“And we…sometimes forget the Lonesome Gods of the far places, the gods who live on the empty sea, who dance with the dust devils and who wait quietly in the shadows under the cliffs where ancient men once marked their passing…”
–Louis L’Amour ‘The Lonesome Gods’
These words from a novel read long ago came back to me, fresh as the crisp early morning on all sides. I was working my way up a small canyon where some of those ancients once lived, the markings of their passing plainly evident to those with a discerning eye.
When rain comes to the lower Big Bend, it is an event for celebration no matter how little or scattered. One can never fully appreciate such a gift unless your livelihood, or your very life, has depended on God’s Grace and His attending liquid manna from heaven.
No man ever prays more fervently for rain than a needy cowman does. It was the lack of such that ultimately forced my family to sell off our ranching operations in this country, and that still remains one of the saddest memories of my life.
But paradoxically, when the big rains come as they have so recently, that time is more for personal reflection and speculation. More so, that mood seems to be shared with the land itself. It goes back to where it was in times past, and what it must have looked like when water was in far greater abundance.
The mind as well as the spirit drifts back five centuries and before, prior to the first Conquistador, Mexicano, Tejano or Norteamericano. Neither was the Apache, Kiowa or Comanche present, for they were relative latecomers and no more native than the others.
Yet there were people here, native to this land and the end product of those who came a long time before. Little to nothing is known about them; their customs, cultures, stories and lives long since reduced to dust and then forgotten. We do not even know what they called themselves, as their tongue has not been spoken for centuries. Not one single memory has survived, it seems as if even their ghosts have gone away with the passage of time.
All that is left are their metates and mortars, their arrowhead chippings, an occasional pictograph or petroglyph, or a secreted gravesite. Those things still remain, scattered about in seldom-visited spots now so dry as to defy the mere presence of the modern sojourner, much less of a primitive people who lived and died here through the ages.
That is, until the big rains come and this desert turns back to what it once was, albeit briefly. The lonesome gods rise from where they have been banished to, and scan from the highest peaks and mountains for those who worshipped them so long ago.
This essay is dedicated to the ancient ones who came before, and those lonesome gods who still wait for them to return…
Ben H. English
UPCOMING BOOK SIGNINGS:
September 21 Sutton County Library, 1-4 pm, Sonora Texas
September 23 El Progreso Memorial Library, 12:30-6 pm, Uvalde Texas
September 25 Kerrville Public Library, 2-4 pm, Kerrville Texas
October 5 Ozona Texas
November 4 Horseshoe Bay Texas
November 6 Hico Texas
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’
Creative Texts Publishers
Billy the Kid Museum
Crockett County Public Library
The Stable Performance Cars
Julie Brunson Childs