11/4/2012 Last Storm

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I looked west from north 8th when I heard that strange November thunder.  That direction did in fact show the necessaries for an atmosphere of thunder and lightning.  Cloud, sky, and sun equally bronzed by pressure and static changes.

     

Nevertheless the black and beautiful heart of the storm pulsed north-northeast.  I wanted to move across the yard and photograph the beauty in the beast.  The wind changed as the leaves spun on breezy rapids. And rain already began to hiss from the sky.  Lightning, the basis of instead staying under cover, launched from the depths of nearby cloud.

Nevertheless I did have a Mircat out of the hole moment before the hail hailed to take a couple images of the southerly drift of November storm 2012.

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Rain and hail swarmed earthward with all the wildness that we’ve seen over the Alpine Creek Valley this year.  Hail and wind flogged the China Berry tree and lightning sent Blue Bell galloping to the interior.  It was an amazing storm.

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The storm that swept us slipping away…

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I was specially smitten for this season for rainy clouds so lacked last year.  It brought me the colors I love to see in my photographs of the valley.  Yet it was the launches of lightning and the beautiful grumble of the thunder rumble that I appreciated the most.  Rain is a must but for me lightning and hail are the attractions.

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The storm was as short lived as it was fierce.  We’d only got the western scrape of it.  In fact though west Alpine was jolted by its lightning, its rain and hail didn’t converge there.  Nevertheless enough cloud rained down somewhere on Alpine to kick up the Alpine Creek.

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And before sky and sun came out of the clouds there was already blue and gold, sunflowers and morning glories with bellies full. Even the Prickly Pear paddles appeared to bulge with a sincere serenity.

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Afterglow of the storm…

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Pyramid Peak and Twin Sister north- fall season sunset after a storm…

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Night fell over that day the thunder in 2012 died.  I took Blue Bell on a basket ride through deep puddles and a cool November nightfall.

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Friday, November 4, 1994 or eighteen years ago I remember the famous Maypearl football game tornado. Actually a microburst, strait-line wind damage flipped people and arched the metal poled scoreboard to the earth.  There were dozens of injuries when a   My neighbors and schoolmates swore a terrific tornado had caused so much chaos.  In a nighttime experience of 90 mph wind blowing debris and hail around it might have been a little like one.  A line of four 100 ft metal electric towers south of downtown had been buckled down like the ease of bending foil paper.  My dad, sister, and I were out of town that night, of course, though we did go by a severe storm in Kaughman.  Saw some big limbs broken and a storm blackout when we got home.  I’ll be the first to say that the aftermath is never as neat as the thing.

Sunday, November 4, 2012 footage

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12/3/2012 Gold and Green

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In storms the sky got dark and the valley earth went green.  This year storm clouds coasted in on a better time.  From May until the last storm in October the Burgress Spring was wet and wild in life. Alpine Creek raged out of sleep cutting itself deeper into Alpine.  The wildfire drought diminished and the wildfire shade spun to wildflower color.

Alpine Hill

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Indian Paintbrush

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Devils Walking Cane

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Alpine Green & Gold

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Yuccaland

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Prickin prickly Pears

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Twin Sisters 6,109 & 6,1267 ft. above sea-level

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Thank you for sharing my joy for the living jewels on our land. For full sized proofs please e-mail me at rebelcry@ymail.com

 

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i REBEL CRY 411


Beaches of Big Sur, California 2009

             Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Sabine Pass, Texas battlefields

                                       My black cat Blue Bell, Ranger Peak (6,256 ft above sea-level), and the Twin Sisters (6,118 and 6,137 ft. above sea-level) from Hancock Hill.

I am not rich but I live wealthy in what I love.  I am not a cliff hanger or sky diver yet I love tornadoes, lightning, and mountains.  I take pictures from a point and click with a tumbleweed scratch on a little lens.  Nonetheless some photographs capture some miracles in the way of mountains and their sky.  It is impossible to imagine and create the magnificence and brilliance of what God already imagined and created.  No painting, poem, or stage could compare to that work.  By poetry and photography I gently witness it and gently do I carry it to others.

I was a poet from a little youth and a photographer later on. So many hours for so long I dipped my pen into the well to spell words together that could recall the thunder or bring back Pikes Peak.  A poem retells a summers kiss yesterday and a winter’s waiting today.

I hope you may visit these online extensions of my work, interests, and adventures.

rebelcry89

Rebel Cry It begins with a view.  Whether shy or brilliant views are stamped onto portraits and each heartbeat of time captured there is stilled forever to carry to others.

This blog explores and implores the expression and expo Rebel Cry.  Copies of my work on this site are exactly that-scaled copies and different than actual prints.  Information on purchasing original matted prints, please e-mail me at rebelcry@ymail.com

I sold my art at the Apache Trading Post and Kiowa Art Gallery, the famous gift store west of Alpine until they closed in summer of 2012.  For now I am bringing the business online.

I hope everyone I have ever known visits this place.  I pray you happiness and love because you have inspired the art to burn from the artist like a flame standing on its wick.  I will never forget you and the lessons that you’ve built me to this day.  To you and to strangers it is not the art or the artist that I share to you today.  Rather this is a show and tell of an awesome God and awesome work.  Things around me that I will be blessed when I die to have lived.

I love you all, thank you!

gh4)

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11/11/2011 Twin Sisters

El grand Hermanas gemelas, 6,109 and 6,127 ft. above sea-level.  The sisters are igneous intrusion uplifted from scalding ash and liquid red earth thirteen million years of memory ago.  Their mother, the Paisano caldera gave rise to the Paisano Range (or the Alps of Texas) located west and south of Alpine, Texas of Brewster County.                                            Twin Sisters & their southerly neighbor Ranger Peak, 6,256 ft. above sea-level.

I know little and I wish I knew a lot about the genesis of the Twin Sisters.  Like the Twin Towers were in New York the Sister peaks have stood out to travelers through here for centuries.  Buried in over six-thousand feet of stories of God, nature, and man I have heard conflicting stories and even conflicting names for the natural wonders.

But not Twin Peaks…

According to Joe Nick Patoski and Laurence Parent’s Texas Mountains and Bill Macleod and William MacLeod’s Davis Mountains Vistas they are called the Twin Peaks.  Another source on this is the Twin Peaks Liquor Store and Twin Peaks Storage on Holland Avenue in Alpine.  Of beauty and style Twin Sisters is more legitimized.  North of the Twin Sisters is Twin Mountains (6,667 and 6,899 feet above sea-level).  It reads better than north of the Twin Peaks is Twin Mountains.

