Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No Trespassing. Private Property. Keep Out!

One of the hardest lifestyle changes for me, living here in Texas Hill Country - and still one I'm working hard to come to terms with - is the severe lack of public owned land, meaning: no fields, paths and woodland areas to walk your dogs.

Back home, you could leave your house on foot, pretty much anywhere on the whole island, and there would be 'free' countryside, woodlands, beaches, or farmlands for you and your 'unleashed' dogs to walk, picnic, or bike on, with the law on your side.

It's incredible to me how much I took that freedom for granted. Here, unless you own hundreds of acres yourself, pretty much everyplace you turn is fenced off, with 'No Trespassing' signs nailed to every other cedar. It seems that in the Hill Country, that same freedom comes at a very high price. I'd never before, understood the desire to own land, like I do now.

You mean to tell me Katie-Scarlett that Tara doesn't mean anything to you? Why, land's the only thing that matters....... it's the only thing that lasts!

Owning just under 4 acres felt a tad bit excessive to me at first, especially when we were only using the bottom acre. However, once we adopted our first dog, the full enormity of being surrounded by only private owned land hit home, and it pained me that we were unable to provide our dog the same type of walks that my childhood pets thrived on.

Trying to make the most of what we had, we started walking her around our unfenced perimeter, taking great care not to stray onto our as yet unacquainted neighbors' land. The first time we did this was after dark - probably not the smartest choice - and we earned a hostile run-in with a neighbor procuring a gun.

These country folk are not messing when they say 'no trespassing'! Only we weren't trespassing. Our neighbor had become so used to the top part of our land being abandoned, that he'd cleared his own front yard to beyond our border.

Awkwardly, this makes walking on our land feel like we're crossing his front lawn. His problem, but awkward for us nonetheless. Still, having no other place to walk the dog, beggars can't be choosers, so we cleared a better pathway - with grand illusions of fencing 'our' land off - and adopted this as our twice daily dog walk.

This worked, until it got really hot, and I got really, pregnant, and my inclination to hike our land's unforgiving inclination fell by the wayside. So I opted instead to stroll along the flat, unpaved, and unsigned country road in front of our home.

Albeit infrequently driven on, the local folk that live here, namely our neighbors, are used to navigating these bends at break neck speed, so a Mommy and stroller can feel somewhat in jeopardy, especially attempting to exercise an unleashed pup! Needless to say her 'free' walks were dropped, and (feeling like terrible dog-owners)  her exercise regime was reduced to a lame game of chase on our own land.

Luckily, over time, we've befriended our land- wealthy neighbors to the south, who boast a humble trailer parked within a beautiful 20+ acre woodlands. Their invitation for us to walk their land came initially in the form of a neighborly request to be a presence on their land while they were vacationing. Of course we gladly obliged, and our gushing admiration of their land was rewarded with an open invitation to walk our family and dog on their unused acreage.

This freedom has changed our world, and now with two dogs, and two young boys, it's easy to forget sometimes that we're enjoying private owned land. A reality check came at the end of last summer when our neighbors put up half their land for sale. If only we could afford it, I'd snatch their hands off!

It's been on the market now a little over 6 months with no bites as yet, and selfishly I hope it stays that way. I've become spoiled over the last two years, however, I no longer take such freedom for granted.

When the inevitable happens, no doubt we'll learn to make the best of our own 'meager' 4 acres once again.

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