A Strange Fall on Buffalo Bayou

Stuck Truck Gives Up

Oct. 23, 2023

It was a beautiful, clear morning on Buffalo Bayou in Houston. We were a little late in the day  to take our fall photo of that Bend in the River. The sun had risen faster than we had and was smiling down at us high above the treetops when we arrived out our spot, the same high bank in Memorial Park from which we have been documenting the changes in the river throughout the seasons for the last nine years.

Looking downstream on a beautiful fall morning from that same high bank in Memorial Park. Photo by SC, Oct. 16, 2023

The tangled woods seemed unusually bare and transparent as we made our way down the winding, sandy path from the Picnic Loop south of Memorial Drive. Remnant piles and pieces of cement drainage pipes and blocks from the World War I Camp Logan were more visible than ever. Even more visible were the rotting logs pecked and hammered by a variety of critters seeking insect sustenance.

A rotting log smorgasbord for critters in the woods. Photo Oct. 16, 2023 by SC

Perfectly natural rotting and pecking but it still somehow reeked of desperation after months of drought and record heat. However this morning was cool enough for us to be concerned about whether we were properly dressed. Weirdly discordant amongst the nearly leafless cherry laurel was the abundance of plump purple American Beautyberries. Why were they not being eaten by birds and other creatures? An ancient medicinal plant, also long used as a mosquito repellent, the berries have a peppery, somewhat bitter taste.

American Beautyberries in the woods of Buffalo Bayou, an ancient source of medicine and food. Photo Oct. 16, 2023

Nature’s Construction

We managed to get a shot of the bend through the ever-changing greenery, despite the high sun beaming and poking at the camera. For some reason, as we looked around, we were newly struck by nature’s engineering: the crisscross beams of long, sturdy roots installed along the high bank and across the path leading like stair-steps down to the nearby creek. All of which holds the bank together.

We then headed upstream along the winding path towards the distant spot where contractors with Harris County Flood Control were attempting to pull a pickup full of mud out of the bayou. Munching on beautyberries, we encountered numerous hikers and runners, as well as their happy dogs, and passed through lovely bowers of fresh sunlit greenery. However, one couple recounted how in early December they had witnessed the sad scene of the family gathered on the bank as the Houston Police recovered the body of the young driver.

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