Category: Between the Ditches, 2019-2020

Trail to Boquillas – 2, Paisano (Roadrunner)

This part 2. If you haven’t read it yet here is part 1.

The following day the wind has subsided but it is cold. Below freezing. Perhaps Jesús will be there today. There is no schedule here so perhaps he won’t be there or wait until afternoon when the sun warms up the land. I drive over to the trail head. It’s a popular trail but when I arrive I’m the only one there. Maybe it’s the cold. The desert is silent. I grab my little pack filled with what nut bars and sweets we had and head up over the rock outcrop.

Around the corner in the trail and there is the opening. Jesús is not there.  I look across the river. His canoe is not to be seen. Disappointing.

Perhaps the cold, or something came up. No reason he should come because of me.  At least I can go on to see into the canyon.

Then from across the river “Amigo. You come.”  Jesús has appeared from nowhere on the opposite bank. I wave. “Un momento.” (one minute) he shouts and he disappears behind a rock and comes back out dragging his canoe.

Jesús secures his canoe. He is wearing a pull over knit cap beneath his cowboy hat. A pair of gloves is in his back pocket.

“There was no one in the parking lot.” I say.
He hesitates a few seconds, “No parking.”
“Es frio.” (It’s cold)

He goes about setting up first putting out a small stone with the word “Boquillas” painted on it by the trail then carefully bending each wire sculpture so it will stand in the sand. He lays out his walking sticks explaining his nephew makes them.
“Painted walking stick $10.” Then he motions with hands as if working the wood.
“Si. $15.”
I pull the plastic bag of nut bars and candy out of my backpack and hand it to him.
“For you.”
“Si, por los niños. Gracias.” and he puts them in his canoe.

I had planned to go to Boquillas. It’s part of the Big Bend experience. Perhaps I could meet Jesús there. It’s a good time to ask him. The sun is taking the edge off the chill. He takes off the knit cap and places it and the gloves in a plastic bag.

I put my newly purchased paisano y ocotillo wire sculpture in my pack, say adios to Jesús and head back along the trail.

Trail to Boquillas – 1, Jesús

The Rio Grande river forms the southwest border of Texas. About midway along this border the river makes a big S curve. This is the big bend and it is here that Big Bend National is located. The park is defined by the Chisos Mountains in the center, Santa Elana Canyon to the west and Boquillas (bo-key-yas)  Canyon to the east. Boquillas canyon is where the Rio Grande cuts through a massive rock uplift called Madera del Carmen and the canyon’s proper name is Boquillas del Carmen, in English the Lips of Carmen. The small Mexican village about 4 miles from the mouth of the canyon is also named Boquillas del Carmen. Both are referred to simply as Boquillas.

The trail to Boquillas Canyon in Big Bend is only a mile long but one must go over a large rock outcrop to reach the Rio Grande river plain and the entrance to the canyon. There is no other way in. The canyon’s 1,000 foot vertical walls prevent access anywhere else. The last time I tried the temperature was 100. With no shade from the desert sun on the rock outcrop I did not make it. Today it is 65 degrees and, although the sun makes it feel warmer, it should be an easy hike.

The canyon’s 1,000 foot vertical walls prevent access anywhere else. The last time I tried the temperature was 100. With no shade from the desert sun on the rock outcrop I did not make it. Today it is 65 degrees and, although the sun makes it feel warmer, it should be an easy hike.

The top of the rock outcrop, if one steps off the trail and goes to very promontory of the rock, there is a splendid view of the Rio Grande. A few miles up river the buildings of the Mexican village of Boquillas glimmer in the desert sunlight and at my feet the figurines made of twisted copper wire glisten. A plastic bottle is tucked in the rocks. “art and craft, made to by books for Boquillas school, $10”. Maybe it’s for the school and maybe not. Boquillas derives much of its livelihood from tourist from Big Bend National Park. The U. S. has a border crossing across from Boquillas. Open eight hours a day, five days week it allows Park visitors to legally travel to and from Boquillas. Slightly less legal is a tradition for Boquillas’ children and some adults to make crafts and place them along the park’s trails with a donation bottle in hope Americans will buy them. I put a dollar in the bottle and begin trekking down the far side of the rock outcrop. The sun is beginning to make it feel hotter.

Reaching the bottom one steps from high desert to a lush river bank with trees, tall grasses and reeds. They provide refreshing protection from the sun. The ground is level the walking easy. I’ll go on a bit further. I’m almost there anyway as I look up at the giant walls.

Looking back down at the trail I see a man in a cowboy hat. Not on the trail but close to the river bank. And then song echoes off the canyon walls …
“Yo soy ranchero,
En mi rancho yo vivo”

As I approach he sees my camera.
“For you my friend I let you take picture.”

“You want to buy? Walking stick. Necklace.” He says pointing to the items laid out on a blanket on the sand.
“No señor, I don’t need any more things but your song is muy bueno (very good). Here is five dollars for your song.”
He smiles and puts it in his pocket.

