Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Beauty in Desolation

We continued our travels to Albuquerque. As we drove from Ft. Stockton, TX, to Las Cruces, NM, we asked ourselves: "What do the people do who live here?"

The land seemed uncooperative for supporting vegetation of any kind. There is a beauty to the landscape, but I think that description really refers to the novelty of the contrast between the west Texas lands seen for the first time and the more familiar landscape of the farmlands of the Midwest. Along the day's drive, we saw maybe 30 head of cattle grazing.

The towns seemed devoid of any industry and were so far from each other that we had to check maps to determine where truck stops were located to make sure we had enough gas to make it to the next stop. The town of Van Horn, TX, was one of the larger towns, but its appearance--no buildings above one story and all appearing tired as we passed by--was typical of the few towns we saw.

I realized this was winter, but as the amount of vegetation gradually disappeared, the monochromatic land merged with the surrounding hills.

During our month-long stay in Kerrville, TX, we had our awning extended for less than two hours because of the strong winds. We kept thinking that the area would be an excellent setting for a windmill farm. Well, it seems that others had this same idea because in western Texas we came across acres of windmills on several of the plateaus near I-10. Esthetically, they were a nice addition to the landscape; environmentally, they were the ideal "residents" for this barren section of land.

Hills (small mountains compared to the flat land) like these punctuated the open spaces of the land. I tried to imagine spring with grasses and wildflowers covering portions of these open spaces, but my efforts fell short of a colorful picture.

Our truckers' directories reported that the Esperanza truck stop near Fort Hancock, TX, had diesel fuel. A semi-trailer truck was parked by one of the pumps as we drove into the dusty parking area. We pulled up to a pump by a weathered sign with the writing "Diesel $2.89" (written before diesel prices went to $5.09 and descended below $2.89) in barely readable letters. The hose on the pump was covered with dust and the dials were blank. Walking into the office to ask if the pumps were working, I passed a counter with cheese and cracker packets along with nachos and cheese containers ready for microwaving. The lone figure in the relatively large room sat in a booth with his head buried in his arm on the table. There was no diesel.

We left thinking that the only thing missing in this scene was a tumbleweed rolling after a dust funnel in the parking lot.

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