Dickinson family peacefully coexists with surrounding nature on the bayou
Along the banks of Magnolia Bayou in Dickinson is a hidden wilderness of trees — jungle-like in places. The bayou begins on the east side of Interstate 45, eventually flowing into Dickinson Bayou at Paul Hopkins Park on FM 517.
Kayakers who have discovered it often think they’ve stumbled upon a secret tributary, yet one family whose yard slopes down to the lushness and natural beauty of these banks have known about it for years.
When Stacey and Bill Henderson bought their Dickinson home in 1997, a wooden fence stretched along the length of the backyard mostly blocking the view of the bayou and woods.
“Bill walked down around the fence and said, ‘Hey, there’s a creek down here,’ and that’s when we started investigating,” Stacey Henderson said. “The banks were totally overgrown, and the bayou was full of old tires, abandoned Christmas trees and other objects, so little by little, we started clearing it out.”
The Hendersons removed the fence and cut branches and several trees on their property line and the yard began to take shape.
Today, a gentle slope of St. Augustine grass has found its way down toward the bayou where palmettos spring up at random and a variety of new trees, along with older ones, sway in the breeze.
The natural beauty of the yard is extraordinary, and has become a respite for critters great and small. Stacey and Bill Henderson’s two children, Makenna and Trevor, have grown up surrounded by nature with their very own science classroom right outside their backdoor.
“From infancy to now, at ages 21 and 18, they have basically lived outdoors,” Stacey Henderson said. “When Trevor was barely 4 years old, we put a life jacket on him and he’d spend his days fishing on the bayou. He caught perch, catfish, alligator gar and snakes. Even our first-born, Makenna, has been outdoorsy since she was little.”
Their half-acre property includes a varied mix of trees and shrubs, including oak, pine, pecan, hackberry, ficus, Mexican plum, vitex, allamanda vines, giant liriope and a towering ligustrum.
Closer to the house, in beds and pots, are roses, hibiscus, vincas, philodendron, gardenias, oleanders, plumerias and an herb garden.
Twelve years ago, they built a man cave/party area on a separate part of the property that includes a spacious outdoor patio with fire pit, grill, smoker and deep fryer.
“Bill likes to barbecue, fry fish and make gumbo out there,” Henderson said.
Outdoor furniture, stacks of wood, an Aggie flag and TV for watching sports are nice additions, but for Stacey Henderson, the ambience of the natural world around her never gets old.
“I see cardinals, egrets, herons, hawks, woodpeckers, ospreys and doves,” she said. “We have two owls that have been coming back here for years. Ducks, armadillos, possums, deer, coyotes, snakes and turtles — they’re part of our environment.”
Their children both have kayaked all the way to Dickinson Bayou many times, Stacey Henderson said.
“They grew up along this bayou and have had so much fun with their friends here,” she said. “We have pictures of them head to toe in mud, because they’d use the slope of land as their slip-and-slide. They had a tire swing and a tree house. They took a canoe out once and put a float behind it, pulling each other all the way to Dickinson Bayou.”
The snakes are part of the habitat and the family is mindful of that.
“We do see water moccasins, copperheads, rat snakes and broad-banded water snakes,” she said. “The latter two aren’t poisonous and it’s cool observing them in the water. It’s like watching National Geographic on television. You might say, we’re snake charmers.”
Stacey Henderson feels privileged to be a part of this private wilderness and often reflects back on the earlier family years, she said.
“Everywhere I look, there are memories of the kids growing up,” she said. “Trevor would run up with a perch on the hook of his fishing pole and it would be one after another. All catch and release. It has taught him how to be kind to animals. If he caught a non-threatening snake, we’d do what we could to get it off the hook. Anytime time we think about retiring and moving, our kids say, ‘No, you can’t ever leave.’”