Order Your New Travel Guide to SW Texas Now for Great Adventures!

Available April 2017 at your favorite bookstore or on Amazon today!

From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, is now available on Amazon for advance order! 

If you’re planning a trip to southwest Texas, you need this book or else you’ll miss half the fun. I give you the low-down on what to see, where to stay, and what to do that you might miss if you don’t have good information on the area. Easy-to-read charts lay out all the facts about places to camp and hike in the state parks and other recreation areas.  Detailed information helps you find restaurants, lodging and supplies.  Plus, there are Scenic and Special Interest Routes, history, prehistory, and environmental overviews that lead you deeper into the colorful cultural landscape.

Interested in military history or African-American history?  You gotta have this book for information on  historical forts dating back to 1849 and stories of the Buffalo soldiers and the Black Seminole Indian Scouts.  Love to ride motorcycles?  Take the Twisted Sisters ride  north of Garner State Park and continue on over to Vanderpool and Lost Maples State Natural Area to see the beautiful trees in the fall.  Like bass fishing?  I’ll tell you where to stay to visit Lake Amistad, a top-rated bass lake by ESPN.

Of particular interest to some is the rock art at White Shaman Preserve and Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site.  Fantastic paintings made thousands of years ago by Native Americans are still preserved in these places.  Once you see them, your view of the ancient past will change, I almost guarantee it.

Scenic Routes include the New Money and Old Art Trail, the Bat Trail, the Aviation History Trail, the Dead Man’s Trail, and others. This guide will tell you how to get there, and how to have a great adventure on your next trip to southwest Texas.  Thomas C. Self, Jack Johnson and others contributed over 100 wonderful color photographs to illustrate the book.

This guide covers the western Hill Country south of I-10 and west of San Antonio, plus the Lower Pecos Canyonlands from Del Rio to Langtry along the Rio Grande.  Places to visit, sleep and eat are included as well as information about the natural environment and history of the area.    Place your order now to reserve your copy for March shipment!

Texas A&M Press did a wonderful job with publication, I’m sure you’ll agree!  Thanks, everybody!

Travel Guide Proofs are Here and Lookin’ Great!

Claret cup cactus in Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center botanical garden.

Claret cup cactus in Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center botanical garden, Langtry, Texas.

 

From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands has landed in my hands this week in the form of page proofs from the publisher! Hooray!  Texas A&M Press has done a beautiful job on layout and design of the book.  My brother, Thomas C. Self, contributed some great photos of the Western Hill Country and friend Jack Johnson has some wonderful photos of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands in the book.  Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Shumla Research and Education Center also graciously shared photos with me.  The pictures really make the book pop and add a lot to the story.

The book tells lots of forgotten history about places in the region, and tries to include all the players.  For instance, did you know that a woman named Jerusha Sanchez was one of the first settlers in the Nueces canyon?  She was a widow and served as a midwife to the few women in the area in the 1870s. Did you know that a Texas Ranger named Bigfoot Wallace fought Comanches in Val Verde County around that same time?  And wait ’til you find out what Charles Lindbergh did!

Besides what to see, where to stay and where to eat, I also tell you where to buy gas and groceries, where the hospitals are, and other information travelers need to know.  But the part I like the most is the section on Scenic Routes.  There’s the New Money and Old Art Trail, the Bat Trail, the Buffalo Soldiers and Black Seminole Indian Trail, and the Aviation History Trail to name a few.

I’m doing my final proof reading and making a few corrections before I send it back to the publishers by early October.  Then a couple of months for the magic of the printed word (and picture) to happen.  The actual book itself should be in a bookstore near you sometime in April, 2017.

We have a Winner! Thanks to Everyone Who Played “Where’s Mary?”

What's missing from this old picture of Barton Springs that is there today?

What’s missing from this old picture of Barton Springs that is there today? Guess and win a free, autographed book.

 

Rachel is our winner for August!  She correctly identified  ‘sky scrappers’ as  missing from this photo of Barton Springs taken several years ago.  Yes, progress marches on, but at least we still have our sacred swimming hole. Stay tuned for another picture in “Where’s Mary?” and play again in September.

