Fort Griffin: Then and Now
Every time I head westward, anticipation and excitement creeps into me. I think I was born to head west, no matter where I am. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I'm following the historical emergence of this continent where the east is old and west is new, in geology, geography and history. But I don't think I was alone in this inclination, as many before me can testify.As we drove west of Fort Worth mesas in the distance captured my attention. Soon we were approaching the mesas and would be at what is considered the edge of West Texas. Sure enough, we soon found ourselves amongst midget thorny mesquite trees, ironclad gnarly oaks, gentle mesas breaking the straight horizon and the endearing landmarks of West Texas: prickly pear cactus, black cattle and Texas grasshoppers (oil rigs). Ahhh, I was 'home' again.I like most of West Texas (Odessa and Midland are exceptions). One reason is because most people don't like it. Urban areas there don't sprawl far from their centers, rural folks are friendly, wildlife is prolific, and it's quiet. That more people lived there than do now (not counting the large metropolises) still astounds me.Fort Griffin, the town and fort, is one of those places. Remnants of settlements and trails can still be found if one knows where to look and what to look for. But that's all they are: remnants. If you can find enough pieces that fit together, find and listen to the stories, you can see the area come to life. And that's what we did during that short weekend.
After we set up camp we drove up the hill from the campground to the fort area. The fort was strategically built on top of a hill overlooking the Brazos River and several creeks. Nearly 360 degree views for many miles warned military personnel of approaching friend and foe and it was soon referred to as 'Government Hill.' The first place we visited was a small prairie on the eastern edge of the hill that overlooked the campground and the river.
To the south snakes modern Hwy 283. The tarmac covers ruts of oxen carts, stage coach wheels, moccasin and military boot prints, and dust from thousands upon thousands of thundering cattle hooves. Now only a quiet meandering road for rubber wheels, the same tracks used to be a major thoroughfare for centuries. This was only one of several trails through history we would find that weekend.
Alone on the hill covered with prairie grass was a giant tree. It was like a lone sentinel of a time long passed. It's stately size and spread was a silent reminder. If only it could speak, I would lie contently in the grass and listen to its stories. We left the grassy plain and drove to the visitor's center where several nearby structures of the old fort are in various stages of ruins. The first thing to greet us was a statement made by a military officer upon visiting the location for Fort Griffin; the post and the area was "unfit for human habitation." Several other people thought otherwise. At least for awhile.
Labels: forts, Texas