“The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.”
The story behind the picture.
Look closely into this photograph, for here you can see both natural as well as human history. They have left their respective marks upon this unforgiving country that has continually tested the mettle of each. The most prominent of these enduring marks is Santa Elena Canyon, the mouth of which can be seen on the faraway horizon.
Off to one side the Rio Grande eases by, swaying back and forth like an aging debutante waltzing through the Chihuahuan Desert, and on to the Gulf of Mexico. Her many suitors clamor for her attention on both sides of the river, for what she possesses is the greatest treasure ever displayed to a perpetually dry and thirsty land.
And so it is here, at a place once known as El Ojito. Once these were dwellings for humankind, protection from harsh elements for those who worked the verdant fields in the river bottom below. Some have called this a farm, but it was more like a settlement than anything else.
The remains of such shelters dot the nearby countryside along the protecting arroyo. There are also graves, I counted at least six close by and likely more scattered about. I doubt if hardly anyone knows who lies there anymore, for they have not been attended to in many years.
I write about this general area in my upcoming book, ‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend.’ There are color photographs and maps hand drawn by myself, as well as the attending essays to better illustrate and explain such spots to those with an interest.
But no amount of words or pictures can ever convey the sense of lonesomeness that pervades one’s own spirit, standing on this low rise and taking in all that surrounds you.
And the waltz of the river and her suitors continues on; while a warm, soft breeze picks up the countless forgotten memories entrusted here and carries them all away…
Ben H. English
Author of ‘Yonderings’ (TCU Press)
‘Destiny’s Way’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’
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