Texas Big Bend
The Rio Grande and the Pecos River and the Texas, New Mexico state line are the boundaries for a chunk of big space that has been called the Big Bend of Texas. Fifty years ago, I was working on a ranch east of El Paso a hundred miles and a man showed up to buy the ranch. I toured him around the ranch for 2 days looking at 100,000 acres of dry expanse with some deer, some cattle, some grass, some improvements and as he was leaving he asked me if I knew what the most valuable commodity was on the ranch……….? I thought for a moment but didn’t have any idea what the answer to his question was. He looked at me as he was getting in his car and said ……… “ Space” . As he was driving down the dusty road leaving the ranch, I thought about what he said and realized that was exactly why I was there.
For ages the ancient people have carved a sparse living out of the land adjacent to the Rio Grande. 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 an equine highway for goods acquired from the southern centers of prosperity in Mexico, then transporting them 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.
Many cowboys homesteaded in the Big Bend after the Civil War. Times were good, the 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 the new settlers. 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 and 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 the 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 provide 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.
Space was still the main ingredient to the Big Bend. La Reina rode the highways for 35 years from Del Rio to Columbus New Mexico. She and her burro lived in the bar ditch never affected by the weather or obstruction of travel on her burro. She never built a fire and never asked for a helping hand. She was a product of the spacious Big Bend. She was doing exactly what I wanted to do.
About the same time frame I was working on a ranch that had an 50 section pasture. We were cleaning the pasture and lacked one cow and a big yearling calf as best we could tell from our count. We decided to make another circle and see if we could find her. One hand was picked to go with me, I told him I would take one side and he could have the other side. We would have to do the best we could with the middle. We decided to meet at a certain windmill. We left early and finally came together on the far side. Lots of tracks later and after dinner by a good ways, but no cow and yearling. Lots of tracks but no cow and calf. We were sittin’ there wondering what to do next. I told him…”Well I quess we can double back and circle it again and see if we can find her.” He came up with several other plans that didn’t mention making any more tracks…..I figured he had seen all the space he wanted to for that day.
Another time shortly there after on the same ranch, I was asked if I could deliver a D8K dozer to a neighbor 25 miles south. I asked …”How” He said, “ by Driving it” It was only two gates and fairly flat country, and I said sure, I think so…..?????? It was several days of slow going but I loved it. Lots of Space with no civilization. Big open country and I saw more game than I did horseback. I think it was because the game could hear me coming for a lot longer than they could see me and by the time I got to them they were used to me and inquisitive as to what I was. Big animals and little animals alike would sit and stare at me while I passed by.
The Big Bend attracts lots of extravagant investments, from big cow ranches, major big golf courses, hunting ranches with all sorts of game, elaborate hotels and art attractions to space ports. But none of them have surpassed the spacious beauty of the Big Bend.
Gas stations ,Walmarts and MacDonalds are a lot further apart in the Big Bend than they are in other parts of Texas. So don’t travel without paying attention to your survival kit.