In Eagle Ford shale play, a changing role for South Texas, residents
GONZALES — To the naked eye, life here, in the heart of a historic, innovative energy boom, appears little different from what it might have been even a half-dozen years ago. But in ways small and large, the influx of money and people mostly men is changing life in Gonzales.
This is the face of a central portion of the Eagle Ford shale play, which stretches roughly 50 miles wide and 400 miles long in a sweep across some of South Texas' historically poorest counties. The last drilling boom-and-bust in these parts ended in the 1980s. Now, with the innovation of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the natural gas fields are reopened.
The gas boom could not have been better timed, saving many in these rural counties from the harsh drought that choked much of Texas. The land in Gonzales, long the setting for hard lives tending cattle and poultry, has given rise to stories of ranchers getting rich as quickly as it has given rise to the natural gas flares that illuminate a clear Texas night. There's the tale of the elderly woman who made her way to a bank in nearby Shiner to cash her first royalty check from the company drilling beneath her land.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," the teller told her after inspecting the check. "I can't cash that."