Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

November 6, 2012

TxDOT vs. Mother Nature

By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun

— A few weeks ago I ranted about how a $15.l million TxDOT highway project was derailed northeast of San Antonio by a teensy-weensy underground blind spider.

Well, there’s more this week.

Not too far up the road from that ecological farce, we have a 40-mile stretch of contract toll road around Austin that has just opened with a speed limit of 85 miles-per-hour. Another first for Texas — this is the America’s fastest highway.

This time nature’s instrument of concern is a mite (no pun intended) bigger than the spider — it’s wild hogs! The very first night the super-fast highway was opened, there were no less than four crashes in Caldwell County and the town of Lockhart. One of the collisions with a 250-pounder was bad enough to total the car and it had to be towed away.

Actually, these accidents came as no real surprise to the Lockhart Police because their dashboard cameras had captured images of packs of the wild monsters crossing the highway before it opened to the public. Police Chief Lummus opined as how, “’s kinda like hitting a deer except these suckers are running lower coming out of them ditches.”

Interestingly enough, the feral hog population is so high in Caldwell County there is a bounty on them — two dollars for each tail brought in. This was good news for the poor soul whose car was totaled — the tow truck driver gave him a two-dollar discount on the charges for hauling his wreck into town.

The town of Lockhart has a population of about 12,700 and is the county seat of Caldwell County. Not a whole lot going on in Lockhart but this quaint little town with the requisite “historic courthouse square” has been the background for quite a few movie and television productions. In fact, the Wal-Mart store was featured in the 2000 film, “Where the Heart Is.” Who knew? Oh yes, and the towing business is really thriving these days.

Another note of interest about Lockhart is that, due to the great reputations of three major barbecue restaurants in town, the Texas Legislature dubbed the town “Barbecue Capital of Texas.” With all the road kill coming in off the super-speed highway, one has to wonder about where those briskets, hot links, and pulled pork sandwiches come from.

Compounding the “auto meets hog” problem is the speed limit itself. If you put up a sign that tells Beavis and Butthead they can drive 85 miles-per-hour for the next 40 miles, you know old B & B are going to do 90 or 95. This is especially true since they have to pay a toll of $6.17 for each one-way trip. The revenue from the tolls goes to the highway maintenance contractor but revenue for the town coffers is bound to pick up also. Don’t you just know old Chief Lummus and his deputy, Barney, will be hanging on the side of the road with radar guns at the ready. It will be like going north on I-45 through Ferris and Palmer.

Imagine this. Beavis and Butthead and three doofus friends in the back seat are bombing down State Highway 130 at 90 miles per in a little old Kia Soul and they run into a pack of wild hogs. Do you know what you get? That’s right! Hair, teeth eyeballs, guitars, amps, tusks, pork chops, and “pulled pork with all the fixins” all over the new highway. Traffic will be backed up for miles and all those folks who paid the toll to bypass Austin will be wishing they had stayed on I-35

Chief Lummus says he would like to see more lights, fences, and warning signs added to the highway. The private toll-way company has agreed to use temporary electronic message boards until permanent signs can be installed. There will be two types of signage. Overhead signs will say, “WATCH OUT! WILD HOGS AHEAD NEXT 40 MILES!” Then there will be signs facing the roadside ditches which say, “LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING.”

Speaking of signs, out in Irvine, California, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) want the city to erect a ground-zero type roadside memorial to 1,600 pounds of live saltwater bass that were tragically killed in three-way crash. According to PETA the sign would “...remind drivers that fish value their lives and feel pain.” That sentiment makes me ashamed of the fact I had catfish last night at The Harbor Inn and I’m fixing seafood gumbo today. Yeah, Right!

This whole rant reminds me of that age-old question, “Why did the pig cross the road?” Ooops, I got that wrong — it was “the chicken.”

The Little Woman (almost finished without saying that) and I want to close with a shout-out to two fine Texas folks — Wayne and Pat Christian from Rice. Thanks to Wayne for giving us a fair price for the car we cannot take to Florida and kudos to Pat for putting up with Wayne for 53 years and being a faithful reader of my stuff. Hope you had a great time in Hawaii, Pat.

See ya...


Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: