SOMEWHERE IN THE LOWER BIG BEND:
Across the malpais I moved, working my way through the natural maze of eons of erosion in search of what might lay before me. A multitude of colors of rock and soil surrounded my passing, all shades save for the color green so hard to find even after the recent rains.
The morning coolness was quickly retreating from the heat of day as the sun beat down, sweat collected on my back and inside my hatband as I trudged along. My pack, gear and equipment weighed on me more so in the softer spots, then switched to trying to upset my balance as I scrambled across slabs of loose, uneven piles of rock.
I caught the still muddy wash leading to the lava vent running almost due north to Dogie Mountain, breached only by Rough Run and a few other usually dry washes that feed into the creek. These rock vents act as traps for the liquid gold of this perpetually dry land, and I drift by one spot with a full tinaja on top and a pond of glistening water below, brimming with verdant reeds of carrizo.
Even in the harshest of climes in this country liquid gold can be found, if you know where to look.
Following the near solid wall of towering black rock, I turn upstream along Rough Run through what I call ‘The Gap.’ Once clear of this natural choke point, I began my normal zig-zagging from one bank to the other, scouting for something to attract my always curious eye.
Not more than a mile or so later, that something happened.
Cutting a bend that perched above the creek bed, I saw the lonely remnants of timbers rise before me like a ethereal band of desert ghosts emerging out of the greasewood and mesquite. First I discerned a rotting, falling-down corral and then the collapsing ruins of someone’s home from long ago.
Circling around the old place, I marveled at both the location as well as the construction. It was not what one would call traditional lower Big Bend, the heavy use of wood and sparsity of rock made one think of someone more familiar with the higher elevations of Utah, Colorado and Idaho.
Stooping down I examined spent shell casings in .22 short and .45 ACP, with the antiquated U.M.C. headstamp emblazoned upon them. Whatever else this gent might have been, he was a definite Remington ammo man.
The presence of the .45 ACP was something to speculate upon, most times the ranch houses of this vanishing era reveal revolver use like the .45 Long Colt or .44-40. Perhaps the unknown shooter was a forward looking man, or one who felt the need for some extra close range firepower beyond a traditional six-shot thumb buster.
It was now mid-day and I decided to take a nooning, sitting on what was once the place’s front porch. My eyes gazing at all that was around me. From here you could see Dogie Mountain, Little Christmas Mountain and the Christmas Mountain range itself. There was also Santa Elena Canyon, Tule Mountain, Slickrock Mountain, Croton Peak and the regal-like Chisos Mountains perched on high to the southeast.
So whoever he was, he also likely had an eye for spectacular scenery.
My mind went back to my great-grandfather and great-great grandfather. They would have known this place and who this was, and Aunt Mag would have known too.
All gone now, like the once owner of this off-beat outfit tucked atop a nameless bluff above Rough Run.
And at present just another question among thousands waiting for when I meet up with them in the Great Beyond.
Reshouldering my pack and gear I walked away, adding to a long list of imponderables about this land I love so much, and the childhood memories of tales of those who came before…
God bless to all,
BOOK SIGNINGS AND TALKS:
–TERLINGUA Saturday, November 5th, Tolbert Terlingua Chili Group Information OTICCC 10a-3pm
–AMARILLO Tuesday, November 15th, North Branch Public Library 6:30-8:30pm
–ODESSA Thursday, December 1st, Ector County Library 5:00-7:00pm
Ben H. English
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’
Best Read Award 🏆