“Alpine Lights”

     

    

Remote even by Texas standards Alpine, Texas was established in the latter 19th century.  The perpetual waters from the Bugress Spring made the Alpine Creek valley a stopping point for locomotives steaming west through Paisano Pass.  Today Alpine is home of Sul Ross State University, formally Sul Ross Teacher’s College and is the premier gateway to Big Bend National Park.  The conned peaks and intrusion lined ridges which surround the city make it one of the most beautiful places in the United States.  If not for the natural wonders being exclusively reserved for the contentment of cattle Alpine would command a market of outdoors recreation and wilderness preservation.

Twin Sisters, Alpine from Hancock Hill

     

        

Summit North or South Franklin Peaks in El Paso and you are ceded a Texas hiker’s view of El Paso at 7,186 or 6,808 ft. above sea-level respectively.  On the Twin Sisters’ tops there may be a charge of criminal trespassing or rancher’s bullet with the unique view of Alpine.  There are great lessons of ecological preservation and tourism brought to us by the largest urban park in the country, Franklin Mountains State Park.  On one hand there is camping and miles of canyon, ridge, and summit trails.  Just south of the park on El Paso’s Ranger Peak there is a scenic roadway and roadside park overlook.  Nearby there is also a tramway to the summit of Ranger Peak.  Twenty minutes east of the city is Hueco Tanks State Park.  The economic and ecological setting in the Franklin Mountains over El paso and the park around the city are sound proof that Texas summits like the Twin Sisters are better than just pretty views.

Twin Sisters from US 90

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Moonlight and sunlight,

stardust and morning dew dress the high twin cones….

No wood or forest shade the sides nor ferns or flowers in the steep landslides.

Storm clouds like caldera ash bathe in gloom mountain mysteries of the twin domes.

     

Paisano Peak, 6,084 feet above sea-level, two miles sw of the Sisters.

        

     

     

     

   

     

When compared to other western states like Colorado, California, or Washington Texas mountains do not grab attention elevation-wise.  Though it should be remembered that Texas is actually a Southern state.  And in contrast with Virginia, Louisiana, or Tennessee, Texas mountains are on the other hand quite great.  Yet, compared to anywhere the Texas mountains are the most unique variety I’ve ever seen.  And south and east of the Rocky Mountains they are the highest in the nation.

I was raised in northeast Texas but my sister, brother, and I grew up visiting Trans-Pecos Texas.  We saw the Twin Sisters on Big Bend and Davis Mountains trips.  Before I was a year old I’d witnessed Emory and Guadalupe Peaks. The Twin Sisters highways US 90/67 and State 118 were lovely travels by youth.  I never saw another place as different from the rest of the world as West Texas highways. But I never remembered the Twin Sisters.  Tomorrow I’ll never forget…

 

 

    

The light fades and is folded away.
Green mountains and distant blue ones turn black.
Night falls on the Twin Sisters where the

Twin Sisters and moon rise.

     

 

The atmosphere around and above the Twin Sisters are broken in the summertime by a season of lightning and wavy walls of rain.  Normally, at least. Last year and probably this year drought has settled on their rocky faces and on the lands for thousands of square miles around.  The majority of the storms I have filmed or photographed are from 2009-10.  Sometimes the Sisters cast an annoying spell by somehow soaking up or evaporating storms at the gates of Alpine.  Dark wondrous weather will roam from west to east and then some of them will halt completely over the two peaks.  Though some of the life giving rains and good old lightning do not pass from the mountains to the valley and wall clouds broken asunder, the Twin Sisters’ storms are glorious even distantly, all the same.

           

         

     

                                                                                                                                                             As long as I am here I will photograph.                                                                                        As short as time I will photograph.                                                                                                  Till the Twin Sisters become one sis and one becomes none                                                        I will take these pictures.

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10/22/2011 Fort Davis CSA-Sesquicentennial Reenactment

The Oath of Freedom
-James Barron Hope

Born free, thus we resolve to live;
By Heaven we will be free!
By all the stars which burn on high-
By the green earth-the mighty-sea-
By God’s unshaken  majesty,
We will be free or die!

October 1861-

Baylor’s Confederacy

On Texas Independence Day, March 2, 1861,  the Lone Star of Texas was the seventh star on the first national flag of the Confederacy.  The Stars and Bars was the sixth flag over Texas.  Focus on the role of Texas during the War Between the Confederate States and United States is usually on the contributions of Texas veterans on eastern battlefields.  Nevertheless in the waning months of 1861 one of the most ambitious and daring campaigns of the war would become a gallant page in Texas history on Texas soil. 

By the end of  1861 there was thirteen states and two territories in a Confederates extending from Virginia to the Colorado River border of California.   From the beginning defending this vast territory would be the new nation’s biggest woes.   In the American and Texas revolutions the woe of having too few men and supplies was helped by foreign intervention.  The rebels of 1861 lacked the necessities of foreign aid enjoyed by the rebels of 1776 or 1836.  They were geographically outnumbered, blockaded by the US Navy, and without a friend like France.  In Confederate West Texas an area the size of West Virginia was defended almost exclusively by one regiment of cavalry.

The Second Texas Mounted Rifles held several forts surrendered by the US Army along the San Antonio-El Paso Road including the Trans-Pecos posts of Fort Lancaster, Fort Stockton, Fort Davis, Fort Quitman, and Fort Bliss.  They were commanded by the Kentuckian Texan Colonel John Robert Baylor.  West Texas and the Territory of Arizona (where Baylor served as Territorial Governor) is considered Baylor’s Confederacy.

Under orders  from President Jefferson Davis a brigade was raised for a far west campaign.  Their mission was to secure the Confederate southwest in Arizona Territory, invade the United States through the New Mexico and Colorado territories, and boldly open routes for a conquest of California.  Authority over the insane task was given to the officer who had conceived the idea, Louisianian Henry Sibley.  Sibley left Richmond with the stars and wreath of a Brigadier General for San Antonio in the summer of 1861.   He raised three regiments  including the 4th Texas Cavalry, 5th Texas Cavalry under Colonel Tom Green (a veteran of the Texas Revolution), and the 7th Texas Dragoons.  They were accompanied by two companies of horse artillery.   The little brigade was supplied by the Alamo arsenal, surrendered by US troops in February.  In October 1861 they set out toward the empty moonscape and mountains of West Texas.  With orders to meet Sibley at Fort Bliss in El Paso they began the lengthiest campaign of the War. A round-trip march from San Antonio to Glorieta Pass New Mexico.

Marching on the San Antonio-El Paso Road the long column stopped at the string of forts west of the Pecos River.  They gathered additional supplies and were reinforced by companies of the  Second Texas Mounted Rifles stationed along the way.  However, they were not prepared for how unforgiving nature could be in the along the old Chihuhuahian Trail.  At many of the stops west water was exhausted before half the army had arrived.  Health and moral was generally low among the Texas troops when they arrived at Fort Davis.  Many considered the situation bleak and even wondered if the great campaign would crumble before making it to Fort Bliss.  But they would find relief at Fort Davis.