###

No one responded correctly for the last photo posted in “Where’s Mary?”, but here’s another one to try.  This photo was taken a few years ago in Austin. The question is “What’s Missing?” The first person to give the correct answer in the comments section below wins a free, autographed copy of Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons.  

You’ll find the location of the mural below in my new travel guide From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to Southwest Texas, which comes out in April, 2017, from Texas A&M Press.  I got samples of the pages last week, and they are beautiful, thanks to the designer at A&M, and my great photographers.   I hope to get the proofs in mid-September.

Find out where this is in my new book!

Find out where this is in my new travel guide!

Visitors’ Guide to Southwest Texas…..Coming 2017!

 

On the road...traveling though Southwest Texas will get easier in 2017 with my new travel guide!             Photo courtesy of Jack Johnson

On the road…traveling though Southwest Texas will get easier in 2017 with my new travel guide!
Photo courtesy of Jack Johnson

I’ve almost got everything submitted to Texas A&M Press for my new travel guide to Southwest Texas. The editor and I have shortened the title a bit, but it’s the same book as I wrote about in the last post. Southwest Texas includes places west of San Antonio, south of I-10, north of the Rio Grande, and east of Big Bend.  The new book will include the Lower Pecos Canyonlands as well as parts of the Western Hill Country, such as Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area. I’ll point you to good places to eat and sleep, and fun things to do. Plus give you some local history and color along the way. And there’s lots of color.

Southwest Texas has been home to some real characters in the past 150 years or so. You’ve probably heard of Judge Roy Bean. But what about Dr. Brinkley, the goat-gland doctor and radio baron?  How about Cal Rodgers and the first transcontinental flight in 1911?  Or Jerusha Sanchez, the first civilian settler near Barksdale?

The manuscript for this endeavor is in editing now, and hopefully all the illustrations will be in the hands of the publisher next week. So stay tuned; I’ll let you know when we’ve got a final product.  This is kinda fun!

 

 

Did Deer Cloud Live Before Columbus?

 

Indigenous People of the United States

Indigenous People of the United States

 In my book, Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons, the protagonist Deer Cloud paints stories of his gods on the wall of a rockshelter overlooking a river. The rock art is still there today for people to see. But when exactly was it painted? How old is it? Did that happen before Columbus visited America?

I get asked these questions a lot. In general Americans are pretty foggy on events in North America prior to European settlement. As it turns out, people like Deer Cloud created the Pecos River style rock art in the canyons along the Rio Grande just west of Del Rio, Texas,  about the same time as the Minoans flourished in Crete. That’s about 4,000 years ago, or 2,000 years BC.

Below is a short timeline on human occupation of North America, with some comparative information to add context with the rest of the world. When you look at the timeline, notice what was going on around the world in 2000 BC, or about 4,000 years ago.  What happened before? What happened after?  Please note that all dates are rounded and open to debate and new evidence.

Be watching for a quiz later this spring to win a free copy of my book! I hope you win!

Who, When and Where: Rough Timeline of Human Occupation of North America

Buffalo, the mainstay of North American Plains Indians

Buffalo, the mainstay of North American Plains Indians

1879 Traditional life of the Great Plains Indians is over. Other Native Americans have either moved to reservations or died. The buffalo of the Great Plains are gone, over 65 million destroyed by white hunters.

1875  The last Comanche villages in Palo Duro Canyon (Texas) destroyed by U.S. Army

1776   U.S. Declaration of Independence from England

1730   Founding of San Antonio by Spanish settlers in Texas

1718 Founding of New Orleans by the French

 1700-1875   Comanche, Kiowa and Apache rule the Great Plains of North America

1642 Founding of Montreal, Canada by the French as Ville Marie

1620 Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts

1610   Don Pedro de Peralta establishes Santa Fe in New Mexico as the capital of the province of New Spain

1532 Pizarro begins the defeat of the Incas in Peru

1521 Cortez conquers the Aztecs in Mexico

1492 AD   Christopher Columbus makes landfall in the Caribbean

1000-1400 AD   Navajo and Apache migrate south from present-day Canada

http://newmexicohistory.org/places/navajo-nation-from-prehistory-to-the-twentieth-century, http://www.ihs.gov/navajo/index.cfm?module=nao_navajo_nation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apache, http://www.indians.org/articles/apache-indians.html

