One hot summer day about 12 or 13 years ago I walked from Pleasant Valley and Oltorf all the way down Riverside and then all the way up Congress, then Guadalupe, then Burnet to Parmer Lane, a journey of a little over 13 miles, trying to feel Austin’s heartbeat. I left without a dollar in my pocket but a heartful of hope and a headful of thoughts of a woman I once loved. Somehow I thought and trusted this, the city of my birth, to sustain me on my long aimless journey.
The thing is, instead of finding inspiration or insight or solace in the collective dot.com inspired change and bustle of that time period in the ‘The City of The Violet Crown’, I found my thoughts turning again and again to the Tonkawa Indians that used to treasure this area.
You see, they believed they were descended from a mighty and noble heavenly wolf. They would only hunt deer and buffalo and never farm because that’s what the wolves do, and that belief sustained them for almost a thousand years. . . until the marauding Apache and Commanche to the north came and fought untold battles both glorious and horrible on the same land where they now sell Breakfast Tacos and Starbucks. This was the Land of the People of the Wolf, and that means something.
And also that cold day in 1838 when then Vice President Lamar and his friend Jake Harrell left Harrell’s trading post at the mouth of Shoal Creek and shot at that buffalo on the spot where 8th and Congress is now and decided that this combination of flowing rivers, rolling hills, and natural farmland “should be the seat of future government”, fit to support a grand capital for a proud and fiercely independent infant nation called Texas. This was the land described by their countrymen as being ‘The Land of Milk and Honey’ promised in their bibles, and that means something.
As I headed north I thought of the railroads that brought the first ‘smartgrowth’ to this area, and the determined pedigree of the first pioneering cotton farmers to this area. This is the very same land we have both felt the contours of with our own two feet, and knowing all these things means something wonderful to me.