Moseying: History of the Southern Llano Estacado
High Lonesome Draw
September 24, 2003
Its a crying shame we dont teach our younguns more about our ranching heritage. Ever kid in the junior high and freshman schools oughta be taken out to spend a week to live the cowboy life. And thats probably not long enough kids ought to be learning to work can to cant, learning to saddle up a bronc, or to learn to milk a cow. They should have to ride on a wagon even drive a four-in-hand rigging, or straggle to a chuckwagon for beans, biscuits, and beef and then listen to the campfire tales of old. They should have to feel sweat turn a shirt white with salt, to suck on a pebble to ease thirst dagnab it kids today would have a greater appreciation of how good times are now. Lord amercy doing sumpin like that oughta be part of the school curriculum. We oughta have kids tending gardens, too teaching responsibility and pride in a job well done.
The old man, with sweat-stained straw hat, rundown at the heels cowboy boots, and jeans stained dark with dried blood from processing his own meat, then leaned back in his chair, finished with his emphatic rant and rave. We were sitting on the verandah on the southeast corner of his house. We sat quiet for a minute, looking out across the nearby horsetrap with one old nag drowsing in the shade of a nogalito his grandpappy had germinated when he built the house. He had carried the little walnuts all the way up from Independence Creek where he had been doing daywork when he first came to west Texas. Out beyond the horsetrap we stared at a thunderhead building up over the creosote flats towards King Mountain.
He spoke up again, this time with a tired-out drag in his voice. This place has grown old along with me, and both of us are forgotten jest old oxbows in the river of time. Right down yonder is the old Emigrant Trail or Goodnight-Loving Trail. It was also the Overland Mail road. I look out there and I see cattle herds raising dust, the whooping Comanches coming in to steal the stock, and I see the old Conestogas all in a row with westerers walking alongside cracking whips to keep the exhausted oxen and mules a-moving. I see the Overland Mail wagon with its cloth-top in 1858, and I see the first San Antonio- El Paso mail stage with Bigfoot Wallace, Deidrich Dutchover, and Henry Skillman in 1851. I can see the cowboys of the TX and the JM, the Hashknife and the Quien Sabe Circledot brand.
The old mans voice had risen again, the words tumbling, his arms punching the air in emphasis. Do the kids nowadays know their stories, or the tragic story of Oliver Loving? Jumpin Jehosaphat no! No-siree, they dont they dont know any of the stories of this place! There has just been a handful of folks trying to preserve the history of this place. Besides Pat Dearen, Ol Paul Patterson over at Crane is to be commended, and that Kelton kid on the McElroy that I used to hoo-raw for being bookish he has done this country here a right good service with all of his books. I apologize to him for hoo-rawing him ever time I go to one of his book-signings. Their books ought to be required reading for ever kid in west Texas.
There ought to be a museum that specializes on that 80 mile stretch of dry this country right here was infamous for 70 years it is legend country, and we should make it educational policy to be keeping the legends alive. Kids should get to ride a celerity wagon or Conestoga, or even ride a horse and milk a cow. The good and bad should be told we should tell how to pecos somebody was to drygulch em and leave their bones bleaching in the dust. We should tell the story of the Seminole Negro Pompey Factor saving Captain Bullis by turning and riding back into oncoming Paches to pick him up after Bullis horse went down. We should tell about Cesario Torres building Spanish Dam from 1875 to 1877 down below Girvin, hauling 3500 wagonloads of rock to the river that he and his men chipped off the Great Rock with a sledgehammer, then digging 15 miles of acequia all the way to Pontoon Crossing.
Slamming his fist down on the table next to him and sending sugared ice-tea splashing from his glass, the old man didnt stop. Ever kid oughta know Pattersons windies about the Booger Ys boogerman with his head almost cut-off, and about the crazy lady in the rafters. They oughta know there is more than the story of Maximilians gold in Castle Gap there is the Catholic Cross treasure, too. Kids oughta know what a mossyhorn is, and know the difference between a jacale and a choza. They oughta spend a night in a tipi, and another in a wickiup. We dont tell our kids a dang thing about our very own home and thats jest plumb turrible.
Aah, Ive gotten myself all worked up. Geez, am I just a crazy ol heat-struck coot gone loony from living out here all by myself? I know this is hard country some of the toughest country ever endured by man but this country has made some of the finest straightest most honest men that have ever lived. This tough country puts steel in the backbone of a person you know if you make through a day here, you can go through anything. Most folks think that out here is the backside of nowhere and they drive 90 to get through it, but by gosh it is the center of my world, and Im right proud of everthing Ive done and right proud of this place.
The thunderhead had exponentially swollen as he talked. The sky had turned purple, and bolts of lightning began slashing between ground and cloud. We could hear the thunder rumbling. Youve heard about ball lightning, havent you? I have seen it bouncing around a herd of cows and I have seen my horses ears send off blue sparks. The wind began gusting out of the cloud, kicking up blinding drifts of dust. The old man stood up and starting yelling YEE-HAW! Come on rain! Come on and end this terrible drought! Come on rain! YEE-HAW!!! Wind-driven raindrops the size of ping-pong balls swooped under the roof and began slapping him making him start dancing. He kept on yelling Keep it coming, Lord Keep it coming Thank you! Thank you!
The next time you speed down the Rankin Hiway stop not far past the Midland/Upton County line at High Lonesome Draw and see if you can see any of the ghosts of the old trail! (Including the gentleman of the story above )