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Despite the vast amount written about the history and folklore of early Texas, one region remains relatively untapped, unjustly neglected in the state’s literature. That area lying between San Angelo and the Pecos River, and west to the edge of the Davis Mountains, has scarcely been scratched. Much of its history has been lost, carried to the grave by those who lived it. Some of its history, though preserved, lies forgotten in the attics and county courthouses, in browning old newspaper files and fading family photographs seldom examined by a generation who often can’t even identify the faces in the pictures. A wealth of oral folklore remains, but it has a tendency to change with every new telling, its origins now cloudy, its variations infinite. Patrick Dearen has examined several of the legends of that region along and near the Pecos, a land forbidding but at the same time compelling, a land still half wild into our own fathers’ time. The stories are fascinating, yet frustrating. Dearen’s dedicated research illustrates how difficult it is today to sort fact from fancy and find that fine line which separates history from folklore. I grew up with much of this folklore, so the book holds a particular interest for me. As a boy on the McElroy Ranch east of Crane, I could look across our yard and clearly see the cleft that was Castle Gap, some twenty or so miles off to the southwest as the crow would fly, if he could carry a canteen that far. The land was a desert, though we would have been outraged had anyone called it that. From the awed tones with which the grownups told the stories, I became aware very early that historic significance clung to this single scallop in the range of arid mountains, blue in the distance, and to Horsehead Crossing a few miles west of it on the Pecos River. At the time I had little sense of the difference between history and folklore; the two seemed indistinguishable in the many accounts told about these places so richly endowed with both. Foreword x Foreword As a boy helping work cattle in the McElroy’s south pasture, I came upon a lonely grave out amid the greasewood and the low-growing mesquite. I was told that it was the resting place of a cowboy murdered by horse thieves who were later caught and shot or hanged, their bodies flung into a hand-dug hole we knew as Horse Well. I remember my fascination with that place, the chilly thrill of looking down that dark shaft and trying to imagine I could see the skeletons. I tried to tell myself there was nothing to it. But when we camped there with the chuck wagon a couple of times a year, I contrived to see that my father’s bedroll lay between mine and that ghostly well. Cliff Newland was the ranch’s windmill man, responsible for seeing to it that the seventy-odd windmills were kept greased and properly pumping water. We Kelton brothers knew, even as small boys, that Cliff had a compelling passion, the search for buried treasure in Castle Gap. The stories were confusing to us. Sometimes it was one treasure he sought, sometimes another, and many people expressed strong doubt that any of them had ever existed. But Cliff believed in them, and the search was a constant driving force that kept him active into his nineties. Some of the real old-timers still lived, the ones who had seen the country before it was settled, when it was still fresh and new, when a mile was a distance a man could respect and even fear. As a boy I loved to sit, quietly so I would not be sent away, listening to the cowboys and the older folks tell of the way things had been. I heard veterans speak of Horsehead Crossing in tones that made me picture an awesome landmark, perhaps haunted by the ghosts of many men and animals killed there. Even my father, still a young man at the time, had crossed horses and cattle at Horsehead, though a generation later than older riders like Dodge McGee and George and Young Lee. I was no more than four years old when my father went over into the Monahans sandhills to work cattle and came back with a story about a long-lost wagon train, its occupants massacred by Indians. As he told it...


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