Blowout, Texas: When Bats Caused an Explosion and Named a Town

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Texas is the undisputed king for towns with quirky names. Due to the mixture of different cultures during settlement, along with the bent toward creating tall tales, the Lone Star State is rife with place names that include fabulous stories attached. Bug Tussle and Cut-n-Shoot are just a couple of examples. Blowout, Texas is no exception. The story behind the naming of this town is quite explosive.

Blowout is located in Blanco County, a bit north of Johnson City. This area of the Hill Country is known for its high populations of Mexican free-tailed bats. Many tourists visit the area yearly to see the magnificent sight of bats leaving their caves in the early evening, a vertical stream of living matter ascending into the heavens.

Guano: A Well-Kept Secret

Blowout, Texas: When Bats Caused an Explosion and Named a Town

Photo: @kfmr via Twenty20

These bats live in caves tucked in secret spots all along the Hill Country. While the sight of the bats leaving is breathtaking, the presence of the bats in their caves also brings along with them another interesting natural resource: guano. Guano is the technical term for bat feces, a staple in the gardening and landscaping industries. Guano is a natural fungicide, as well as a fertilizer, and can be used an accelerator for making compost. Guano in some ancient cultures was used as a fire-starter, as it is highly flammable.

But what happens with a couple of million bats living in a small cave with no ventilation near a recently established settlement? The bats defecate, the methane gas from the guano builds… and… BOOM!

Fate and a Lightning Storm

Blowout, Texas: When Bats Caused an Explosion and Named a Town

Photo: @PATRICKBRITT via Twenty20

A group of settlers from Kentucky had been working the land near one of these bat caves. Their current settlement had no name. As the story goes, one night there was a thunderstorm and lightning struck one of the caves, thereby igniting the massive amount of guano sitting inside. An explosion shook the night. Luckily for the residents of the new settlement, the fateful strike of nature gave a name to their town.

Blowout, Texas was born.