On the one hundred and forty-ninth anniversary of the 2nd inauguration of President Jefferson Davis as the chief of the Confederate States of America (February 22nd) my dad, step-mom Julia, and I drove from West Texas to El Paso in far West Texas.
Blue Bell came along of course.
Even though the Interstate ten speed limit in that part of Texas is the highest in the country dad stayed 55. It is not his age but rather he explains, we get extra miles a gallon. And as prices of gas have gone up seventeen cents in the past week who, at least not me, can suggest a better way to El Paso? Nevertheless even at fifty-five it was only a three hour drive to my sister’s in El Paso as opposed to the eighteen hour drive (24 if we were going 55) it would have been to North Carolina where she and her family moved from recently.
The El Paso trip began by leaving Alpine. We pass around the base of the Twin Sisters and Paisano Peak. Less than twenty miles west of Alpine and a few miles over the Presidio County Line is Paisano Pass, elevation 5,119 feet above sea-level . Our trip’s highest point. We go by strange Marfa and then stranger still Valentine. Beyond Van Horn is I-10 and the nation’s only eighty mph speed limit. Nevertheless dad continued not whistling “I can’t drive fifty-five.”
Between Van Horn and Sierra Blanca is an unassuming and not a uniquely high cliff crowned ridge. I’m not sure who or when it started but once upon a time driving by it I christened it Blue Bell Ridge. The long back mountain is not named for the best damn ice cream brand in the world but for my
long back baby black cat Blue Bell.
Though Blue Bell is not so enthusiastic a traveler as I he took to being in famous photos on this trip like a sweet sport. Mama Julia, baby Blue Bell, & Blue Bell Ridge, Elevation 5,037 feet above sea-level.
Passing Sierra Blanca we pass into Mountain Time, my favorite time zone of course. It doesn’t make sense why the eastern border of this time zone jogs so far west when it reaches the Texas border.
The red line represents where mountain time ought to be when it gets to Texas.
Sierra Blanca is home to the old frontier fort that saw the passing of Confederate Brigadier General Henry Sibley’s San Antonio Brigade in 1862. They in fact followed the wagon road, today’s I-10 to El Paso then north into the Confederate Territory of Arizona and US Territory of New Mexico. Northwest of Sierra Blanca is Sierra Blanca Mountain. It’s broad features command unique grandness on this great sea to shining sea highway. At this point I-10 lifts over a small but rugged pass through the Quitman Mountains.
Sierra Blanca Mountain, elevation 6,889 feet above sea-level. North of I-10.
A couple of hours later the endless yawn of El Paso and the Rio Grande’s southern bank city Juarez expanded across the valley. These great cities are paled only by the Franklin Mountains, the most western mountains in Texas, elevation 7,186 feet above sea-level. They are also the southern tip of the Rockies. It felt awesome that after only a few hours drive we were in my sister’s city. I smiled and smile today hinking how happy she is living so close to such big mountains. Her and I have the same smiles and love for mountains.
Palm tree in my sister’s front yard.
Rebecca, Leslie, Timothy, Lorena, Josiah, and their five cats live about fifteen miles east of downtown El Paso. I am totally happy for their living arrangements. It is a four bedroom two story home. However their backyard has the crunchiest and most concentrated infestation of stickers I’ve ever seen. Someday I will take a hoe or blow torch out there and kill em’ all!
The first thing they wanted to show me was the open desert a couple of blocks away. Like me, my sister always likes to go to the nearest countryside and pretty peace. This is when I let the kids try walking Blue Bell. Only Lorena mastered the patient following and gentle jerks of the leash that it takes to go with my unique cat.
The kids were very delighted with my cat.
In life most cats we see do not live imprinted on our souls. But as he always is anywhere or with anyone Blue Bell was treated signifigant and special at Rebecca’s. He brings a peculiar magnificence to everyone!
And as well has he does on hundreds of miles in a car he did just as fine among five cat strangers. Neither was he fighting but just the same not submissive.
Mister Blue Bell is patiently inspected by hosts Thomas and Peter.
Josiah, Thomas, and Blue Bell chilled.
Lorena adopted my little black angel and he totally enjoyed her bedroom window sill.
I read the kids a bed time story and afterward my sister and I talked most of the night and was so wonderful. We watched Threads, a British 1980s Cold War film about a pregnant woman’s woe during a nuclear war. My fatalistic and fantastic sister is like me with a dvd library that includes a pattern of titles like The Day After, Day After Tomorrow, and 28 Weeks Later. Apocalyptic Hollywood is neat to us.
Next morning dad and mama-Julia went to the doctor’s for chemo therapy. El Paso is the closest place he can get this done and they’ve been doing these trips every month for almost two years. It is much better that my sister is there now.
Rebecca and I dropped Leslie off at the base and the two oldest kids off at school. With Josiah we headed straight for the mountains of course! Like frikkin duh! Nobody loves mountains more than we. She is the only person that would postpone or put off as many things as I in order to explore wild mountains without a time line. It is a plesent twenty minute trip to the Trans-Mountain Pass entrance to the Franklin Mountains State Park. She wanted to show me the Sleeping Elephant Trail to South Franklin Peak, elevation 6, 808 feet above sea-level, that her family done recently. From the southern flank I had summited there last May. But we rarely do the same paths twice because there is always something else and new to explore on earth. We got off the trail to follow a high dike along the side of a mighty steep gorge on the north face of South Franklin Peak.
