Hill Country

The Path to Power, the first volume in Robert A. Caro's series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, spends a fair amount of time describing the land where LBJ was raised, the Texas Hill Country. This fascinating land stands at the crossroads of West, Central, and South Texas. It was once a land of opportunity, but overgrazing in the 19th Century, combined with the constant threat of Native American attack, made it a somewhat desolate place. Residents of the Texas Hill Country were, to say the least, tough. The women were especially strong. Caro describes the brutal nature of household chores: lugging water for miles; hauling wood and then chopping it for the stove, which was extremely difficult to light; ironing shirts with twenty pound iron wedges, literally, without handles; and so on. So arduous was their lifestyle, Texas Hill Country women were noted for their bent-over posture. These figures were heroic, if not saintly.

“During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah where she entered the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth” (Lk 1:39-40). I have never been to the Texas Hill Country, but I have been to the Judean one. And I don't know any specific Texas Hill Country women, but I do know Mary and Elizabeth. I also know some Hill Country Men: Joseph Bar Jacob and his son, Jesus. Texas may be far geographically from Judah, but, at least up until the middle of the 20th Century, the two were fairly close. The Hill Country was without electricity for the longest time—one thing Congressman Johnson helped fix. We do not give Mary and Elizabeth credit for how strong they were. They were heroic, like the Texas Hill Country women.

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