Winter in Alpine Christmas 2014

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Published in: on January 6, 2015 at 10:14 pm  Comments Off on Winter in Alpine Christmas 2014  

Round up Time

These shots are from time spent on a friend’s ranch last spring. I was supposedly working but it was too beautiful out there to feel like work. I was there to help round up a herd of longhorn who considered all 30,000 acres their range. The babies needed inoculating. It took a little doing.

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Lunch break


wild horses


Found some! Shot from the saddle.




This photo by David Keller


Cowboy with smartphone. Cows and donkeys unimpressed.

photo by D. Keller


photo by D. Keller



Published in: on December 5, 2014 at 7:14 pm  Comments Off on Round up Time  

Gussy up inside inside the Ritchey! We are about to pack the house.

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Published in: on December 4, 2014 at 9:15 pm  Comments Off on Gussy up inside inside the Ritchey! We are about to pack the house.  

The Dowager putting on her face for the party

That is how Betty put it. I could not have done the work without Betty’s support.

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Published in: on December 4, 2014 at 9:11 pm  Comments Off on The Dowager putting on her face for the party  

Abby makes a friend, sort of. Actually I’m not sure he even knows.

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I stumbled across this photo from a few years go. That is my big lug Abby and a little baby we rescued.

Marlys, this one’s for you.

Published in: on December 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm  Comments Off on Abby makes a friend, sort of. Actually I’m not sure he even knows.  

This is a reprint of stories first posted in 2010.

7 men in black ski masks were spotted walking up the gravel road into the mountains towards Marfa. They happened to be crossing the land of a man named Roma who confronted them in his bathrobe while packing an AK47. They surrendered immediately as they were tired and hungry. Seems they had been left behind after making a fellow drug smuggler mad. They turned out to be armed only with the 80 pounds of pot.


Its the 4th of July and Dave and I are partying down in the big town of Candelaria. Dave is a perfect desert rat kermudgen. He’s 80 + years old (you can tell by the orthopedic shoes)  and wears that same damned Hawaiian shirt to every celebration. Aside from being an avid conspiracy theorist he is really a smart guy. When the border patrol pulls him over he tells them to get a real job. He says the one they have is just a government works project that isn’t even as good as the old WPA. At least with that one we got roads and parks.  Needless to say only the green BPs pull him over now.   RIP, Dave…..


It’s so peaceful here that when the birds fly over you can hear their wings moving. It is a most beautiful sound. The quiet ruins of the fort belie the hopelessly perpetual human battles that are carved into the history here on the river.


I live by the Rio Grande. My office is in the back of an old store and cantina from a hundred years ago. I was sitting at my desk the other day looking out my window towards the river when I heard the unmistakable sound of horses running fast on pavement. And there they went, two riderless horses with saddles and bridles running down the middle of the road in the rain. Hot on their heals was a border patrol Hummer going after the renegades. The Mexicans that belonged to the horses had apparently been on this side of the river looking for their stray cattle. They were on the ground looking at tracks when the border guys spotted them. The Mexicans took off running, dove into the river and emerged on the other side cursing the Mothers of the border guys. The border guys said they were trying to tell the Mexicans that they could come back and retrieve their horses and cattle but they couldn’t get a word in edge wise and the Mexicans just kept running. Now the horses are American citizens and that is that.

I went over to visit a neighbor named Olivia. She took me to her freezer to show me her latest treasure. In there on ice was a rattlesnake that had apparently died from getting caught in the chicken fence. While it was caught the chickens unleashed all of their collective feathery hostilities. Taxidermy is her hobby and, as such, she is compelled to do her best to give the poor fellow a bit of immortality.



That’s the American Calvary in the top photo going after the Mexican Revolutionaries. Poncho Villa and the likes made fools of General Pershing and the U.S. army. Funny, a 100 years later they are still chasing Mexicans in a land chocked full of them. They are driving Hummers instead of mule trains but, damn, talk about a waste of time. Hundred years, really?

Both photos are at the same intersection looking in opposite directions. Poncho was said to have frequented the store in the bottom photo. But then again, he frequented just about anywhere he wanted on this stretch of border. Trivial fact, he was a teetotaler.


I was sitting on the cantina porch when my friend Tim drove up. I made the customary beer offering and then we took off to go hiking as I had promised. Tim drove and I hung my head out the window. I am almost always driving so I never get to look. As we approached my land I heard a horse whinny and saw the white horse that belongs to Olivia looking back at me forlornly from about 50 yards away.  There are three of them that stick together; one being her colt. I noticed yesterday that they were separated. This morning I took a jog and ended up following fresh horse tracks that led to only two of them. The white one was missing.

