Weatherford Democrat

March 17, 2013

NOW HEAR THIS: The fragmentation of Parker County


Weatherford Democrat

— By LARRY M. JONES

For those like myself who are fortunate enough to have survived our allotted “three score and ten,” we are both blessed and cursed by the transformation we have witnessed here in North Texas.

For better or worse, the Parker County I knew as a child is gone forever.

When my family first arrived here over 150 years ago, changes came slowly. With each, whether it was building a church or school, clearing a new field in which to plant crops or cutting a road across this pristine land, they came at a huge cost in terms of “sweat equity.” This slow-paced agrarian lifestyle continued for decades until World Wars I and II turned a nation of farmers into an industrial super power. There was a song that came out of World War I entitled, “How You Gonna’ Keep ‘Em Down On the Farm?” (After they’ve seen Paree). After these great wars, millions left the farm, and today they are returning.

When I returned to my “roots” following retirement from the Navy in the late 1980s, much of what I remembered of Parker County was still intact. Multigenerational family businesses were still common, large peanut and melon farms existed, dairies were common, large ranches were evident, traffic on South Main manageable, and if you wanted anything of significance, you had to go to Fort Worth to get it. Yet, changes that had taken root a decade or two earlier were beginning to come to fruition. Larger farms are becoming fragmented into smaller “ranchettes.”

In this regard, Dr. Gideon Lincecum wrote the following in the Texas Almanac:

“Now that all the world and the rest of mankind are coming to Texas, it behooves those who intend to remain here to look around them and see what portions of nature’s widespread bounties can be saved from the destructive tramp of immigration.”

The ironic part of Dr. Lincecum’s statement is that it was written in 1861, the very year my own ancestors were the destructive immigrants upon which he focused.

As I traveled over a thousand miles across vast expanses of Texas on my recent vacation, I could see the same factors working on other parts of the state as we have here in at home. Everywhere, I witnessed homes popping up throughout the countryside – from mansions high atop majestic hills to house trailers among live oak groves – houses everywhere I looked.  Texas, like Parker County today, is experiencing a surge of new rural residents.

Thousands of new small acreage “ranchettes” gobbling up and fragmenting Texas’ farms and ranches are bringing great change to the environment, wildlife habitat, water availability and quality, and general land use practices. No longer do we have the quiet of a summer evening with chirping of crickets and the uninterrupted song of the whippoorwill. In search of idyllic rural solitude, instead we bring to the country the problems inherent with an urban society. Today, life in the country includes congested rural roads, roving dog packs, noise of incessantly loud music, barking/braying/crowing animals, firearms and degraded lifestyle. The very things new residents seek the most are the ones that are first to be destroyed.

In a hundred years, will residents of Parker County view new rural residents in the same way Dr. Lincecum viewed my own immigrant ancestors?  Probably.

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to nowhearthis@pwhome.com.