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This book was conceived the first time I stood at the cleft of Castle Gap, looked out across the greasewood plains of the Pecos, and watched the sinking sun melt into clouds of deepest indigo. More the dawning of a new day than the dying of one, it spurred me into several years of prowling the hidden recesses of West Texas in search of its history and legends. As a lifelong Texan, I already suspected that the region’s tales—the true ones and the tall ones—were as vast and varied as the land itself. But I had little idea they were capable of spawning such a sense of wonder and obsession to solve their riddles. Like indomitable treasure hunter Cliff Newland, whom you will read about in Castle Gap, I found my professional life revolving around the enigmas of the Pecos. What were the historical accounts behind them, the folklore versions, the reminiscences of the old-timers? Could a thread of truth bind these three? If lost riches abound in this still-frontier, why couldn’t they be found? Or had they? If spirits haunt the nights of wailing winds, could they be documented on the same basis by which the judicial system subsists—eyewitness accounts? My quest carried me thousands of miles back and forth across this sprawling region larger than most states, and laid me down at night in a backpack tent or camper shell or beneath a sky studded with stars. I heard the howl of coyotes pierce the nocturnal stillness of the Pecos at Horsehead Crossing. I felt the grit of sand between my teeth as I struggled on foot through free-drifting dunes of sand which hid the secret of a lost wagon train. I hiked beneath the guarding rimrock of Castle Gap and found traces of the Comanche War Trail and fire rings of Indians and pioneers. I trudged under a searing sun across the white stretches of the salt lake Juan Cordona and tasted its brine in my throat. I explored every nook in a purported haunted structure at old Fort Stockton and slept with one eye open just outside its adobe walls. I backpacked the bastion of the Preface xiv Preface Guadalupe wilderness with the secret of lost diggings as near as my next step and as distant as a century past. And throughout, I felt myself reaching a oneness with the land, its heritage, its people. Especially its people. Without exception, landowners and tenants cooperated fully in my personal explorations, sometimes even to the point of carrying me by four-wheeler across the backcountry of their ranches. And scores of old-timers, as well as a few of lesser years, truly made this book possible by sharing with me their stories. By the time I completed the manuscript, some of these rugged individualists had already succumbed to the ages, but they live on through dozens of hours of recordings and the pages that follow. Of the many who fueled my quest, I wish to thank two persons for their tireless support: my wife and best friend, Mary, who shared that first Castle Gap sunset with me and helped research and edit; and Richard Galle, a fellow wanderer along those Pecos trails. Patrick Dearen CASTLE GAP PECOS FRONTIER, REVISITED and the ...


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