Sunday, April 7, 2013

BIG BEND


May 18th, 2002

  I remember a few years ago, Randy Herin told me the only difference between fairy tales and truck driver stories is the way they start out. Fairy tales all start with “once upon a time” and truck driver stories start with “you aren’t going to believe this” and then he’d give a hearty laugh. Guess what? Whatever I’ve told you about Texas HANG ON, “You aren’t going to believe this”!

  The Big Bend National Park covers over 800,000 acres and The Big Bend Ranch Texas State Park at over 200,000 acres adjoining it. Over a 1,000,000 acres of National & State Park. The name Big Bend is for the Great Bend in the Rio Grand River. It has a mountain range, Chiso Mountains, it is on the edge of the Chiuauhuan (I had to check the spelling on this) Desert (which is a high plains desert) all created from volcanoes quite a few years ago. These volcanoes formed mountains some, of which, are over 7000 feet high. If you’ve ever been to the Bad Lands, this is WORSE. Our forefathers fought for this DESOLATE land. They must’ve seen something in it that I haven’t been able to see since we’ve been here. Also I think Texas is lucky that Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie and the others never saw it. They wouldn't have help defend the Alamo. Adobe ruins dot the landscape where settlers tried to eke out a living in the 1800’s with flocks of sheep. There never was and as of yet any equipment that could farm this land. Stones from the kind kids throw, to boulders the size of most 2 bedroom houses are scattered hap-hazzardly across the landscape where it’s level enough for farming but too many BIG rocks and there’s NO TOP SOIL. Most of the mountain structure seems to be like sandstone EXCEPT FOR the stones that are thrown all over. They’re very hard. Great mounds of white volcanic ash are also in evidence as are the thousands of other colors of minerals, from deep in the bowels of the earth. There are even a couple of hot springs and lots of people hike back in to soak in them. In the 1940’s & 1950’s there were a couple of resorts that sprung up around them. Today nothing but empties buildings. The mountains though seemingly devoid of all wildlife are beautiful in their own way. No vegetation to speak of, many Chocotilla cactus, chotolla, prickly pear green & purple and hundred of other types of cacti, a few mesquite and the prolific yucca plant and they are all starting to flower about now.
  Terlingua is a ghost town now taken over by some of the people that are still living in the style of the 60’s. For lack of a better word I’ll call them “hippies”, not out of disrespect, believe me, they would just as soon barter (nobody tell the IRS) or work for it than fork out some hard cash. Terlingua was a mining community and in it’s heyday there were upwards of a 1000 in its population. They were mining a NO-NO by today's standards, mercury. Today there are a couple of small mines and they’re mining sodium bentonite, whatever that is. It looks like a low-key operation just like all of Big Bend. The new band of settlers houses are many things including but not limited to the following. Adobe dwellings (some fixed up some not), motor homes, buses, vans, automobiles of all eras, sheet metal whatever and of course blue plastic. Nowadays Terlingua’s claim to fame, other than the stunning scenic beauty, is the home of The World Champion Chili Cookoff held the first Sat. of November. 1,000’s of “chiliheads” come from all over the world for this week of “hot times”. From the pictures I’ve seen the desert comes alive with 3 to 5,000 RV’s, tents & whatever for that week. I’m told it is rivaled only by Sturgis (for fun). I don’t want to say it’s dry in Terlingua but one of the local businesses has a saying “they have the rainbow, waiting for rain”.
  The Nat. Pk. Svc. says there are, coyotes, owls, mountain lion, golden eagles, Javalina and other predators. The only predators I’ve seen so far are BUZZARDS. I’m sure there are at least 2 buzzards for each living thing in this area. The Rio Grand River here is but a trickle of what we had at Del Rio, downstream and it is a lot muddier. But they do offer raft trips down the Rio Grand where you can pass through canyons with the steep wall over 1500 ft straight up. There are several places where you can cross over by boat and then they take you to town on a burro (No I didn’t). I am not comfortable in any 3rd. World country and that is what Mexico is. It seems our government kisses their asses and believe me they are liking it.
