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The crucifixion of Grimes County

August 30, 2023 - 00:00
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  • Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and an award-winning columnist.

A highlight of my recent trips to Rockport and Port Lavaca was seeing firsthand that agriculture is not only alive but thriving in South Texas! Well away from urban concrete and steel, I saw farm after farm with nothing but cotton, cotton, cotton! It was on the shrub on my Rockport visit but a few weeks later on the way to Port Lavaca, it lay gloriously bound in large round bales. I may have been born and raised in Houston but my ancestral roots, like many Texans my age, are rural and the silos dotting the landscape and John Deeres putt-putting everywhere were…well, peaceful!

My late husband’s family lived in Louise and other little towns like Ganado, Lolita and Vanderbilt where the kitchen table in little frame farmhouses was not only the heart of the home but of the farm and ranch operation, too. I’m the daughter-in-law who came late to the party but snippets of memories of my in-law’s final years of farming and ranching came to mind on my trips.

For example, the early morning sounds as my father-in-law began his day — the smell of coffee and homemade biscuits, small talk about the farm report or other news out of El Campo coming from the old radio in the kitchen and the screen door slamming. There were chickens and cows, farm dogs, the drone of the crop duster, my mother-in-law’s garden flush with green beans, squash, tomatoes and my father-in-law’s cotton and maize. I remember summers eating watermelon on a makeshift table of boards nailed between two trees, and the look and smell of hard work.

There’s an old ranch outside Bedias that catches my eye each time I pass it. The house is empty, the barns and corrals lifeless like the ghost of ranching past, but I imagine in its heyday, it enjoyed the same sounds and smells of ranch life. I’m sad that Grimes County’s farm and ranch land is being sold plat by plat in most instances, taken in others, and that crisscrossing ribbons of concrete will obliterate what’s left of our rich ag history.

What does this have to do with the ‘crucifixion’ of Grimes County? My late husband and I became property owners here in 1994 as asylum seekers from Houston. I didn’t Google then, heck, I didn’t even have email! I’m embarrassed to admit the doctrine of eminent domain was not on my radar. If all that had NOT been the case, I would have known that Grimes County has been in the crosshairs of one group or another for a long time!

Within two years of becoming full-time residents, however, my husband and I participated in our first public protest by joining others at the courthouse against TxDOT’s plans for I-69, a.k.a. the Trans Texas Corridor, an interstate from Laredo to East Texas through Grimes County. I learned then it wasn’t Grimes County residents’ first rodeo protecting family land. Several decades earlier, they thwarted attempts to run a “bullet train” through the county.

Residents prevailed with TTC and lived in peace and quiet for a few more years until dealt a double whammy, this time Texas Central Partner’s high speed rail attempt AND a TxDOT toll road! After years of negotiations, SH 249 was built but with the Grimes County portion not tolled. Then, just when we heard high speed rail’s death rattle in 2022, it was revived with help from Amtrak, the North Central Council of Governments and a Dallas state representative. No thanks to our Texas Supreme Court, TCP now has eminent domain authority. But wait, there’s more! Soon TxDOT will hold public meetings about the new five-state interstate corridor, I-14 and SH 30 as a potential route.

So here’s the visual — a high speed rail line and easements will cut a 4-mile wide path from north to south down the middle of Grimes County. Add a minimum 1-mile-wide interstate following SH 30 east to west between Huntsville and B-CS, and that dear readers, looks to me like the crucifixion of Grimes County!

The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Connie Clements. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.

Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and an award-winning columnist.