When I moved into the hills of Bulverde back during the 1970s, there was still life in the gateway to the Texas Hill Country.
I loved it then, living in a shotgun tar paper shack with catahoula leopard dogs named Witch and Hoss, and a ringtail cat that had a nest between some sheet rock and a corrugated tin roof that leaked like a minnow seine when it rained. There was also a large family of skunks dwelling under the pier-and-beam flooring.
In the winter, it was heat from a wood-burning pot-bellied stove; in the hot summer, it was sitting naked in front of a big fan with bags of ice hanging down in front of the blades.
Augie’s Old Farm House
There was not a single traffic light in Bulverde back then. Augie Meyers was living in the old farm house across Cibolo Creek from Specht’s Store. My memories of that old house are vivid…Leon Russell sitting on a set of rusty bed springs while feeding bread crumbs to a rooster…John Fogerty’s Creedence Clear Water cranking up Proud Mary while a great horned owl hooted harmony in the trees. Willie and Augie rolling joints while Topanga Canyonmusicians like Spanky McFarland moved in and out through a sagging screen door.
Luke’s was the only gas station around Bulverde back then. Ferdie Wirth had his Ferdie’s Restaurant on 281 in full swing, and it was not uncommon to hear the ring of a double-bit axe on a fall evening in Bulverde. Or the bark of a gray fox. Or the smell of real wood smoke in the air as the shadows turned dark purple.
The Drug Store Cowboys were fuzzy-cheeked babies back then. Dub Robinson, Randy Toman, and Cotton Payne played my daughter Gena’s 16th birthday party at Ferdie’s, and already some critics were touting the trio as the next ZZ out of Texas.
The Old Honey Creek
When snow blanketed South Texas in 1985, my truck tracks were joined by only a few other sets when Highway 46 was still a country road linking Boerne and New Braunfels. If you didn’t have enough food in the house during snowstorms and floods, you packed it in to San Antonio. Or depended uponHoney Creek Grocery. There was no H.E.B. in Bulverde back then, and Kelly Gibson’s old Honey Creek Grocery at Blanco Road and Texas 46 wasn’t stocking much more than crackers, sardines, bread, milk, rat cheese, beer and Moon Pies during those days. And my memories of Kelly’s original Honey Creek Grocery, predecessor to today’s modern Honey Creek Restaurant further down Highway 46, are bitter sweet to say the least.
I enjoyed the camaraderie and the little store atmosphere, hanging out and swapping lies with Nolen, Iron Head, Johnny the Knife, John Henry, and other local dignitaries. But there was the down side as well. It was on the front steps of the old Honey Creek Grocery that Bexar County sheriff’s deputies handcuffed me for what proved to be my last ride to the Bexar County Jail in San Antonio.
How a Bulverde resident who was born and raised in the cedar brakes around Junction could have gotten strung out on Colombian marching powder and crystal meth is a story too long to recount. ButThat was 25 years ago, and my capture on the front stoop of Honey Creek Grocery was an incident that poor Kellly Gibson didn’t deserve.
Kelly’s first little one-room grocery was a mom and pop operation without a pop, and I can recall Kelly’s trepidation when she started stocking beer for added revenue necessary to keep the lights burning and to supply landlord John Reeves with his monthly rental fee.
When the first drunk stumbled and fell off the Honey Creek front porch, Kelly’s daughter Heather said, “Well, mom, it looks like we have finally wound up with a beer joint.”
With nerves frazzled from such minor incidents as this, Kelly damn sure wasn’t ready to have an ex-dope fiend alcoholic being rousted and handcuffed in the doorway of her rustic little country store.
Even such bitter memories as this have a pleasant after taste when I stand in what the once-quaint little country hamlet of Bulverde has become.
Not only do we have H.E.B. and a Sonic in Bulverde, we now have a friggin Beall’s. If that ain’t enough to wring the brine from a marble bust of Quanah Parker himself, let me escort you to the threshold of what will certainly mark the last killing blow to the Bulverde some of us once cherished and loved.
Rape and Ruination
It’s a soon-to-be constructed development to be known as Singing Hills, a 250-acre tombstone for a little town that doesn’t deserve to die. “Development” is a sanitized word for rape and ruination of a once-bucolic expanse of oak-studded beauty near the intersection of Highway 281 and Texas Highway 46. Protected by the land rapers are 70 acres of commercial space for shops and stores,40,000 square feet of office space, 160 apartment units, and 350 single family homes, $350,000 to $400,000 monstrosities which will no doubt be wedged closer together than purple martin bird house units.
And right square in the midst of it all will be a big, ugly Walmart, eating up 200,000 square feet of what was once a beautiful Bulverde hillside.
Sticks for Trees
An Express and News article about Singing Hills said that “460 trees will be planted at the site,” a revelation that made my stomach lurch. They will poke baby saplings in turf where I just watched a fleet of giant backhoes and bulldozers pushing over and grubbing up stately live oaks which had been growing unmolested in that area for a hundred years or more.
I still heat my home with a wood stove, and the thought of them mulching up and hauling off all of those beautiful oaks with little or no purpose for disposal of the wood sent me out to the clearing site with chain saw, wife Sharon,and trailer.
But I didn’t have the trailer half filled with firewood before a construction foreman showed up to wave me off.
“I can’t allow you to cut wood on the site for insurance purposes,” he said apologetically. “It’s gotten to the point where people can’t do much of anything anymore.”
I felt like sitting down and crying over the death of my home country, and I hope the ghosts of those bulldozed oaks come back to haunt every sonofabitch who has anything to do with Singing Hills.