The above is the sunset from my campsite last evening. Eventually, the clouds dissipated revealing a full moon and in the early morning some wonderful star gazing. It was warm enough that I slept with my bag open.
I decided to let the winds determine my fate today. If they were from the north or west, my direction of travel, I would take a tour of the petroglyphs here and have a short ride to Langtry later in the afternoon. If from the south or east, I would do the long haul into Sanderson. For the next few days, the towns are all spaced 50-70 miles apart with almost nothing in between. When I awoke the winds were strong and from the west. My choice was made.
My campsite this morning was like an aviary United Nations meeting. I’ve never seen or heard a more diverse collection of birds. I’m regretting not bringing the binoculars and my Sibley guide.
With a short ride ahead of me, I took my time getting up. At 10am, I rode to the visitor’s center and joined a tour of the Fate Bell Shelter, a site where a nomadic group known as the “Pecos People” lived and left cliff paintings more than 4,000 years ago. (This is the part of my blog where I can hear my daughter falling asleep…her forehead just hit the desk.) These are the oldest in the U.S. Not much is known about the Pecos People; no current Native Americans count them in their lineage. But, anthropologists do know what they ate. When excavating the site, a large volume of coprolite was discovered. Coprolite is fossilized fecal matter. (From a trip to Utah, I once brought my son a coprolite – dinosaur dung – guessing that he would find it interesting, if not funny. Given his response, I should have gone for the t-shirt.) Scientists were able to reconstitute the original matter and determined that the Pecos People lived on fish, deer, lizards, grass, twigs, cactus and insects; in other words, a true subsistence diet.
After the tour concluded, I headed west on Hwy 90. I passed a border patrol truck dragging three large tires on the dirt road I mentioned yesterday to rake it clean making it easier to see footprints. A few miles later, I saw across that same road a series of pieces of thin stiff particleboard placed like stepping-stones. I also saw my first rattlesnake today. It was road kill, but still looked intimidating and caused me to rethink leaving my tent at home.
About 10 miles from Langtry, I stopped for a break on the bridge above the Pecos River. It was much larger than I had expected from watching years of cowboy movie westerns. On that theme, the ride today and for the past few days has that same cowboy western feel. Its not because of the scenery, but rather the sound. In those classic John Ford movies you always hear the wind blowing; it’s a character in the film perceived through squeaky saloon doors, rattling chains and weather vanes turning. You hear that as you ride along the road here – windmill blades creak, road signs vibrate, corrugated tin roofs rattle and fence gates swing open and shut. I keep waiting for Gus, Call and the boys from Hat Creek to ride out of the sage before me.
Langtry has a population of less than 50. Its claim to fame is that this is where Judge Roy Bean held court at the turn of the 19th century. Judge Bean was quite the character. It’s worth reading about him. In the museum here, I came across this part of one of his decisions. After finding $45 in cash and a handgun on someone who had been shot to death, Bean stated: “It is the duty of the court to confiscate this concealed weapon, which is a dam’ good gun because it is legally ag’inst the law, especially a dead man. And in view of the evidence I find it the court’s duty to fine the offender forty-one simoleons for carryin’ concealed weapons.”
Tonight’s lodging will be the ground outside the Langtry Community Center. No shower, no phone service, no bathroom, no picnic table. Just ground. But, I do have WiFi.