Cahokia, courtesy of Britannica.com

Cahokia, courtesy of Britannica.com

700 AD   Cahokia settlement first established near what is today St. Louis http://cahokiamounds.org, http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/01/cahokia/hodges-text, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahokia

0 The Common Era Begins

44 BC        Death of Julius Caesar

776 BC     First Olympic games

449 BC     Construction begun on Acropolis in Athens

800 BC     Founding of Rome

1,000 BC  Adena culture appears in what is today Ohio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adena_culture

2,000 BC     Pecos River style polychrome rock art along the Rio Grande

Lower Pecos rock art

Lower Pecos rock art

http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/pecos/art.html, http://www.rockart.org, http://www.shumla.org

  • 1790 BC Code of Hammurabi
  • 2000 BC Maya Pre-Classic period in Central America
  • 2000 BC Minoans worship the mother goddess in Crete
  • 2600 BC Stonehenge begun in Britain
  • 2750 BC First Egyptian pyramid begun at Saqqara

3000 BC Evidence of silk production in China

  • 3114 BC Beginning of the Maya Long Count
  • 3200-2340 BC cities begin in Mesopotamia
  • 3300 BC Bronze Age begins in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and perhaps Britain
  • 3300 BC “Otzi the Iceman” dies in the Alps between today’s Austria and Italy
  • 3700 BC invention of wooden carts in Central Asia
  • 3750 BC First evidence of cotton weaving in India
  • 3761 BC Origin of the modern Hebrew calendar

4,000 BC     Old Copper Complex emerges in what will one day be Wisconsin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Copper_Complex

  • 4000 BC First Egyptian hieroglyphs

6,000 BC     Domestication of corn in Mexico http://teosinte.wisc.edu/questions.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maize

The bones of Kenniwick Man, courtesy of the Seattle Times

The bones of Kenniwick Man, courtesy of the Seattle Times

7,500 BC     Kenniwick Man lived on northwest coast http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennewick_Man http://www.burkemuseum.org/kennewickman

  • 11,000 BC Clovis culture emerges http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clovis_culture

19,000-12,000 BC       Human beings arrive in North America http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buttermilk_Creek_Complex, http://www.gaultschool.org/Home.aspx, http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/gault/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meadowcroft_Rockshelter

 

Jack and Missy Harrington: Landowners and Benefactors

Jack and Missy Harrington

Jack and Missy Harrington

I’m glad to welcome Jack and Missy Harrington from Comstock, Texas, to the blog today. They have lived in the Lower Pecos area all their lives, maintaining family ranches and contributing to the small town of Comstock in many ways.  Comstock is located 29 miles west of Del Rio, Texas, near the Rio Grande, in a region known for rock art that is thousands of years old. The town was founded in 1882 when the railroad built a station there. Currently the town has a population of 223.

Thanks for being with us today.  How did your family get to Comstock?  Missy: My great-grandfather bought the land sight unseen because he was told it had rivers on three sides, about 9000 acres. They lived in Mexico at the time. Five of their kids died of smallpox when little. When the two girls got older the family moved across the river to the property. They didn’t know there were steep cliffs to get to all the

Paintings of Painted Shelter rock art by Forrest Kirkland

Paintings of Painted Shelter rock art by Forrest Kirkland

water, and that the cows couldn’t get to it!  Grandmother didn’t want to live out on the ranch with a baby, so they got a house in the town of Comstock.

Tell me about growing up here. What did you think of the rock art?  Missy: I was born and  raised in Comstock, but Jack was from Del Rio. We used to have picnics at Painted Shelter [ on grandfather’s property], and I thought everybody had paintings on the wall. Kids could play in the water in the creek there, and the grown ups liked the deeper holes.  I wish I had known more about the rock art when I was a kid. The rock art’s not gonna last for ever. It makes sense to educate people about it. I remember when they built Seminole Canyon State Park. My family owned that property. I remember my grandmother was so mad cause the state wanted it so they could “take care of it.” Who did they think had

Harrington Campus pavillion at Shumla School, near Comstock, Texas

Harrington Campus pavilion at Shumla School, near Comstock, Texas

been taking care of it for 100 years?

