Chapter 13
Goats and Cotton
The Tales of Texas

1a - The Mysterious Ski Rack
1b - Wheres the Other Half of That Moose
1c - The Waiter Who Didnt Yall
1d - Scorpions, Scorpio
2a - Diet Soda
2b - Riding into the Sunrise
3 - Modest Magazines
4 - Down to Houston
5a - What Does That Sign Say
5b - Just Follow Your Nose
5c - They Call It the Sunbelt
5d - The State Tree
6 - The New House
7a - Billboards
7b - Billboards Again
8 - Stereo Upgrade
9 - Wineries
10 - Unintentionally Left Blank
11 - CBW in TX
12 - Ice House Radio
13 - Goats and Cotton
14 - Dig We Must
15 - Dan Moody
16 - Dry Heat
17 - Dead Animals
18a - Bookstore Culture
18b - On the Open Road
19 - Weather
20 - Sightings in Bertram and Buchanan
21 - Too Many Birds
22 - Road Hazards
23 - Sightings to and from Houston
24 - The Great Wall of Train
25 - In the Heat of the Day
26 - Bite Me
27 - Bid on This Skeleton
28 - Willie
29 - Rural Countryside
30 - SUV SUX!
31 - Kinky on the Texas Monthly Hour
32 - Strange Yellow Sky
33 - Football is a Serious Enterprise in Texas
34 - Remember the Alamoo!
35 - What's That on the Radio
36 - Trip to Houston through the small towns
37 - Shoe Story, an Austin Anecdote
38 - Unintended Fireworks
39 - Flash Flood Warning
40 - Sin City
41 - Live music in Austin, but in theaters not in clubs
42 - Fear of Overpass
43 - The Big Sneezy
44 - New Texas
45 - Front Ended by the French Fry Mobile
46 - Dirt Farm
47a - Heard at the Texas Book Festival 2008
48a - Texas Book Festival 2009
49 - Central Time Sucks
50 - Temple Texas
51 - Christmas in Austin
52 - Pennants in the Wind
53 - The Road Less Traveled
54 - Texas-size Thunderstorm
55 - Cool Van
56 - Your New House Is That-A-Way
57 - C.S.I. Austin
58 - New MTV Game Show
59 - Equine Technology
60 - Look at That Prairie
61 - Get Your Water Here
62 - Corporate Anniversaries
63 - College Sprawl
64 - Hire These Guys
65 - Preparing for Winter
66 - Careful What You Overhear
67 - Bonnie Raitt
68 - Perfume
69 - Questionable Skills
70 - All-American Day
71 - Read Me
72 - Weird Fog
73 - Overpackaged Food
74 - What Town Was That
75 - Texas Book Festival 2010
76 - Bulletproof Roof
77 - The Oldest Photo
78 - Cheesesteaks Part 1
79 - Cheesesteaks Part 2

Goats 'n' Cotton

Sept 2000

We were just driving around one day, taking roads that we've never taken before, just to see what's there. Surprises everywhere. Down one particularly lonely stretch, around a curve there is a view of a watering hole off in the distance, and groups of horses walking over to the hole to drink. Straight out of a western movie or a nature documentary. Get out the binoculars for a better look. Oops, those aren't horses; they're goats. A large herd of goats. But walking and prancing and drinking just like the horses in the movies. Goats.

Around a couple more curves, we find the emu ranch next door. Yes, emus. Actually, I've seen a half dozen ranches raising ostriches or emus around the area. Have not seen it on the menu anywhere in Texas, though I have in Oregon. Are they a commercial livestock?

A couple miles further on, it's cotton country. Some was still in the fields, not quite ripe yet, I guess. Some other fields were picked clean, and every couple hundred yards there is a truck-size block of new cotton, a huge, white loaf of fuzz covered with a blue plastic tarp, and the owner's name and numbers graffiti-spray painted on the side. By "truck-size," I don't mean pickup truck or Econoline truck. I mean tractor-trailer truck. If you ask someone to "Lift that bale," he better be a crane operator. These must be the droppings of some enormous cotton-eating cow, munch munch munch, munch munch munch, flop, munch munch munch, munch munch munch, flop. Presumably, some even larger scarab beetle of a truck or railroad car will come along later to swallow these giant pills. I remember reading, long long ago, that Texas was one of the largest producers of cotton, but this is the first time I've seen any. Ms. T., too. Small irony: she worked for Cotton, Inc., in New York for several years, a marketing group for the entire cotton industry. You know the logo and the ad campaigns. But she had never seen a real cotton field until now. We were both struck by the sparsity of the planting. How many acres did the picking machine have to ingest to make one of those mondo-bales.

Back to the goats, Ms. T. and I both thought, naively, that where there were many goats, there would be goat milk. And, where there is goat milk, there would be goat cheese. Right? We have not discovered where the goat milk goes, and we can't find a local cheese industry. Where's the chevre?

The prickly pears are getting ripe. You see them all the time, driving around the Austin area. Prickly pear cactus seems to grow in large clumps, up to maybe six or eight feet in diameter, all over the place. I'm told that ranchers hate it and consider it a weed. Not even the goats will eat the cactus.

Some areas are seriously choked with it, while others have almost none. Driving west into the hill country, we notice that a difference in elevation of just a hundred feet or so, or moving from the east side of a ridge to the west side, will completely alter the density of prickly pear cactus in the fields. I'm guessing that it is the slightly higher precipitation at the higher elevations, or on the west-facing slopes, that enables some local plants to keep the cactus out.

In any case, driving to work and back a couple months ago, I noticed that the cactuses were all flowering, pretty much at the same time, at least along that road. And now, a few months later, the fruit is ready. You've seen pictures of it, I'm sure: a barrel-shaped red-purple fruit, maybe three inches long and one and a half inches in diameter. Looks sort of inviting. Some hardy souls make jelly out of them. I've had it. Don't bother.

Copyright (C) 2000, 2001, 2002, Richard Landau. All rights reserved.