Texas


Trailside Shopping Ops

Cottonwood campground in Big Bend National Park, Texas, has many usual campground attractions and way more.  We watched coyotes trot casually across our backyard.  Roadrunners scurried a few steps, cranked their tails up and down, scurried, cranked, scurried, cranked. Then a neighbor alerted us of spectacular nature trail sunsets–and shopping.  Not just any shopping, illicit border infiltration shopping! Before we got to the nature trail to peruse the wares, we discovered another shopping outlet on a scenic overlook.  As we took in the view, Steve noticed a man across the Rio Grande who climbed into a boat and rowed our […]


Rowboat to Mexico

Red flags lofted at the suggestion of a side trip to Mexico, so I asked the Information Desk staffer in Big Bend National Park. “You are safer here than in your home town,” she claimed.  (Apparently she considers the Mexican village of Boquillas part of Big Bend.) The next surprise was the Port of Entry, a nice official building on a dirt path leading to the Rio Grande River–no road, no bridge, no Immigration officials, just a friendly Parks employee who prompted us to check and see if our passports were expired or we’d picked up another family member’s by […]


How Do These Holes Happen?

I hadn’t expected anything like this when we hiked to one of the highlights recommended in Big Bend National Park.  Tinaja is Spanish for pond, so I’d assumed oasis which would naturally be a big draw in arid Big Bend.  The formations were even cooler though, especially when a fox trotted into the canyon and left a deposit in my path.  (Apparently he was delivering a message: get outta my yard!) On seeing the tinajas, the holes’ symmetry made me wonder if people had somehow bored them.  But who would have taken so much trouble, and why? A month later […]


Javelina Tough

A prickly pear with scalloped notches made me wonder if desert critters manage to eat around the thorns.  I know cactus is nourishing because my great-grandfather sometimes resorted to feeding his cattle by burning thorns off.  Rabbits, I hear, do eat around the thorns, but Javelina munch thorns and all–without wincing. Javelinas are peccaries, not pigs.  They’re named for javelins because their canines are that sharp.  They also smell like skunks.  Fortunately they don’t generally mess with people unless a mother thinks she needs to defend her young.  They feel differently about dogs. All in all, I was happy to […]


Midnight Raid

Camped along the Rio Grande in Big Bend Ranch State Park, we were pretty much alone in the campground and miles from most everybody.  The night was dark and chilly, so when I heard a clank very near the camper, I stayed in bed and listened rather than leave my warm covers to peer into darkness.  After a bit there was ticking on roof followed by a trill that made me think of a cricket though it was clearly not a cricket. Then there were sprinkles on roof.  Had the ticking only been raindrops?  What could the trill have been?  […]


Discovering Meaning II—Sotol

Mind boggling, the truths archeologists can tease out of an ancient glob. First inhabitants of Seminole Canyon in Texas used bulbs from a yucca-like plant called sotol to cook up portable, storable cakes. Raw sotol bulbs are soapy and painfully gut cleansing. Those problems were overcome by covering them with prickly pear leaves and hot coals to bake, letting them sit for a time before grinding them into meal, adding water and forming them into cakes to be seared on a hot rock. This painstaking process produced a  cake with a dirt/yam fusion flavor. Obviously food options were scarce in the west […]


Crustacean Liberation Cruise 2

“See the lady in the pink shirt? I think she’s from Colorado. She’s got a blog and everything.” I was actually wearing green, so I overheard Emily Ford, the event organizer, pointing a faux me out to her setup team. A retired Water Resources Director and lobbyist from Houston, was also awed that I’d come 1000 miles to the Texas gulf to rescue crabs from derelict traps. Well, excuse me, but Abandoned Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) kills countless sea creatures every year including dolphins, whales, turtles, seals, and yeah, crabs. Why wouldn’t I want to help? An unexpected bonus came in my being assigned […]


Discovering Meaning

Who’d have thought an obscure canyon in west Texas shelters the oldest known writings in the Americas?  These icons were painted about the time the pyramids were going up in Egypt. I’d never fully connected primitive pictures with writing, but these images very likely hold a message. Over time the same basic symbols show a progression from confusingly detailed to simple and more symbolized, a slow tightening to letters. The exhibit’s explanation of that stripping down and stylizing tendency strikes a chord here. It’s what I do with every draft I write: enhance character while stripping out non-essential detail, words, even syllables. Since the meaning […]


Where To Hear Tunes

What city is the live music capital of the US? Austin? Really? How does Austin out croon Nashville, Branson, and Vegas? Willy, Waylon, and the Boys I guess. Luckenbach is right down the road.


South Padre Sign

Can you give me a clue to step two? Jump?  Head between knees?   Fire!?