A few years ago you donated land to the Shumla School, an outdoor experiential school and research center for rock art and archaeology run by Dr. Carolyn Boyd.  Yes, now they have the Harrington campus. After hearing Carolyn’s ideas to have a school, we decided why not? We deeded about 70 acres to Shumla as a non-profit about 1998. We had two field experiences for teachers before we had any facilities of any kind. They used portable showers in plastic bags. The pavilion and bath house were built first.  Bath house finished the Friday before the Monday.  Immediately we had a teacher training for all Comstock teachers the end of August. It was 112 degrees.  The workshop impressed the teachers for years. We’ve both worked with Shumla ever since.   Now they do programs for kids–all the Comstock and Del Rio kids have come–and for teachers. Each spring Carolyn holds a rock art workshop for adults. This past spring the Harrington campus was used by Dr. Steve Black for his Ancient Southwest Texas Project through Texas State University.

How did you and Jack meet? Missy: He used to date my neighbor. But he decided to check around for other quail. The way it was, Comstock girls had to date Comstock boys, but not the other way around. I broke out of that. We started going together when I was a junior in high school, and now we’ve been married 47 years.

Congratulations! That’s a pretty good record!  You went to college in San Antonio, right Missy? I went to Incarnate Word San Antonio. My degree is in biology, with minors in chemistry and math. I had a job lined up in research. I didn’t plan to teach school. But we decided to move back, and the only job was teaching school in Del Rio. I’d never seen a grade book before in my life. But I taught 31 years all together, 3 in Del Rio, 28 in Comstock.

Comstock ISD

Comstock ISD

Tell me about teaching school.  Missy: Well, I went to school in Comstock, K-12. We had about 90 kids back then.  We had 125 when I taught, a lot of small classes, maybe one or two kids. Sometimes 20.  We had three computers Apple 11e . You wear a lot of hats in a small school. I taught every science from 6th grade  to 12th grade. Now there are about 200 kids. One day a boy was swinging a dead rattlesnake around his head scaring the girls. I made him throw it away, and he coiled it in the trash can to scare the janitor.

Jack, you were on the Comstock ISD school board for 20 years. Yes,  I have a soft spot in my heart about school. It’s remarkable what some of these kids can do. This year we were ninth overall in UIL in Division 1A, and tied for first in physics. Diego Fausett, did that. His coach is Dr. Phil Dering, who teaches science in Comstock now, instead of Missy. Nobody falls through the cracks in Comstock ISD. Class size capped at 18. More

Students from Comstock ISD in Shumla Scholars program  work with Ancient South West Texas Project in Spring, 2014

Students from Comstock ISD in Shumla Scholars program work with Ancient Southwest Texas Project in Spring, 2014

individualized, one on one. Good teachers. Lot of home-grown teachers. Strong culture of the school. Many teachers were Missy’s students. K-12 intermingle. It’s good cause the little kids look up to the older one, and older ones model good behavior. They’re sisters and brothers. Older kids can work with the younger ones. Everybody takes care of everybody. The kids are safe and they know they are. Comstock ISD has over 2000 sq. miles, but only 50-60 kids live in CISD. The rest come from Del Rio. Three busses bring them. Kids have to apply to come to Comstock. They can’t have bad grades, failed tests, or bad behavior. If they break the rules they go home. We don’t compromise. We set standards and we hold ’em. Missy: I planted the cottonwood trees when I was a freshmen in high school. There were only two trees on campus when I was in school. Our principal bought about 11 trees. Now there are about 40 trees and lots of grass.

