The Rio Grande River cuts thru the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert to create the Big Bend of Texas. The Big Bend is still protected by the lack of water. It remains big, desolate, and spaciously dangerous. Even the Rio Grande with all its age has remained the same for the most part., other than the pockets where civilization has utilized her water for civil reasons. The Rio Grande is protected by tall and steep canyon walls that were carved by the rio thru the ages. They are impassable for the most part, making large uncivilized blocks of land on each side of the river from Paso Del Norte to Del Rio.
For ages the ancient people have carved a sparse living out of the land adjacent to the river. Cortez helped matters a bunch when he deposited a few horses from Spain onto the new world. Travel and the tourist trade blossomed. The Comanches made the Big Bend a equine highway for goods from the southern centers of prosperity to the homeland of the Lords of the Plains. But they didn’t tarry long in the Big Bend if they didn’t find anything worth taking home with them.
Mr. Brite homesteaded in the Big Bend in 1885, along with many others. Times were good, Civil War over and the cattle industry was growing with the western movement of cheap land and cheap cattle in south Texas. A cowboy could earn enough to buy some land and get him a start. All you had to do was gather cattle and drive them north to the market place or your new homestead. Indians were tamed somewhat now and not raiding. But the Big Bend remained spaciously unlawful.
World War One and the Mexican Revolution broke out in the early nineteen hundreds and this increased traffic thru the Big Bend with a new source of financial gain. Guns, cattle added to the horses for a new trade commodity. The Mexican Revolution created as many problems as the Comanches ever did. Too much country for a little law to tend to. Bandits from both sides of the Rio Grande tried to make a living without lawful employment. Many places along the Rio Grande were raided and it was impossible to supply protection everywhere. It was necessary for the ranchers and residents to be responsible for their own protection. After the wars and the roaring 20’s hit town. Whiskey became the hot item, prohibition probably helped some. Anything unlawful and valuable became hot in the Big Bend.
About this time 1918 after the Brite Ranch Raid on Christmas Day, Mr. Brite was still focused on his cattle operation south of Marfa. He closed his herd to any outside bovine. His breeding program became a line breeding operation. This has been going on since that day in 1918. At the time of this writing you can go to the Brite Ranch HQ and still see the results of this program. These Brite Ranch Herefords are like peas in a pod, if you like one of them, you will like them all. They are prolific, 97 to 98 precent calf crop by the branding time. They utilize the terrain and will test a good rock horse to get around in the rocks and brush. Pretty good !! They have sustained 4 generations .
The Big Bend is all by itself in many departments. Space is the number one commodity. One cowboy questioned another about his regard for the code. The other commented that he was raised to close to the Rio Grande to know anything about a code. Men still try to cross the expanse without proper respect. Three young men hauling backpacks full of trade goods walked up to the Brite HQ in hopes of some relief. They found some horses and decided to borrow them in order to help with their cumbersome load on this journey. They weren’t as well versed in their riding skills as what was required to make use of these equine transportation vehicles. They scattered equipment around the corral before deciding to take one gentle horse and pack the whole load and leading this horse. They managed to get gone before daylight and only took what they thought they needed, one horse, a gallon of vanilla ice cream and one ice cream scoop. The Big Bend got them, they didn’t make it to HWY 90.
The Big Bend boast the “Best Golf Course in Texas”, at Lajitas Texas. Make sure you buy a round trip ticket.
The Big Bend today still buffalos travelers. They show up in Sheffield looking for a gas station. They can’t believe no gas in town. Sheffield has formed a “Stranded in Sheffield Club”. Gas in Sheffield brings prices that make contraband goods look like a Walmart Daily Special.
Characters abound in the Big Bend. “La Reina” or the “Burro Lady”, rode for 35 years in the Big Bend, never built a fire and rode from Sanderson TX to Columbus NM. Never took a hand out and rode a burro making a living in the bar ditches. I think she had it made.
The Big Bend is still alive and well, plenty of possibilities to test your survival skills in many kinds of extreme sports.