American History

Story telling ~


“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”

–Havelock Ellis


It was nearing the end of a long, hot day on my thirteenth mile with two more to go. I had been swinging a wide loop across the western slopes of the Dead Horse Mountains, also known as the Sierra del Caballo Muerto. During my prowl I had also wandered up both main forks for Javelina Creek, their canyons cutting across the face of the range in deep, jagged incisions.

Not many folks spend much time here on foot. There are no trails to speak of or roads that provide easy access to this area, and there has never been much human activity in its history. During my scout about I had only found a shard of broken glass, a bent rod of rusty iron, and a part of a decrepit barbed wire fence so old and useless that you could actually walk underneath.

So you get there by breaking your own trail, and a quad map along with some common sense and experience comes in handy. You might even say essential, as some others have found to their sorrow. As I recently remarked to someone else, this country is where the ball marked ‘Darwinism’ is always in play.

It is rough, dry, thirsty land that from a distance seems like hardly anything could live up here; be it insect, animal or plant. Usually it swelters in shades of dry earth tones, with a dash of reddish accents in the canyons thrown in for good measure. The long-standing joke of the lower Big Bend getting only about two inches of rain during Noah’s Flood takes on new meaning here, as the Dead Horse likely only got about a tenth of that and it was mostly blowing sideways.

But this summer, this late July, God has been more than gracious. Though most all of the more easily reached tinajas were already dry, the land itself was greener and more verdant than I have ever seen it before or even imagined possible.

Stands of prickly pear looked as if they were decked out for Christmas with multitudes of red tunas contrasting boldly against the green pads. There was grass, good grass and the ocotillos were covered with the leaves they are seldom seen sprouting. All this in turn was set off by spreads of the wild yellow flowers that are usually burned off by mid-May.

In some parts for as far as you could see were yucca, sotol and lechuguilla stalks reaching upward into the crystal blue sky, like the lances of massed warriors waiting to do battle. Texas persimmon and Mexican buckeye, along with Honey mesquite and other varieties of shrubs and trees, filled the canyons and arroyos. All sorts of birds and insects made their presence known, including many bees buzzing about their business.

There were hawks, far more than usual and one golden eagle that I stirred up along the south fork of Javelina Creek. Their natural prey, the cottontail, were out and about in force, along with their long-eared cousins the jackrabbit. Muley deer; big, fat and sassy, bounded away in every direction. Life had come to the Dead Horse, in a style and variety seldom seen by human eyes.

And I was alone in this rare, marvelous show; a once in a lifetime walk through a kind of Garden of Eden, or as close as this desert land can get.

I was honored, even humbled, to have been there.

Ben H. English

Alpine, Texas


By ace101

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