You were also with the volunteer fire department, right Jack?  I was a volunteer with the fire dept. for 40 years. There was a fire around Juno [ now a ghost town]  in the 1990s burned over 20,000 acres, took about two weeks to put out.  This spring there was one near Pandale, then around Juno too. Burn bans are serious. Forest service came in for this one, and another big crew came to cook and set up a kitchen. They had a huge mobile kitchen and 18-wheelers full of food, and big refrigerated trucks. There were over 300 fireman. We served dinner in the school cafeteria. About 6 of these volunteers and 5-6 of us local Comstock folks.  We cooked breakfast, made sandwiches for lunch, and made dinner at night. They would come at daylight.  Volunteers came from everywhere:Wisconsin, Colorado, Montana, California, fireman from everywhere. The kindergarten kids made laminated placemats for the firemen. The men took them home with them.

What makes Comstock a good place to live? Missy:  It’s nice and quiet. We don’t even have a key to the house. We’ve never locked the house, even when I read Helter Skelter. It’s just a different way of life. We grocery shop like a rancher, go to town once a week. The two custodians at school across the street keep their soda water in our refrig on the breezeway. It’s peaceful. No traffic. Might have to worry about a cow or two on the road, though.

Thank you both for talking with us today! As of this publication date,  Jack and Missy are in Houston awaiting the call for a  medical procedure. Best wishes, Smilin’ Jack! We wish you only good things!

Get dirty with the Texas Archeological Society

Volunteers working with the Texas Archaeological Society

Members working with the Texas Archeological Society

I am pleased to introduce Wendy Lockwood, president of the Texas Archeological Society

Wendy Lockwood, President of the Texas Archaeological Society

Wendy Lockwood, President of the Texas Archaeological Society

(www.txarch.org) today. Wendy is a former science teacher who fell in love with archeology and rock art more than 20 years ago, and has been active in these fields ever since.  TAS will host it’s annual Field School June 14-21, 2014, near Columbus, Texas, on a site with both historic and prehistoric features.

Hi Wendy. Tell us about the Texas Archeological Society (TAS). What is it for? What does it do? The purpose of TAS is to promote an awareness of Texas archeology. The preservation of our archeological resources is our first priority. Professional archeologists AND avocationals work close together to see that this goal is met.

Can anyone join? Membership is open to anyone who is interested in archeology. We have memberships for individuals, families, students, and other societies and organizations. Membership forms are available online at www.txarch.org. The website offers a complete overview of who we are, what we do, and ways to become involved.

 Does TAS actually go on digs?  TAS host a field school ever summer early in June. Field School is held at TAS 2 copydifferent places throughout the state. This year it will near on a ranch near Columbus, June 14-21. Participants must be members of TAS. (Individual memberships = $60.00 annually, or family for $70.00). For those who work, there is the option of signing up for 3 days. The field school officially starts on Saturday morning and ends Friday night with a special program. For those who wish, breakfast and dinner meals are offered at a reasonable price. We camp in a central location, have programs each night, and work each day until around 1:00 in the afternoon. It is a great opportunity to meet new people, renew old acquaintances, laugh, and have loads of fun. Information about Field School can viewed at our website. You will also a short report and a few pictures from past field schools.

We offer teachers that are new to the field school a three-day program that can count toward academic growth hours. We also have a children’s program where we teach them the basics of archeology. They learn how to excavate (dig) properly, how to plot in artifacts, and take various measurements when needed. Along with these, they are treated to several small activities during the week. Field School offers a great family vacation to those who might be interested. Field School registration starts at $90.00 for an adult for three days, or $35.00 for three days for a child (ages 7-17).

Do you get to keep what you find? No, we do not keep any artifacts that are found. These belong to the landowner whose property we are privileged to be working on. If it is state-owned land, the artifacts go to the state. Artifacts are collected in the field and then sent to the Lab for processing. In the lab, artifacts are sorted, washed, and bagged for later study by the PI, the archeologist who is the Principle Investigator. There are terms and conditions that TAS must abide by when it comes to artifacts. These requirements are set down by state and Federal antiquities laws or regulations.

