Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Memorial Weekend - Pigs, Midget Tents, Guns? Smores!
Memorial Weekend 2012 in Ft. Davis – In the Davis Mountains of FAR, FAR West Texas…
Fort Davis is one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars' frontier military post in the Southwest. From 1854 to 1891, Fort Davis was strategically located to protect immigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and on the Chihuahua Trail.
So that’s where I went with a grandmother, a daughter, the daughter’s husband and their kids - including a bright 8-year old -- for a camping trip for Memorial Weekend 2012.
It was a chance to ‘get away’ from a busy work schedule, camping for the first time since I was probably 18 (gran and daughter came up with this idea). It would prove to be an eventful choice.
Ft Davis is in the Davis Mountains of far west Texas – the only mountains Texas offers, formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity. Today it is home to dry creeks, snorting javelinas (some call them ‘rat pigs’ but they weigh about 65-70 lbs.) and deer so thin that their ribs were showing when they went past our camp, chewing on dry tree leaves.
The first night there, after setting up tents in what looked like a Keystone Kops movie, we went to the McDonald Observatory to view the planet Saturn – but dark clouds formed to obscure the telescope before we got to that part. So we headed back since we had left my partner resting in camp (reading her Nook in the tent!) since the heat had gotten to her while setting up our midget tent.
So I crawled into what seemed like the smallest tent on the planet. My pillow looked the size of a postage stamped. We zipped up the tiny tent as the skies began to light up from a storm front that came out of nowhere. The tent was like being in a fabric cocoon the size of a porta-potty. Suddenly lightning was making the tent’s top to flicker; the winds were whipping past. I felt that we could soon be rolling like a tumbleweed in the dark if any of the stakes failed. I expected water to pour in and the ground to turn to mud.
The lightning and wind raged for hours, making sleep that first night sporadic at best. Finally it abated and we dozed off. The next morning, to my amazement, the tent had only a little water on one end. Stepping out into the sun, the ground was already dry – no mud! Our fellow campers had a larger tent – which got so wet on the side that everyone felt cold and wet. Water made sleeping on the floor a soaking event. When I looked at the dry creek it was still dry! Not even a drop from the storm remained standing. The ground had soaked it up instantly.
First thing next morning we were due to ride horses. We had wonderful sausage kolaches for breakfast, cooked over a camp oven that runs on propane, then headed for the “Prude Ranch” for a ride over what seemed like endless stones and rocks. I would call it a Rock Ranch, it certainly didn’t seem capable of growing any crops in the rocky, arid soil. My horse was “Apache” but none of us got faster than Houston commuting speed.
The first night was the trip to the McDonald observatory. They had an inside program that was good, followed by an outside program better suited for kids. The “Star Party” didn’t start until 9:30 and that is when the clouds arrived.
The park issues assigned camp spots and patrols every few minutes. They warn about the javelinas – “don’t mess with them and they won’t mess with you.” Well, we didn’t see any of them until our last night when one came down the dry creek next to our two adjacent campsites. Suddenly, it was high alert because they can be unpredictable, even mean if you feed them. I admit that I had a licensed gun with me, which is small enough to fit into a pant pocket. Suddenly, as the pig got near, the other adult male member of our group walked past me and I noticed he had a very large gun in his hand – the same caliber as mine. When I pulled mine out, it was a midget -- about one quarter of the size! I put it back in my pocket and he went on. Then the pig started coming towards us!
People were getting on top of the picnic table. Suddenly he popped in view on top of the ridge – which was about 10 feet from where I was standing. My camera battery had just died two seconds before. It was the moment of truth. Either he was coming my way and I would have to pull out the gun, or he would move away.
He looked at me. I could see his two curling teeth that could slice a leg into mincemeat in seconds. He seemed to stare, then he turned as if to say “You aren’t worth the trouble of killing” and he went back down into the creek. We were immensely relieved that was over.
Ravens and vultures kept hanging out on the power lines nearby, some holding out their wings like spread eagles. I noticed some of them raiding leftovers in a campsite.
The old Fort Davis is also worth looking at. It housed some of the first black soldiers – the Indians gave them the name “Buffalo Soldiers.” They didn’t get the best treatment and the first black graduate of West Point who arrived at Fort Davis was later stripped of his rank in a military hearing that was later condemned as biased and unfair. The Post Hospital’s display of “medical instruments” made me glad for modern medicine. The historians dressed in period costumes gave us a lot of colorful background.
That was my Memorial Day weekend. Very memorable. As was the pepper bacon cooked with camp stove eggs the next morning! That was after the hot dogs with chili our “chefs” cooked up the night before – complete with girl scout “Smores” (melted marshmallows on chocolate with a graham cracker).
The day we left it was very HOT. How anyone could live in it 24/7 without air conditioning and today’s conveniences is beyond me…