A century and a half ago, Central Texas was a mosaic of grasses, some patches of trees and some sizable forested acreage, maintained in approximate proportions by fires every five to seven years.If I recall correctly, Texas folklorist and writer J. Frank Dobie (1888-1964) told a similar story about an experience he had when riding as a young man (on his family ranch?) in southern Texas.
A visitor today sees a wooded terrain, with dense junipers covering many hillsides and homes tucked among the trees. Fire is seen now only as the enemy in those places -- understandably, since a bad fire could be a disaster for people.
He decided to take a break, so he tied his horse to a mesquite. Then he looked and saw an old iron picket pin in the ground nearby, left by some nineteenth-century cowboy or cavalry trooper.
And it occurred to him that only a short time earlier that spot must have been all grassland, for only then would a rider have needed to drive the pin in order to tether his horse. Ecological change in just two generations or so.