  March 20, 2001—We say goodbye to Terlingua and start up route 118 for a nice ever-changing scenic 108-mile drive to Alpine. Unrivaled beauty at each turn in the road and the powerstroke (Ford Diesel) really labors on some of the hills. As we travel north away from Big Bend Country there appears more grass in amongst the rocks and then it levels out, almost, to be the ranch country that you expect to see. We stop at the Woodward Ranch just south of Alpine. The sign says RV Park and free hunting. I didn’t see the word gem before the word hunting. I let Troy Woodward show me all kinds of agate, amethyst and opal all found on his place. He really wanted us to stay especially after I showed him some gold bearing rock from NC. He gives us some little rock and we leave after I promise him I’ll come back when I need some gems. In Alpine we stop at Sol Ross University to see their museum of western cowboy items. A wonderful display of early nomadic tribes, American Indians and the Cowboy's way of life. Early photos taken by notable photographers and paintings and bronze by Remington and some modern day artists, many of them Texans whose roots are on the local family ranches. Beautiful spurs, saddles, bridals, chaps, blankets, firearms, whips, cooking utensil and oil and watercolors and several pencil drawings. All of the newer bronze, paintings, saddles, tacks, clothes are available to purchase. I couldn’t think of any reason to pay $34,000.00 for a saddle, even if it was a nice saddle. I paid a lot less than that for a small 2-bedroom home and 20 acres.
  From the college we go to Fort Davis a cavalry outpost from the 1800’s and still in good repair. Like Fort Clark at Brackettville, this also housed the black soldiers or “Buffalo Soldiers” as they ere called. One nice thing about the southwest is they don’t have all the severe weather as we have up north so buildings last a lot longer. It is another Nat. Pk Svc.deal and is really neat. From there we amble up to Fort Stockton where we plan to spend a couple days.
  Fort Stockton is another fort where the “Buffalo Soldiers” were stationed is interesting in it's own way. A lot of these buildings have been lost to the ravages of time but, well worth the entry price, free. If you’re ever in this area be sure and stop at the Anne Riggs Museum.
  Riggs owned the old hotel where the museum is now. A very good interpreter showed and told all of the goings on. On the thresholds of every doorway are the boards worn away by countless pairs of spurs of the cowboys and cattlemen as they went through the doors. All in all it’s is a refreshing look through the eyes of a hotel in the 1800’s.
  Fort Stockton is a ranch town. A typical Texan town, 2 or 3 miles long and about 6 blocks wide. Main St is wide I did manage to turn my 20 mule team around without running up on the sidewalk. Also we went to the library to gather our e-mail. 30 some pieces of e-mail and only 2 or 3 pieces with any personal notes on them. The rest was all forwarded stuff. It sure is fun deleting the junk.
  Today we went to Wal-Mart and bought a set of clippers. I told Sally we could trim the dog and save about $30.00 every 3 weeks. Well we just spent 2 hours trimming and the dog hasn’t complained a bit about the way she looks. I do have to laugh at her because of the way she looks. Sally tells me I’ll hurt her feelings. For some reason the door hinges on the trailer seem to be sprung so I took it all apart and I was right. They still are sprung and of course special hinges. It’s been a beautiful day, today probably in the low 60’s, very nice. About 4:30 the wind has come up and it’s blowing the Texas topsoil around in the sky. I almost made A DAY WITHOUT GETTING A BUNCH OF SAND IN MY HAIR. As I’m writing this the trailer s really rocking to & fro.
  Tomorrow morning we’ll go on to Odessa & Midland. Midland is the home of what used to be called the “Confederate Air Force”. All type of flyable aircraft of WWII vintage. Just like going back to my childhood, to bad I wouldn’t find any of the kids there. When I was growing up we were on the northern border of The Pontiac City Airport. We’d set by the hour watching the planes land and take off. Also there was a treasure chest of parts out at the airport dump. Old plane parts with which we could make our own fighters and help in the war effort.