So to see her standing there now when I had just fed the other two down at my place just wasn’t right. I went back home and called Jim and Olivia and apologized for being a nusance but one of their horses did not look well. Maybe she was about to have her foal.  They came and picked me up and I took them to where she was. It wasn’t the foal. It was a horse thief. Someone had tied her up with baling wire. She had it looped around her neck in a manner clearly done by hands. And worse yet she had it wrapped around one of her back legs eight or ten times with the other end tied to a large metal object so that she was unable to move even a few inches. She had also been tied up in a mound of cactus. The wire around her leg was cutting in and had caused her ankle to swell considerably.

We got her home safely and all is well. Jim thinks that someone tied her up during the day in an isolated area planning to come back under cover of darkness to take her across the border to sell. No one would have seen her. I might not have even seen if she had not whinnied.  It could have been days before anyone noticed that she was missing. And no one ever would have known what had happened to her.



Found this guy at the last stop before Mexico. He was hitching a lift.


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He is one of my older cats and he is fully committed to relaxation. He is the resident mascot for chillin’.

Ruidosa, Texas



This little pony and his Mom were grazing along the side of the road in the big downtown of Ruidosa. Look at that face. Adorable. He is one of the newest additions to the semi wild herd that pretty much does as it pleases about town.


Still trying to save the church…..This is a fabulous group of volunteers putting in a couple of days of hard labor in the scorching Chihuahuan sun. in an effort to save this church.  Too bad it all comes undone when politics enters the mix and we all get to sit here and watch the hard work melt away.


The left tower is going up! If you are thinking about building a house out of adobe keep in mind that it is back breaking work. But these guys are amazing!



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We started by making the adobe bricks on site and then letting

them cure for a month.

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Best photo so far of what the church could look like again if politics would stop getting in the way.

No one seems to know what happened to the bell.


Zen Master Pratt and Tinker Bell.



There’s my home in the top left. I loved my home.


Published in: on December 27, 2012 at 11:01 am  Comments Off on This is a reprint of stories first posted in 2010.  

The Hotel Ritchey



I don’t know which to be more proud of, my sweet little derelict building or this humble “hick” town.

I fully expected to sit around on my ass for a few years just thinking about what I might do with this crumbling relic that I foolishly let myself be talked into buying. But the town was having none of it and with minimal effort on my part the folks of Alpine have come out in force to show an overwhelming love for this old working man’s hotel. The place hasn’t been inhabitable on 65 years and yet here we are. In a short six months its gone from being boarded up, empty and cold to being a real part of the community.



There is a market that happens every Saturday now where locals bring there goods and wares and one can’t help but notice that its not just about getting great home grown produce. People now come to the grounds of the Ritchey and have themselves a regular Saturday social hour! Folks linger and catch up with each other. Children ran around having fun and showing no signs of impatience. There is laughter and good times. Its dreadfully wholesome and so simple.




And now it goes without saying that every celebration that this town comes up with will include The Ritchey and greater Murphy St on which it resides.

And it seems to have much to do with the lure of this rickety old building. And it is obvious that, though it has sat for all of these decades it has not been forgotten.

Published in: on December 8, 2012 at 4:19 pm  Comments Off on The Hotel Ritchey  

Border Patrol in Action 1920s


Humans and their stupids signs. When coloring, keep your crayons inside the lines.

Published in: on December 8, 2012 at 12:09 pm  Comments Off on Border Patrol in Action 1920s  


cc4194c3-63a4-4ffa-8783-a9c78d50ed37.grid-6x2   You can’t get good help on the border anymore.  Homeland Security put an end to that. Before they cracked down there was a mutually beneficial and cooperative arrangement between the folks residing on the two different of the river. I use the term ‘reside’ because the reality down here is that folks have been ‘living’ on both sides of the river with little distinction for centuries. The river has always been more of an amusing natural barrier in the middle of communities than it has been a national boundary. And the way that it felt down here, when suddenly the U.S. government was taking issue with everyone wading in the river, was that somehow it now mattered on which side of that little body of water you most often slept. Prior to homeland security, as recently as the late 2000s, the towns on both sides had lifeblood born out if their interdependence. After H.S. neither side could really survive well without the other.

