Idylls of the Range: A Tale of Old Lago Vista, Texas

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Most of us have a notion of what a small town is like — a place with a population of around 2,000, like Mayberry, North Carolina for instance. But during the 1970s I knew a small town named Lago Vista… with a population of 900. A place where everyone truly knew your name and what you were up to. A place without a U.S. Post Office. A place where the “high school” was located in the Highland Lakes Country Club, with a graduating class of 3. But I’ve jumped ahead here. Let’s jump back a ways.

Somewhere in the ancient mists of the 1960s Hill Country, a large northern company named National Homes got the brilliant idea that if they built resorts, home-buyers would come. And they weren’t wrong, to an extent. Despite its eventual incorporation as a city, Lago Vista remains a somewhat open range even today.

Back then, a branch of this northern home builder that I personally worked for was called National Resort Communities (NRC), and “we built this city” as the lyric goes. I politely call them “northern” now because back then anyone north of Hwy. 183 was a “Yankee.” NRC swept into this bend of Lake Travis like Sherman conquering Georgia (who coincidentally was responsible for why many of the locals I met lived out there; their ancestors having fled Georgia after the Civil War). Only instead of burning everything down, these 20th century Yankees sought to build everything up.

Idylls of the Range: A Tale of Old Lago Vista, Texas
Photo: Facebook/City of Lago Vista

The flash influx of corporate fat-cats, mixed with wealthy retirees, local blue collars, hippies, rock ‘n’ rollers escaping the big city, and full-blooded cedar choppers made for a true people-gumbo that demographers were hard-pressed to categorize. I met country folk whose bodies were fully saturated in the land—its rivers and creeks running through their veins. I befriended golf pros and retirees, ranchers and tractor masters, “long-hairs” (as we were called), and people who actually chopped cedar for a living. I met black and white families with lineages so ancient that both had the same, very European last names—the one having owned the other once upon a time.

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