Tandem, An American Love Story

A border patrol officer, Joe, who lives in the RV park during the week, stopped by the fire this morning while the group was having coffee. He was just getting in from a cold night spent scanning one of the usual hot spots with a night-vision scope, with no luck.

This is a particularly busy part of the border for illegals. It is 30 miles from the border at Carrizo Springs, 30 miles of mesquite, cactus, rattlesnakes, javelinas and no water.

Joe, who often has to physically run-down and tackle them, speaks of them with the respect of the hunter for his prey. “These are tough people,” he says with a shake of his head, “very tough people, and they want to be here very badly.” He warned us not to freelance camp anywhere near the border in Texas. There is not so much to fear from the illegals, but there are drug smugglers also, and they are dangerous.

We said our good-byes around the morning campfire, took pictures, and rode off waving. Found a little cafe with huge breakfast tacos that were wonderful; my favorite was the chorizo (seasoned hot sausage) and egg slathered with hot hot sauce. Oh my. Muy Bueno. What a way to start a day.

The ride to Eagle Pass was not long, but the road felt even more remote; more hills made it seem long. There was no human habitation between the two towns. As always things to see: caracara, and another beautiful chestnut brown breasted hawk we can’t identify, the curve of the earth from a high place, and sadly, a roadkill bobcat.

We rode along beside an officer as he drove slowly on a parallel dirt track, peering from his Bronco’s window looking for human tracks. At one point he stopped, got out and examined something on the ground and as we caught up to him said two words, “Be careful.”

Like Jack said, “This here is a different country altogether.”

Eagle Pass was a lovely town with wonderful eighteenth century houses that rival the ones in Mississippi. The Spanish influence makes them even prettier I believe. We had another wonderful breakfast at a Mexican place and I tried a new breakfast taco I particularly liked; eggs and either beans or meat with lots of hot sauce. Claire goes for the cheese ones, not so hot.

We stopped at a high point in the road looking over miles and miles of arroyos and hills for lunch. It was mid 70’s and, of course, sunny. Lots of trucks went by and almost all waved and blew air-horns. I saw more than one reach for his CB microphone after he waved. We were treated well by the trucks all day. I think every trucker in our 60 some miles knew exactly where we were today.

The warm sun feels very good here. Now the humidity is gone and the warmth is different. I think I got used to the humidity to a degree I never would have thought possible, but, I’m not sorry to be leaving it.

South of Del Rio, a state patrol trooper was measuring skid marks on the road. Where they left the pavement the earth was ripped, and several trees were scarred and broken at a height of perhaps eight feet.

Just there, at the finish of this graphic image, were two crude crosses, obvious in their newness. One was made of horse-shoes welded together and hung with blue artificial flowers and a rosary. The second cross was cut from the limbs of one of the broken trees and lashed together. The flowers were red; a white rosary and a black tulle veil also hung there. Six child’s toy figures were arranged carefully around the base. Between the crosses was a large votive candle of Saint Jude.

We stayed and were quiet, feeling the need to offer our condolences, but there is no one there to console. We talked about who they might have been and how their lives came to this end and who they left behind. I like to think they know that strangers care.

We have taken several photographs of such crosses across the country. They vary greatly and yet all have a strange crude beauty about them. They are very personal expressions of grief. True and fine art.

Del Rio

While we were checking in at the RV park in Del Rio, we were invited to a party and dancing. Free food and dancing. You bet!
We danced ourselves silly at the Buzzards Roost that night. The first song was a medley of very fast numbers from the big band era and early rock and roll. A great hot swing number. It just kept going and going and going. The crowd was shouting encouragement and taking bets that we wouldn’t finish the song, long after everyone else gave up. We managed, without looking too weak or gasping too hard, and received applause for our efforts. As usual, I was wishing Claire wasn’t so flamboyant.

After that introduction, we had lots of people to talk to and learned a lot about the culture of Del Rio and Texas. For example, we are Yankees, simply because anybody north of San Antonio is a Yankee. One of the women married a man from New York and the couple have lived here for many years. He’s been wearing boots and cowboy hats forever, but is just now finally an honorary Texan. I won honorary status (for the night only), by eating the hottest jalapeno at the buffet. My lips may never feel again.

Three of the cooks for a community fund-raiser, wild game dinner were at our table. They encouraged us to stay another day and attend, describing in great detail all of the food. Immediately a man next to Claire bought us two tickets. Del Rio wouldn’t let us go.

We went to watch the cooking which lasted all day. There must have been a dozen barbecue cookers of various designs around a parking lot, all on wheels for easy transport, and all burning lots of mesquite. Some of them were huge. One was so big, that it took a two-ton truck to pull it.

They were cooking: black buck, white tail deer, feral pig, quail, grants gazelle, turkey and other wild and exotic game.

Most of the meat came from the wild game shooting ranches that seem abundant around here. Ranchers around here have learned they can make more money charging city slickers big bucks to bag a buck or antelope etcetera, than they can running cattle. I think it is a good thing. The wild animals take less of a toll on the desert than do cattle and yet the economy is not affected. The dinner was quite the social event, and we met a bunch of folks. I don’t know about all this barbecue stuff though. I can only eat so much meat, and a whole plate is too much. For day-to-day eating, I prefer Mexican: beans, vegetables, tortillas and just a little meat.

We decided to walk the three miles back to the Buzzards Roost to settle all that meat. We were almost back, when a car pulled off onto the shoulder and rolled slowly behind us, crunching gravel, high beams casting our long shadows down the road.

We stepped into the ditch and waited. To our relief it was an apologetic sheriff’s deputy who was just checking us out. Our society is so car centered that people on foot are always suspect, particularly so here where they are always on the lookout for illegals.


Tandem, An American Love Story — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the memories, and the update on your own adventures. That last few days back to Sequim was bitter-sweet after more than a year on the road. We’ve never been the same; a good thing.

  2. What a marvelous and beautifully descriptive article about a simply amazing woman – Karen Landis. I’ve had had the serendipitous experience to create and nurture a friendship with Karen after I underwent a hip replacement and three hip fractures and realized I needed to request the local “Meals on Wheels” service. And of course, if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Karen serves the Chino Valley community two days a week by delivering meals to people in my circumstance.
    I loved Karen the first moment I met her. And when we started chatting I knew I had met a soul mate. I’ve been looking all my life for a role model, a hero, an amazing example of humankind. I don’t know if she realizes what an outstanding example she is of a strong, independent, intelligent, talented woman. Sometimes as women, we have a dentency to undervalue ourselves. But Karen, I want you to know you are the real deal. You are just so beautiful in your authenticity. And I a so appreciative of the value you have added to our environment by caring for the land and the animals under your watchful care. Your abilities and strength simply boggle my mind. And thank you for your loving service to me these past four months. You rock girl!

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