While the ranch and the beautiful creek that runs through it will give you peace, beauty, privacy, and, eventually, a powerful sense of home, applicants must understand that it IS the country—which means rattlesnakes, coyotes, scorpions, skunks, fire ants, chiggers, lizards, wasps, horse flies, ticks, spiders, water moccasins, wild turkeys and other creatures with whom you share the land. It means keeping a watchful eye on stinging and even poisonous plants. It also means weekly driving out your trash to the main gate a mile and a half away. The mailbox is another one-half mile down the road. In the rainy season, the low-water crossing can quickly flood, leaving you stranded—sometimes for three or four days. We have an emergency escape route that requires a rough ride on a four-wheeler IF the rancher next to us is home and available. You must remain alert when walking around the ranch. You’ll be warned not to be surprised if you occasionally find a scorpion easing across the floor or hiding in the sink drain. Don’t be surprised at seeing a four-foot rat snake sharing the veranda or a rattlesnake sunning on the road. Don’t be surprised at the closeness of the coyote howls at dusk. In short, be prepared to be surprised—at the special joy that awaits you every day, and yet the possible dangers and inconveniences that, in the end, are an essential part of Paisano. Be honest with yourself. Rural life is not for everyone.
Applicants with School Age Children
Sadly, those with school-age children will have to take into consideration not only these but also the facts of daily life. It is not easy to rush out of the ranch. The daily journey to and from school requires slow and careful driving for two miles over a gravel road and the unlocking and locking of two gates. If we’ve had heavy rain, the road can quickly become rutted and the low-water crossing can overflow, which means there may be no way out of the ranch or no way back in on a return trip. Moreover, once you’re out of the ranch, the route to school, especially any school in Austin, is usually slowed to a crawl, morning and afternoon. At peak times, the journey can easily take an hour or more. School-age children are certainly allowed, of course. We just must make sure the writer understands the obstacles and risks and the willingness to accept them. If you do intend to live with school-age children, we ask that you provide us with your plan to make this work.
Odds and Ends
Of course, it’s only normal for a fellow to want to show, even share, the ranch with others. While visitors are welcomed (with the approval of the director), we ask the fellow to keep in mind at all times that the ranch is a place to work. It is not a place to party or to receive guests over a sustained period. The fellow is asked to sign a more detailed agreement about how the house and ranch is (and is not) to be used. To not meet those guidelines is grounds of revocation of the fellowship.
Absence from the Ranch
The Paisano fellowship is awarded with the understanding that the fellow will live at the ranch full time. The condition of the monthly stipend requires continuous, not continual, residency. If you must be away from the ranch more than a few days, the writer must notify the University police and the Director. You may not have a friend stay at the ranch in your absence unless that friend has been approved by the Director and gone through a University background check.
Dogs are allowed at the ranch, but the Fellow assumes all responsibility for any damage that may result from their presence. Because of past experience, cats are not allowed. One can petition the director for an exception, but exceptions are rare.
While we have fairly reliable satellite Internet service and good cell-phone connections for most carriers, sometimes, due to weather or circumstances beyond our control, Internet service may be slow or only periodic and some cell-phone carriers require a trip to the front porch to receive service.