Texas: Grapevine Lake

December morning at Katie’s Woods, Grapevine Lake.

Grapevine Lake is an artificial reservoir in the Trinity River basin northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The lake lies in north Grapevine near the border of Denton County and Tarrant County on Denton Creek, a tributary of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. The reservoir, which was built for flood control, is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1945 the federal government authorized the lake to tame Denton Creek, which overflowed every spring. And so the condemning of land began—some 12,000 acres. Where the lake now stands once dairy and produce farms flourished. As one historian recalled, people were angry and suspicious, but they had no choice. They said it was progress. Some residents had lived on Denton Creek all their lives and it pained them to see their homes moved, most to the neighboring town of Grapevine. 

Construction of the lake began in March 1945 with the 12,850-foot dam started in January 1948. Both the dam and lake were completed in 1952 at a cost of $11.8 million. 

Locals were told that it would take 10 years for the lake to fill, but as the locals predicted, it filled during the first big rain. After all, the bottomlands reside in the Trinity River floodplain. 

Sailboats on a cloudy October day at Grapevine Lake.

In fact, the lake filled so fast that after 62 years pieces of machinery still rest undisturbed at the bottom of the lake: a mammoth gravel washer and a towering conveyor, as well as a tractor and two dump trucks.

The towns that surround Grapevine Lake are Grapevine, Southlake, Trophy Club, Roanoke, and Flower Mound, but only three municipalities have water rights to the lake: the city of Grapevine, the city of Dallas, and the Dallas County Park Cities—Highland Park and University Park.

Not only is Lake Grapevine a water source for the above mentioned cities, it is also a recreational wonderland. Learn more: Grapevine Parks and Recreation Master Plan. 

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Texas: Keller, Part 2

Fort Worth on the Trinity River

Keller, Texas, located in the Eastern Cross Timbers region, is on U.S. Highway 377 approximately fifteen miles north of Fort Worth in northeast Tarrant County. The town was settled in the early 1850s, although some pioneers had come to the area prior to this date. One of the earlier settlers was Daniel Barcroft who founded Mount Gilead Baptist Church in 1852. One street near the church is named after him, but was misspelled and reads Bancroft Road.

In 1879, rumors spread that the Texas and Pacific Railway planned to push into the northern district of the county prompting more pioneers to gravitate to the region to be close to the railway route. They called their settlement Athol.

Hoping to have a permanent stop on the line, and supposedly at the urging of a Texas Pacific official named Keller, the settlers agreed to name their town Keller if Athol became a stop on the rail line. Evidently, Athol got their whistle-stop. In 1882 the town abstracts show the town as Keller.

Earlier settlers described the Cross Timbers region as being a dense forest of oaks, so impenetrable that they could not pass on horseback without felling some trees. Here the new Texans built homes, grew their gardens, raised peaches and pears, and—hogs—for the area had a plentiful supply of acorns from all the oak trees. Grapevines grew wild and profuse and the close proximity of the Trinity River supplied them with game, but more importantly the water source they needed for cattle raising and farming. 

Today, those early pioneers have long departed this earth, but I have to wonder, did they leave behind a feral legacy? You decide: Southlake Feral Hog Population

Side note: At 710 miles long, the Trinity is the longest river that flows exclusively in the state of Texas. Its four branches include the West Fork, Clear Fork, Elm Fork and East Fork.

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Texas: Keller, Part 1

The reason for these forthcoming series of blog posts is to introduce our readers to the “live locations” for particular scenes in our fourth thriller—CLON-X.

In chapter one, the setting is Bear Creek Park in Keller, Texas. It’s here that Bullet finds a canvas sack submerged in the water. 

When I moved to Texas in the fall of 1990 I had heard that Keller had a great trail system, but back then I wasn’t interest in biking or hiking. Instead, I had my sights focused on setting up house, landscaping our new yard, and most of all, planting a vegetable garden. 

That changed, and in a big way, after we bought our first giant schnauzer—Shotz. An exuberant bundle of nonstop energy, the feisty three-month old wore me out day after day. “Don’t worry,” some dog owners reassured, “she’ll calm down as she ages.” Truth be told, she did, soon after her fourteenth birthday. Granted, none of this advice had come from giant schnauzer owners. They, on the other hand, chuckled and wished me good luck. 

It soon became apparent that I had to channel Shotz’s boundless energy into something more productive; otherwise, my working pup would find her own tasks to keep herself busy, some that would definitely test my patience. I had bonded deeply with my mischievous kid and my idle threats of returning her to the breeder fell on deaf ears. She was more interested in getting into trouble than worrying about a return trip to Northern California where she had been bred. 

By now, the house was comfortably habitable, the yard landscaped, and my vegetable garden thriving. So, lo and behold, I had a brilliant idea for wearing her out besides watching her swim in the backyard pool to amuse herself. Time to check out Keller’s trail system, a pleasant change for her and for me, because every once in a while writers need to leave their computers to exercise their bodies rather than their minds. 

It was on one of these four-mile long walks that Shotz discovered a trash bag bobbing in Bear Creek and book four of the Darcy McClain and Bullet Series—CLON-X—was born. 

These daily hikes also fueled my brain cells and from them the literary juices flowed; seeding plots for current and future novels in my thriller series. At the time of these most recent walks I was  already well over a hundred pages into Gadgets and it dawned on me that my main character, Darcy McClain, should have a canine partner. Great idea, but like most great ideas, they often come with major challenges, as did this one. 

Although the two previous books in the series—Brainwash and Genocide—had not been released for sale, the thought of reworking them to incorporate a canine partner for Darcy meant extensive rewrites of both thrillers. The thought alone put my brain on overload. But I knew that as much as I fought the addition of a full-time canine, I’d end up losing the battle, so the rewrites began. Adding Bullet, I later discovered, transformed the entire series and in a key way. Going forward, from CLON-X on, he has played a significant role in shaping the plotlines. 

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