Diana and Dan, who live on land that runs to the river,  needed help with repairs to fences on their property. In the old days getting help would have been as easy as walking to the river, crossing over and knocking on a door. Most of the hands resided on the Mexican side while most of the commerce was on the U.S. side. The general reason for this is that the U.S. side had far better infrastructure i.e. good roads and electricity while the Mexican side had land that was generally more accessible to the traditional small subsistence farmers. Families going back for generations had been on the same lands. For the Mexicans the U.S. side offered additional work and easy access to provisions. For Americans the Mexican side offered a solid supply of labor. (This was not, by the way, necessarily and Anglo/Mexican division as one might assume. Presidio county is about 95%  Hispanic and surnames straddle the river.)  But this age old system collapsed practically overnight when homeland security got in the mix.

So Dan and Diana still needed help with fences. Diana used to call on a fellow named Manuel when she needed help. He had resided in Boranchas, a few hundred yards across the river. But not anymore. She couldn’t be sure where he had gone but it couldn’t have been far. He was probably in Ojinaga, Mex, a town now straining under the influx of outlying communities emptying out and moving to town out of desperation. So off to O.J. we went.



The system for finding help was a little more complicated but not insurmountable. We drove to his neighborhood where Diana remembered Manuel visiting on occasion and we just started asking around as to whether anyone had seen him. 3770614

Either no one had or the two white chicks inquiring were suspicious. So we left a hand written note at a little corner store and asked the folks there to please pass the note on should anyone see or hear of Manuel. Then we bought our groceries and went home. About a week later there was a light knocking on the back door of Diana’s house. Only Dan was home at the time and he told the Mexican who had knocked to go wait by the barn. When Diana and I got home Dan informed her that Manuel was down by the corrals. The note that we had left at the corner store in O.J. 37 miles away had made its way up river, being passed from hand to hand, until it found Manuel who was then living in the Mexican town of Los Conchos some 20 miles north of O.J. and 17 miles south of Ruidosa.

Manuel then walked the  of the 17 miles with his two children, his wife, and his little brother and they were all now waiting, hidden from the highway so as not to be spotted by the border patrol.Border Patrol In Montana

Diana couldn’t believe it and we all headed down to barn as quickly as possible. After all, they had now been waiting for a few hours for us to return. We came around the corner and Manuel and Diana hugged like old friends who hadn’t seen one another in a while. They all eyed me with suspicion until Diana let them know that I was amiga. Manuel introduced us to his wife and kids and his brother with lots of smiles and more hugs and only after sighs of relief did we begin to negotiate work for pay. It would amount to a weeks worth of work for both men at $40 a day. The kids looked hungry so one of us ran in the house a returned with whatever could be found.

We tried to figure out a safe place for the whole family to stay but ended up agreeing that the only safe place was to camp by the river, which they did.  Getting caught by the B. P. would have meant a very expensive fine for us and a trip in the back of a paddy wagon to the legal crossing in O.J. for Manuel and his family who would then have to walk the 20 miles back to their home empty handed.

Every day for a week the men worked their butts off and the wife and kids waited at their campsite. Every day the men made $35 a day more than they would have made in Mexico; that is if they could find work. Every day we all kept a low profile and avoided contact with the B.P. Diana gathered things for the family to take back with them like clothes for the kids. I couldn’t help but notice the expressions of the children. They were barely 7 or 8 years old, a little girl and a little boy and yet their demeanor was that of very old people. They didn’t smile. They didn’t play. They were dead serious and seemed to have an awareness that this was likely as good as it would get for them. I offered them work at my place as well and would gladly have kept them on for at least another week but my place was considered too exposed and they passed on the offer. So when the work was completed at Dan and Diana’s, goodbyes were said and Manuel and his family waded back across the river to begin the trek home.

Published in: on December 8, 2012 at 11:59 am  Comments Off on FLASHBACK TO RUIDOSA  

First happenings at the Hotel Richey in 40 years…

Christina Sukhgian Houle, a visual artist from central Texas, stopped by Alpine for a little soiree before heading off to the Big Apple and Columbia University Graduate Program. She had a short film that she made here in the region and she wanted to show it to us while simultaneously screening it in Mexico City and San Fransisco. How little old Alpine got such high billing  to run with the big dawgs I will never know.  So we settled on my humble Hotel as the venue.  Took over the street. Folks came by. Folks lingered. Folks danced. Neighborhood cats and dogs observed. It was a hit and a blast!

Oh, but wait. First we have to build it. Supposedly then they will come.

That’s Christina helping with the construction of the screen. On the fly!

Manual labor by Mattie, Jimmy, Jessie and Ben.

…as if we know what we are doing. Gotta get this home made screen up a little higher…

The crew taking a break before the moment of truth,

and waiting for the sun to go down.

Damn!  It worked!

Published in: on July 1, 2012 at 9:45 pm  Comments Off on First happenings at the Hotel Richey in 40 years…