Water from the 8,367 foot above sea-level Davis Mountains created the rich source of fresh water through Lympia Canyon and ancient gorges like these.

Fort Davis was one of the most prominent of the chain of forts visited by the westward bound Confederates. Founded by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis the garrison was built in 1854 for its local source of water.  During the seven years before Confederate control, the fort saw several future stars of the Confederacy pass through including Robert E Lee, Albert S Johnston, JEB Stuart, and James Longstreet.  In the fall of 1861 these same officers were participating in opening operations in Tennessee and Virginia.  On October 21st, about the time Sibley’s cavalry entered Fort Davis, Brigadier General Nathan George Evans (had served in West Texas in the old army 1856-7) achieved great victory while defending Leesburg, Virginia at the battle of Ball’s Bluff.

Sibley’s weary and hungry troopers arrived at Fort Davis in November of 1862.  Under the threat of mutiny officers issued the soldiers passes to what they wanted from the  stores and sutler.    Firms and contractors like Moke & Brothers provided the fort and the passing army with rare luxuries like sardines, soap, and of course brandy.  The post was well supplied with rations and water and during their stay the hunger, thirst, and low moral passed.  After a few weeks of respite, the march west resumed in high spirits.   Reinforced with over sixty members of the Second Texas Mounted Rifles garrisoned at Fort Davis Sibley’s Army marched to Fort Quitman and finally Fort Bliss before the, 1862.  In all three companies of the Second Texas Mounted Rifles under Major Charles Pyron and a battery commanded by Lieutenants Joseph H. McGinnis and Jordon H. Bennett, and five companies of Arizona Territory Cavalry joined the original San Antonio Confederates.  Originally numbering around two thousand, Sibley’s newly named Army of New Mexico had grown to just over three-thousand.

On January 2, 1862  the Army of New Mexico struck out north from El Paso De Norte, Texas.  Following a victory in the battle of Vaverde against Colonel Edward Canby’s Federal infantry on February 20-21st the Texas and Arizona column crossed the 38th Parallel (international border between the Territory of Arizona and Territory of New Mexico).  Sibley’s brigade became conquers.

March 28  was the high water mark of the campaign.  The Texas army had not only captured both Alburkerky and Santa Fe but had swept a Federal force beyond Glorieta Pass.  The way was opened for an advance against Fort Union and toward Raton Pass and Colorado.  However, as Scurry’s 4th Texas charged at the front over Pigeon’s Ranch the Confederate rear was attacked. All the wagons, supplies, and pack animals  were ambushed by the 2nd New Mexico, resulting in a total loss of logistical support.

The units that fought at Glorieta Pass retired to Santa Fe where their commander, General Sibley plotted their next move.   With most of their substance destroyed or taken the army could hardly go forward or backward.  They were over three hundred miles from their nearest base of supplies.  With orders that restricted foraging against civilians without compensation, they could not rely on what an enemy country wouldn’t give.  In spite of all that they accomplished and had suffered during the long invasion, General Sibley ordered a retreat rerouting their march to Fort Bliss.   Adding insult to injury the retreat back to Texas was marked by death and sickness.  Though they fought off patrols of Union cavalry the worse enemy the Texans faced was starvation.

When the lead columns of Sibley’s Army of New Mexico came through Fort Davis again in March it was a third the original size.  More than a thousand had died from exposure, disease and starvation.  The artillery had been captured, destroyed, or buried along the way. The sick over flowed the infirmary. By July 1862 the last Confederates including the Second Texas Mounted Rifles left the Territory of Arizona, West Texas, and Fort Davis.  The abandoned post was briefly visited  by Union cavalry of the 1st California.   Fort Davis would remain empty until two years following the war in 1867.  The history of the War Between the Confederate States and United States at Fort Davis and “Baylor’s Confederacy” ended in silence.

After the last survivors of the New Mexico campaign limped into San Antonio General Sibley was called to Richmond to answer charges for questionable conduct in many aspects of the campaign.  Questions were asked like why he didn’t take command at Glorietta Pass and why he hadn’t moved all his troops from Santa Fe to the battlefield.   In 1863 he was court-marshaled on account of poor conduct including drinking during the battle of Bisland, LA.  Sibley’s career in the Confederacy ended with a dishonorable discharge.  The 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 7th Texas Mounted Rifles continued distinguished service including duty as “horse marines” in the victory of Galveston on January 1, 1863.   In June of 1865 the brigade was surrendered by General Kirby Smith after four years of campaigning in Texas and Louisiana.

Troops from other states have their reputations to gain but sons of the Alamo have theirs to maintain.
-President Jefferson Finis Davis

October 22, 2011

I wonder if the sun had shown so beautiful and warm on the San Antonio regiments of Sibley’s Brigade when they arrived at Fort Davis 150 years ago.  On Saturday, October 22, 2011 Confederates once again occupied Fort Davis.  For the first time, Fort Davis Historic Site hosted a living history event focused on the ground’s Confederate heritage.  New events are never uneasy to get started, however, our attendance was between twenty and a couple dozen good ole rebels.  These numbers which included civilian and soldier reenactors from as far north (but still bellow the 38th parallel) as Alamagardo, NM.  The good turnout for this first time event was an announcement as clear as the battlefield rebel yell that the history of Fort Davis matters to a wide area in the living history community.

We arrived at Fort Davis National Historic Site to commemorate and portray a story of the fort that is rarely studied.   The brief era of Fort Davis CSA  has been overshadowed by the post-war service of the US cavalry.  Living history and education programs are largely based on that period.  However, for one October weekend we were given a chance to show West Texas the history of Fort Davis as it was while under the colors of the sixth flag over Texas..

First Sergeant Zac and Private Jed Tims of the 15th Alabama Company G infantry raising the national flag of the Confederate States in Fort Davis 150 years later.

The event launched with the raising of the flag of a country that Texans had voted for 3 to 1 in 1861.  A salute from the 3 inch ordnance piece, Liberty was fired followed by a roll call of the commands gathered on the fort grounds.

Darrell Rhea, 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles Company F, commander of Texas Volunteers in Fort Davis

“I loved my banner forty times better than my sword.”-Joan of Arc

Confederates in West Texas were equipped from military stores surrendered by the US Army in February 1861.  As shown here Southern troops distinguished their allegiance by turning their US belt buckles upside down.

A Texas cavalry patrol as it was.

For the Yankees, a charge of Texas cavalry was perhaps the most physiologically devastating sight on the battlefield.

Flags, horses, and men of the recreated Confederate Cavalry

As it was in 1861 for the mounted Texans at Fort Davis, there was little to do (or pursue).  However, our cavalry did see some action on the 22nd.  They pursued a mare through a wild Texas canyon.   Slim,  a scrappy gray mare  had trampled the headquarters tent and attempted to flee to the yankee lines.  She’d obviously become disillusioned with the cause.