 Have you ever had any close encounters with varmints of any kind while on a dig? Varmints are something we have to always be on the lookout for. Depending on where you are assigned to work, there may be problems with insects, snakes, feral hogs, livestock, and other critters. After all, we do live in Texas. Fortunately, we have never had a bad experience with varmints. Personally, I have had some dealings with javelinas, a rattlesnake or two, a cottonmouth, a coyote, and fire ants. I had an encounter with a young mountain lion one time in Utah. We scared each other, both ran in opposite directions, so things were good.

What about weather?  If you have lived in Texas long enough, you know not to be surprised at what

Students get real experience at TAS field school

Students get real experience at TAS field school

happens with the weather. There is kind of a saying in TAS: “Where TAS goes, rain follows.” We have brought rain with us to so many places we have gone for Field School, that we laugh about charging folks a fee just to come work in their area. How does it happen? We have no idea, it just does. We have braved hail storms, 70 mph winds, rain so hard the camp flooded and a major cold front in June. (We bought out all the sweat shirts and blankets in the local Walmart and Penneys). But, let me say, we have never been deterred by the weather. When it clears up and dries out enough, we go back to work. Sometimes it’s an opportunity for a little extra sleep, a lot more fellowship, or a new adventure or site in the area.

Do you have a particular specialty, or something you really like to do in archeology? I really enjoy doing just about anything that surrounds archeology. I enjoy working in prehistoric sites more that historic. This past year at field school, I worked in the floatation lab. That was fun but really dirty. BUT, I kept really cool in the heat that day. I have worked with the kids in their area, done survey, and worked in the lab. I would encourage people to try and experience all facets of field work. You will find your niche.

As for my passion, I would have to say Rock Art. Rock art is the paintings and incisings left behind by ancient people. We like to call it a “graphic artifact.” You find rock art primarily on canyon walls, boulders, and in shelters. In a few places it can be found in dry river beds. Texas has some of the premier rock art found in the world. You may ask how I know. I have been told by individuals who have traveled the world looking at rock art that our rock art sites cannot be equaled.

So why do you do it? What motivates you? Rock art is my niche! I really have no words to fully describe the feeling I have when I am working at a rock art site. Regardless of how many times I may visit a site, it is always new. I look at that wall and ponder who the person was that placed it there. Does it tell a story? Is it a ritual or ceremony? Was the artist a man or a woman? Did a small child leave the hand print? These are questions we can only guess about. There are Native Americans in the southwest who still put art on walls and boulders today. Sometimes it depicts a rite of passage or a dream quest. But, for most of the art, it is so old we can only guess. Most rock art sites are up canyons in shelters. There is peace to be found. You hear the birds in the canyon; the wind blows through; the rocks crack; you become one with nature and your surroundings. Regardless of how far you have to hike and how high you have to climb up, when you get there and turn around and survey where you have come from, a peaceful sigh slips from your lips and a huge smile lights up your face. You have come HOME!

Thanks, Wendy. Makes me want to get out there in the dirt!  Have a great time in Columbus.

 

Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons

The sun which rises every day

The sun which rises every day

Some people have asked me about the novel I claim to be writing. I am happy to say that I have recently completed the first draft–over 86,000 words in about 19 months.  The book is tentatively called Peyote Fire, and is about the first peyote shaman.

The protagonist, Deer Cloud, is painting the stories of the Powerful Ones in a stone alcove high above the

Lower Pecos Canyonlands

Lower Pecos Canyonlands

river. His grandfather Panther Claw consecrated the alcove when Deer Cloud was a boy, especially for him to paint.  The two spent many years tracing designs on the ground to arrive at the best composition to honor the gods and preserve their greatness for generations to come. When Panther Claw dies, Deer Cloud’s life takes a dramatic turn.

The book is set in the Archaic Lower Pecos, or about 4000 years ago in the area of the confluence of the Pecos River and the Rio Grande, bounded on the east by the Devil’s River. The Rain Bringer clan lives in the canyons , river banks, and uplands of this territory. There are many magnificent, brilliantly painted rock shelters that tell the stories of their gods within their lands.

