Ben H. English

Ben.H. English Texas America


“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred…”


The Big Bend country is rife and then overflowing with myths, legends, and mysteries, the kind that shape the land with the spoken word as they are passed down through the generations.

Lost gold and silver mines, ghosts, haunts, strange lights in the sky, sagging old ruins, nameless graves, steers branded ‘murder,’ bodies by the hundreds found in gruesome repose. All combine to tell of a fearsome, unforgiving land.

Most are likely a mere figment of the imagination, few have little brassiere is one that stands alone, in both fact and documentation, and yet remains a continuing puzzle for all.

It is best known as the Mays Massacre.

At the outbreak of war, Confederate troops occupied military sites throughout West Texas. Their missions were multifold, and included keeping the hostile Comanche, Kiowa and Apache placated.

These bastions included recently completed Fort Davis, which was a key outpost in many respects.

In early August of 1861, a Mescalero Apache band under Chief Espejo and Nicolas raided the fort’s beef herd, driving them south. Lieutenant Ruben Mays and fourteen of his men, along with a Mexican guide by the name of Juan Fernandez, took up pursuit.

All of the cavalrymen were from Lavaca County, full of fight and vigor but woefully inexperienced in the art of such.

More so, none knew the country ahead and none had ever dealt with the wily Mescalero.

The all too obvious trail led down Musquiz Canyon, past Cathedral Mountain, through Persimmon Gap, and into the lower Big Bend. Note my choice of words in “all too obvious.”

Ten days following their departure, the Mexican guide Fernandez returned alone with chilling news. The rest of the detail was dead, wiped out by a superior force of Apaches in textbook fashion ambush.

A relief force was sent from the badly undermanned outpost, who found the site and buried what was left of their compatriots. Official dispatches stated that Mays and his men did not go down easy, they fought with tenacity and bravery against the foe for hours.

But the exact location of the fight remains unknown to this day.

Though cloudy in all respects, the one possible site specifically named was the valley below Grapevine Spring. If this is true, then that doomed force from 160 years ago passed right through the lens of my camera at that point.

For this is the creek that leads into that valley and the only way in when mounted.

Ride hard, Sons of Texas. Your destiny awaits just a mile more.

A destiny now enshrouded by time, the elements, and this secretive desert.

God bless to all,

Ben H. English
Alpine, Texas
USMC: 1976-1983
THP: 1986-2008

Author of ‘Yonderings’ (TCU Press)
‘Destiny’s Way’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘The Uvalde Raider’ (Creative Texts Publishers)

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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)