Christmas Memories of Lajitas Trading Post
SOMEWHERE IN THE LOWER BIG BEND:
As the same for many others, Christmas has taken me somewhat by surprise. With that I am reposting an essay from my third book ‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend.’
I hope you enjoy this one. They are the memories of a child, containing both people as well as a place that no longer really exist.
But the resulting man still visits when he can…
May God bless you and yours, and Merry Christmas,
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
It is said that time is like a river, flowing into the seas of eternity. The river never remains the same as it courses along due to the constantly changing flow.
Dip your cup into the waters one moment and drink. When you do so again, it is different water and thus a different river.
More than one river flows in this story; both the river of moments and memories, and the muddy waters of the Rio Grande carving through the lower Big Bend and on to the Gulf of Mexico.
Commanding a high ground view and perspective above both is a place out of time, a spot central to my childhood as well as the lives of so many others.
This venerable adobe and wood structure has signified Lajitas for nearly as long as the locale has had that name. The crossing below has been known prior as Comanche Crossing, San Carlos Crossing, and likely a dozen other names in human tongues long since lost.
It is the Lajitas Trading Post, once the defining man-made symbol of a way of life central to this land and both rivers described. Now it is only a prostituted shell of itself in the form of a golf pro shop. Yet it still stands, alone and defiant in those moving waters of time.
Likely one of the greatest travesties ever to occur in the lower Big Bend is what has happened to Lajitas. Doubly so because the boundary lines for the national park as well as the limits of the state park run almost right up to it.
Of all the places you can name with historical significance to this country; very few possess the long, involved, rich, multi-cultural story of Lajitas.
It is now all gone; irretrievably lost to the blade of the bulldozer, the hundreds of tons of fill dirt forming out-of-place golf greens, and the lack of knowledge, foresight and respect of its successive owners. As far as I know not one single archaeological dig ever occurred here, the ground zero site of man’s existence for as long as he has been in this region.
Now, about the photographs:
The first photograph is of myself at four years of age, I am standing on the front porch of the trading post in 1962. It was Christmas time, evident by the closed doors to the store customarily open except in cold weather, and my new clothes and the brace of shiny cap pistols hanging on my hips.
The photo was taken by my grandmother, whose partial shadow you can see at the bottom of the frame. It was unusual for her to shoot in color, which lends some importance to this particular event.
When I look at this photo and think back I have to smile, so much of who we were as a small child ties directly into who we became later in life.
The second photo was taken fifty-three years later, also close to Christmas time. It had been a while since I had visited the site and was shocked at what I found. Nearly everything I remembered was gone or near unrecognizable. I wandered about almost aimlessly, trying to connect with that four year old boy standing on the front porch.
Finally, around the rear of the building masked by cast away junk, I found one of the original windows still performing its set task from when the store was first built.
Then it came to me where all those memories and that four year boy had gone off to, and just how far that river of time had floated me down stream. Childhood memories can be castaways, too.
I write this with no malice or anger to anyone, but only with a great sadness in my heart as to what has transpired in Lajitas even in my own lifetime.
And the waters of both rivers continue to flow.