Monday, March 31, 2008

West Texas

"West Texas" can mean a lot of different things, given the size and variety of the state.
On a tip from my Dad, here is a very interesting history web site about Texas. One of the many extensive sections gives a lot of information about the part of West Texas wherein I spent a fair amount of my growing up.

Back when my family lived there, my ten-year-old archeologist self didn't know anything about leaving things in context. We hunted arrowheads and other flint tools, which could be found even right around town.

Cabeza de Vaca stumbled through that country, then nearly everyone left it alone. For a history of settlement after statehood, Baronial Forts of the Big Bend is a good book if you can find a copy. Apart from some brushes with fame during the Mexican Revolution, a little ranching, a little mining, a little farming, and a lot of emptiness characterizes much of the Big Bend.

That is still a relatively little known corner of the world, although I've found a surprising amount of material on the web just looking around now. For years the best way of explaining the part of West Texas my family spent a few years in was either as "the Trans-Pecos", which wasn't particularly illuminating but satisfied some, or "a couple hundred miles down river from El Paso", which more people can envision. If you gave a town name, it is most likely heard of or seen by people on the way to the big national park or perhaps an exclusive resort. Back in the 70's, I don't think anyone would have expected Lajitas to become a resort. Mostly it was just the last little place you drove through on your way to the Park or, for the people that participated in that, a famous chili cookoff. The best restaurant for a couple of hundred miles in any direction when we lived there was in a ghost town.

We had the good fortune to have access to a big ranch, now also a park, where we got to hunt, picnic, and see some pretty interesting prehistoric sites- pictographs in rock shelters, metates and manos, and deep mortar holes in the rock where grain or seeds were ground. On further expeditions, we'd head up to higher elevations and check out the fort or swim in a really nice pool.

I'm taken a bit back to find so much of that country on the web. Check out the county courthouse, fitting for the second biggest county in Texas.

No comments: