Saturday, December 1, 2007

Texas surprises

What a beautiful and versatile state Texas is. Once we escape the cacophony of the Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex, we tumble like weeds through a western landscape (above) that's vast, sprawling, flat, parched.

What is this? Has a light snow kissed the fields? But no! It's cotton! Thousands and thousands of acres of cotton. And the season of harvest is here. Bales the size and shape of trailer-tractor beds sit everywhere (above), waiting to be hitched for the ride to market. Texas harvests 4.5 million bales each year, making it the highest yielding cotton state in the union.

Not too far from Abilene (which looks like it'll be a ghost town in 10 years), hundreds of modern windmills rise from the cotton fields. We've discovered the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, the largest wind farm in the world, where 421 turbines harvest the wind off 47,000 acres in west-central Texas. The other-worldly vision complicates my sense of Texas as a patchwork of outdoor life: cattle ranches, oil fields and cotton fields. The turbines are today's overlay on yesterday's landscape.

So much of Texas is both old and new.

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