The wild fires that scorched Central Texas have finally begun to subside, but they left an indelible mark across a landscape that had previously been among the Lone Star State's greenest. In Bastrop, long known for the "lost pines" that surprisingly pop up in its sandy forest, many find themselves without homes, trying to start life anew while also continuing with their daily obligations. Meanwhile, 22 of their fellow citizens remain unaccounted for.
Eleven of those who lost homes in the town are intimately connected with the Bastrop (Texas) High football program, which canceled its game on Sept. 9 as the town continued to wrestle with the blazes cutting through it. Head coach Gerald Perry's home burned down, as did the dwellings of 10 of his players. Now, just days removed from working to escape that trauma, the Bastrop Bears are preparing for another faceoff against a Central Texas foe, with a Thursday night home game against San Marcos (Texas) High scheduled to go ahead as planned.
As noted by Austin American-Statesman columnist Kevin Robbins, the game will be played at Bastrop's Memorial Stadium. If ever there was a fitting name for a particular game's venue, that would seem to be it.
"It's going to be electric," Bastrop assistant football coach Brian Miller told the Statesman.
"I bet it'll be packed," Perry told the Statesman.
To understand what the game will mean to Perry and his players is to understand what they lost. Like countless other Central Texas families, the Bastrop 11 now find themselves trying to re-invent every part of their everyday existence. Most lost nearly all their belongings. In total, some 1,400 houses burned down in Bastrop.
Schools in Bastrop only restarted on Monday after a week off, providing a respite from the trauma that each affected family with a student athlete was suffering through, trying to find new places to stay while their homes were imperiled.
For that reason, Perry insisted that his players wanted to get back on the field as soon as possible. On Friday, he said they would rather be playing than be forced into a week of rest.
Now, after another week of pent-up emotions, Bastrop will enter a football field to fight for a game, something far less important than their families' security and livelihood.
Yet, in a way, the game will be just as important, as it serves to further unify a community that has been soldered together in the crucible of tragedy in a way that only truly tragically affected towns can.
"I hope it's the tie that brings everybody together," Bastrop linebackers coach Stuart Pearson told the Statesman.