  Confederate Air Force - -Today called the Commemorative Air Force -(Must be politically correct you know) Everybody should be required to go through the CAF. Airplanes from the 30’s, 40’s, Korea & Vietnam. A special emphasis on the WWII airplanes. The first things you see except for the inevitable gift shop are the plaques on the wall. Each one is about the exploits of such & such a man or maybe the crew of such & such an airplane. It tells what kind of planes, where they were based and what they were able to do often at great odds. Tears came not only to my eyes but most of the people as they read of what these kids in their early 20’s was able to do in the 1940’s. These are not bragging boards but actual things done at great risk.
  From Chennault’s “Flying Tigers”, all the way to the final surrender of Japan. Actual films from the gun cameras as the aerial battles were waged. From Pearl Harbor where the only pilots to takeoff that morning happened to be up all night playing poker. The “Battle of Midway”, “D Day”. “Normandy” and countless others. Harrowing tales of the “Bataan Death March” and other atrocities. Somehow they have restored some of the nose-art off the B-29’s. They have a couple people they call conservators and with microscopes and chemicals they delve down in the paint and find it’s design and characters from 60 years ago. Pinup girls and the names of the aircraft fill quite a large display room.
  Exhibits of how things were on the home front with the “Victory Gardens”, meat, sugar, gas, tires, coffee and other items that were rationed or just nonexistent. Also on display are actual models of the 2 atomic bombs dropped on Japan, an awesome sight. Of course they have in flying condition most of the different plane models that were used in WWII as well as Korea & Vietnam. If you ever have a chance, go to this Commemorative Air Force exhibit. Each October they put on their “Airsho” in Midland, TX complete with the pyrotechnics. Our WWII and Korean Veterans are dying off at the rate of about 1500 per day. If you know a veteran thank them. I have and you should see the look of gratitude on their faces, especially the ones from Vietnam.
  From Midland we travel on towards Snyder, Tex. It’s quite an oil & cattle town. There’s a RV Park there where we stayed last year. It’ on the Wagon Wheel Ranch. Which is a working “Dude Ranch” with live music and stuff on weekends. So this being Fri we’ll stop and spend the night.
   Damn, Damn, Damn I snagged the roof on a limb and did major damage. The worse thing about it is I can’t blame anyone but myself.  The Hub City Trailer Club is having a rally at the Wagonwheel RV Ranch and the park is apparently full. With some help from the rally members we get parked and get electricity and water. After a night of tossing & turning, worrying about the price of the repairs, it is still going to be a beautiful day. About noon the temp has reached about 70 and the sun has come around to warm up the roof so I start taping the holes in the roof. I’m sure glad I’d purchased 200-mph tape, the last time I bought it. Takes about an hour and I have quite a few supervisors but, we’re all enjoying it. All of the men are reminiscing about their goof-ups. Sally is off socializing with some of the women so I don’t have her directing me also. Soon she’s back saying we’re invited to dinner that this rally group is having. Shrimp, polish sausage, corn on the cob & potatoes all fixed at the same time in the same pot. It’s very good and you sure don’t dirty many pots. It’s amazing when you talk to people that are camping of their diverse backgrounds and all of the personal problems they or we all have had.
  Sun. Mar 24th- - Today we left Wagon Wheel RV Ranch and The Hub City Trailer Club, Rally, after their church service. We left not with tears in our eyes or theirs but with the feeling that we could come back with that group anytime.
  We’re on our way to Lubbock and Billy Simms RV Sales & Service. We find it okay but decide to go to a RV Pk nearby so the laundry could be done and maybe watch NASCAR. Its called Camelot RV Park. I jokingly called it “cost a lot RV Park”. It’s a nice park all blacktop roads and cement pads. Swimming pool, Laundromat and all of the other necessities needed in our nomadic life. On the way to the park Sally’s eyes were just a sparkling. Large shopping malls. For a woman that can’t see a deer at 25 yards in an open field she sure can spot a Target or Wal-Mart sign at a 1/2 mile. I think she should get her eyes checked. We’re all set up facing the east that means, the setting sun will come in our big picture window in the living room. All the time we’ve been on the road only twice have we ever had a great view through the picture window. One was at Branson and we were looking out over the city from some lofty peak. The other was at some obscure park where we were able to watch deer through the window.
