Coming Home: A Revisit to Simple Times

 

Every once in awhile I become nostalgic and take a day to revisit places that have been instrumental in shaping my ideas and philosophy regarding life and all things therein. This might include visiting our old home place on the ranch where my parents raised Rick, Patty, and I through the magical years of the 50’s and 60’s. Sometimes I will travel to the Benjamin cemetery to pay tribute to the life and times of a dear friend who left us too early but whose memory and voice still speaks within. Whenever I find myself on the Texas Tech campus I sometimes gravitate to a specific classroom where a favorite instructor motivated my intrigue for a subject of study. This “centering” can take place in many forms and each individual will have their own definition of this personal connection to a special phase of ones life.

A few weeks ago much of Texas experienced some of the worst wildfires in the history of the state. In some of my old stomping grounds on the Pitchfork Ranch a fierce fire raged across some 80,000 acres of this historical ranch, at times threatening camps and even the headquarters at one point. I had heard that one maverick fire had started near an old half dugout cow camp that I had lived in some 36 years ago following graduation from Texas Tech University ( see blog December 19, 2008). Over the years I have made pilgrimages back to the old camp for perhaps a few hours at a time to build a fire in the battered fireplace and sit in silence to remember the quiet and solitude from another time. It is important to ones psyche to revisit these places which are defined by good memories. But this time I feared that my little hut may have perished in the hellish blaze of weeks before and I was heart sick at the idea of such a loss. Thus I headed to the ranch to face the prospects of such an event.

Backfiring to check the fires advance on the Pitchfork

Through the miles of big ranch country leading to my old home the land was ravaged and barren, scorched by the wind driven wild fire of recent. During the eleven mile drive I was reminded of the phrase “Sane Men Fear a Range Fire”, words written by Texas buffalo hunter and rancher Frank Collinson in his book “Life in the Saddle”. Driving by three mule deer seeking forage on a scorched piece of ground I thought of how appropriate these words are even today, some 130 years after Collinson witnessed wildfires devouring the grassland in older times. I hoped above hope that my little camp had survived the onslaught of this fiery holocaust.

A trio of muleys searching for forage in the aftermath of the firestorm.

In descending the road to the camp I felt an urgency to get there, only two miles distant but seeming to be more like an eternity. The country seemed lifeless compared to the years of past, as not a bird or a mammal save the three deer had I seen on the trip in.

Thirty years is a long time in the scheme of human life and, like me, the face of the land had changed drastically in these three decades. Rounding the last bend in the canyon road I could barely make out the profile of the hut through a maze of dead and burned brush. Although relieved that the house still stood, the little barn and outdoor privy were but ashes in the fires aftermath. Walking into the overgrown yard I could see that the fire tried its best to devour the cabin in its insatiable quest to destroy but efforts by the valiant firefighters had saved it at the last moment. Next to the wooden walls juniper trees that I had trimmed months before were scorched and brown but had not ignited. For that I was thankful. The trimming had saved the day but at the time I thought nothing of fire, only to keep them from rubbing against the building.

The old wolfers camp as seen in the winter of 1974

 

Wolfers camp 2011 from same vantage point

Unlocking the door I walked in to find the old place replete with cobwebs and dust but, luckily, all intact. Quickly going to work with broom and mop I soon had the little house in good order and feeling like home once again. After finishing the domestic chores I retreated to the shaded porch, lit a good cigar and relaxed in the quiet of this hot spring afternoon. Just like three decades before the wind played softly in the mesquite trees down where the windmill used to stand and I was soon lost in the memories of older days. After an hour or two I reluctantly loaded my gear and ascended out of the canyon and headed eastward, reenergized and pleased by this last moment decision to come back home. Just as I had thought it might, a connection with the land and a much simpler life returned to my consciousness. Coming home again was a good thing…

Enjoy the photos here of those simple times we should never forget and do our best to try and revisit when the need is at hand.

Inside the little hunt in the winter of 1975
Inside the cabin May 2011
Writing field notes by the light of a kerosine lamp. 1974

 

Cleaning steel in camp 1974.

 

A lighter moment on the trapline. This one tagged and released for research purposes.

 

A view from the cabin door. Sunset 1974.

 

The old windmill that is now gone. Evening light in 1974. A pivotal time in my recognizing the importance of great light.

 

Experimenting with firelight photography inside the cabin on a cold winter night. 1974

 

A moment in the past when times were more simple. When a rifle and cold steel bought the groceries. 1974.

18 comments

  1. Steger Chapman says:

    I lived your words as I’m taken back in my own mind’s travels to places of the past. You remind me of our mutual friend, DKL.

  2. Don Harris says:

    Thanks for the trip back into the past. These moments often refresh us and provide the strength and energy to go forward with re-newed energy.

  3. LuAnn V Lambright says:

    How pleasant and away from the maddening crowd. No it wouldn’t be perfect and you’d miss alot of the amenities you take for granted today but it sure would be simple and your focus wouldn’t be so scattered as it is now. I enjoyed it fully. Thanks

  4. JUDY COX says:

    Laying back and looking into the past is something everyone should do every once and a while. Looking back provides a pathway into the future. Thank you for sharing a bit of your past.

  5. Bob Meinzer says:

    Wyman: Really enjoy your comments and photos of coming home. I grew up in the 40′s and 50′s in the oil patch of the Odessa/Kermit/Goldsmith area. Many of the photos remind me of those times, some pleasant, some not so pleasant, but roots all the same. I look forward to your news letters.

    Bob Meinzer, Austin, Texas

  6. Darla says:

    Loved your ‘revisit’. Glad the cabin was spared. Inspired by your recollections, values and appreciation for the range. Thank you.

  7. Freddy Prather says:

    Wyman:
    I havent been back to batchcamp since Bob Goff lived there in 65, It was sure good to see the pictures of it and bring back the memories.
    Freddy Prather

    • wymanmeinzer says:

      I love that old camp Freddy. Its like my second home. I was really concerned that it had burned and was thrilled to see it still intact. I go down there on occasion just to clean it up and hang around to remember old times. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

  8. Fred Bryant says:

    Wyman,

    You killed me with this masterful writing and photo journal. It immediately carried me back to the day back in the late 70s I think, when I ran the trap line with you. The memories will be with me forever.

    Your friend,

    Fred

  9. Nelle says:

    Why did you tie the mouth of that coyote shut for the picture? He was a wild feral human being back at Texas Tech Range and Wildlife Department many moons ago; he has tamed down a bit in recent years. Makes all Red Raiders and Texans proud.

  10. shawn williams says:

    we were camped at batch camp in the spring of ’90. we went prowling around inside the house and found a bottle of ‘el capitan ‘ brandy obove the ceiling. cant remember if it was the attic door or just a loose board. anyway, was just wondering if you might had left it their. your pictures brought back great memories. good crew that spring, Monty was wagon boss, Lynn, Marty, Gary,Jody, and bobby allen were the camp men, me,finch,brandon,and poor jimmy byrd were in the bunckhouse. The brandy was very good.

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