Later the cavalry simulated charges and lance warfare. Tired of charging a grass line the reenactors began charging each other!  Fun and chivalry is an ode to the Texas cavalryman.

I have never, on the field of battle, sent you where I was unwilling to go myself; nor would I now advise you to a course which I felt myself unwilling to pursue. You have been good soldiers, you can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor, and the Government to which you have surrendered can afford to be, and will be, magnanimous.

– Nathan Bedford Forrest,  Lieutenant-General. Gainesville, Alabama May 9, 1865

Reenacting the Fort’s other history.

Liberty of Croft’s Battery saluting our heritage with a bang.

While representing Teel’s Battery it was the duty for Croft’s Light Artillery to fire the  ordnance gun Liberty once every hour.   The horsemen attracted attention well on this day, as cavalry does but when it was time for the crew of Croft’s battery to fire both the infantry and cavalry were  humbled.  The cannon sounded like waves of thunder against the cliffs and high altitude atmosphere of the Davis Mountains. All of us  thought about the first time a Confederate gun roared against the indigenous rocks 150 years ago. It was like thunder from the past.

Infantryman Private Jed Tims guarding headquarters in the comfortable pose of a cavalryman.

While the artillery and cavalry recreated history with thundering cannon and thundering hooves, the infantry was left in the smoke and dust.  Composed of a first sergeant and private we had the dual duties of color guard and headquarters guard.  The infantry’s numbers were declined by midday with only the presence the first sarge.  At two o’ clock I performed a loading and firing demonstration.  Henry, my 53′ Enfield rifle fired proudly though not as loudly as Liberty.

The future of living history

The Sibley (or Bell) Tent, invented by Brigadier General Henry Sibley

Since then long years have vanished, their forms have gone to dust,
their flags have all been banished, their swords have gone to rust.
But their souls are up in glory, and now like angels gleam;
last night their mystic story, came to me in a dream.
-Private Morton Bryan Wharton

At 6:00 I lowered the Fort Davis flag in a ceremony as solemnly befitting as the occasion represented.  Park rangers and reenactors alike presented arms during this last act of remembering and recreating the story of Fort Davis as it was when it had been the highest garrison above sea-level in the Confederate States of America.

Fort Davis National Historic Site Park Rangers with the Stars and Bars

The Fort Davis park rangers were on hand not as witnesses in this special event but rather, participants.  While their usual association with living history  is with the portrayal of the post-war events, the rangers adjusted to the early period impression right away.   One ranger commanded the infantry during the firing demonstration while Ranger Donna Smith provided a map of the period fort.   These men and women gave honor to the Confederate volunteer soldiers that marched through the gates of Fort Davis 150 years ago by helping make this event a memorable one.

Second Texas Mounted Rifles & Teels Battery

Portrayed gallantly by members of the 15th Alabama infantry Company G, 7th Texas infantry, 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles company F, 8th Texas Cavalry Company B, 5th Texas Mounted Volunteers Company B, Croft’s Light Artillery, and the

Sons of Confederate Veterans

Grief not if our brave cause is lost lest our brave dead are forgotten!


VIDEOS FROM FORT DAVIS SESQUICENTENNIAL CONFEDERATE LIVING HERITAGE EVENT, 10/22/2011

Flag raising and cannon salute

Cavalry Charge

Kerry Hellums

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2011 Texas Firestorm

Spring 2011-
I am a lover of storms.  Violent poetry of nature.  The more fury filling the skies, the more blessed I feel!  Like most children in the Texas tornado belt east of the Pecos I feared storms and particularly tornado watches.  In the midlife of my teens however phobia turned to passion and ever since then I wait to hear the thunder calls.  I love it when hail freezes over.

By early spring in 2011 I was hoping for an early and if it was His will, an exceptionally severe storm season.  Though sadly w/o the threat of tornadoes, storms from the mountains can be beautifully nasty.  Both summers of 2009 and 2010 splashed the high deserts and mountains green with hard pourings of monsoon rainclouds.  Both years we enjoyed fair to midland to a few nice thunderstorms.  Yet, by April of 2011 Texas was embraced  in the dead calm of a historically destructive drought.  The blue sky was blinding and oppressive over the rain dependent mountain land.  Even though it was West Texas I still waited for an East Texas style storm.  Winter and fall are traditionally dry months in the West of the Pecos so we waited.

Saturday, April 9, 2011-
Like on 9/11 I woke up a later than I’d like to on a historical occasion.  But I got up in time to see the birthday of the biggest firestorm in Texas history.  Unfortunately the blazes were toward the Davis Mountains.  My brother and I had to get to Fort Davis to see our family in the DMR.  Before the station was evacuated the radio said that communications from Fort Davis was only between fire fighters.  We met two road blocks in our quest to see if dad’s mountains were smoked.  The first ash cloud was a stove pipe column over a fresh fire in the canyon-land below Mays Pass.*

*Mays Pass, 4,983 ft. above sea-level is the highest point on State 118 between Alpine and Fort Davis. It was self named in honor of Lt. Mays who in August 1862  led a troop of Confederate cavalry in pursuit through the region of an Apache war party that had attacked Fort Davis.  Only one soldier survived Mays Massacre, a Mexican American scout.

These small republics of fire were caused by the  rain of inflamed particles riding in front of the main storm.  These fires are like skirmish lines of a cavalry like force sweeping everything ahead.  This was the eery battle-field texture as we drove up the Davis Mountains plateau.

 

Roping from a sky like sick gold or unloved brass a fire whirl (or devil’s twister disney wind, fire vortex).

                               

The cyclone was between sixty and sixty-five meters high and moved northeast thirty to thirty-five mph.  There was an ominous warning in this sign that the wildfire over the Davis Mountain plateau horizon would be giant.  The imposing phenomena is only common in firestorms of epic intensities.

The Mays Pass devil wind…
            

The cloudless blue sky turned black as sack cloth.  Our cell phones were useless in getting a hold of dad but the cameras worked fine.  Over the pass and onto the plateau and just past the High Frontier and Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center entrances and around seven miles east of Fort Davis I met the Rock House wildfire.  At 4:30 pm I saw a storm I could never of imagined.  From the foothills northwest of Fort Davis to the gaps and peaks of the Puertacitas Mountains was flames at least twenty miles long, one fire.  You could see it bristling under the mountains of smoke that blocked the view of the Davis Mountains.  The fire light disappeared and reappeared along the hilly topography.  The iron smoke curtain also hid Fort Davis. It was like a quilt of many colors as natural and man made material and debris burned. With so many telephone poles destroyed we were unable to call our family and with flames contacting State 118 it was impossible to drive there.  Blowing in from the wind and wings of a firestorm was the feeling of being too close to a fire.

State 118 facing toward Davis Mountains and Fort Davis, Texas.

Facing southwest toward Marfa.

