A desert is defined as a region that receives less than 10 inches of rainfall per year. About fifteen inches of rain descends on the South Texas Sand Sheet to the north of us and therefore it is not technically a desert. Still, anyone living in this region would be hard pressed to call it anything else. Green only when rains fall briefly once or twice a year but otherwise brown and dry. The Sand Sheet is called a desert by all who must endure these two-million acres of scorched earth where yearly hundreds of people who enter the US in violation of immigration laws die and where not a single sweet water pond exists to sate anyone’s thirst. Brutal is perhaps the best word to describe the Sand Sheet. So at least once per year I pack up and head for mountains to the west. Before Mexico decayed into a fascist enclave with cartels run like American corporations would exist if they could get away with it, I’d seek the mountains a few hours from here near the town of Saltillo. Now however I must travel for a day and a half before I attain a cool altitude. The trip this year was a mixed bag of good and sad. Traveling west from Fort Worth through places called Abilene and Seminole and Hobbs I saw tens of thousands of wind turbine generators stretching for as far as the eye can see. A faction of rightwing minions who take orders from rightwing media moguls abhor these turbines because they are told to think that way. After all, the rightwing thought machine fears any sort of competition to their sacred oil/gas/coal industries. I don’t find wind turbines particularly aesthetic but I realize that Americans demand energy and I’ve acquiesced to the presence of these skyscraping windmills. Besides, travel farther west to locales called Carlsbad and Artesia and then Pecos and Fort Stockton and you witness greed, narcissism and our quest for energy at its worst. I asked a fellow in Artesia, New Mexico why the town smelled so foul. He replied, “That’s the smell of money.” A woman nearby apparently overheard the conversation and as I walked back to my truck she approached me and said, “No, that’s the smell of sick children and trashy oil field workers.” I nodded and she added, “This is how the earth smells when it’s been abused and ravaged.” She walked away and I did not get her name. About fifty years old or thereabouts, a grandmother perhaps; maybe someone who grew up in that town and knew it before America’s drug cartel called the Oil and Gas Industry moved in and took over. I’ve been told the cartel is rapidly destroying a long stretch of Texas called the Eagle Ford Shale Region. The expanse looks now like a gangrenous wound from the border to near San Antonio. Please don’t bother me with comments like, “That’s the smell of money.” That’s the same thing the Mexican drug cartels say when people complain about the wickedness of cocaine and crystal meth.
At last I reached 9,000 feet. I arrived at a place I’ve visited a few dozen times over four decades. Except that in the last ten years or so the place has looked drier and drier. Gone are the lush valleys and profuse dousings of frigid rain. Now the trees look weary and signs are posted every few miles warning that the area is in the midst of extreme fire danger. In other words, forest fires have become the norm throughout the west. I set up camp near a little road I first found over thirty years ago. But this time the first half of the road was like driving through a scene from a movie about the end of the world. A huge forest fire swept through a few years ago and though this is at the top of a mountain the higher hills lay barren with the charred stubble of once mighty trees. I’d seen the same thing farther back as I was ascending the road to this alpine area. A lady told me that last year a “fierce fire” overtook that place destroying thousands of acres of forest.
I drove on and reached a spot I have roamed many times. Found a secluded site, parked my truck, hiked in a couple of miles and established my camp. No campfires allowed and so I packed in the sort of cans and tubes that some bloggers and “modern” camping and backpacking enthusiasts think constitutes the best of all worlds. Okay, I didn’t want to start a forest fire so I endured those things that do not sit well with me. Piped through those metal tubes and emanating from those metal cans is the very evil that has desecrated the earth in so many places. Places like Artesia and Carlsbad and Pecos and along the Eagle Ford Shale Region. I kept thinking, “Don’t these incredibly naïve, ignorant and otherwise foolish backpacking enthusiasts and the bloggers that obsess over the latest gadget and buyable product understand these things?”
It was as if a cloud had descended over me even as the sky above was blue and clear. Fortunately, for four days not one single vehicle drove down the road far below me and I saw no one anywhere. In years passed the nights were downright cold. But this year the nights could only be described as pleasantly cool. I saw elk and several mule deer. I did some birding but honestly I’ve got a lot more birds in my “front yard” here at my cabin. I walked a lot and as usual spent most of my time identifying the plants around me. Plants are the elixir of life. Through plants all things on earth derive. Each plant is a solar panel—the very thing the oil and gas industry hates—and those solar panels channel the sun’s energy through countless systems from point A to point B and onward; and if the system is operating smoothly the energy is not lost in the form of entropy but instead efficiently transferred. So tell me: Why can’t we understand that nature is telling us what works the very best and the cleanest and is the most efficient? Is it because modern Capitalism abhors cleanliness?
After a while I started forgetting about that world beyond my camp. I get the same feeling at my cabin. Of course, it’s unreal. On my way home I stopped in the desert and collected some things that I’ll be showing you in the very near future. I learned the San Antonio Spurs had won the championship. Go Spurs! But I also found out that Deep South Texas has become a mess. Tens of thousands of people are crossing the Rio Grande because they have been told that the Obama Administration is going to give them amnesty. Something changed on this trip and I don’t care if I sound political. I think the Obama Administration is a failure. Now mind you that Junior Bush and his wicked sidekick Darth Cheney were depraved. But Obama is just clueless. I have no favorites, folks. I don’t take orders from either side of the aisle. I tell it as I see it. You might’ve heard me say this before: A woman or man who can only look right or left is bound to run into a wall or stumble over a root in the trail. Give me someone who knows how to negotiate the woods and I’ll show you a wise person—speaking metaphorically, of course.
The land can only endure so much. The land is now overrun by oil and gas drilling, by millions of people scrambling across the Rio Grande, by rapacity and greed. I look up and see clouds and yet the sky is blue for as far as the eye can see.
Desert Country Walking Stick
Quick and easy to make Emergency Cordage
How to make a Machete Bowie Knife