Monday, November 19, 2012

Deliver Us from Evil

My wife tells me I find solace at the ranch because no evil exits there. The notion may hold some truth. I did not begin cavorting with the sordid side of human existence until I packed my pillow and left home long long ago. The ranch is the one place I can nurse a cold beer without having bad thoughts percolate into my brain. That is solace of one kind. Another is taking time to re-explore nature at the ranch.

Yesterday I “rediscovered” the pea-sized fruit of 'granjeno', the desert hackberry bush. Quite a few remain on the thorny shrubs at the ranch. I'll still pluck off a few plump ones, pinch the tiny fruit between my thumb and index finger, bring it to my pursed lips and perform the perfunctory blow to cleanse it before popping one into my mouth. I am reminded of when I was a boy at the ranch. That's solace.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Smoke and Ice

I remember a place one bitterly cold morning in 1989 where smoke and ice hung ghost-like in the winter air. Words like smoke and ice don't often pair up in a sentence, but my memory carries the image of the two coexisting comfortably. Their bonding agent was my dad. He had taken a drag of his Kent Golden Light while snapping an icicle off an ice-encrusted huisache and the translucence of his cigarette smoke melded with the dull shimmer from leafless branches sagging with ice. In the muffled stillness of the morning, smoke and ice hung in the air as if in a dream.

When I step out onto bare ground on any chilly morning, as we have experienced lately, I think of dad, and also of winter days on the ranch that are beyond my reach, but not forgotten.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Icky to Look At

Scientifically they are of the order Phasmatodea. That doesn't exactly roll off the tongue as easily as 'walking stick'. Nor does it paint as creepy an image in your brain as the more common label, 'walking stick'. I've read enough about them to know they are neither poisonous nor venomous, but I still shy away from one. This icky insect and I share a common affinity. We may not be pretty to look at, but we make nice pets.

Friday, November 2, 2012


The 30-foot walls of the old Farias building in Benavides are as indomitable as those of the Alamo. Built in 1895 by Andres Farias, the store's history is long forgotten by today's generation and nothing remains of its roof or interior. Caliche rock was the primary building material of this eyesore, all but invisible to the locals who drive by to and from work, school or play. No one entertains the thought of its potential to one day topple onto a side street or the main highway.

It stands in contrast to the youth of Benavides, Texas, vibrant, full of life and charging forward with a promising future . It's Homecoming Week in Eagle Country. The old Farias building has seen them all.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Las Luces

The stars, except for the very bright ones, are not visible to the north. They have been scrubbed from the night sky by man-made-light pollution five miles north of town. That is where the epicenter of the Palangana Salt dome is located; one of the largest salt domes west of the Mississippi. It covers over 3000 acres and extends down 35,000 feet. C.C. Brine operates wells on its surface to dispose of exploration and production waste from the oilfield. The operation works around the clock, and so we have the intrusive lights. It is more difficult now to point out Polaris, the Little Dipper or Big Dipper to my young friend, Evan. He will turn 10 this month and it is unfortunate the night sky is not as clear or the stars as bright for him as it was for me when I was ten. Happily, when we turn our gaze to the south, it still looks good and the constellations stand out more clearly.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Edmundo does not shy away from cooking with grease. He is fearless and by the grace of God the federal food police have yet to descend on Duval County to put a stop to his passion. ChicharrĂ³nes are his signature dish; fried layers of pork fat and meat. There can be no other Tex-Mex dish under heaven that flips the finger to the notion of diet, health, or self-preservation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Going back to Richard M. Nixon, I've been voting with a career average of .600 for the winning presidential candidate. I hope to improve my average in 2012.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Just Better

God blessed them with energy, integrity, selflessness, and more importantly, a willing heart. We know them as volunteers with names like Elizondo, Guerra and Dimas. In Benavides they are the difference between a populace that curses the ground they walk on and a community that works to build itself up. These are better people than I.

As I steered east for home after work I noticed this small group busy sprucing up the 4-H club commemorative marker along the tracks of the Kansas City Southern. I rolled to a stop, stepped off the pickup, walked over and asked to take their picture. Of course, they obliged. Good people always do. After the customary small talk I thanked them for the photo and voiced my admiration for their work, then turned to leave. It was then that a little voice said to me, "Lend them a hand. Go home and change into some jeans, fetch your cap and leather gloves and lend a hand." I did not. It's like I said. They are better people than I.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

On Vulture Time

Under a pale blue canopy they stretch black wings to soar lazily over the broad expanse of the brush country. At dusk, and near the fringe of Benavides, the vultures orbit in low circles offering no clue to what it is that draws them. Unlike humans, evolutionary earthbound, who grow impatient for what tomorrow may bring, the vulture waits, circles, roosts, and waits some more. They have all the time in the world.