I’ve just come back from Dripping Springs, Texas.
Really? That’s an actual town? Yessir and it ’aint no town. No sirree. It’s a goddam city.
In Americanspeak, anything bigger than two houses, a dog kennel and a gas station is a city. Dripping Springs has 1500 people, not much bigger than Martinborough, which is not even a town to us – we call it a village.
I haven’t actually been to this Texan microcity, at least not in the flesh. My visit was virtual and it came about because I discovered the town’s local newspaper through the Wellington City Library’s marvellous PressDisplay service. Based on the Canadian NewspaperDirect service, PressDisplay shows current newspapers from around the world with the same layout on the computer screen as they have in print. Pages are complete with photographs, graphics and advertisements. There are 1570 newspapers from 90 countries in 47 languages. It is very up to date, with some editions appearing on the database before they are published in their home country.
As a member of Wellington Public Library, I can freely use the library’s subscription to NewspaperDirect. Other New Zealand libraries give similar local access. You can also go to the NewspaperDirect website, see the front pages of all their papers for free and pay to read more. Personal subscription plans cost between US$10 and $30 a month.
While browsing the database this morning, my eye caught the name Dripping Springs, home of the Century-News newspaper. I read the paper.
Wondering why anyone would call a town Dripping Springs, I looked it up at Wikipedia. Sure enough, it was there, 21 miles west of Austin, the Texas state capital. Wikipedia pointed out that ‘Dripping Springs’ is a misnomer because the town’s spring maintains a steady trickle. It also noted that Johnny Cash once wrote and recorded a song called Down at Drippin’ Springs. “It would be one ideal spot for God to put his hell.” He must have had a bad day.
Searching further through Google, I discovered that one Nannie Moss, a member of one of the original families to move to the area, named it for the ‘dripping springs’ at the Milk House branch of the Edwards Aquifer, a gathering place for the Tonkawa Indians.
I’m having some difficulty imagining springs that drip, because spring water usually bubbles up or sideways. Drips normally drop down. But then we have our own improbability here in Martinborough, with a winery that calls itself Shingle Peak. (Shingle accumulates below a peak, as the peak erodes.)
I had to go there, so I fired up Google Earth to get a birds-eye view. Then I used Google Maps and its StreetView facility to cruise the streets. Well, some of the streets – part of the town, including City Hall, was in darkness, with only street and building lights visible. (Why did Google photograph the place at night?)
I could see a spread-out dusty looking place with burned-off grass, scattered scrubby oaks and wide streets full of pickup trucks and SUVs. Flat as a pancake, though the town blurb says it’s the gateway to the Texas Hill Country. Below are some pictures captured by the Google Streetview camera:
Google’s cameras captured no human beings: the citizens of Dripping Springs were indoors or in their cars. If I could have got out of the Google car and met the locals I would have found them overwhelmingly white: 86.5 percent, according to Wikipedia. Hispanics or Latinos make up 18.7% of the population, but African-Americans are effectively absent, at 0.26 percent of the population – about four people by my calculation.
Promotional web pages told me I could spend a day around Dripping Springs, touring vineyards (here and here are a couple), sampling locally produced salsas and jellies or traveling just down the road to hike, swim or enjoy the scenery at Hamilton Pool, Pedernales Falls State Park and West Cave Preserve.
I also learned that Dripping Springs is a paid-up member of the mom and apple pie club: a “close knit community where you can create a lifestyle that promotes personal, professional and spiritual growth.”
You might feel somewhat outnumbered if you were black or an atheist. Otherwise it should be pleasant enough. And if you really needed a break in the big smoke, Austin (790,000) and San Antonio (1.4 million) are nearby.
What could be more American than a lemonade stand? The front page photo lead in the Century News had one:
What else was happening, according to the Century-News? There was the expected local authority reporting, which I won’t bore you with, other than to give some headlines: “PEC appoints interim leader”, “Court tables talk of halt on road work”, “HTCGD holds public hearing on aquifer” etc.
There was plenty of sports news. Most was about baseball, but the local softball league was also reported on. Apart from seeing the results, I read that when not playing, the softballers were removing rocks from a playing field. “Tommy Gillis (Conglomerates) brought his small tractor with a front bucket to the field and single-handedly picked up all the rock piles.” Great parish-pump stuff that’s the lifeblood of small-town reporting and always appreciated by the locals.
A feature article about baseball was titled “Of fathers and sons and the love of the game.”
Local senator Kay Bailey Hutchison contributed a long article titled Texas athletes give inspiring performances during World Cup. “Spectators watched breathlessly as the U.S. men played with grit and heart, ultimately tying with England for a final score of 1-1. While all of America celebrated our team’s accomplishment, the pride and exhilaration ran highest in Texas. The game-tying goal was kicked past England’s keeper by our own Clint Dempsey of Nacogdoches. As a mother and a lawmaker, I appreciate the example these young men set for children in Texas who are playing sports and practising hard to improve their skills.”
Spiritual life seemed well catered for, with 11 separate churches listed in a half-page religion section. Churches included several Baptist, plus Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Methodist and a couple of happy-clappies. Not on the page, but mentioned in an item about Food Addicts Anonymous (above), is a Lutheran church. (Could a food addict remain anonymous in a town this small?)
The Camp Ben McCulloch Confederate Reunion was due to end on Friday (the Grandsons of the Confederacy Day), with a closing ceremony at the flag pole. “Everyone is welcome to come and join us for family fun and entertainment. Guests can enjoy, music, dancing, camping, swimming, food, a carnival, bingo, games, washer pitching and plenty of time to catch up with friends and family.” Musical events included the Dayton Roberts Memorial Old Time Fiddler’s Contest and musicians included Bob Shelton and the Onion, the Creek Ramblers, the Kyle Family, Doug Moreland and the People’s Choice.
The Wesley Gallery was hosting its third annual Fiber Arts Show and Sale. “Meet the artists and explore their fiber creations in stitchery, felting, quilting, fabric painting, papermaking, fabric collage, garment design, jewellry, beading, books, free-form crochet, wall art and more.”
On Friday the Hemisphere Cafe was having an open mike night and also presenting Alison and Arno. On the first and third Fridays of the month they feature the Intrepid Duo of jazz guitarist and vocalist Alex Dormont & Lonnie Atkinson, while the second Friday is Trivia Night. “Bring a team or find one when you arrive…or play solo (because you’re just smart like that!)”
The Rotary Club of Dripping Springs meets at noon every Monday at Creek Road Café, 301 Hwy. 290 W.
Dripping Springs seems like a typical small town. Yes, it has a drippy name, but it’s probably not much different to live in than Martinborough.
Or Lake Wobegon. See you down at the Chatterbox Café.