Like a long-abandoned set for a 1960s science fiction movie, this oddly-shaped as well as placed canyon stretches out in a northerly direction, before turning almost upon itself to stretch out to the southwest and its junction with Alamo Creek.

It has no name I have ever been aware of, so as is wont to human nature I christened the spot ‘Mars Valley.’ Again, likely due to my childhood memories of those same science fiction movies. Strange how memories and imagination can influence each other, especially when in the wilds.

Not much grows in Mars Valley, and the lack of tracks in the bottoms gives mute affirmation that the native wildlife feels much the same about this place as the plant world. The only sign of any living creature was the occasional soaring carrion bird on high, looking unsuccessfully for something dead to feast upon.

And the only thing dead visible was close to where this photograph was shot. While taking a break from the ALICE pack digging into my aching shoulders, I sat down on a large, red rock and happened to look to one side.

There, lying all by itself under the harsh sun was the single blackened fang of a rather large, now defunct rattlesnake. My weariness being overcome by curiosity, I circled the immediate area to see what happened to the rest. But no other remains of the poisonous serpent were found, evidently those ever watchful carrion birds had long since made a meal of it.

Once I had sat back down and did some distance calculations while consulting my quad map, I realized there were still miles to go before darkness set in. The first jink in the valley pointed like a compass needle to where I needed to go, so I saddled my pack again and leaned into the harness.

“Miles to go before I sleep” wrote the poet. Though there were no woods or snow in this dry, barren land, I knew of what he wrote all those years before.

And down into the valley I went, a solitary sojourner in search of what lay over the next hill, in the midst of the wastes of the planet Mars…

God bless to all,

–STEPHENVILLE Saturday, October 1st, Stephenville Public Library 9am-12noon
–ALPINE Friday, October 7th, Big Bend OctaneFest at The Stable Performance Cars 12noon-5pm
–LUBBOCK Saturday-Sunday, Oct 15-16th, Lubbock Book Festival
–FORT STOCKTON Monday, October 17th, Fort Stockton Public Library 6pm
–TERLINGUA Saturday, November 5th, Tolbert Terlingua Chili Group Information OTICCC10a-3pm
–AMARILLO Tuesday, November 15th, North Branch Public Library 6:30-8:30pm

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

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)
‘Black And White: Tales of the Texas Highway Patrol’ (Creative Texts Publishers)

Facebook: Ben H. English

‘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)