The snake of fire moved southwest-northwest, a side winding serpent of red and black.  The length didn’t move forward evenly.  Wind gusts and currents surged some parts of the beast faster than the rest.  Which parts would suddenly burst forward was where the wind was the wildest.  Heat from the fire was well hot enough enough by early evening to stir up its own brutal wind patterns.  Fueled by this and a unseasonably wet season the year before followed by an unseasonably dry one the Rock House fire sped neither gradually or gracefully.

The majority of fire rescue deployed defending one hundred and sixty year old Fort Davis.  On this side of the inferno Homeland Security border agents provided security from the storm.
        

   

The two- lane state highway proved no kind of good barrier against a firestorm of this magnitude of furor.  Balls of fire virtually flew over the highway.  Though the fire crossing was around a quarter of a mile from me (I seen storm chasers closer than that to f-5 tornadoes) I thought it about time to about face outta there.  My nerves had been conquered by the demonic speed the fire went forward.  It kept up with wind gusts more than forty mph.

I jogged back in scary solitude.  Then heaves of dark wind blew over the top of a ridge south of me.  Over the hill a violet and dragon blood red fire burst through the brush.  The silence was quaked by popping bark and crackling grass.  I quickened my feet running up the road easterly to the car.  Not only was it impossible to outrun a fire that fast it was coming toward coming forward on my right side.

Out running a ferocious flame coming by my side was an an unsuccessful pursuit.  And as the armada of vehicles who’d also been caught by the fire sneaking over the ridge,  rushed away I was thankfully swooped off the road  by a Border Patrol agent, the last out.  Thanks to his vigilance I did not become the one human casualty of the Rock House firestorm.

The race of civilians and emergency responders eventually stopped back at Mays Pass.  The prayer of my brother and I were answered when we finally reached my dad. He had to drive two miles to the beginning of his road to get a signal on his cell phone sense the home lines were severed.  The Rock House fire had stayed to the east of State 166, sparing their community in the mountains.  But below mountains and setting sun we saw all else burning.

My black Cat Blue Bell and Blue Mountain (7,300 ft. above sea-level).

   

A gloomy sun sat behind a fire gloom that covered all but the vanguard of the Davis Mountain Range.  In those last images of a lasting day my brother and I and Blue Bell said goodnight to the Rock House firestorm.  It, however, would keep awake twenty-eight nights.

My brother Jed’s photos of the Rock House firestorm on the outskirts of Fort Davis an hour before.
 

 

Sunday, April 10, 2011
The Rock House firestorm burnt out after blackening 318,000 acres of Presidio and Jeff Davis Counties on May 6th.  The third largest firestorm in Texas history was still a prepubescent as it roared as fast and furious the day before.  As with all storms of this magnitude the starting spark and successful destruction was bound by a series of perfect events for a perfect storm.  Again, one of the driest seasons on record following one of the wettest West Texas was the foreboding factor.   Powerful high pressure wind provided the surge to the spark that spread to a fiery fury.

When Marfa Radio came back online I learned the storm was started by a structural fire at a closed tourist shop west of Marfa on State 90.  The name of the firestorm was based on its origin, the Rock House.

My brother and I retraced our trip northwest of Alpine on rugged State 118.  The floating seas and columns of smoke and lines of fire we saw the evening before was on the 1oth an all black valley and all blue sky.  It had became a dead and long expo of ashed silence.

West of Mays Pass, Blue Mountain and Davis Mountains                     (Elevation 8,367 ft. above sea-level).

The front of the Rock House Firestorm burned along State 166 or the Jeff Davis Highway No. 3.  On the 10th it continued to the right of State 17 over Wild Rose Pass.  Nevertheless rogue sections of fire still burned on in the remote valley between the Puertacitas and Paisano Ranges.

                   

The distant mountains and hidden valleys were not the only things still smoldering…
      

Driving into Fort Davis from the east we saw the shelled ruins of several homes.  Thanks to God and hundreds of sweating responders downtown and the courthouse weren’t damaged. The Rock House fire had threatened the town limits from every direction and dozens of structures were sadly consumed.

Hill Crest Cemetery and Cemetery Road on the east side of town was burned.
  

Jefferson Davis Highway No. 3 south of Fort Davis

Bro and I drove south from  Fort Davis on State 17 toward Marfa.  Closed the day before, this road cut through a ground zero that was a dozen times greater than the Trinity Crater.

The camera I relied on last year was a gift from my brother, a phone he out-grew, the Motorola 2mpx.  The bizarre atmospheric anomalies in the afterglow of the fire was more than my otherwise nice gift could handle.   A black and white with a little graduated tent exposes the outlines of smoke and debris clouds in the sunlight…

The valley of destruction south and east of Fort Davis with fires billowing at the base of the Paisano Range and Twin Mountains (elevations 6,899 and 6,667 ft. above sea-level).
  

The river of death left  by the Rock House firestorm was in places fifteen miles wide across the valley.  There were small islands of singed antelope grass where the fire had literally skipped over in the wind.  The southern end of the Davis Mountains including Mount Livermore, Sawtooth,  Paradise Peak, and Mescalero Mountain luckily only witnessed the storm from their high perches.

The DMR community with its more than one hundred residents in the Lympia Creek Basin were just as blessed with good luck.  If a firestorm burned west from State 166 down Tomahawk Trail theor only evacuation route would be blocked.  And based on the phenomena that happened in the Puertacitas Mountains where combustion increased speed on the upward slopes air rescue would have to work quick.

The great landscape of the Puertacitas Mountains (elevations up to 6,344 ft. above sea-level) on the other hand, was completely pulverized from the previous day.  Even at some distance from the black domed and coned summits it was clear that the firestorm not only accelerated on angled slopes but the intensity was greater also. Waves and twisters of fire crested over the gaps and peaks then raced down the other side.

From a high point pass near the half-way point between Fort Davis and Marfa* we saw smoke drifting over the other side of the mountains.  The black cooled lava texture on the slopes, black rocks, and smoke cloud behind gave the Puertacitas range the great likeness of a group of volcanoes.  Indeed, there may have been similarities with the stormy era of the great Paisano Caldera eruptions thirteen million years ago which created not only the Puertacitas but the Davis and Paisano ranges as well.

*Giant Pass (self called in honor of epic movie filmed south of Marfa), elev. 5,220 ft. above sea-level).

The Puertacitas

 Puertacitas with Twin Mountains 6,899 and 6,667 ft. above sea-level

   

I think very few wild animals were harmed or even long displaced by the firestorm.  Lacking speed, agility, and much hope for survival the poor livestock on the other hand were either chased down by the flames or just as horrifically entangled in a Texas trap, barb wire.  2011’s largest barbeque was a terrible event.

Survivors that somehow got past the fences and ahead enough of the firestorm huddle near the one pace that can’t burn, the highway.

