Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Texas by the turn signal light - Day 6

Butterflies are free – and all of them are on the front of my car
When we departed Dallas for our Texas journey, the Ford Escape was detailed in and outside. It would have a fresh car smell, in anticipation of too much body odor caused by the stifling heat and humidity, not to mention old Whataburger bags and empty soda cans.
And we wanted the outside to appear shiny and new, which was granted by our favorite local auto establishment (The Auto Shop, highly recommended). The nice folks there even took some Armor All to the tires and, man, it looked good.
Then … we headed to South Texas and “The Swarm” – no, not that rancid 1977 movie filmed in Houston with Michael Caine, etc. Our vehicle was among the thousands in the region beset by millions and millions and millions (perhaps as many as Carl Sagan’s BILLIONS and BILLIONS) or American snout butterflies – whose sole purpose in life seems to becoming windshield splatterings.
As we learned from an Associated Press story in the San Antonio and Corpus Christi papers, the Central and South Texas regions are being inundated with these creatures because of … “erratic weather.” Is that another phrase for global warming?
In just a few counties, there can be millions of these things, thick as the night and a constant irritant to those driving on highways. Experts claim that these swarms are not abnormal but this year, they just seem to be thicker than thieves.
It seems that the extended drought conditions throughout Texas have destroyed the flies and wasps that kill the butterfly in its caterpillar stage. Add to the mix the heavy rains that fell in early July in the Coastal Bend/Gulf Coast area and you have new growth on spiny hackberry trees, which provide the food for the caterpillars and nesting areas for the butterflies.
If another pesky bird becomes a future problem – the grackle – blame it on the butterflies. The grackles apparently feed off the remains on the roadway and the government probably needs to issue obesity regulations for them, too.
These American snout butterflies (named because they have flat noses that look like dead leaves) don’t harm plants or people – just windshields. You know them because of their white wings and orange-brown and white tops. They don’t have a known migration pattern and have been known to simply fly around in a single area.
When I lived in South Texas, a truck or SUV had to possess two essentials – a deer catcher for the occasional run-in with the four-legged animal … and a plastic bugcatcher in front of the hood ornament. That lessened the impact of all those butterflies and other assorted winged creatures from doing Tora! Tora! Tora! on one’s car hood. Once they strike and they get cooked by the high heat from a car/truck engine, it becomes almost impossible (certainly expensive) to restore to original shine and clarity.
Rolling on the plains of the Dallas North Tollway, one tends to forget such trivial matters. Down in the world of endless farm-to-market back roads, rural cemeteries, red ants as big as beagles and local economies that the Fed chairman doesn’t even recognize (and long has forgotten), the air is so filled with butterflies is defies imagination.
It is expected that the butterfly swarm will last another two weeks and then reappear in mid-October – just in time for the fall hunting and fishing and Saturday football season.
Car washes (and detailers) everywhere are licking their chops in anticipation.
Post script – Based on what I wrote for Day 5, I will tell you of a well-experienced fine dining meal where we made a mess of ourselves.
In Fulton, directly connected to Aransas Bay, is this little Cajun place, The Boiling Pot, where we had some of the spiciest, best and freshest seafood ever in our lives. And it was served on a pile of butcher paper, spilled right there on your table. Your fingers served as silverware, a roll of paper towels was welcome relief and the lobster bib was the perfect addition.
The basic meal was a blue crab, a half-pound of Cajun sausage, a half-pound of Cajun shrimp (heads still attached), plus corn and new potatoes. The waitress just dumps it all in front of you and you go at it.
You can add more blue crabs, snow crab legs or king crab legs or any combination. One basic pot feeds two for $15.95 and while you won’t stuff yourselves sick, you will be full and satisfied.
We weren’t rushed; the atmosphere was noisy but friendly, and everything was served in its proper time. When my wife, Jodie, ordered an extra blue crab, then, and ONLY then, was the fresh crab put into the boiling pot for cooking. It was obvious that nothing was frozen in advance and it all tasted great … even though my lips burned for hours (not just yet used to those Cajun spices even after all these years).
The restaurant is located next to the historic Fulton Mansion on Fulton Beach Road, right on the Rockport-Fulton city lines. It’s real informal and you can doodle on a piece of the butcher paper for possible inclusion on the ceiling where other patrons have supplied artwork.
And, yes, it IS fine dining.

No comments: