After reading “Dos Gringos” many have asked about growing up in El Paso and the desert outside of twon. I wrote a number of memoirs for my children and I will share some on this web. Read down for some of the thrills this boy enjoyed.
The sun rose over the Huecos to the east and set over the Franklin Mountains that spread across the desert to the west. On the other side of the Franklins, the tail end of the Rockies, was the Rio Grande River and Mexico. Several winters it snowed on the desert and that was a momentary thrill.
Rain came sporadically, only totaling three or four inches a year. When it did rain, the mud puddles became pools of fun and overnight spawned wiggly little tadpoles that turned into peepers and quickly died in the following heat and drought. I tracked my muddy feet through the house. The soil being “caléche”, an almost impervious white calcium layer, the rain puddles could not percolate and would evaporate in a day or so. The sweetest smell of my childhood was the desert after a rain. The greasewood or creosote bush, its small green leaves washed by a rain, gave off a pungent fragrance, like a thank you to the heavens for a welcome drink.
Watching prairie dogs was a favorite past time. Sitting in the middle of the large prairie dog town, I watched to see who was watching me. When one head would pop down a hole, another popped up somewhere else. I hated it when people would shoot them. But, I was a good shot myself. I shot a prairie hawk on the wing with a single shot .22 caliber rifle. It was a beautiful thing, with blue shoulders and rose wings and buff under his tail. I was sorry I did that. I had it stuffed and it perched over my bed until I left for college years later. I never shot a prairie dog.
The desert was my playground. I caught horned toads and put them a cage, then let them go when I could not decide what to feed them. I built tunnels under the railroad embankment across from my house. That worried my dad. He thought the train would be derailed. The Southern Pacific ran by my house, a long slow climb from El Paso towards Tucumcari, New Mexico and on across Texas, the Great Plains, to Chicago. These were the same rails my itinerant father rode from Chicago to the Southwest years before he met my mother. (He is the main character in my book “Dos Gringos.”)
The “double header” trains with two powerful steam engines straining with over a hundred freight cars would grind north. Sometimes there was a “pusher” in the rear, and two cabooses. Watching the faster moving passenger trains, I would wave at people in the dining car, eating at white covered tables, flowers in a silver vase at the window. They waved back, whoever they were.
Buy “Dos Gringos” here.