THE STORY BEHIND THE PHOTO:
“Purple light in the canyons,
That’s where I long to be;
With my three good companions,
Just my rifle, my pony and me…”
It’s strange how our minds and memories play tricks on us, especially as we grow older. A time, a place, a scent or a shadow, can suddenly send both spinning back fifty years or more in the twinkling of an eye. For the briefest of moments, we become again who we were all those years ago.
Sometimes a trial of rancor, fear and even terror; others of challenge, triumph and glory. Then there are a few of pure joy and inner peace, the kind that makes a man well up inside and brings a tear of emotion, though one may never admit to it.
And so it was on this evening, at this moment, as I ambled my way along a mesita between two large arroyos, just north of Tule Mountain. The sun was setting in the west and the changing of the surrounding guard was occurring, when the desert moves from the light of day to the sounds and sensations of night.
It was then I came across the rotting remnants of a fence line, angling in from the southern banks of Alamo Creek, across the mesita, and into the arroyo below. There was no wire to be seen, other than that making for a support brace for a post at the very edge of the high ground.
There’s something intimately lonesome about a near-gone fence line. I suppose that most would not understand unless you know of the hard work that goes into one, especially in the lower Big Bend of Texas. But if you have ever dug a post hole in this country, or repaired a water gap, or spent half the night throwing some half-wild cattle back into a pasture where they belonged, then you might start to.
A good fence line brings a sense of security, of pride, of knowing that things are somehow right in this topsy turvy world; at least in your tiny part of it.
But what of those long since abandoned? Left to fight a losing battle against time, the elements and this relentless, implacable desert?
A sense of respect, of admiration for men long gone, and for what was once a way of life. Your life, once upon a time.
And in those precious moments, often enough the lines of a poem, a passage or a song drift into focus. Sometimes something so seemingly unrelated but still there, springing forth unexpectedly and without conscious thought from those twin deep, rich wells of mind and memory.
For me it was the lyrics of an old tune written for an equally old John Wayne western entitled ‘Rio Bravo,’ performed by Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson, of all people. I was all of about four years old when I first saw that movie, at the drive in theater just east of Alpine. Again, so strange how this happens.
But the song sort of fit, again for both the moment and the memory. Try the link below and take the photograph in as you listen, and see what you think.
As for me, I swam ever so briefly in the transient pool of childhood recollections.
Then I moved on…
Ben H. English
Author of ‘Yonderings’ (TCU Press)
‘Destiny’s Way’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’
‘My Rifle, My Pony and Me,’ from the movie ‘Rio Bravo’…
Museum of the Big Bend
Big Bend Saddlery
Creative Texts Publishers
Crockett County Public Library
Medina Community Library
The Twig Book Shop
Old Town Books
The Boerne Bookshop
Marta Powell Stafford
Lone Star Literary Life
Historic Fort Stockton
Alpine Radio – Texas
THE STORY BEHIND THE PHOTO: