Author Archives: Larry Gfeller

Possum on the Half-Shell

It’s always discomfiting to encounter unusual animals, especially when they carry a distinctly prehistoric look. If we could really see their primal origins in the flesh, we’d probably come unhinged!  Travel back with me 130 million years ago to a time when South America was cut adrift from what is now the west coast of Africa.  This giant island raft was isolated from the rest of the world as were the animals that lived there. As you can imagine, strange things came to pass in the misty hillsides… Read More →

Just Add Water!

Whether it’s a sparkling, gin-clear oasis of spring-fed water or a river gliding by like a sheet of gleaming metal, here in Texas water has caused infinite tribal fights, skirmishes and border wars since the very beginning. Where it exists, life flourishes; where it doesn’t, life is extinguished. Most of us consider water common but it’s actually one of the most uncommon chemical substances in the universe.  It can arise as rivers, snow storms, clouds, glaciers, fog or steam.  Essentially amorphous, water significantly enables our lives—but it can… Read More →

Back Roads Nature–Copper Breaks State Park

As morning came around, the clouds lifted to reveal a coral dawn. I looked closely at the arroyos and gullies of Copper Breaks State Park—I couldn’t believe my eyes. Who would ever think to make a public park of such broken badlands and mesas, peppered with copses of cedar trees?  Shouldn’t they call it “cedar breaks?”  But upon closer examination (and a little reading) it all came clear.  Among these eroded channels, all barren and lunar, you can clearly make out the gray-green streaks of raw copper running… Read More →

A Conundrum: Dynamic Crowd Control

Here’s a little story about two guys and a true marvel of nature. Its early afternoon in Texas and the sun is like a burning coin, sharing the sky with a smear of high wispy clouds. Two friends are making their way across a grassy knoll, talking quietly when a mesmerizing fog of black birds rises up before them and nearly blots out the sun. Startled, Shorty screams, “Whoa. . ! Look, Jim, there must be a thousand birds—what the hell is happening?” The huge blob shape-shifts in… Read More →

Back Roads Nature–Caprock Canyons State Park

Miles and miles of endless horizon on the Texas panhandle, the prairie spreads away flat and featureless to nowhere. Then, suddenly, the landscape transforms into a menagerie of cliffs and monoliths and distant vistas, melted into warm earth tones under the steady smash of the sun. As they pick their way down the scree, leather saddles creak, stones and pebbles rain down ahead of them and thick dust rises up.  Big, haunchy stallions with eyes like cue balls lash their tails back and forth during the nervous descent…. Read More →