“My name is Alan.” extending my hand.
“Jesús. Me llamo Jesús.” (My name is Jesús (hey-soos))
“You come here from Boquillas?”
“Si, five miles y five miles back to mi casa. (my house) Each dia. (day)”
“You’ll be back mañana? (tomorrow)”
“Si, pero mañana es frio. (Yes, but tomorrow is cold)  I come if not wind. If wind not come.” He points to the river he must cross. “Wind. No good. You back mañana?”
“If I can. Si. I’ll come back.”
“You have bars? Nut bars? Trail mix?”
“No. No I don’t have anything with me not even water.”
“Mañana you bring? Por los niños. (For the children) I have many children.”
“I’ll try to come back. Who knows what tomorrow brings.”
“Es Navidad. Por los niños Navidad.” (It’s Christmas. For the chidren’s Christmas.)
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“The parking. No Ranger?”
“Border Patrol?”
“No. But yesterday they were further up the road.”
“The picture. No show Ranger. The Ranger no like me aqui. (here)
“No, I won’t show the Ranger.”
“I have to get back. My wife is waiting.”
“Si. You come mañana.”
“Si. If I can.”
“Adios amigo.”

That evening the wind picks up. By dawn the following day it’s gusting to 40 mph.  Jesús won’t be crossing the river today.


“Hey look at this.”
“On Facebook. Bubba and Kat. They’re in Lake Charles. We’re going that way.”
“I’ll email them. Maybe we can see them.”

We met Bubba and Kat last year at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). We just happened to pick a spot next to them. Nice people living with their dog, Emma, in a forty plus foot trailer pulled by their Peterbuilt semi tractor named Grace. They were making a living work camping around the country and waiting till they were old enough to get their pensions and retire.
“TipsyMarlinTravels?” I say point to the back of their trailer.
“Yeah, that’s our YouTube channel. We just started it.”

Lake Charles, Louisiana is not on anyone’s tourist list. It’s big, rough and dominated by the oil, gas and chemical industries.
“Sure, Come on down we’d love to see you. We’re at Intracoastal Parish Park. 30.0661, -93.3457. Twenty three miles south of Lake Charles on Route 27.”

We turn off Interstate 10 and head south on 27 into the Louisiana swamps and bayous that make up coastal Louisiana. As we crest the arch of the drawbridge spanning the Intracoastal Waterway we can see the park below. “Turn right 1/4 mile” gps says. Around under the bridge to a few buildings and some camp sites on a strip of high ground a couple hundred yards wide.

“There they are.” Lorraine says.
I wave and 2 seat figures wave back as we back into an empty camp site. We’ve been following them on YouTube since we parted ways last January.

“How the heck are ya, buddy.” says Bubba striding across the lot. “We’re so glad you came.” says Kat, her arms out for a hug. “You get yourselves settled and then come over. We got some catchin’ up to do.”

A bit later we’re seated by their trailer.
“Well we did the beet harvest.”
“Yeah, That was a bitch this year. It was either rainin’ or it was cold. But that’s it we’re done.”
“You mean you finally got your pensions?”
“We sure did. We don’t have to work no more.”
“We might do the beet harvest again. I mean the money’s good.”
“Oh, it’s crazy money but you’re out there everyday and this year it was cold and they didn’t stop the harvest so you’re out there 12 hours a day on top of a machine, twenty something degrees and the wind blowin’. We’ll have to think about that one.”
“And I have to tell you. Emma is no longer with us. She just got so she was too weak to get up. We had to put her down. It was so heartbreaking. Well I haven’t got over it yet. I still keep her toys right where she liked them.”
“Yeah, it was hard but she had a good life and she got to see a good bit of the country.”
“You remember Carol? The lady with the dogs in a class C?”
“Sure. She’s a lady you don’t easily forget.”
“We ran into her near Amarillo about a month ago. She’s doing real well. I think she was heading back to Memphis.”
“We’ll have to give her a call. See if she’s heading out to the RTR this year. I think I’ve got her contact info somewhere.”

And so it went for the afternoon. Catching up on the news of people and places from all over as the tugs pushed barges slowly along the waterway behind us carrying oil and chemicals between Lake Charles and Port Arthur, Texas. In the fading sun the drawbridge clattered as cars drove over the metal grates and in the distance was the industrial hum a LNG (liquified natural gas) plant but as we walked back to the trailer a heron flew along the banks and fish jumped catching the unlucky insect.
“We’ll get together for coffee in the morning.” Bubba says.
“Sure. We won’t be leaving early.” I reply.

We got hold of Carol that evening. She’s spending Christmas in Fort Lauderdale then heading out west in January. She wants to see some national parks this time but not anyplace that has snow. We promise to keep in touch and perhaps our paths will cross.

The next morning with the early sun streaming down the waterway Bubba looks out and says, “Ya see those barges there. Each one comin’ from someplace and each goin’ to someplace but out here they meet, even if only for a few minutes. It’s kinda like us. We’ll be goin’ our separate ways but we’ll meet up again someday. Safe travels buddy.”
“Safe travels, Bubba.”

We left Bubba and Kat standing in front of Grace. They’ll be heading to Biloxi and then on to Florida for the holidays. Kat’s Mom has a family cruise planned for March. After that who knows. You can follow Bubba and Kat on Facebook or YouTube at TipsyMarlinTravels.

We’re off to the Gulf Coast for some time by the sea.

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