Friday, March 30, 2007

Texas Trails

Pearsall TX, on the Frio River, is surrounded by peanut fields, and a sign in town says it is the peanut capitol of the world. There are lots of hopper feed trucks in sheds waiting for this harvest and through an open door in a shed, I see a wall of peanuts. Another crop I know very little about. There are crop duster planes waiting under sheds too, and miles of green fields.

We spend the night at Choke Canyon State park, where the Nueces.River was dammed up into a huge reservoir. Fishing, mostly for catfish, is a big deal. Every campsite has a boat except ours. Down by the boat ramp area a man has maybe 30 catfish on a blue tarp, and is advertising his bait. The fish cleaning stations have electrical outlets so folks can use electric carving knives to filet the fish. Pepe and I walk along the shore, where the waves spook Pepe and the ducks ignore us. We came upon the corpse of what I think was an alligator gar, 4’ long with the head of a gator, not pretty alive and really nasty dead. All the water of the reservoir has made this area very green and wet, and the trees are big enough to be called woods. It’s odd to hear the waves lapping and to hear the sound of leaves.

We hit the Walmart in Del Rio. The road goes close to the Mexican Border here, and we have been through two immigration check points. We stop, the officer asks us if we are US citizens, and I guess looks at us (racial profiling?) and also listens to our English. I can’t imagine someone trying to get into the US illegally through this landscape. It also occurs to me that the process of going to a US Consulate, applying for and (unlikely) getting a green card is out of the question for a poverty stricken Mexican. Coming in illegally is the only way. I read that there are increasing labor shortages where these workers were used in the past.

West of Uvalde, there are fields of cabbage, and trucks full of picked cabbages, and gargantuan irrigation pivots. In some fields, there is viridian green grass with fat cows. Then we are out of the river valley and into white layered rock road cuts, and low brush. There are two kinds of acacia trees, one with bright orange flowers and one with pale yellow flowers. Both have nasty thorns and go by the local name of cat’s claw. White, magenta and yellow prickly poppies, purple verbenas, yellow mustards, and quaker ladies that are bright lilac. A yellow flower called a puccoon. And the bluebonnets, of course. I’ve heard that the flowers in the desert are amazing, and while this isn’t quite the desert yet (I realize after typing this that I don’t know if it IS desert or not), it is so dry and inhospitable that it is hard to believe the number and variety of flowers.

We are at Seminole Canyon State Park for the night. The Canyon itself has two areas where a river has scoured overhangs in the rock, and ancient peoples lived there, as at Mesa Verde, hiding in the canyon from the wind and sun. No buildings but there are apparently large and impressive paintings on the walls. We got here to late to take the tour down, and it was probably too much climbing for us anyway. Alas. It is billed as the Lascaux of the US. I find some pictures on line. Most of them are figures of shaman, often standing with arms out stretched and rows of wavey lines and dots. Maybe next time.

We are camped on a slight rise with nothing around us in any direction except distant blue hills and very thin short brush. Acacias, cactus both the familiar Prickly Pear, some lower tubular ones and a big one that is pretty much buried in the ground. Other prickly cactus like shrubs, and thorns make walking through this land perilous. Pepe and I go off for a walk, down through this thorny stuff at first, where I have to stop every 3 feet to photograph another wildflower that I have never seen before. Then we take a trail that in 3 miles would lead to where the Pecos hits the Rio Grande, but I know that is too far, so we bushwhack again to the lip of the canyon and follow it along on a shelf of rock. I can look back and see the trailer up on a hill, very far away.

It is warm and windy and wild and empty out here, and I love it. It makes me feel as though something inside me is constricted by trees and buildings and too many people. I know it would be brutal in the summer time.


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