American History GOD

Been H. English ~ Texas


“One blade, Dragomirov – warranted never to fail!”
–Richard Sharpe, ‘Sharpe’s Peril’

A package arrived the other day from Creative Texts Publishers, who not only printed my last two books but have also provided needed advice and encouragement as I stumble my way through this writing gig.

There were other publishers I could have signed a contract with, but I chose Creative Texts. As time goes by that decision has proven repeatedly to be the right one. Upon opening the box, it did so again. Inside was a custom Benchmade folder.

For those who do not know knives, these are some of the best on the market. I have carried one of their automatic folders faithfully since I was a peace officer, and have used it in all sorts of situations. They don’t come any finer.

Flicking the knife open, I was nigh stunned to see my name inscribed on the blade, as well as the ranch brand I had designed for myself while sitting in that one room school house in Terlingua.

Daniel Edwards, owner of Creative Texts, had contacted me prior to this; saying they wanted to send me a little something for Christmas and apologizing for the delay. Believe me, it was well worth the wait.

You can see the knife and inscription in the first photograph, along with some of my other essential ‘tools of the job’ while prowling through the lower Big Bend. Standing with gift in hand, I knew it was time for a maiden voyage.

The recent heavy snow was still melting last Wednesday morning, even in the Tornillo Basin. The ensuing reflections on the Chisos Mountains gave them a starkly different persona, bluer and more like something one would see in the Rockies in late spring.

Saddling up with pack and gear, I pointed my nose roughly south to those mountains and to what lay in between. Drifting across the bottoms I kept to my usual to and fro sort of course, angling my way to Avery Canyon that snakes along the southeastern edge of the Grapevine Hills.

My first goal was Quail Spring, near the head of a fork that leads due south from the Avery. The spring is well named, as the headwaters sit in a small pocket covered with knee-high grazing grass, near perfect for quail.

There was water, too, which is always a plus with so many dry springs this year. Eyeballing the high ground around me, I noted the trails of antiquity leading off to different points on the compass; trails long abandoned by man but still used by generations upon generations of wildlife. Yes, this was a reliable spring for sure.

From there I set course due west, to where the ruins of Camp Neville lay. Along my route were the last, fading vestiges of a wagon road that ran from the camp itself to Bone Spring. Halfway across I found the forlorn remnants of a wire gap where the road once passed through, rotting wood and rusting barbed wire slowly retreating from the ravages of time.

Camp Neville had been a small, isolated Army outpost in Apache country, and served as a base camp for Black Seminole Indian Scouts such as Isaac Payne and Pompey Factor. The site was reportedly abandoned in 1883, though later used as a stopping point for Army patrols.

There was no groundwater present at Neville Spring. But the leaves of a majestic copse of tall, mature cottonwood trees whispered that water did lay just beneath.

I began the second half of my loop back, following the Neville Spring arroyo to the northeast and on to Avery Canyon, still working my zig-zag course from high ground to high ground. As night gathered around me and the sounds and sights of the day faded away, I eased quietly through the soft desert soil and tall grass along Tornillo Creek.

Day was done and soon enough this maiden voyage for my new personal treasure.

It could not have been a better one…

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
Crockett County Public Library
Medina Community Library
The Twig Book Shop
Old Town Books
The Boerne Bookshop
Hill Country Books
Marta Powell Stafford
Lone Star Literary Life
Historic Fort Stockton
Clueless Gent

The lone structure still standing at Camp Neville, once the quarters for the only officer on the post. It was most likely a very young lieutenant, and most likely he was a long way from home. Note the snow on the Chisos in the background…
The bottom end of Quail Spring, one of those hidden wet spots so carefully concealed in a vast dryness of parched desert.
Along the southern part of the Tornillo Basin, where eons of wind, weather and erosion have sculpted fantastic figurines and otherworldly shapes and designs.


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)