Ten years ago, still an enthusiastic, well-rested freshman, I was sitting in a horticulture lecture at Texas A&M, when I realized for the first time how differently my childhood years would have looked without a place to venture to outside of my own backyard. I remember that moment, because I may have been one of the only students in that room who had actually experienced the effects of rapidly growing juniper on natural water resources.
Indoctrinated in us every summer growing up were the methodologies for ridding the family ranch of cedar—pick out a pair of oversized gloves from the backseat of the old gray Chevy, don’t ask too many questions if grandpa has already explained it twice, and keep up. We’d have stacks of cut cedar waiting for the burn ban to be lifted before too long.
When we weren’t building character and learning the ways cedar won’t break, we were spending the minutes just before sunrise watching whitetail deer, roaming along the limestone creeks, braving the dirt roads between telephone poles, and somehow all making it back together to watch the sun set over the Hill Country landscape. Because of this land, we learned what it meant to be in awe of creation.
When you’re a whippersnapper growing up with the dirt under your boots you’ve been given, it never occurs to you that such a constant could one day be gone or unrecognizable. That day in class was a coming of age if you will, and I’ve since worked my way back into natural resources research exploring tactics to keep conservation top of mind for Texans. The future of our open spaces, of the rich heritage that I now get to share with my own son, depends on me to continue the slow and constant stewardship of the generations before us.