Law Man Walking: Nature Treks With Bill Holston

Get out there, people, and see wild Dallas.

Photo of the author by Ben Sandifer
Photo of the author by Ben Sandifer

What music really moves you? For me, it is the blues, and particularly acoustic blues. I’m a sucker for the raw emotion of the lyrics. I get lost in the ragged sound of slide guitar. Saturday I was driving down to meet my friends Scott and Elizabeth at River Oaks Park. Our goal was Lemmon Lake. I was listening to the album God Don’t Ever Change, a collection of artists covering the great bluesman Blind Willie Johnson. I have three versions of “John the Revelator” on my iPhone. Don’t you? As I drove south across the Trinity River, the sun began to lighten the sky. Sinead O’Connor sang “Trouble Will Soon Be Over,” which I took as a hopeful prayer this election season.

We hit the trail after administering bug spray. You know, West Nile et al. We walked out through knee-high brush, headed to a row of trees that would shield us from view. We could see birds standing in the water, but we couldn’t see them clearly in the pre-dawn. We stood for a while, and soon flocks of white ibis and great blue herons flew over. One large group of wood storks soared high overhead, which was a promising sight.

We decided to make our way to the other end of the lake, because often that is where the birds shelter. We made our way through thick brush and walked to a small, hard-to-find side trail. Soon we were walking along an elevated area. My buddy Scott grabbed my arm and said, “Look!” There were four coyotes running around out on the dry lake bed. We occasionally see a single or pair of coyotes, but this was the first time I had ever seen four together. Not only that, they weren’t running away. We were far enough away not to spook them and were sheltered by trees and brush. Consequently we got to watch them chase each other around for quite some time. They were watching great blue herons. Eventually one waded across the shallow water and trotted out of sight. This is one of the things I love about these walks. There is always something different, unexpected, and thrilling. Ben and Carrie were at a birding class, so I texted him to tell him about it.

We continued to walk quietly, hoping to see some Wood Storks or Spoonbills close up. There were hundreds fewer birds this week than last week. We speculated on the reason. Perhaps they had fished out the waters. Perhaps they felt unwelcome by our state, given government antipathy to migrants. But we still saw small groups of wood storks flying over. We stopped and dropped down to the edge of the water. We sat and took a water break. A group of about five wood storks landed in a tall tree and perched there for us to watch. Its 5-foot wingspan presents an impressive sight. We sat talking and enjoying the slight breeze. We noticed the large snout of a Snapping Turtle break the surface of the water as it checked us out.

It was nice to get out in the woods. This was an interesting week. Our governor announced Texas would withdraw from the refugee resettlement program. This despite the fact we have been a leader in this carefully administered program for 40 years. It is likely that refuge agencies will find a workaround, but this heartless action is contrary to the welcoming spirit of most Texans I know. The action is embarrassing to us as a state and has been widely condemned, including by the Texas Episcopal Bishops, among others.

But in the same week, we enjoyed North Texas Giving Day. This is a wonderful reflection of our community. Our community donated $37 million to more than 2,500 charities. I watched all day as people donated to Human Rights Initiative. I watched as so many of my friends supported our work with migrants. I saw friends who are journalists, musicians, photographers, professors, lawyers, pastors, law school friends, widows of law school classmates, and bartenders I know make generous gifts. (The fact that there are pastors and bartenders on that list tells you a little about me.) It was just so encouraging! That generosity of spirit is the Texas I love. I sometimes feel that we live in a dark time. Like that pre-dawn darkness that obscured our view of Herons, we could use a little light. Those donations, and the wide support our agency as well as others received — well, it’s a light in a dark time. I need to remember that. Or, in the timeless words of Blind Willie Johnson: “(S)hine on, let it shine on, let the light from the lighthouse shine on me.”


  • Kristi Kerr Leonard

    Inspiring story Bill. Thank you.