An Old Timer told me once that the Devil lived in a cave on Chinati Peak. After we left the Figure 2’s we moved to Chinati Mountains on a ranch called the Dipper. I learned to love, respect, and crave the rugged terrain of Chinati Mountain. I never found his cave, but the Devil lives on Chinati. My first trip on Chinati was a tease. It was one of the most memorable rides I ever made. A good horse “Biscuit” and all day to explore the Chinati Mountains on the Dipper. Wasn’t what I call prime cow country, but a certain cow could make it work. None were found to be living very high on Chinati during that trip. That was the last time I went to Chinati, that was without incident of near serious nature.
My next trip was with the owner’s son. We lift Ojo Bonito with five mules, riding two and packing the other three with supplies to camp and patch a rock tank on top. Beautiful ride up the Coffee Canyon trail, “I called it”, to a camp site at the rock tank on top. We threw down under a monster Alligator Bark Juniper tree and built a fire to cook supper. Didn’t take long to get a skillet full of beans and some tortillas going, but just as we had the beans warm the big Juniper started raining June Bugs. I think they were headed for the fire, but a majority landed in the skillet with the beans. It was just hot enough to sizzle them and we had roasted bugs in the beans. It was nearly dark and I had a hard time getting all the little critters out of the beans. We didn’t find but a few left in the beans when we were eating, I didn’t mind crutching lightly to separate the bugs from the beans and it didn’t seem to bother my camp mate either.
It was late when we finished supper and got the mules all tied for the night, I hobbled the two we rode and tied the other three solid for the night. This was my maiden voyage with these mules and I sure didn’t want to take any chances about being left afoot. Sometime in the night I awoke to the mules aleavin”, and it sounded like someone was chasing them. I laid back down after I realized how handy I would be, herding mules in the dark afoot-back. I dosed on and off until I couldn’t lay there anymore. It was still full dark but I was ready for some coffee. I was hoping to hear the mules close by while I built a fire to make breakfast. I was rustling around in the dark getting the coffee pot on the fire when I heard a rattle snake buzzing. My partner hadn’t got out of his bedroll yet and I knew the snake was close by him. He also heard the snake and started to rustle in bed. I told him to lay very still and keep his head under the covers. The only light I had was the fire and I grabbed a stick that was blazing on one end, hoping to be able to see the snake before I got close enough to let him bite me. I knew he was close to my friend’s bed from the sound and I could tell he sure was hopping’ mad. I couldn’t believe he was coiled up on top of the bedroll, but down at the foot luckily. I couldn’t believe my young compadre was laying so still. I grabbed another stick with the intention to knock the snake off the bedroll and then kill him. I swept him off with the first swing, but he went directly into a rat hole in a big rat’s nest in a big Cardenche Cautus. He got plumb away. He was the biggest Velvet Tail or Green Mountain Rattler that I had ever seen. They don’t get very big anyway, but this one looked like a Sea Snake. As Soon as the commotion settled, I told my buddy to come on out, the coast was clear. He threw the covers back and came out with a 9mm locked and loaded. I was more surprised than the snake. I told my young buddy that it was all right now and the snake had made it back in his hole. I didn’t realize that he had thrown his bedroll right next to this big rat’s nest. Mr Snake had come out of his hole looking for some late night Supper and found an intruder lieing in his hole. I am sure it felt warm and cozy and he decided to take a nap with this new found neighbor. It was a cool Spring night and this sure was a better deal than crawling around on the cold ground.
We had several cups of coffee and a plate of beans and bugs left over from last night while we pondered our plight. I had little hope of finding our mules very close by, but I sure was praying to find them close enough to catch and keep us from walking down the mountain.
Daylight came and we found no mules close; the tracks had gone down the trail we had come up. So we returned to camp, packed it all up and patched the tank. Nothing to do but head down the mountain afoot. My high heeled riding boots and spurs felt like prison chains by the time we got back to Ojo Bonito. I was surprised the mules were nowhere to be seen. Now I had to come up with a new plan to gather mules. I was hoping that they would be waiting for me at the corals at Ojo Bonito where we had packed from. I had a brain storm; I would go back to Ft. Davis and get Anne. I knew she would love to have a nice Sunday ride up to the top of Chinati and help me gather these mules and then pack our camp down. Lovely little ride for a beautiful Sunday.