This past Wednesday found me prowling along the northern reaches of the Rosillos, enjoying the rich verdancy of recent rains that will soon disappear. Then the only greenery will be at Buttrill Spring, hidden from view by the foothills at the extreme right of frame.

The temperature was 107 degrees, a bit toasty in anybody’s book.

Though slightly belated this year, summer has come to this singular land and with it more inherent dangers than at any other time. Most are factors in other seasons, but quickly become enhanced when the mercury begins to climb.

And as most everyone knows, this country has a lot of raw mercury contained within.

So I am going to take this opportunity to share some thoughts that might help others, or perhaps save a life someday. While in no way all inclusive, hopefully it will give someone pause to reconsider.

1. The Desert is not Your Friend: At best she is a disinterested observer, much like the big cat which sees all under its purview. It sits there comfortable-like and watches with idle curiosity. That is, until you make a mistake. Then that curiosity goes from idleness to seen opportunity near instantaneously, and the plotting begins against the prey.

2. The Desert is not an Amusement Park: Too often tourists come here in the same mindset as going to Disneyland, or Six Flags, or the local zoo. In that sort of mindset one is not only a danger to themselves but everyone with them, as well as a real annoyance to most anyone else. That includes the emergency personnel who have to retrieve dead bodies on occasion because of that same mindset.

3. In the Desert, Water is the Royalty of the Realm: It is the liquid gold of this harsh, dry, unpredictable country; always has been and always will be. On a day such as this I carry a minimum of seven quarts, including enough powdered Gatorade to make two quarts out of that seven. I also ‘water up’ before leaving my starting point and have three quarts more waiting upon my return.

Overkill? Perhaps to some. But the quickest dilapidating factor one can encounter out here, on the average, is lack of water. Your movements and thinking become lethargic, even confused. You tire far more quickly and every step calls for not only physical effort, but mental.

You also want enough to share with others you may come across, usually those who think they are in that amusement park.

4. Be Prepared: That does not mean flip flops, shorts, halter top, sun visor, a cell phone and a plastic bottle of water. Out here being stupid leads to being in pain, and just might get somebody killed. Knowledge and proper preparation is power. Never underestimate the environment that surrounds you and never, ever overestimate yourself.

One other note for the wary and the wise. The park systems are not your mother, nor your babysitter. Whatever you get yourself into, be fully prepared to get yourself out of it.

5. Master The Basics: Like most any other pursuit in life, mastering the basics is essential. Experience, common sense and some simple rules faithfully followed will get you farther along than the latest overhyped gear, electronic gadgetry or a shiny new $85,000 four wheel drive. Stay in proper physical condition, be able to read a map and compass, dress for success and be the master of anything you take with you.

6. Be Respectful: If there was ever an operative word utterly forgotten in today’s society, it is this one. Have respect for where you are, what is in your possession, those others around you and ultimately for yourself. Show me a truly successful person in the totality of life, and I will show you a respectful one. I include this one word at the end of this essay not because it is of the least importance, but rather the most.

Respect encompasses most everything I have written before, and so much more than what time and space will allow.

Cuidado, fellow sojourners and please feel free to share.

God bless to all,

Ben H. English
Alpine, Texas

USMC: 1976-1983
THP: 1986-2008
HS Teacher: 2008-2010

Author of ‘Yonderings’
‘Destiny’s Way’
‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend’
‘The Uvalde Raider’
‘Black And White: Tales of the Texas Highway Patrol’

Facebook: Ben H. English

‘Graying but still game’