"Snake," said Lonnie. It was about four feet long, black, possibly a water moccasin. It slid off some exposed roots into the pool we were wading in. But not to attack. It went to the bottom in the deepest part and coiled there. It wanted to hide, but it was plainly visible. Later I learned from a Golden Nature Guide that this is typical behavior of a harmless, black water snake. It would have been interesting to see how long it could stay submerged. But we were dry-mouthed and eager to move on. We had forgotten one canteen at home and had gone waterless all afternoon.
The highway bridge where we'd left Lonnie's Jeep appeared. Every few minutes a car streaked across it, its tires thumping on the expansion joints. After the quiet day, the speed of automobiles seemed unnatural and a little crazy. Nowhere in the 10 miles of canyon had we seen another person.
Twenty-five miles to the east, the city of Waco grows and annexes chunks of McLennan County: 52,800 city dwellers in 1930, 101.261 in 1980. Interstate 35 roars through town six lanes wide. Many of Waco's residents don't know or care about the quiet canyon in the far corner of the county, where little has changed since World War II.
In a way, the canyon defends itself. Clearing its woods and brambles is expensive. Fences and deer blinds are about all that can be built there. Floods are inevitable. One could dam the river and make a long, narrow lake, with beer cans on the bottom and water skiers on top. But Texas is perhaps oversupplied with such "impoundments," as these artificial lakes are called. The Middle Bosque seems safe for a while. Ducks can continue to feed in its pools in winter, warblers can rest in its treetops in spring.
Between us and the bridge, the great blue heron I'd been looking for all day rose from some shallows without a sound. Slowly, patiently beating its enormous wings, it flew under the bridge and on down the Middle Bosque, to a pool where we wouldn't disturb it. We climbed out of the canyon, walked a final mile along Highway 317 to Crawford and bought ourselves a soft drink from a machine.