Yuccas Whisper

Yuccas Whisper Among Themselves

The Big Bend National and State Parks are treasures that are largely unvisited. They are remote with few amenities that people find necessary for comfortable vacations. Conditions are hot by day, cold at night with some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states. It frightens some people because there are only moon and stars for light and the sounds of nature. That is exactly why you might want to explore the thousand square miles of parkland for yourself. There is no other place where you can hear the Dagger Yuccas whisper in the breeze.

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White Oil

Natural Gas Production Plant
Natural Gas Production Plant – Edwards Plateau
When traveling on the Edwards Plateau at night there are no lights to be seen. Except for the edges along the interstate highway it is nearly unpopulated. You can drive for an hour or more in the darkness and never pass another vehicle. During the day there are oil field service trucks and crude oil tankers on the plateau but at night nothing.

After leaving the town of Sheffield forty miles behind, I notice there is something lighting up the desert. Because there are so few lights on the plateau the glow looks like a city. There are no cities out here. On a hunch I turn off on a narrow strip of pavement towards the lights. After a few minutes I drive up to a huge natural gas production facility that is literally in the middle of nowhere.

As I get closer the ground starts to vibrate and the noise level becomes intense. This plant collects raw natural gas from wells and liquefies it using huge compressors. There is a row of stationary engines driving the compressors; each engine is as tall as a two story building. They are the source of the vibrations and sound. Liquefied natural gas is sometimes called White Oil. White gold more likely for those riding this petroleum boom.

My goal on that morning was to shoot sunrise along the border. Dryden Texas, my destination, was still sixty miles away but the opportunity to photograph the isolated plant was too good to ignore. I spent an hour walking and shooting and then hurried along to catch the sunrise.

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Texas Pastimes

Fixin to Smoke - Floore Country Store
Fixin to Smoke – Floore Country Store
There are a few things in Texas where bragging rights are important. One of those is football, all the way from high school to the pros. Another is Texas barbecue.

Almost all the old barbecue establishments in Texas actually started out as meat markets. They had a steady clientele for fresh meats and prepared smoked meats as a sideline. That changed as local butchers gave way to supermarkets. Now most places only sell smoked meats. In this part of the country, barbecue is usually smoked beef or sausage. Some places will also have pork, turkey or chicken but beef is king here.

While the quality of barbecue across the state is universally excellent, styles differ regionally. A lot depends on the woods available for smoking. Different woods have a profound effect on the final quality of smoked meats. Not just any wood will do. Many smokers source their wood from specific geographical locations and suppliers.

In the end it is the skill and knowledge of the pit master that determines the quality of the barbecue. To a casual observer it may seem that you can learn to smoke meats in an afternoon. Not so. Pit masters generally learn their art through an informal apprenticeship that can last years. The skills of the master are passed on with serious dedication and understanding that it is best not to tinker with the product.

Make mine moist brisket with some burnt ends and a couple of links. It is always best served market style on butcher paper with a slice or two of white bread, onions and pickles.

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