The Rock House firestorm burned across runway 13 at the Marfa International Airport and came half a mile of residents in north Marfa.

Facing southwest of Marfa International Airport (Chinatiti Peak, elevation 7,732 ft. above sea-level)

Marfa had a close call with the same storm that threatened Fort Davis.  It had the same potential as Hurricane Katrina to wipe out blocks of homes and businesses.  Yet, every piece of the Presidio County Seat looked well intact as we turned onto US 90 west to see the genesis of the firestorm.  About a mile past the Marfa Cemetery was the ash shelled remains of the Rock House.  I have seen it many times  yet never remembered the 70 mph blur.  They sold and traded native rocks and stone art. Roadside geology is popular with travelers in Big Bend country.

Marfa Rock House

We continued home on the last leg of the loop* east on US 90 through Paisano Pass, elevation 5,121 ft. above sea-level. (Official name actually)!  The loop was State 118 from Alpine to Fort Davis then the Jeff Davis Highway or State 17 to Marfa and US 90 back to Alpine. It is seventy-one miles.  I call it the Tri-County or Paisano Pass scenic loop.  This long tour only covered half the area destroyed by the Rock House firestorm.

By a twist of fate, a second firestorm, east of Alpine, also started on April 9th.  It also began unnaturally.  The Roper firestorm began with the littering of a smoldering cigarette butt on Highway 67. It burned 25,000 acres east and northeast of Alpine.  Near the west face of Hancock Hill I could see and smell the tall tower of smoke on the other side less than two miles away.  The fires came home for many West Texans.  Yet, thanks to the army of emergency responders the inferno was stopped before burning black the hearts of the communities threatened.

Roper Fire east of Alpine, TX.

Monday, April 11, 2011
Every year on 4/11 is a time of reflection and motivation.  I revise and recite Live and Die with Wings a poem from youth

for God, freedom and an guardian angel .  The attitude of gratitude on 4/11/11 was with me and I took some time off to take a trip to Hancock Hill, a good place to walk Blue Bell.  The eleventh’s last light pinched in the west but to the northwest a dull mean glow refused to simmer.  The Rock House firestorm had moved further north down the front range of the Davis Mountains.  Yet,  a cluster still burned defiantly in the rugged and unreachable country close to Mitre Peak and Twin Mountains.

 Blue Bell

Mother Misery

West face of Hancock
  

Mitre Peak, elevation 6, 189 ft. above sea-level.

Sunday, April 17, 2011
A week after the start of the Rock House firestorm we went to Jeff Davis County to hike.  To the northwest the fires continued in the northern part of the county.  We didn’t hike up there.  Instead we photographed the torched West Texas scene which hadn’t changed its sterile black completion.

The first stop was the Pioneer Cemetery, a seldom visited historical landmark a half mile east of downtown Fort Davis. Two homes nearby laid destroyed nearby.

Entrance to cemetery path…

I hadn’t lost anything in the fire like so many others.  Yet, the burnt out cemetery gave a good sadness to me when I saw the seriously burned headstone of the cemetery’s lone Confederate States veteran.  As a passionate student and interpreter of the War between the Confederate and United States I’m also an ardent voice in the preservation of grave sites of Southern veterans.  I’ve photographed dozens of Confederate plots from Texas, Virginia, and even Maine.  It is not uncommon to see the stones of our unpopular countrymen that fought for the South maliciously vandalized.  But here nature played the part of the unapologetic Yankee!

Private Joseph Granger was a New York Yankee who married a daughter of the Texas Revolution and so defended his new state during the Confederate American War.  He served in the 12th Texas Infantry Company F.  Granger was an example of the root of the phrase, the brother’s war.  When Joseph’s generals surrendered the Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas department at the end of May in 1865 the private’s brother Maj. General Gordon Granger led Yankee forces into Texas at Galveston.  Having come close to stories like these it was a gnaw to the heart seeing the Texan’s monument in such a shape.  The irony is that a dead and dried wreath and flag fueled the blaze against the white stone.  Not long after contacting the Jeff Davis County Historical Society I returned to the sacred place and found the stone restored.  My heart is so grateful to them.

Pioneer Cemetery and grave site of Private Joseph Granger

We revisited the black mileage along State 17 to take images of the destruction on April 9th.  It was black as the scorched footprints of Sherman’s terrorism through eastern Georgia in 1864.

Davis Mountains, Twin Mountains, and the Puertacitas Mountains.

Being in the valley between the Puertacitas and Davis Mountains was like being in the middle of an endless charred bowl of pulverized earth.  Alas there were signs, up close, of tedious tenacious survival.  They were like the survivors of the hop and miss rampages of a tornado. Yuccas and cactus, migrates from the Chihuahuan Desert when this valley began warming over 10,000 years ago, were able to live for the most part in spite of the epic storm.  Born to live long w/o water the stalwart stalks and pads of spines were gifted to live through a wave of fire.

Devils Walking Canes, Prickly Pare Cactus, and yucca ‘tree’

   

Sunday, May 8, 2012
It was almost a month to the day that the Rock House and Roper firestorms began their wild blazes through Presidio, Jeff Davis, and Brewster Counties.  They were no more.  After bellowing across 313,000 acres and howling a period of twenty-eight days the record burning Rock House firestorm finally hissed to a stop south of Balmorhea.   Yet, across t Texas,  parts of Arizona and New Mexico the firestorm season continued spawning fires wherever the drought, wind, and spark gods combined.

May 8th, 2011 a firestorm started north of US 90 a few miles northeast of Paisano Pass.  By midday it spread through the steep and bushy Paisano Pass Canyon  along the railroad to the eastern slopes of the Paisano Mountains.  Police closed the highway on the town limit, a little over a mile from the fire’s easterly flank.   Helicopters with giant buckets of retardant swooped over the smoky slopes.  A full range of attention was blasted at this fire because of the immanent threat to Alpine, the Alpine Border Patrol Station, and the Texas royalty community of Sunny Glen.

 Alpine facing west

Like the bulging debris cloud when tornadoes hit large structures a firestorm produces a signature shade and thickness of smoke when it turns something man made into weightless ash.

The abandoned parking lot for the abandoned Mountain View dorms overlooks the Paisano Mountains and Alpine from the west face on Hancock Hill.  I lived very close and regularly walked my cat to the scenic area self called Gray Fox Park.  On this night several cars came here, people just as interested as I in the pageant of flames.  The May 8th fire was mostly contained by the 9th.  It burned 25,000 acres of mountain land.  Pyramid Peak, a beautiful butte on Highway 90 west 0f town was scalded completely.  In the deepening dark the fires could be seen growing, sitting, and moving.

In less than a month Alpine was threatened first by the Roper fire east of town and then by the May 8th wildfire to the west.  By the next evening the fire was off the ground and the smoke out of the sky.  I don’t know what they called it or how it was started.

