Up from Croton Spring, between the two branches that fork off the attending arroyo, sits a low pass joining these two watersheds. To this day remnants of old trails can be found running hither and yon in this area, all the way up to the foot of Croton Peak and beyond into the Paint Gap Hills.

Through here hardly anything grows most of the time, save for clumps of greasewood, catclaw, sage and stunted mesquite along a parched shallow run, waiting patiently for a rain that never seems to come. To either side is high ground, with large boulders scattered along.

The rimrock to the north contains nooks and crannies providing shelter to native dwellers, some large enough to have been used by ancient man in temporary fashion. The enduring signs of their camps can be found on most any heading on the compass from this spot. Strangely enough, their mark on this land remains the most enduring of all.

You stand there alone, looking and listening, half-expecting to be swept away by some errant hole in time to a hundred and fifty years ago. Or maybe fifteen hundred, or even fifteen thousand. They say this country has steadily become drier over the centuries, likely in olden times grass covered this barren ground and verdant trees lined the waterways for each creek fork.

Not anymore. Like some supernatural creature of mythic lore, the eroding fingers of the Chihuahuan Desert has found this place, reached out to clasp it by the throat, and did its best to suck it dry.

Yet not quite, for in this invasion other forms of life adaptable to such an environment thrived, or came along with those invading forces. What was alien even a hundred and fifty years ago, is now so commonplace as to not even cause a second glance.

Life in itself is change, be it good or bad. One can only hope to hold fast to the good, hold off the bad and adapt themselves to whatever the result. The desert is a harsh schoolmaster in teaching that lesson, especially to the stranger who wanders off into it.

To this day one lives or one dies, depending upon how apt a student they may be. A passing grade equals survival; but those merciless, eroding fingers wait under a blistering sun for man, beast and land alike.

God bless to all,

Ben H. English
Alpine, Texas

USMC: 1976-1983
THP: 1986-2008
HS Teacher: 2008-2010
Author 2016-Present

Facebook: Ben H. English

‘Graying but still game’