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Post "Lonesome Dove" and the Old West Cattle Drives
Created by John Eipper on 03/21/12 1:45 AM

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"Lonesome Dove" and the Old West Cattle Drives (Randy Black, USA, 03/21/12 1:45 am)

I was so pleased to read Richard Hancock's 14 March post about his love for Lonesome Dove, the 1985 Pulitzer Prize winning book by Larry McMurtry and the 1989 film version of the book that he viewed on Netflix.

I had not forgotten how much I respected the book and its story line that begins along the Rio Grande and extends over a couple of years to Montana dating from the 1870s. I took the book along with several others to Omsk, Russia in 1993 for my exile year in Omsk while I taught ESL. Lonesome Dove truly offers a wonderful picture of early Texas and the real characters who settled that part of the West.

Over the past couple of days, I've also watched (for about the 5th time over the past decade) the movie via Netflix. I am very grateful to Richard for bringing up Lonesome Dove. It's a joy to meet the story once again.

An interesting note from the opening credits: The camera pans to a shot of a sign for the Hat Creek Cattle Company, the only business in Lonesome Dove. Under the names of the proprietors (Captain McCrae and Captain Call) there is a Latin phrase. It says: Uva uvam vinedo varia fit. There's a typo that those among us who studied Latin would recognize. I did not, thus I looked it up. Vinedo should read videndo. Loosely, it means, "You are known by the company you keep." Literally, it seems to mean, "A grape changes color in seeing another grape." I prefer the loose version.

I have explored and commented about Richard's historic connection to Alpine, Texas, which I pass through at least once annually on my pilgrimage to the Big Bend National Park and the associated outback locales in this mostly desolate area of Texas.

In 2010, my family and I traced a section of the Pecos River from near Santa Fe, New Mexico south for a few hundred miles to near Carlsbad. On our return drive to Dallas, we passed through Stinnett, Texas, which Richard mentioned as the Adobe Walls scene in Lonesome Dove.

Last November, Natasha and I picked the Pecos River up at Pecos, Texas and followed it southeast a few hundred miles to its termination at the Amistad Reservoir between Langtry (the Judge Roy Bean State Museum) and Del Rio, Texas. Along the way, Natasha enjoyed the 10,000-year-old Indian pictographs at the Seminole Canyon State Park where we tent camped and took horseback rides into the caves and mountains overlooking the Terlingua Ghost Town, Lajitas and Study Butte (pronounced "stū-dē byūt."

A day later, in true Lonesome Dove fashion, Natasha got up before dawn and in dusty, windy sub-freezing early November temperatures, fed hundreds of goats, sheep, cows, horses, pigs, turkeys and other assorted animals on the historic Pitcock-Rosillos Mountain Ranch, a 25,000-acre private holding within the Big Bend National Park.

Keeping with the theme, our guest ranch house consisted of ancient bunk beds in a 110-year-old whitewashed adobe structure. The house's walls in true ancient Texas fashion were two feet thick for insulation and doors that were only about 5.5 feet high, allowing my 11-year-old daughter to hang from the door frame. Warned by the ranch's caretakers to never leave the building unarmed, I wore my 45 cal. 1911 Colt in its leather holster on my hip. The reason for the sidearm? Aggressive javelina, mountain lions, coyotes and other predators patrolling nearby in search of a free meal in the form of a goat or a small child. This place is rural. No phones, no TV, no McDonald's for nearly 100 miles and then the next one is another 100 miles!

The Pitcock-Rosillos Ranch is about 30 miles north of the Rio Grande that we later waded across to the mid-point for photos.

News bulletin: At the end of March, the US will officially re-open an unmanned border crossing in the Big Bend so that travelers can once again patronize tiny Boquillas del Carmen (Mexico), a village with no electricity, no running water and only one cantina that keeps the Carta Blanca cold with a propane powered refrigerator. The significance is that this is the first "unattended" US border crossing that I'm aware of anywhere along our southern border. Unattended is a relative term, in that the site will have a small, open air kiosk that travelers will be required to submit their passport under a scanning camera where a border patrol agent in a building 88 miles north will remotely examine and press a green light allowing the traveler to cross over and back via a row boat operated by a vendor selected for the crossing. The crossing was open dating to 1910, but was shut down by the feds after 9-11 despite that the nearest paved rode into Boquillas del Carmen from within Mexico is 100 miles away as the crow flies and there are not many crows that can survive in that desolate region.


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