When I was four like Josiah today there would have been no way any force human or greater that could convince me to embark on such a formnable journey into the sky. I did not become so fearless of heights until I was sixteen! But Josiah is an incredible little climber. Only the peralous patches of cactus and devil daggers tested his mood. The lovely desert mountain mission was nicely capped by a handsome cave and a rock slide to slide down on. We enjoyed some cokes when we got home.
The way he learns.
These smiles say a whole lot about mountains and family.
Rebecca, boy, and North Franklin Peak, elevation 7,186 feet above sea-level.
Uncle Zac, Jo Jo, and a Texas cave.
It is impossible for our hiking blood to run out whilst there is still daylight going on. Living on fires of impulse that never die. We picked Timothy and Lorena and went straight away to Hueco Mountains State Park.
The Hueco Mountains from Hueco Tanks
To Jo Jo’s delight there are no cactus or devil dagger desert plants but just rounded and big bare boulders ahead of us. However park rules (to the crisp complaints of Timmy and I) made us climbers stay down for a fifteen minute video about preservation and conservation. Hueco Tanks was home to Original Americans for eleven thousand years because of the watery little valley between the jumbo boulders. Pictographs, ancient graffiti, has been damaged recently by vandalism so called tagging. “Stupid gangs,” a guy sitting behind us in the video room whispered to a neighbor. Then we were let loose to the rocks.
The kids showed off going up every ledge and skipped along every edge. Seeing Timothy, Lorena, and Josiah active in God’s rugged creation gave me the same joy that I’d felt with my own brother and sister many years ago when we were so young too and doing this.
The way we were.
I encouraged Timothy to wiggle through a stone breach where I waited; patient and smiling understandingly. At his age I was just as skeptical of the next step.
All of a sudden I was plunged into the ticking bomb world of low blood sugar. My bsl dropped from eighty to thirty like a jet black condor bombing me in the back with its talons and lifting me limp into the sky. It felt like an attack. From the rock I stood I altered my sister and the others from another rock. “This is bad sister. We have to try and go back!” Cold sweat and the draining life made my skin feel cold. I felt pale and icy. I looked around nervously. It would be impossible to climb even a little. The kids looked on my slow but exhausted relay back with questining sympathy. Even though I have had diabetes type 1 you could have fooled me that they’d known so before that night. Even my sister appeared to be struggling to understand that my body was literally being withered and wasted away. The bsl will eventually drop too low until the body’s energy is so exausted the heart, brain, and throbing of the lungs becomes stagnent. Damn, I thought. Why didn’t I carry a Dr Pepper in my pocket? Rebecca recalled how she had felt hypoglocimia before. I should be grateful I guess that Rebecca’s kids didn’t see how serious the out of nowhere struggle was. Since I made it back okay (more from God than any extra step of matablized energy in my cells) I am okay that my poor sister didn’t reckon the differences between a 65 bsl sugar crash that happened to her once and my spiraling 50 to 30 in 10 minutes. About dad and grandpa’s cancer it is a little more easy and clear for them. For cancer the end stands big and conspicously in the future somewhere. In type 1 diabetes the end is more sinistarly hidden but is ever closely behind any moment off guard, w/o a Dr Pepper or insulin. It’s hard to grasp but its always there waiting for me and weakness. I wasn’t this sick all my life but nevertheless I live. Freedom and faith, Blue Bell and family I love to live another day.
Meanwhile Blue Bell was blue for home. His behavior on these long far trips fools everyone of his discreet true feelings. He looks calm, eats, drinks, and even gallivanted with the big cat Cheshire. He walked gingerly on the sides of the foreign streets with us. Yet, I knew my little black brother was not the same. There was no purr buzz in his neck. He was in what I think is a trip trance. Patient calmness until the storm is over and he is home again. The towel bed in the sink, Stonewall Park, a bedroom radiating Euro Pop, home.
Black cat house of white.
Blue Bell swing.
Even as he commanded the highest places in the house and walked the streets like they were his alone and he was alone I could tell Blue Bell couldn’t wait to come back home. I felt that.
Tinker Bell ate Blue Bell?
(From Skull journal 2-24-2011) Blue Bell and me walked both ways on my sister’s front street both ways for a half a block. Two doors down is a turn of the century beetle wagon and a loaded bed pick up truck. In an alternate universe the hubby drives the former and the wifey the latter. Not knowing either way this could very well be that universe.
Third house down is a damn dog behind a backyard gate behind the darkness. Black cat startles but relaxes and points onward. That black beast in the black back is hemmed in that darkness. Four doors down who knows?
Night is a cat’s right.
Next morning it was time to go home. Some Easter candy from Family Dollar in Van Horn, a couple of pictures back through Paisano Pass, and milk at Porters Thriftway. Then Blue Bell and I landed.
Heading east through Paisano Pass toward the Twin Sisters.
Van Horn, Texas
I hope that trips like these will not give Blue Bell private woe in the future. A traveler is what I am. And it just wouldn’t do to leave him behind any time. Its at least nice to know that whether or not he’ll ever grin about it he does bear it! No longer west of home we are home and east of El Paso again.
For my little black creature of habit (that probably has no thinking theory of time) it appears that his choice existence hasn’t been broken away forever by long drives or a western tip of Texas border town. I think if he knew each trip that we’d be coming back he’d have a little more fun.
Tonight he sleeps near in peace. Blue Bell and me will return to El Paso soon.
Celebrating my sister’s 35th birthday (a month later)
Cat walking lessons