“On a hill far away,
Stood an old rugged cross”…

A graveyard is a lonely place, and an abandoned one makes for the loneliest of all. For some reason people congregated at a certain spot, dreamed dreams, lived life and when that mortal life was through, were interred among others in a communal location.

Later their descendants and other survivors moved on, seeking their own dreams and lives to live, and leaving the graves of their forebears behind. But in doing so they almost invariably left two lasting monuments as testaments to the dead, a pile of rocks and a cross.

The cross can be made of many things, wood being the most common but quickest to rot away. Other materials may be concrete, pipe, pieces of farm implements or whatever else readily available promising some longevity.

Each of these final resting places are somewhat unique in locale and construction. Each have their own stories and some possess other oddities hard to describe in mere words, but easily discerned even when one looks upon them from afar.

The cemetery at La Noria is such a spot. Nestled along Tornillo Creek, the history surrounding this area gives special flavor to what might otherwise be considered a near barren, listless, eroded flat. So much so that two of my books speak of La Noria at some length.

Choice of location was peculiar in itself. The pantheon sits low, with feeders for a draw running between some of the graves. Trash dumps once existed at a short distance to either side, and when approached from any direction one will find rusting cans, broken bits of porcelain and other time capsule castaways along their route.

Yet perhaps the oddest part of all is the difficulty many have in finding the cemetery, even with three roads running less than a quarter a mile away. To some it appears and then vanishes much like the rumored ghosts of those buried there.

Over the decades I have personally guided people to the spot but when they return, the graveyard evades them repeatedly.

Finally, I began advising them to look for the large rock cross embedded on an adjoining low rise. The best place to see it was in the morning, along Old Ore Road as one was driving in from the south. Fix the exact spot in your mind and keep guiding upon it. The graveyard will be just north.

That symbol has endured for as long as I have been alive, and decades before.

Until now, which is the reason for this missive. Last Wednesday I was familiarizing our new Executive Director for the Big Bend Natural History Association, Julie B Childs, concerning points of interest along Old Ore Road. With some anticipation, we parked her Jeep and walked to the graveyard.

But the cross was gone, obliterated by erosion from the recent rains. I stood there quietly, the pangs of sadness from personal loss mixed with the slivers of feeling somewhat old and timeworn myself.

Nothing lives forever in this desert, not even the rocks.

And assuredly not myself.

“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.”…

God bless to all,

Ben H. English
Alpine, Texas
USMC: 1976-1983
THP: 1986-2008
HS Teacher: 2008-2010
Author 2017-Present
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’