THE STORY BEHIND MOUNTAIN HOME
I grew up near Mountain Home, a small ranching community in the Texas Hill Country. It’s in a part of the state - called the Edwards Plateau - with steep hillsides and valleys created over the millennia by streams and rivers cutting through a hard bedrock of limestone.
It doesn’t rain much out there, so the hills are covered with one of the hardiest and most stubborn shrubs around - the mountain cedar.
The people that live in those hills are fairly stubborn themselves, from dealing with the unfarmable land - with hard rock inches below the surface - and from dealing with the blight of mountain cedar that covers any available space and consumes every inch of soil it can steal.
In the 1980s, I remember hearing stories about some folks who lived in the hills near us. Hitchhikers on Interstate 10 reported bizarre events near Mountain Home - kidnapping and forced labor - and the sheriff got involved. A high profile trial began, and the testimony was filled with surreal anecdotes:
“Yes sir, they would play a cassette tape of Elvis singing ‘Jailhouse Rock’ over and over and they would not let me leave. They forced us to work on the ranch.”
“What were you forced to do?”
“Chop and clear cedar, repair fences, and we had to carve the cedar branches into small keychains. They sold the keychains to truckstops.”
When the trial wrapped up, a few people went to prison. A family friend of ours said, “it was like the wild west out here in those days.”