Ben H. English




I suppose due to more than one influence, perhaps even being in my genes, is to always be on the lookout for reliable water sources. Wandering along in my usual zig-zag, meandering sort of a desert waltz, my cadence and timing is determined by the discovery of the liquid gold this lonesome land hides so well.

And that is always followed by a very personal feeling of joy.

On this day I was working both banks of the upper reaches of Tornillo Creek, which ultimately runs beyond the park boundary and into private land northeast of the Paint Gap Hills. Back and forth I prowled, sometimes a half mile to either side and other times along the creek bed itself, cutting for a sign.

Some people have asked me what I mean by saying ‘cutting for sign.’ Much like in other long-time ranching and pioneer families of Texas, this means searching for tell-tale indicators that give hints as to what you might be looking for; be it livestock, wild game, predators, hiding places or perhaps even another man.

In this country, all will sooner or later lead you to that same liquid gold, as well as other places where both man or animal have dwelled since time immemorial.

Doing so on this one journey alone allowed me to find seeps, tinajas, waterholes, rotting remnants of fence lines, near gone corrals and still rutted wagon roads, as well as shelters, predator lairs and Indian campsites. All interconnected by those same tell-tale indicators, as both man and beast are creatures of much the same habits and needs.

Yet it was late in the evening, as I was easing along back to my vehicle, that several of these signs all came together and I knew there was a good deal of reliable water nearby.

By that hour the physical strain of the day was upon me, beads of sweat running down a dirty face, shoulders rubbed raw and aching from the pack, legs bandy with little of their spring left from the morning, and two feet that would need fresh socks soon or they would surely blister.

But the rotting corral, the gathering tracks of wildlife, the peculiar outside bend in the creek bed itself and the solitary cottonwood made me forget my heretofore discomfort altogether. Changing my course to a now near direct line, I followed the growing game trail in and out of the badly eroded dirt creek banks.

Dropping off into the creek one last time, I came to what you see in the photo.
And the liquid gold of the desert, mixed with the golden rays of the setting sun, revealed its singular, life-sustaining presence.

Followed by that very personal, singular feeling of inexplicable joy.

God bless to all,

Ben H. English
Alpine, Texas
USMC: 1976-1983
THP: 1986-2008
Teacher: 2008-2010
Author: 2016-Present

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‘Graying but still game’

By Peace Truth

Life is like a bunch of roses. Some sparkle like raindrops. Some fade when there's no sun. Some just fade away in time. Some dance in many colors. Some drop with hanging wings. Some make you fall in love. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Life you can be sure of, you will not get out ALIVE.(sorry about that)