Over a half a century ago down on the Pore Farm, we didn’t have Xboxes, Nintendos and other electronic entertainment systems. My generation played outside most of the time when conditions allowed — even the girls. During inclement weather, one of my favorite activities was reading. I could travel anywhere I wanted, the princesses were as pretty as I imagined, and the villains were as grotesque as I desired.
Just over a week ago as Helen and I traveled to Pflugerville, near Austin, to be with her mom for Thanksgiving, I was reminded of a story that I read as a small child — Billy Goat Gruff. Everywhere you look around Austin, there is a troll waiting to collect a toll. Most of you who are approximately my age will probably remember this book. For those unfamiliar with it, the Norwegian fairy tale tells of three male goats that had grazed their hillside meadow down to the point that they had to cross a river to reach green grass to eat. However, a fearsome troll lived under the bridge and he would eat anyone who tried to cross it. As the smallest billy goat tried to cross, the troll threatened to gobble him up. The small goat pleaded for mercy and told him the next goat was larger and fatter and would make a better meal. The troll agreed and allowed him to pass. The middle-sized goat used the same ploy, and he too was allowed to cross. The third goat was big and tough and he smacked the greedy troll and threw him into the icy waters below. The bridge was safe, everyone was happy, and the ugly troll was never seen again. This was a great story that taught children a great moral lesson about how good always conquers evil.
I personally like good things, but it seems that with all of them, they obviously must end. The dead troll was a good thing, but somehow the Austin political weasels have managed to clone him. Having been destroyed over 150 years ago, the evil troll and his putrid kin are now living under bridges across much of Texas. Around the Austin and Dallas areas, their proliferation has reached epidemic proportions.
Whether it was inspired by the billy goat fairy tale or another stimulus, I have always been repulsed by the concept of toll roads. Like an assault or robbery victim, I feel dirty and violated. Obviously, most Texans share my disgust, as evidenced by the furor over the Trans Texas Corridor. Most folks think that “troll” was thrown off the bridge, but I can assure you the debacle is alive and well — merely a slightly different pig with a new color of lipstick.
Despite explosive population growth, traffic congestion that rivals California, and deteriorating public roads, Texas gasoline road taxes have not been raised in over 20 years. These already anemic taxes are routinely diverted from road construction and are siphoned off to other squeaky wheels. The only solution as seen by our greedy and myopic politicians is to sell our highways to foreign investors, install electronic “troll nickel snatchers” every few miles, and be re-elected because they didn’t raise taxes.
I think it’s time to fill the Colorado River with Austin based trolls.
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 email@example.com.