Updated: Feb 21
The Hill Country is the literal and figurative heart of Texas. It’s characterized by rolling hills dotted with oaks and splattered with mesquite, crumbling pink granite towers, white limestone canyons, slow-flowing rivers, stalking yuccas, and every shade of wildflower. Longhorns, Whitetails, and African Antelope line the rural highways. Highschool Football stars, honest-to-God cowboys, and legendary guitar pickers roam the streets of the towns along the rivers and hills that once homed Comanches. It's also arguably the barbecue capital of the world.
I haven't lived in this fabled land for very long, but the last few days have been extreme anomalies. Wind from the Arctic Circle swept down the great plain that stretches from Canada to Mexico, and the Lone Star State froze over.
I'm in Llano, which has become the temporarily congested heart of the Hill Country. There have been mass power outages, busted pipes, slicked roads, businesses closed, unfed horses, unwatered cows, no work, no school, and no coffee.
This kind of weather is normal in other parts of the country where it gets even colder and it lasts longer. I've split firewood in North Dakota whwn it was -40°F; a patch of my face peeled off from the cold. I‘ve slept in a truck bed while traveling across Utah and I let my toe lean against the tailgat; it took three hours to get the feeling back in my foot the next day. I‘ve driven through Vail Pass in a whiteout with my head out the window because my windshield had frozen over. Having said all that, it‘s pretty damn serious around here. Texas isn't accustomed to the rigors of winter, and it has no reason to be: this is a freak occurrence. No snow-plows, no tire chains, no salt, too few emergency crews, no cold-weather gear, and an overwhelmed electric grid.
"Stop everything you’re doin,” a mandate from Old Man Winter.
Despite the hardships, the country is beautiful right now. I've been roaming the hills and highways, taking in something that may not happen for another generation.