Ben H. English

Been H. English ~ Texas ~ Alpine

“The world is full of idolatries, but I question if any idolatry has been more extensively practised than the idolatry of the outward appearance.”
~ W. G. Blaikie


“North of Croton Peak and to the northwest of the Paint Gap Hills lies what appears as a near featureless depression when viewed from afar. It is called Onion Flat, another of those places within the confines of the park that few ever see and even fewer go.

But first impressions can be deceiving and Onion Flat is a prime example of that time-honoured truism. The topography, for lack of a better word, is somewhat strange and borders in spots in being otherworldly. If I was asked about a good location for an old Star Trek episode, Onion Flat would immediately come to mind.

Once one journey into its environs, one learns quickly enough that it is anything but featureless. It is treacherous enough to have me stop, back up and try a different route from Point A to Point B on more than one occasion.

In this, you come upon some jumbled up terrain just west of Onion Spring, which many years ago was part of Stillwell’s Ranch…”

–Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend

So reads some lines in my most recent book, speaking of the place you see in the photo. These are the tucked away ruins of Onion Spring, which as the passage states was once part of the Stillwell complex.

The Stillwells were early pioneer ranchers to this area, much like the Buttrills, and the properties of both formed a checkerboard of family possessions. As is the way of the desert, most of these centred around available water.

The spring is below and off to your right, out of frame. There was no surface water when I prowled through this time, but the attending stand of cottonwoods and greenery gave evidence of what was just below the surface.

Like the quote says above, outward appearances can be deceiving.

Especially when viewed from afar…

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)
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’

Museum of the Big Bend
Big Bend Saddlery
The Stable Performance Cars
Creative Texts Publishers
Crockett County Public Library
Medina Community Library
The Twig Book Shop
Old Town Books
The Boerne Bookshop
Marta Stafford Fine Art
Lone Star Literary Life
Historic Fort Stockton
Tumbleweed Smith
Alpine Radio – Texas
Alpine Avalanche
Far Flung Outdoor Center


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)