Words to Travel By:

“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut

"We can't be lost.  We're making such good time." – a friend

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."  – Georgia O'Keeffe [Because bridges are my kryptonite.]

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” - Mark Twain


The Unexpected Poetry of Cuervo, New Mexico

Once, at the turn of the last century, the trains stopped in Cuervo.  It was a railroad town: employees of the railroad made their homes there, some literally from the massive rail ties.  Others came too.  One extended family was composed of carpenters and stone masons.  They hewed blocks, shaped precisely with hand tools, from the hillside, carted them into town and built the beautiful schoolhouse with its massive windows, the little church, and several homes. 

Their children were born in Cuervo, baptised there in the little church, and educated through the eighth grade at that school.  Cuervo was a vibrant town then, though never large or particularly prosperous.  Its population peaked around three hundred.  When the railroad pulled out about the time World War II ended, many of the residents went too.  Eventually so did the few stores that once stood across the highway.  By the early 1950s, the tiny town could no longer support a pastor, so the church was used only once a month when a priest came from Santa Rosa to say Mass.   

Today, Cuervo is largely empty save for a trucking company that leases some of the land for storage, but it is not abandoned.  A child of a Cuervo stone mason is saving the family legacy. 

The current owner doesn't have plans for Cuervo, but has bought many of the lots and the buildings there, holding on to the legacy left in the stone blocks and listening to the sounds of the trains that pass in the distance, never slowing for Cuervo. F was kind enough to talk with me, to let me walk the town at my leisure and photograph as I wanted, with one exception: a sturdy barbed wire fence surrounds the school now because vandals have stolen the enormous windows that lined one face of the building to bathe the classrooms in the morning light. 


The Abandoned

Someone told stories here.  Someone cooked; someone ate.  There were births and deaths, joys and sorrows, dreams and plans. Perhaps a whole life uncoiled here, continuous and unbroken.  Perhaps there were more false starts than successes. 

Sometimes, the buildings tell me something: a vernacular architecture suggests that the builder knew the country and how to build for it; the materials speak to the topography and natural resources of the area; style and size suggest an era; the detritus may indicate that the structure failed from neglect and time or that it burned.  Always there is something to suggest that both man and animal have prowled the site recently; rarely there is something that lingers from the inhabitants: a stove; a chair; a color discernable in the peeling paint of a sunbleached door; a tattered curtain that still hangs above a glassless window.  For me, it is not that the structure is failing or that the names and dreams have been lost to the wind, but that something remains stubbornly clinging to form and function despite the greater forces of time and nature.  I see resiliancy. I hear echos of past lives. I find them comforting and beautiful.


That'll Be The Day

...when I'm not fighting the sun for a picture.  Lubbock, Texas' favorite son: Buddy Holly.  His iconic glasses greet visitors to the Buddy Holly center and just across the street, a bronze of Holly stands in the middle of a picturesque park.  The center was closed for the day so I'll have to plan another visit. 


Donnell Flour Mill

The 1879 Donnell Flour grist mill on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River in Eliasville, Texas. 


I Am A Town

Years ago I passed through the town of Muleshoe, Texas on my way somewhere else.  It's a tiny place; perhaps 1,000 people call it home.  The area is heavy in wheat and oil and it has that peculiar smell of wet grass, cattle, and sulfur that comes with the combination.  Huge grain elevators loom over the main thoroughfare and long trains, hoppers full, chug through on their way to bigger places where grain becomes bread and dog food and a million other products.  Muleshoe would be just another little town to pass through and forget, but for a little historical marker just at the edge of town.  I forgot the fiberglass mule that stands behind it, but I have remembered verbatim the first line of text for a dozen years.

The Mule

Without ancestral pride or hope for offspring, the mule -- along with buffalo, hound, and longhorn -- made Texas history.  In war he carried cannon on his back.  Because he was available to haul freight, forts rose on frontiers.  Indians ate horses hitched to cart or coach, but let tough mule meat go by.

His small hooves scaled rock and steep untrod by horse or ox, but big ears endangered him in lake or river.  He went fast, endured much, ate sparingly.

Since beginning of Christian era, has helped all over world to bear burdens of mankind.

Like it's namesake, Muleshoe is a town without a claim to history. It's not one of those dozen or so places that can pride themselves on being the birth place of Texas (defining "birth place" seems to be tricky and variable); there were no notable battles fought nearby; no forts.  Muleshoe is likely as big as its going to be unless something shifts cosmically, but it's still there serving our needs.  Nevertheless, Muleshoe has carved out a niche identity in a lyrical bit of prose on a little sign and hangs stubbornly on.  And I love it for that.