I’ll Never See It All
SOMEWHERE IN THE LOWER BIG BEND:
Stink Spring has been dry for several decades, nothing more now than a brush infested run with some decaying horse troughs amid rusting sections of water pipe. At one time the spring was important enough to be fenced off, and fencing was expensive for the early pioneer ranchers.
When passing through on one of my prowls I near invariably stop by, the hope in my heart being to see water there just one more time. Likely a forlorn hope at best, as this desert has been ever so slowly drying up for centuries upon centuries.
What we see at present as far as types of plants, animals, bird life and insects is much as it was some 4,500 years ago, with little variations since. The biggest has been man, who started populating this area since circa 10,000 BC. My gut tells me it was even before, a sensation usually brought on when poking about in the back lonesome.
In near center of this photograph you can see a dry wash drifting across to the right. This is the run coming out of Stink Spring, which in turn joins up with others to form Alamo Creek. Ultimately that creek empties into the Rio Grande below the old cemetery for La Coyota.
Much of this probably does not interest most coming to Big Bend National Park. Too many seem to think once you’ve seen Santa Elena Canyon, the Chisos Basin and maybe Boquillas, you have seen it all. Truth be known, I have spent some sixty years trying to and finally figured out I’ll never see it all.
But in the end, that won’t keep me from trying.
In this one photograph resides my growing up years, and the places I have returned to time and again. I started out first riding shotgun with my grandmother in a 1960 International Scout, followed by a multitude other vehicles as well as roaming around on a jenny, then horseback and most of all on foot.
What is seen here is a grand mosaic of life with thousands of stories left untold in tongues long dead, the remnants of people from so long ago no one can recall anything about them. They were the ones who came before; ultimately displaced, wiped out or assimilated by other groups who later met the same fate.
Stink Spring, Alamo Creek, Burro Mesa, Tule Mountain and the river itself were all known to them, but by different names and for different reasons. For within this frame are hundreds of spots where they once lived, culture upon culture right up through today.
You study this one photo and realize so much has happened here, and yet it is only one tiny sliver of a vast, majestic land. Then you see your life as only one among so many, both in the past as well as the future.
The thought makes you feel kind of small, a smallness akin to a single grain of sand along a near endless beach. Sometimes when we get too full of ourselves, we need to remember that.
Here’s to the scenes not yet seen, the trails not yet traveled and the lessons not yet learned.
God bless to all,
Ben H. English