A Fine Romance

img_0408When Jon worked on the real estate sections at The Dallas Morning News, he often had to deal with “romance” copy — content written by realtors to evoke emotion and speak to the dreams and aspirations of their target market. You’ve probably read “romance” copy in some form or fashion.

Here’s the romance copy for Clear Lake Park, where we stayed over the weekend:

“Clear Lake Campground has a prime location on the shores of Lavon Lake. It is the only shaded campground at the lake, and provides a quiet space for anglers, bird watchers and photographers. The park is just northeast of Dallas, Texas, and just east of the Southfork Ranch, where the hit TV series, Dallas, was filmed. Grassy flat fields and leafy shade trees cover the campground. The Lavon Lake spans 21,400 acres and stems from the East Fork of the Trinity River. Visitors of all ages enjoy outdoor opportunities like fishing, boating, hiking, and picnicking. Anglers often find channel catfish, crappie, striped bass and hybrid bass. The Clear Lake Campground offers 23 sites with water, sewer and electric hookups. Hot showers, a boat ramp and fishing dock are also available. The nearby town of Wylie is home to a wildlife rescue and education center. Visitors can see lions, leopards, cougars, bobcats and more.”

Sound dreamy? The reality was more of a nightmare.

Here’s what some other website dedicated to area lakes had to say about it:

“Clear Lake Park is a beautiful multi-use park located on the northern end of Lake Lavon near Princeton, Texas. This park is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The park includes camp sites, RV sites, day-use area, and a boat ramp. If you are looking for a nice place to camp that is out of the way, has lots of trees, and is right on the lake, this is a great spot to go.”

Again, this “romance” copy is so far removed from reality that it seems to be describing a campsite in an alternate universe.

We stayed at this same park a few years ago, when lake levels were at historic lows. Now that the drought was over and the lake level had returned to normal, we thought we might see a few improvements.

No such luck. The roads were crumbling and rutted, the campsites nearest the lake were bereft of trees, the toilets were inoperable, and the historic cemetery (one of the only noteworthy features) was overgrown and dilapidated. We had arranged for Cliff’s sister to join us at dinner on Saturday for her first experience of Cloud 9, but we cancelled because we couldn’t bear to expose her to this sad campsite.

It’s unfortunate because the park has an ideal footprint along Lake Lavon. The 1-acre cemetery, with graves dating to the 1880s, is situated in a grove of large trees on a small hill overlooking the lake. Although most of the village of Clear Lake is now under Lake Lavon, the area’s rich history could draw campers from throughout the region. Perhaps one problem with the park is the fact that it’s closed from September 30 through April 1 for “winter.”

Winter? When was the last time North Texas had a winter that lasted six months?

Of particular interest are the bois d’arc trees throughout the area. French for “wood of the bow,” these trees produce a fruit that is known as the Osage orange, or horse apple (the fruit is actually neither apple nor orange but part of the mulberry family). The tree got its name from the fact that its tough wood was used almost exclusively for making bows.

When planted closely together, bois d’arc trees grow into a dense, nearly impenetrable barrier, which served the pioneers as fences long before the production of barbed wire. With the wire, the trees provided the fence posts. A special short-point staple had to be designed to hold the wire to the posts because regular fasteners wouldn’t penetrate the wood. The tough, yellow-orange wood was impervious to rot and would often outlast the wire stapled to it.

The wood was so dense and durable that many places, including Dallas, once had streets paved with bois d’arc blocks produced in Clear Lake. The town also produced bois d’arc machinery parts, grave markers (a few of which are in the cemetery), insulator pins and pulley blocks.

Today, just as steel posts, concrete pavers and composite bows have made bois d’arc obsolete, the Army Corps of Engineers has allowed a little gem along Lake Lavon to decay into obsolescence. A fine romance.