Culberson Cattle Drive


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Western Art

Culberson County Cattle Drive

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Western Art

Culberson County Cattle Drive

In Culberson County Texas, Ranchers still do things the way they were done 100 years ago.  This sparsely populated county is the largest  in Texas.    The Ranches in Culberson county are huge.  Ranches of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of acres are the norm. The county contains the biggest mountains in Texas . . . The Guadalupe's, with their towering heights capped by the majestic  El Capitan peak.  The Guadalupe's give way to the Delaware Mountains, home of the largest Mule Deer and Antelope in Texas. 

As one rides the ridges of the Delaware mountains, it is not unusual to come across a group of 40 or 50 mule deer and even larger herds of antelope. The Delaware mountains today serve as a hunter's paradise, each year offering up some of the best deer hunting in the State of Texas. The peregrine falcon can be seen hovering above the rim of the mountains, steadily watching the landscape for unsuspecting prey.  You can see the peregrine dive at over 100 mph, and then with split second timing, perfectly capture its prey. The mountain lion and cougar are free to roam the mountains, undisturbed by man.

The nights in Culberson County are cool and quiet.  The quietness of the evening is not disturbed by any human sound.  No cars, trucks, TV's or radios.  Just the quiet peace of the evening.  The only sounds to be heard are the distant yelps of  coyotes calling to the moon. The Culberson nightscape is not polluted by the endless beams of city lights that distort the night sky and dim the stars.  There are no highways, cars, houses, or lighted billboards to disturb the perfection of the night sky.  There is no brown cloud or haze to distort the view. The nights are cool, and looking into the sky you see a panorama of stars that you could have never even imagined. In gazing at the night sky in Culberson County Texas, you truly understand the words of the Psalmist

The heavens declare the glory of God,

the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 

Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they display knowledge.

Psalm 19:1-2

No one can look into the night sky of Cuberson County and say there is no God, there is no Creator.

In the quiet stillness of the night, you can almost hear the whispers of the legends of the land.  The men who from generation to generation traversed the mountains in search of treasure, or in hopes of escape from a world they no longer wanted to be a part of.  The men written of by J. Frank Dobie.  Men like General Lew Wallace of New Mexico, who is said to have discovered in Santa Fe an ancient document reciting how an Indian had led 37 Spaniards to  a wonderfully rich gold deposit on the eastern spurs of the Guadalupe Mountains.  As you lay beneath the stars of Culberson County, you ponder men like Geronimo, the renowned and defiant leader of the Apaches, who chose to escape the reservation and take refuge in the Guadalupe's. You wonder if the trails you rode that day were the same that Geronimo rode so long ago. Geronimo is quoted as saying that the largest deposit of gold known to man was resting in the outskirts of the Guadalupe mountains. 

You can almost hear the footsteps of Ben Sublett, as he traversed the mountains, time and time again, looking for the lost Spanish mine.  Sublett is said to have found the mine.  Throughout his life, Ben would make trips to the Guadalupe's, and then return with bags full of gold. This is a fact that is well documented, but the location of the mine was a secret that "Old Ben" took to the grave with him. Men have sought to find Sublett's lost mine, but to no avail.  It remains a secret of the Guadalupes.  As you look at the stars you wonder if perhaps you rode past the lost mine.  You wonder if tomorrow you might turn over a stone and reveal the opening to the mine and untold riches.

The stars remind you of men you knew. . . Cowboys like Henry and Joe Rounsaville who spent their life riding the trails of Culberson's Delaware mountains.  Does anyone else remember them? Tough men who chose to live as cowboys. Henry once told me of an outfit in Culberson he worked for that would give all the cowboys a bottle of Clorox.  When someone was bit by a rattlesnake, they were to pour Clorox on the bite, and go back to the bunk house.  They were, however, expected to be back in the saddle the next day.  The last time I saw Henry Rounsaville he was in his 80's and was riding a bucking bronco, trying to break a new stall of horses, as he always had done. Does any one remember Sam Calhoun, and the feasts he could cook on a wood stove? How many are left that tasted Sam's Biscuits? Am I the only one who remembers them?

As you look at the night sky in Culberson, you are connected with all these things, connected with these men, these stories; you are connected with the past.

The traditional Cowboy way of life continues in this remote high mountain dessert. The lifestyle of the old west and the ideals of the cowboy are going strong. Cattle are still rounded up on horseback, cowboys cook coffee on the camp fire, and men pray for rain, and the grass that it will bring. Cattle prices have never been worse.  It is just about impossible to make a living as a rancher, and even harder for the cowboy. 

These men have nothing.  These men have more than any one else in the world.

The painting featured at the top of this page is a fabulous piece of fine western artwork. It shows a recent cattle drive in Culberson County Texas, in the Delaware mountains.  The trail sits precisely on the Rim of the Delaware mountains, and likely would have been traversed by both Geronimo, and Ben Sublett. A lone cowboy is seen in the painting driving the herd along the trail.

This painting hangs in my home, and each time I look at it I long for the quiet and peaceful nights of Culberson County, and the way of life that still remains there.  I wonder how many more times cattle will be driven down that trail, and I wonder if anyone remembers Sam Calhoun,  or Henry and Joe Raunsaville.

(More information on Ben Sublett's Lost Gold Mine)



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