lines in question are not, in fact, Oncor lines. So I'm off to slay different dragons today. My thanks to Mr. Hill at Oncor for his courteous and prompt treatment of this matter.


  1. How. Dare. They. STUPID redneck fools! You go, baby. You go get'em and get'em good.
    And if/when rehab begins, you are welcome to come scour our slough for anything that would help bring back the life.

  2. In Minnesota the entire crew would be in jail, the company would be facing major fines...utilities are underground in this forested area.

    We're so sorry for the total inconsideration and unconsciousness of these people and the impact it has on your land. We truly hope that the land and you all heal quickly.

  3. That does actually look like maliciousness. Unbelievable.

    It's obviously a special place you've got there. I hope you manage to revive as much of it as possible.

    Good luck.

  4. thanks, ya'll. we shall see what tomorrow brings. any volunteers for bailing me out if it goes less than stellarly?

  5. Oh my goodness, the after pictures literally turned my stomach. I can not believe that there are people out there who would actually cause that kind of damage, and not feel anything!!