Leaning against the tree on the top edge of the mesa you can look over stretches of stunted and scraggly trees bunched into swathes that cut through expanses of green prairie grass. A ribbon of tall trees bedecked with bright green leaves mark edges of the river that runs like a twisting vein through the landscape. Rocky slopes of mesas mark their gentle rise above the prairies making corridors for thousands of bison hooves of as they move north towards the cooler wide plains of the Great Basin. When you look towards the northwest following the river, you can see a column of smoke wafting upwards on the breeze.Now fully alert, you wonder if the campfire might be that of a Comanche raiding party or a company of infantry. You can only detect movement in the open prairie below. But you can't see who or what may be stealthily stalking in the thickets. Far from your cabin to the east, it might be high time to take the rifle and freshly-shot rabbit down off the mesa and away from the unknown campers to the north. Avoiding confrontations these days is one way to survive another day.I gazed to the northwest towards the river while leaning against the big oak tree on the edge of the mesa. A gravel road intersected green pastures and fields below dotted with yellow wildflowers. Standing silent and alone were two small wooden structures along a gravel road heading towards the river's edge. Thickets of mesquite choked the slopes of the plateau here and beyond. Grazing cows appeared as black dots in a distant pasture. Except for an occasional car or truck on the ribbon of highway along the eastern slope, the only sounds were a few birds and the breeze rattling the leaves. Over a century ago Apaches, Tonkawas, and, later, Comanches and Kiowas followed bison and deer alongside the mesas and river bottoms. As people moved into central Texas in waves from the east and north, the borders of the civilization they brought with them pushed west into unknown lands. Unknown to them. Those that blazed the trails could be called 'adventurers.' But it wasn't the romanticized life that was publicized and perpetuated in dime-store novels and newspapers in the east and northern regions of the country. Yet, most of these adventurers expected the unexpected, the unknown. That was part of the draw. On their heels followed those who brought their former lives with them. Most intended to establish the old on new land, fresh paint for the blank easels. Sometimes fumbling and bumbling, with successes and failures, they dragged with them what they deemed civilization, to push out the previous occupants and tame the land. There was no room for wilderness and savageness. Now here I am centuries later leaning against the same tree that others may have, overlooking the same terrain, and wondering if I'm adventurous enough to try and catch the essence and experiences of these predecessors, human and non-human. Not like those in the forefront of civilization, but following its trail of debris and ghosts to outposts that have long been abandoned. It is with this sense that drives me, following trails through time and space. Bringing a sense of place back into my time, superimposed on my current temporal and spatial existence. In that way, to me it's all an adventure worth experiencing. On we go now to explore and uncover ghosts.
Labels: forts, history, Texas