Ben H. English


Good morning,✨

I want to first thank everyone who checked on me due to my recent absence from social media. You taking the time to do so means a good deal to me, and I appreciate that simple telling gesture so much.

Nearly four months ago my father-in-law, Ethan Dennis, died tragically in a brush fire outside of Eldorado, Texas. Ethan was a good man, a Good Samaritan in the Biblical sense who was ready to help any friend or stranger at any given opportunity.

In my opinion, he was also a true genius who worked himself up from nothing. Some years ago he and my mother-in-law bought a quarter section between Eldorado and Christoval, and Ethan built a large, rambling log cabin on the highest point of their property with his own two hands.

But coming up from nothing also left him with the instincts of a hoarder and with the seventy acres he had left, Ethan made maximum use of that available space.

After all, how do you explain four tractors, six riding lawn mowers, assorted out buildings and stacks of tools and electrical gadgets beyond description or belief?

The following months were spent trying to organize all this with family, who each described the process in one word: “overwhelming.” So much so that my wife Cathy blew out a knee in the process, and went in for surgery just two weeks ago. All is well there, other than a lot of pain and about a six month rehabilitation process.

Meanwhile we have sold off an incredible amount of stuff, shared frustrations, tears and laughter, and made the place ready to sell. It is on the market now, and I made the last trip to move my mother-in-law B.K. here to Alpine this past Tuesday.

Within another two weeks or so I should be able to start work again on my fifth book ‘Black And White: Stories of the Texas Highway Patrol.’ It, like a lot of other projects, has been on temporary hiatus.

And if anyone might think that I am complaining, they would be wrong. In sudden challenge, grief and tragedy we often find ourselves anew, and rediscover what is truly important in our lives.

Like the people and processes we fill it with, and the thoughts and beliefs we hold dear. It is Christmas, when what we have in Faith comes to the forefront of heart, mind and spirit.

In my truncated amount of time available at present, I would like to offer up a Yuletide remembrance that appeared in my third book ‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend.’

And I leave you with this:

Peace on earth, folks. Good will to men.

God bless to all, and to all a very Merry Christmas!


“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace…
—Isaiah 9:6


“There are many Christmases that stand out in my memories, some for good reasons and others not so much.

Like being on the fringe of the 38th Parallel in South Korea, sitting in an unheated tent trying to eat ‘Christmas dinner.’ It was so cold that by the time I found a spot to sit down, my formerly hot chow had already started to freeze.

Or high in the Sierra Nevada somewhere along the California-Nevada line, a solitary campsite in the snow with only a fire to keep me company. Every now and then the warming blaze would pop, sending glowing embers into the frigid air as if they were joining with the vast marquee of stars above.

In a dark room and a dark place in 1983, staring at a wall right after the Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut. So many friends lost, so much hate inside. It felt so cold then, it was like the room was freezing even with the gas heater up full blast. That was when I realized it wasn’t the room, but me.

All those years while in the Texas Highway Patrol, usually working either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, or maybe both. The bad wrecks, the drunks, the domestic disturbances, the frustrated motorists, and hopefully a moment of quiet near the top of Lancaster Hill, on old US 290.

That was almost a tradition for me, sometimes the moon was so bright that you could see a day’s walk in front of you. An interlude of reflection for the real reason for the season to get your head thinking straight again, and then back to work.

Then there are the Christmases when growing up in the Big Bend, this photograph illustrates the first one I can really remember. It was taken inside the living quarters of the Lajitas Trading Post and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. Dad has gotten a new jacket and jeans. Mom looks like she has received a pair of slacks, standing front and center while talking in mid-photo.

My grandfather is playing with little brother Lyndon while grandmother is getting ready to cook something. She always was a really good cook, among many other things. Meanwhile I’m showing off the best part of me, the back of my head as Tia Maggie captures it all with her camera.

Dad has been gone a long time now and grandmother passed away some years ago. My grandfather has been dead for decades, the victim of a massive heart attack at too young an age. We lost Tia Maggie just this year.

Mom is still around, though, and is still front and center as the life of the party.

I sit here in my study surrounded by the mementoes of my life that followed this photo, and the memories. Yes, there were good Christmases and bad ones, but thank you so much Lord for all of them and for what Christmas really means.”

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

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)

Facebook: Ben H. English

‘Graying but still game’

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