Rock Art from the Archaic Lower Pecos

Rock Art from the Archaic Lower Pecos

I have used archeological reports and treatises written about the people of the Archaic Lower Pecos as a factual base for the story.  I have tried to make descriptions of everyday life as accurate as possible, given what we know.  But we do not fully know the people’s understanding of their world. As a stand-in for their undoubtedly rich religious and philosophical life, I am relying upon ethnographies of the Huichol people of Mexico, whom some suspect may be distantly related.  I’ve had to strip out every  agricultural mention in the Huichol mythologies, and other modern strains, such as cultural changes brought on by contact with the Spanish, in order to seek an Archaic core.

From these core beliefs and descriptions of Huichol ceremonies, I have constructed a fictional world view that pervades the Rain Bringers’ lives.  This world view brings meaning to their lives and explains the natural phenomena that surrounded them; the same mysteries that surround us today.

I have a list of revisions two pages long which I am working through now.  When I get that done, I will start completely over to add characterization and nuance (hopefully) to the manuscript.  I hope to have it finished and ready to shop around by next June. (Which means I’d better get to work!)

I’m not sure how it will be published yet, but I know I want an ebook version.  My son Miles, the composer and computer dude,  is writing music for the electronic book.  I may also add a bit of video of the landscape, just to set the mood.  There will also be plain, unenhanced,  paper copies, whatever publishing route I choose.

Thank you for reading my blog, and I hope you will read the book when it becomes available. Stay tuned for another year to find out.

The Great Transformer, Grandfather Fire

The Great Transformer, Grandfather Fire

Pecos Experience, Day 4

Figures in White Shaman shelter . Note little man in canoe at bottom of picture.

Figures in White Shaman shelter.

Today our objective was White Shaman shelter with Dr. Carolyn Boyd.  Dr. Boyd has studied the art in this shelter for over 20 years, and is as passionate about it today as she was when she started. We spent the morning in the shelter hearing her latest hypotheses about the meaning of the painting and the process of painting itself.

This complex mural was painted with four colors, black, red, yellow and white over 4000 years ago. The small alcove where it is located overlooks the Pecos River near the confluence with the Rio Grande.  Today, this confluence is heavily silted, with only a narrow channel of water actually trickling from the Pecos into the Rio Grande.

There are a number of mortar holes ground into the stone floor of the alcove, and also into nearby boulders. The

Hole drilled or ground all the way through boulder in front of paintings and overlooking river. You can see light at the bottom of the hole.

Hole drilled or ground all the way through boulder in front of paintings and overlooking river. You can see light at the bottom of the hole.

purpose of these is unknown, but one possible hypothesis is that they were used to make alcoholic beverages of some kind, perhaps to be utilized in ceremonies. There is no evidence of paint pigment in the holes, so probably they were not used for grinding pigment.

Our schedule was so full this past week, I am finishing this post at home in Austin. Our small group was proud of themselves because we all got in and out of the canyons without having to leave anyone behind for the buzzards! Although at one time the group I was riding with in the pickup did vote to leave me there, if I broke a leg, and bury me in a crevice in the flex position. It was a unanimous vote.

We had a great medic with us at all times, Dave Gage. I have no doubt all his reflexes would have kicked in had anything serious really happened, and he would have made heroic efforts to carry someone out.  I asked if he had brought anesthetic or something to knock us out, in a case such as that, and he said no, it was just gonna hurt like hell!   I voted for the flexed burial instead.  We kept hearing stories of someone who had broken a hip recently down in a canyon, and was carried out. It was not fun.

I mentioned the wonderful food we had in an earlier post. Therese, the cook, is wonderful!

Almond cupcakes with green tea icing

Almond cupcakes with green tea icing

She made chicken tagine with olives and carrots, lentils with kale, couscous, tabooli, and naan one night. The last night we had a baked ham with raisin sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, green beans with mushrooms, homemade rolls, and

Semifreddo--Take five cups of cream, two cups of sugar, 12 egg yolks...

Semifreddo–Take five cups of cream, two cups of sugar, 12 egg yolks…

three kinds of pie!  To me, the best desert of the week was the Italian semifreddo, a type of light-as-air ice cream. Yes, we were very spoiled.

