“You can’t stop what’s coming.”

“You can’t stop what’s coming. It ain’t all waitin’ on you. That’s vanity.”

Those words come from one my favorite movie scenes, at the end of No Country for Old Men.

Sheriff Bell’s Uncle Ellis delivers those lines after Bell has, for nearly the entire two hours of film’s running time, been trying to hold back the ocean by sticking his finger in the proverbial dike.

But unlike the little Dutch boy, Bell ultimately can’t stop what’s coming.

On November 3, 2019, I took a photograph across a fairly freshly plowed cornfield on the Blackland Prairie between Manor and Taylor. The subject of my photograph was St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, which has occupied the spot across that field in the Richland community for almost one hundred and forty years.

Maybe crops have been grown in that field for that long too. I don’t know.

When I posted that photo on the same day, I wrote “It’s hard to believe, but the hustle and bustle of the Austin Metro area is less than five miles to the east. I’d wager that it will be impossible to take this same photo in five years.”

The last photo in the gallery is that photo.

Yesterday, on the way back from Austin, I decided to drive by again. At the time I didn’t realize that it had been four and a half years since I wrote those words. I had to look it up when I got home.

But… you can see in the first two photos that I was correct. You already can’t take that same photo. And by November, there will almost certainly be a crop of houses where corn and other crops grew and the view will be completely obscured.

You can’t stop what’s coming.

This isn’t the first time St. John has been in the crosshairs of development. The congregation’s website links to a scan of an article from the July 10, 2000 edition of the Austin American-Statesman that documents the community’s reaction to a proposal to build a new airport there.

In the wake of the closure of the old Mueller Airport in Austin and the old Austin Executive Airpark in 1999, many small planes had been displaced. Austin-Bergstrom didn’t have the same general aviation facilities that Mueller and the old Airpark had, and there was a real need for another airport to serve them (see Austin Executive Airport: A History of Austin’s Newest General Aviation Airport, pp. 65-66).

The runway of the proposed replacement airport would have ended a little west of where the church stands. In fact, the first photo in the gallery was taken from a position that would have been smack in the middle of the runway just a few hundred feet from its southern end.

St. John and the Richland dodged that bullet, and ultimately the former Bird’s Nest Airport in Manor was purchased, expanded, and re-opened as Austin Executive Airport (by different folks – the aforementioned Austin Executive Airport book contains extensive details).

But you can’t stop what’s coming.

That wasn’t the Richland community’s first brush with an airport. Before Austin-Bergstrom, back in 1987, there was a plan to replace Mueller with an airport in Manor. St. John would have been a mile or so from that airport’s runway.

They dodged that bullet too.

But you can’t stop what’s coming.

Ultimately, the SH 130 toll road, located a few miles west of St. John, played a big part in making the Austin Executive Airport possible. It also brought some of the growth to Pflugerville and Hutto that is spreading eastward toward Richland and St. John. The new Samsung plant in Taylor (which is swallowing up its own share of the Blackland Prairie) undoubtedly is bringing some of that growth too.

You can’t stop what’s coming.

This time, St. John and Richland won’t dodge the bullet. That pastoral view across the freshly-plowed field is going away. Traffic will undoubtedly crown Cameron Road, which passes in front of the church, as well as the other roads in the area.

You can’t stop what’s coming.

Marvin Hamann, who farmed some of the land that would have been affected by the airport that is the primary subject of the Austin American-Statesman article, is quoted in that article as saying “How many people can I feed with this land for years and years? They just want to fill it with concrete.”

No, you can’t stop what’s coming.

And I sure can’t stop what’s coming. I’m just a nostalgic transplant with a camera, a love for history, and a few digital outlets where I post my photos and ramblings.

It ain’t all waitin’ on me. That’s vanity.

But I can document it before it’s gone. Maybe that isn’t vanity. And fifty or a hundred years hence, if He has not returned in clouds descending, maybe there will be a little bit more in the historical record that shows what was before the land was filled with concrete.

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