The red oaks are still robed in their green and red glory as we approach Christmas. The hackberry stands quiet in its winter bareness. I do not know the tree with tiny leaves that remain green all winter. Here on the edge of the Edwards Plateau it whispers it name—Plateau Live Oak. Before the settlers arrived, this plateau was grasslands. Fires burned trees and encouraged fresh grass. The Indians burned small sections, attracting animals and discouraging infernos. The settlers' cattle liked the fire-managed grasslands. They were born to grassfires. The settlers, not so much. They eliminated both grassfires and Indians. Trees followed the settlers onto the plateau. Some were natives elsewhere in Texas—migrants. The ubiquitous Mountain Cedar's seedlings are too bitter for cattle—opportunists. Some trees the settlers brought from their homeland—importees. A few hitched a ride—stowaways. Some fled extermination—refugees. The native limestone on which all stand is full of ancient seashells. Here, seven hundred feet above sea level, not plants, not animals, not humans, not even the rocks can boast, "We've always been here."
“Settlers” first appeared in the May issue of Red River Review.