  Billy Simms Travel Service is a top-notch outfit. We get an estimate call the Ins. Company and within 2 hours the adjuster is there. The service dept then says back it in and we’ll have it fixed by tomorrow at 5 PM. In the meantime we call Gordy & Linda Ruhl in Matador and ask if they have a bed for the duration (1 night it turned out), they say yes and we’re off after Sally packs some clothes & I grab some guns for hog hunting. Also we get a message that Dan Revoir & Jack DeGroot, from Mich., are in Bourne also pig hunting and having no luck. We return their calls but they never call back. In the metropolis of Matador, Gordy & Linda welcome us with open arms. When they visited us in Del Rio we were without a vehicle (deer accident) and now their car is getting a new engine so we’ll be their wheels for the time being.
  Gordy loves the game of domino so each evening we’re taught how to lose, by him and Linda. Also he introduces me to Alvin Alexander the man with the hunting lease north of town. Alvin takes us out there and shows us the section (640 acres) of land that we can hunt on. They have so many pigs that they’ve been trapping them. I like the sound of that. Besides pigs there are turkeys, quail, mule deer, coyotes, doves & etc. By Michigan standards the land is almost a wasteland but down here in Texas it’s pasture. Just as it was 200 years ago, I imagine. We see lots of sign and find one dead pig but see nothing alive our first day of hunting. Gordy doesn’t hunt so we spent a lot of time just looking in amazement at the lay of the land and watching a flock of turkey most of the day.
  The weather is astounding. Reaching a low of the 30’s at night and the high 70’s & low 80’s during the day. LOW HUMIDITY really nice. It sure sucks the moisture out of your body but ice tea helps replenish it. It’s rough after a day of hard hunting to come home to Linda’s cooking, pork chops, mashed potatoes, white gravy, carrots cole slaw, broccoli all topped off with sweet potato pie. Gordy sure has it rough in Texas.
  As long as the weather is nice I’d just as soon be setting out in the brush watching Mother Nature at her finest. In the few days we’re in Matador I do get parts of 3 days of hunting and have a ball. Actually see quite a few pigs, turkey, quail, dove and mule & whitetail deer. I didn’t shoot anthing to brag about but I enjoyed myself. Monday after Easter I was sitting out under a windmill, listening to the rythmic sound as it pumps water. Temperature was in the mid 90’s with a southerly wind of about 20 to 25 miles per hour. Good sleeping weather. When I wake up there are about 40 turkeys eating my “HOG BAIT”. Those turkeys are different than the ones in Mich. They’re taller and longer in the body. But they act just the same, dumb like a fox. Pretty tempting sitting there with all those turkeys about 25 yards from me. Mama would be proud of me; I let them all go,
  The trailer was done the next day back in Lubbock and Gordy & I had brought it back to Matador and set it up at Billy Dean’s, a restaurant, motel and a few RV lots.
  He and I also had gotten his car from the Chevrolet Garage in Paducah, a little town about 35 miles east of Matador. He & Linda had wheels again and we had our home back. With 2 sets of wheels we could do our thing and the women could do theirs.
  One day we all went for a ride to Cap Rock Canyons Sate Park. A beautiful park north & west of Matador near the town of Quitaque. A park set up for hikers and horseback riders. From there we meandered around and went into Silverton. A bonanza of sorts. In Texas they don’t throw anything awa.y they run it into the ground and then park it out back, or out front or whereever it quit. D-8 bulldozers, earth scrapers, tractors, trucks, cars and or what else are parked all over in Silverton. We probably spent an hour just driving up & down the streets looking at the “treasures”.
  Farming is dependent on water and that can be a problem in Texas. Pivot type irrigation 14 sections long. Cotton, peanuts, milo and other crops and in fields maybe half a section in size. A land so big and so diversified that it boggles the mind. This expanse so rich in American History, that you could study it for years and still not get it all. A land with rich green meadows, subtropical beaches, Great Plains, stark desert and it’s own mountain ranges. A land where the natives are fiercely independent, and rightly so. Yet very proud of their heritage.
We love Texas
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