"Here's an idea." Those three words fill me with two parts excitement and one part trepidation. My boss, Senior Editor David Jones, says this. A lot. He's an idea guy.
David recently Googled "Tierra Grande" and discovered what appeared to be a Census-designated place in Nueces County outside of Corpus Christi bearing that name. Now, a little context for the uninitiated: Tierra Grande
is the name of the Real Estate Center's 40+-year-old quarterly magazine. You can read it here
. More context: I grew up in a small farming town near Corpus and occasionally visit my folks there.
"Here's an idea," David said. "You should go find Tierra Grande next time you're down that way." As luck would have it, I had scheduled a visit to see my parents within the next couple of weeks.
Two Saturdays later, armed with my wife's Canon and a sad little excuse for a roadmap, and accompanied by my trusty guides (mom and dad weren't about to miss out on such a potentially fun adventure), I sallied forth to the outskirts of Corpus Christi in search of our El Dorado.
We each had our assigned roles. Mine was to drive; my mom's, to navigate. From the back seat, my dad made it his job to let us know whether the crops we passed were grain, cotton, or corn. Also his job: to draw my attention to the many potholes, which I invariably hit (my fault for overstepping my role trying to help my mom make heads or tails of the map). On a side note, my parents' car has terrific shock absorption.
Our efforts were rewarded, but in ways we'd not expected. My mom was hoping to find a small subdivision with a lovely entrance landscaped with large rocks, flowers, perhaps a lovely water feature, and absolutely the name "Tierra Grande." My dad thought there might be a water tower with Tierra Grande painted in tall letters. I didn't expect us to find much of anything.
But we did.
Turns out there was a water tower, but it didn't have a name on it in letters big or small. There was, however, an ordinary green street sign that said Tierra Grande, an unexpected find after nothing but similar green signs pointing to CR 36, 34, 30, etc. The street sign marked a small community of homes. No post office or convenience store. No park or community center. Just private residences clustered together in a small forest of cedar elms surrounded by miles and miles of crops and wind turbines.
Tierra Grande had a population of 403 as of 2010, roughly 40 more than in 2000. The population is practically booming! We didn't get the feeling there were as many residents there as Wikipedia claimed, but those we saw waved and smiled with only mild suspicion (me taking a picture of the street sign at the intersection while my parents watched for traffic didn't help matters much). We encountered a mailman. Also a guy on a riding lawnmower. Friendly as both of them seemed, we didn't press our luck. Signs on numerous barbed-wire fences warned us trespassers would be shot.
Thank heavens my dad didn't take my mom seriously when she joked about him stealing the street sign for me to bring back to the office.
Another street sign indicated there might be children at play. We saw none, but of course it was 2:30 in the afternoon in South Texas in what already felt like summer.
So I snapped a few pics and hopped back in the car to enjoy the ride home, catching up with mom and dad on their life and the latest news from my grandmother's nursing home. My dad commented on whether he thought this year's cotton crop would be good. Considered stopping at Whataburger for vanilla malts, but didn't.
What's that adage about life sometimes being about the journey? I suppose that's true even when you're just puttering along farm roads outside Corpus Christi. Best to watch for potholes and enjoy the company. Next time, though, I'll stop for the vanilla malt.