Ranger Peak, elevation 6,254 ft, Twin Sisters 6, 109 and 6,127 ft, and Paisano Peak 6,089 ft. above sea-level.

Twin Mountain (south) elevation 6,667 ft. above sea-level.

Pyramid Peak, Paisano Pass Canyon, and Sunny Glenn.

May 9, 2011
On a 165 mile trip back from the closest city over 10,000, Odessa,  I had a distant view of the Iron Mountain firestorm.  Normally the drive south of Fort Stockton on US 67 gives a nice view of the Glass Mountains to the east.  They’re the easternmost range in Texas over six-thousand feet above sea-level.  The usual scenery was hindered by a smoky disaster in the mountains’ midst.  It burned 87,000 acres  twenty-five miles east of Alpine.  I don’t know what started the Iron Mountain fire.

Glass Mountains w/ Old Blue Mountain, elevation 6,294 ft. above sea level

Monday, June 6, 2011
6/6/11 was less than two months since Texas was rocked by the firestorms which came close to burning down the Brewster, Presidio, and Jeff Davis county seats.  Since then hundreds of separate fires kept emergency services and insurance companies as sleepless as Central Maine Power workers during the 1998 Maine ice storm.  Midland and Odessa were threatened several times with fires burning toward the cities.  The Iron Mountain and Schwartz firestorms around Marathon and Alpine cleared over 160,000 acres before the end of May.

Traveling the Davis Mountains Loop a lot of area below Mount Locke was burned but thank God the deep forests over six-thousand feet above sea-level remained uncharred.  We visited one of the loveliest spots on the Loop, the Lawrence E Wood Roadside Park.  It is so lovely because of its two lovely elders, a pair of Ponderosa Pines.  Yet, not far from the pull out was discovered some unattended fire.  Pine cones clicked and burst under the frying heat.  Several trees stooped and smoked and at a closer look they appeared to burn from the inside out.

The fire was isolated but it looked like it was burning for a couple of hours.  Beyond the fence, a couple hundred yards away another line of smoke rose from the ground to the sky.  We hailed a state vehicle and showed him the fires.  It was likely these were the small gasping remnants of the Rock House fire.  It could have been lightning…Going by the roadside park on New Years Eve 2011 I was very relieved to see that the Ponderosa were still there!

Continuing around the northern end of the loop from State 118 to 166 we saw dozens of other isolated fires with smoke puffing from craters of burnt out trees.

It was a hot spring in the Davis Mountains.

Sunday, July 31, 2011
The last smoke I saw in my first firestorm season rose not far from where I saw first smoke last April.  It was also not far north from the place of the east Alpine fire in May.  I hope that the royalty out there in Sunny Glenn are more careful in 2012.  The cliffy valleys under the Twin Mountains, Antelope Peak, Castle Rock, and Mitre Peak is where wild and beauty bind blissfully and it would be unfortunate to me to see it all burned away again.

Mitre Peak (6,189 ft. above sea-level)

Sunday, February 5, 2012
Before my life is past I want to see so many more super cells going like giant dark ships across late springs and dangerous early evenings.  Whenever I finally go with the angel of death I hope I can say to him that I’ve seen many times more lightning, hail, and extraordinary tornadoes than I ever hoped to see.  I want to see more of the beauty fury that God’s skies give.  Yet, when my soul is back above the clouds I can at least look back and say I truly saw a firestorm.  The fires were started by man but the scale of which they grew and continued was the strange glory work of God and the unemotional force of nature on earth.  The ranchers re-erected their miles of fences and thousands of cattle are back exploring their mountains.  As perhaps they foresaw the fire’s cleansing and clearing was beneficial to the land business in the long run.

Thank you for visiting my illustrated testament to my firestorm swept West Texas homeland.  The fires that burned Texas in 2011 destroyed almost two-thousand structures and claimed four lives.  The conditions for the storm existed state wide.  I pray that so much life will be spared from becoming smoke in years to come.  But if  nature or a careless soul does start another mega fire you’ll probably see me through that smoke photographing and writing poetry of it.

Outline (rough) of firestorm in Jeff Davis, Brewster, and Presidio Counties 2011.

Please enjoy these videos from my You Tube channel taken in between photographs of the firestorms.

         

                           Monday, January 9, 2012…Nine months after storm.                                           Half mile south of Fort Davis on Jeff Davis Highway No. 3 

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9/11/2011 Twin Towers Twin Sisters

Farmington, Maine, September 11, 2001-
Was it so long ago as it seems to me? Ten years ago 9/11 reshaped the character, confidence, and the American in America.  From a Hall Mart card lyrical Alan Jackson once asked Where were you when the world stopped turning (that September day).  On Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 I skipped my 8:30 class and slept.  My room-mate woke me up for 4:30 American History.

Actually around the time Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari were checking out of a Comfort Inn in Portland, seventy-seven miles south of my campus, I was finally done with my history paper.  I went to sleep after a bowl of shredded wheat and some pages from Company Atch.  At 6:11 AM for me it was good night on 9/11/01.  Today I still think this is unfortunate.  It was the saddest day in American history since the election of Abraham Lincoln.  As I slept away hours of research and a Wild Turkey 101 deflate (didn’t have hangovers in college) countrymen were falling, burning, and crushed in crashes and collapses.  If I had attended my 8:30 I surely would have been right with the news as it happened less than three hundred miles away.

When Jeff woke me up he informed “dude you just slept through the craziest day.  The Twin Towers and Pentagon were bombed. ”  I didn’t believe him at first and sniffed the air, no fires.  I thought he was giving shit for missing a class.  He was up for his 9:30.  Before I hurried to history I saw the history of 9/11 on my Yahoo Home Page.  It showed a thumb of the North Tower collapse.  It was a cross between photos of a High Plains tornado and Mount Saint Helens 1980.

We were allowed to skip class yet I and everyone save one stayed.  Discussion showed that we appreciated rare experiences like sharing in history class on 9/11.  Its messed up-I was counted awol from one class but went to the class we were excused from!  Iron ironies on 9/11.

(The informative essay I turned in that day was John Brown-Roots of Extremism and Terrorism in US History).

I had just left American History when the World Trade Center No. 7 collapsed.

For several weeks I spent a lot of the time by the big screen TV in the student center watching CNN.  By only a week or so fewer people was watching it till the news was turned off and I moved myself to the tv in my dorm lounge.  I never saw enough of it.  Maybe because of my grand distance from the 9/11 experience it is easy to approach.  But what is easy is not automatically unemotional.  The memories from even my 9/11 plays my heart like chills and sadness from a cold harp.  Further, I have never visited the Twin Towers before their fall and never had a picture with them.  I visited the old Big Apple a few times before and remember how excellent Manhattan looked until that late summer in   2001.
(Until she died in 2008, my mother was also a 9/11 buff.  For six Christmases she always got at least a book or two of photography and stories about 9/11 including the 9/11 Commission Report.  It is sad that who knows where all those books are now.  But, I am always reminded of her interest and in that the bond we shared for 9/11).

