About 17 miles south of downtown San Antonio, still in Bexar County, lies pastoral Elmendorf. I first came to Elmendorf in 1960 when my dad decided to move out of Highland Hills. My great-grandfather lived a few miles from this farm back in the 1930s, so my dad was familiar with the area. He was able to buy land from lawyers who had seized it from the Tarin family in the 1930s.
Dad was trying to make a little side money growing crops and raising cattle. He invested in purchasing adjacent property, including the land I now live on. My wife and I lived in apartments for a time after we first married but were enticed by my father’s offer to carve out two acres for us. We moved out here next to my folks, where we raised three sons.
What I have always liked about living in the country was the peace and quiet. When I was a kid, there were very few children my age out here. Because the East Central ISD was decertified over segregation and other matters of the day, I went on a bus with other children from our church to Saint Cecilia’s Catholic School miles away.
Here on the farm I learned to milk a cow, fix a tractor, chase cattle, basic animal husbandry, and how to drive a grain truck and a tractor in the field. I could fix fences and knew what to feed animals and when. I would climb on top of a shed at night and count stars. While isolated, which I didn’t appreciate much at the time, it was wholesome.
I worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company from 1974 until 2015. That was a hectic job, which had me working virtually every neighborhood in Bexar County. I was always happy to return to the calm of my country home at the end of the day.
For years the City of Elmendorf was a nearby entity that oversaw the providing of community water, as far as I was concerned. My dad had helped form the water system decades ago, but the City had since taken over. My neighbors had little interest in belonging to the city because it was not doing anything all that important for them. As for me, local politics of the sleepy little town were of no interest, since I was not initially in its city limits. Even the church I belong to – St. Anthony’s Catholic Church – which is in the city limits, seems little affected.
When I built my house here in 1978, the construction permits to allow me to hook up electricity came from the City of San Antonio. Elmendorf was just some bumbling matter down the street where interesting news came from, such as the time the whole city council was in trouble for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Around 2010 things began to change, but I paid scant notice. My sons went off to college in Austin and San Marcos and mostly didn’t come back. One son lived with us for a time, but he made it clear it was only until he could find a place more to his liking. He wanted something other than “way out here.”
The western part of Elmendorf expanded with a few dozen – mostly manufactured – new homes. My sons had friends that lived there, but I still paid little attention. We mostly went down the long lane, and turned left, away from Elmendorf. I liked it like that just fine.
In late 2015, my property was annexed by the City of Elmendorf. Now retired, I started to pay more attention to this entity that swallowed me up and was costing me about $700 more in taxes while providing me nearly nothing in exchange. I began going to city council meetings regularly and discovered that the apathy of most citizens was incredible.
There are a number of reasons for that – just the trouble of being frisked every time you attend a meeting might be some of it. Most folks out here are leery of getting stopped for any kind of traffic violation, as the fines are expensive. And I sense a simmering disinterest and indifference among many of the folks I have known through my church.
I now sit on the Planning and Zoning Commission and on a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone board. This gives me some insight into the nuts and bolts of change out here. Just recently, a new housing development was announced on the southern edge of the town that will transform this area greatly if it all works out. Elmendorf Ranch will eventually have 3,400 units, making Elmendorf roughly the size of Floresville.
Having seen Stone Oak grow from a disused farm to a small city when I worked for the telephone company, I know what is coming. There will be cars, people, and a transformation of expectations as far as the little municipality is concerned. Life as it is now will likely change. Some conveniences may migrate out here, but the future is not always what one envisions. Much remains to play out.