RUBY SINGS IN THE MORNING NOW



            The crash and rumble of the ball mill has been silent for nearly a century, and the once bustling town is being reclaimed by native vegetation and wildlife. Ruby sings in the morning now. As a cool morning breeze turns into an unseasonably warm winter day, flycatchers (Pyrocephalus obscura) dart from oak branches, and mexican ducks (Anas diazi) make ripples on the serene surface of Town Lake. Mining is one of the most prominent threads woven into the tapestry of land use here in the Atascosas. Evidence of its impact on the local environment can be seen in the thousands of mine claims across the Highlands and in the unstable pits and discolored piles of tailings that dot the hills. The old abandoned cars and dilapidated buildings of long gone wildcatters sit silent, mangled by bullet holes and worn to ruin by time and the elements. In trying to understand the effects of industrial activity on the Atascosa Highlands, a look at Ruby can provide a sense of the many ways in which a landscape can be irrevocably damaged, and the more subtle ways in which an environment is capable of recovering.