My brother Jed, 13, on a ferry west of the Twin Towers summer of 1994.

Alpine, Texas, September 11, 2011-


On September 11th, 2011 my brother and I went to the grounds in front of the Alpine Station of the US Border Patrol.  Two to three hundred other people including ranks of emergency responders and border patrol was there in files and groups.  The people of West Texas were gathered for the unveiling of the Tenth Annivesary of 9/11 memorial.

A stainless silver pyramid pillar bearing the seal of the US Department of Homeland Security holds up a hair pinned structural  beam from unburied from Ground Zero ten years ago.

Moments after the mangled and curved six to eight hundred pound piece of history is revealed in the blue sky of Texas.  A lone border patrol agent bows in prayer.

Why the Alpine Station and most importantly why Alpine, Texas? A tablet in front of the monument describes the connection between 9/11 and the location.  The text gives the ironic story:
On this fateful date, the Marfa Border Patrol Sector was conducting a ground breaking ceremony for the new Alpine station facility you see standing in the background. The ceremony was halted when the report was received and all personnel were put on full alert as the country responded to the evil and cowardly attack.
This steel artifact was extracted from the rubble of the World Trade Center and donated to the Alpine station by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
How tragically ironic that a building dedicated to the safety and security of the United States should begin construction at the exact moment that other buildings some 2,000 miles away would be destroyed by those enemies of this country who would see us all perish.

“We, the men and women of the United States Border Patrol, stand ever vigilant in defiance of all enemies of the United States of America and we vow to never forget.”
   

The last part of the tablet text reads a quote from George Santyana.  “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Though there was so many heroes in it, we did not win the battle of 9/11.  Yet, just as we’ve erected a memorial at Pearl Harbor and the Southern states put up monuments on the field of defeat in Gettysburg, we’ve done so for the memory of 9/11. It is because of the heroes of 9/11 that we find time and places to remember.  Like the men aboard the USS Arizona or those in Colonel Oates’ 15th Alabama at Gettysburg we judge that defeat is not dishonor.  As the bagpipes piped Amazing Grace, the border patrol agents fired three volleys, and the crowd sung God Bless America we thought of heroes.  The Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol people that retrieved the marooned ruin from the Port Authority hope that we’ve learned that national security requires more than what the Constitution allows or what the Treasury can  afford.  I believe that the most important part learned from 9/11 is that there was a 9/12.  In spite of the terrible attacks from al qaeda and our government’s patriot act and two wars the people continue bravely from one day to this next, from September 12th, 2001 to September 12th, 2011.

The people were allowed to closely gaze on and respectfully graze fingers over the strange steel.
      

Where our monument’s beam  had fallen ten years ago, a larger ceremony gathered around a new monument also of a larger sort on the 9/11 tenth anniversary.  It wasn’t a big deal I did not attend the New York City Ground Zero ceremony.  I have a no big interest in the memorial that those yankees chose for Ground Zero.  The hallow (and wet) footprints of the Twin Towers is not the design I personally would have chosen! In the design contest stage of Ground Zero memorial I submitted an idea that would have become the two highest monuments in the world-two pillars of granite from each state replicating the Twin Towers in size rising from the buildings’ former spots.  Like the San Jacinto monument east of Houston there would be observation decks and museums inside.  From any distance the eye would see the old beautiful NYC skyline resurrected.  It would have given us something more beautiful to look at from Jersey than the already uninspiring form of the Freedom Tower.

I was simply pleased to have been awake for the unveiling ceremony under the hot West Texas September sun.  It was one moment in the ten year story of 9/11 that I was closely a part of!   So wicked strange that it would happen to be here!

Alpine Border Station

Before the day died my brother and I revisited the monument for a quite time with the piece of history.  Though it had been torn and battered by gravity and deformed by heat, the 1970s steel seemed as strong as it had been when the Twin Towers were created.  How such ardent material could be so mutilated humbles the imagination .

It settles the senses into tatters how a part of the Twin Towers ends up on the edge of the West Texas wilderness.

Moon and monument over 9/11/2011.
                                        

I’ve come back to the site of the 9/11 memorial several times since seeing it unveiled.  When not photographing it I clean bird cream off the metal.  I bicker at the prospect of a Texas storm lightning strike hitting it someday.   And even though it is accessible from the Alpine Station road the monument is not clearly recognized from Highway 90.  Mostly though I think of the residue of ghosts upon the tough but changed steel.  And in the wilderness dead silence the mere shape of it is a reminder of sounds of chaos and collapse.

From the sky a piece from ruble to peace and silence…

Twin Sisters, elevations 6,109 and 6,127 feet above sea-level were created by fires from the earth thirty-five million years ago.  They were thrust from the eastern rem of Paisano caldera during a mega eruption .  Their name comes from a Mescalero Apache legend of two sisters being turned to stone for jealously falling in love with the same son of a chief.  Like the Twin Towers were in NYC the identical cone pillars of the Twin Sisters are the iconic skyline of Alpine.  No human terrorist could bring them down.  Only an event as cataclysmic as their creation could end the twin peaks.
The Twin Towers, elevations 1,727 and 1,362 feet above sea-level were destroyed by fires from the sky tin long years ago.  Built by man rather than nature and made with the vulnerability of something that could be torn down by man, their lives were short, their death quick.  Though we cannot build something unbreakable we can nevertheless create something that can never be forgotten.

Twin Towers and Twin Sisters with Ranger Peak

Besides attending the 9/11 memorial ceremony with my brother Jed I later took other family to the sacred setting.  Interestingly and sadly no one enjoyed staying around for long.  They gave an appropriate pause of their time to see on the awesome view of the Twin Sisters, Ranger Peak, and that steely piece of the Twin Towers, God bless them.  Yet, even my black cat Blue Bell wanted to leave that place a lot quicker than me.  I can stare at the six-thousand feet above sea-level mountains all day and all night.  And the war ruined beam from New York is like an authentic bronze cannon looking down on Burnside’s Bridge in the Antietam National Battlefield.  The combined greatness and struggle of natural and American history steals my heart.

Blue Bell in October, Dad and Julia in November, and Jed and I in September 2011.

 

Alpine 9/11 Sunset
Paisano Peak, 6, 089 ft, Pyramid Peak, Twin Mountains, 6,667 and 6,899 ft above sea-level, and the Twin Sisters.  Alpine, Texas. September 11, 2011

9/11/11 videos

End of the 9/11/11 ceremony atAlpine Station. Border Agents stand guard at the monument as people go near.

Evening of September 11th, 2011 revisiting the monument close to dark with my brother and cat.

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