The morning of the last day we held a ceremony overlooking a small arroyo to dedicate our prayers to the powers that be. Dr. Stacy Schaefer of California State University at Chico lead the typical Huichol ceremony.  Stacy has studied the Huichol, a small group in Mexico, for about 30 years.

Offerings to the wind

Offerings to the wind

She conducted the blessing ceremony, and we left the Huichol-style offerings we had made in the rocks for the wind and rain. We had each gained something special from the week, and we each felt the glory of the landscape and the call of the paintings by the ancients.  The ceremony was an act of gratitude for these things, and acknowledgement of our small place in the history of mankind.

Future posts will elaborate on many of the sites and observations from the past week. A week in the Lower Pecos gives you a clean heart and a clear head–and lots to write about!

Pecos Experience, Days 2 and 3, Part I

Polychrome figure in Cedar Springs shelter near Devil's River

Polychrome figure in Cedar Springs shelter near Devil’s River

We hiked to Cedar Springs shelter and Mystic shelter, both near the Devil’s River, on the second day of the Pecos Experience, thanks to the folks at the Shumla School (see www.shumla.org). This involved crossing the river twice, scrabbling up a pretty steep boulder hill, then bumping over boulder beds in creek drainages to get to the shelters.  At the end of about seven hours, we got our reward by a dip in the cool, clean river, always my favorite part.

The figure above is in polychrome, or many colors, in the Lower Pecos style of painting. Notice the red, yellow, and black colors. White is also used on some figures.  Red and yellow mineral pigments were made from naturally occurring ochres in this area, and black from manganese. The white pigment was probably from kaolin, but that is another story, since there are no naturally occurring deposits in this area. There are in Big Bend, however. Does that mean people perhaps as long 7000 years ago were trading with others from the Big Bend area?  That question is still under investigation, as are many others concerning the rock art and lifeways of the ancient people of the Lower Pecos region.

A cool front blew in last night, and tents were flapping I understand.  For some reason I didn’t hear the wind. I think I finally fell asleep after the moon went down and quit shining in my eyes.  I have always been sensitive to

Figures in Cedar Springs shelter

Figures in Cedar Springs shelter

moonlight-it often wakes me up at home. About dawn today we had a six-inch rain, to use current Austin slang.  For the past several years we have been in severe drought in Austin, so we’ve lately been defining a six-inch rain as six drops of moisture, six inches apart. It has been mercifully cool all day, and I’ve  worn my fleece most of the day.

Today we went to Painted Cave, the type-site for the red monochrome style of painting found in this area. The wall once was covered in polychrome Lower Pecos style, then supposedly repainted in red monochrome. There is a lovely stream under the wall, where the paintings sometimes reflect. But not much reflection today because of the cloud cover.

Painted Cave has seen human occupation from the time of the Lower Pecos style, which could be as old as 7000 years ago, through the red monochrome people who are depicted here with bows and arrows, indicating they came much later, to the old ranch house and sheep herders dwelling within sight of the cave. The stories this wall could tell!

The reason for all this human activity is water. There is a beautiful spring,

Spring at Painted Cave. Ranchers in the 1880s used to draw water from this spring. As well as people thousands of years earlier.

Spring at Painted Cave. Ranchers in the 1880s used to draw water from this spring. As well as people thousands of years earlier.

with a great swimming hole, just up canyon a few yards from the painted wall. It is full of water even in this extreme drought.  The black brush was in bloom around this pool today, and young willows leafing out. Water was here, animals were here, plant resources were here. And people.

Dinner will be soon, so I will share more later. But first I want to mention the culinary experiences we’ve also been having this week!  Monday night was Italian wedding soup and manicotti stuffed with prosciutto (spelling, anyone??) and ricotta, and homemade focaccia. Tuesday night was Chinese beef and broccoli with egg drop soup and almond/green tea cupcakes for dessert. Oh yes, and homemade pot stickers!  Chicken is involved tonight, but I don’t know what yet!  My thanks to the cook, Therese!

More details next week. I hope to put together a slide show of the rock art at these magnificent places, but that takes more time than I have tonight.  We are busy with great stuff every minute!  Love it!