“And then we Danced”
Catherine Eaves July 2021
Bianca slowly opened one eye as she sleepily scanned the surroundings of her room and squinted at the intruding rays of sunlight beginning to stream into the adobe house. Realizing that she was already late with her chores, she quickly swung her long, thin legs out of the bed. Her feet barely hit the floor and she was dressed and eager to start the day. Tonight, there would be dancing at the rock circle on top of the hill. Grabbing a few bites of some canned fruit and securing her long dark hair into a bun she was out of the door in no time. She had plenty to do with taking care of the chickens, goats, sheep, and the family’s two milk cows. She also had to tend to the food crops, scooping down to pull the weeds with her bare hands and checking them for pests before going to school. Not far in the distance was Poppa Joe and Sally Humphrey’s house, which also served as the local school. Sally Humphrey was a natural beauty with dark, dancing eyes that were lit with the brightest of light from within. She was a kind woman who loved children, although very strict in the classroom. She expected her pupil’s full attention and dedication as they went through their daily lessons.
Days were long and often hot as the sun beat down on everything below. Life was not easy, nor for the fainthearted, in Terlingua del Abajo in 1905. Survival was day to-day. Disease, drought, famine, and death were part of daily life. Being bone tired was the normal human condition for the villagers and for Bianca, a dark-haired, green-eyed beauty.
Occasionally there was a respite from the struggles of living, some time to enjoy the simple fact that she was alive. Tonight would be one of those times. Everyone from the surrounding area would hurry home at the end of the day. Washing their faces and combing their hair they would quiver with excitement. Donning their best Sunday dress they hurried to the rock circle, a Threshing Circle or Arrastra, where stalks of grains would be placed around the outer part of the circle and mules or donkeys would be walked around the circle to loosen the grain from the stalk. But tonight, it was a place of celebration, a place to socialize and dance. A place to rejoice that they are alive, they are survivors. Bianca had her eye on a handsome, strong young man with dark soulful eyes a few years her senior for some time now. She hoped that this young man, Roberto, would ask her to dance. As her favorite song, the Blue Waltz filled the cooling, clear air and reverberated on the starry sky above he walked toward her, her green eyes gleaming with anticipation.
Roberto asked if he could have this dance. She was so excited, she felt as though her soul left her body. With Santa Elena Canyon in the distance, they danced. In her later years, Bianca fondly recalled this day with glimmering eyes to her great-grandchildren. “This was when your great grandfather and I fell in love. Life was hard and filled with sorrows, we struggled to survive and then we danced.”
The photos below are on an adventure led by Ben English at the beginning of June 2021. My dear friends, Cheryl and Art Hailes and I had the pleasure of visiting Terlingua del Abajo with Ben. As we walked in 105-degree heat to the site of the Humphrey School I couldn’t stop thinking about the people who lived here over 100 years ago. Cheryl and I kept lagging behind Ben and Art as we would stop so that we could take it all in. The story is fictional, a depiction of where my imagination took me although the Humphrey’s and their school are real. I spent many hours researching the area and trying to find as much information on Joe (Poppa) and Sally Humphrey as I could. I couldn’t locate much on them other than they reported seeing the Marfa Lights in the late 1800s and they lived in Terlingua del Abajo from 1903-1919. Sally taught school out of her house which you now see in ruins in the photo below.