Monday, March 19, 2012

Kirby, Barkeley, and Sweetwater

March 17, 2012
Lake Kirby
DJ and I travelled to Lake Kirby to attempt to photograph some of the green that is once again beginning to grow in this arid land. West Texas has been so parched the last several years, that green became a color we have seen very little of. Over the last couple of weeks, the drought has lifted and everything is blooming early. The area around Lake Kirby is beginning to bloom, and my lonesome tree is turning green. There are bluebonnets and Indian blankets blossoming. Small yellow flowers are beginning to sprinkle across the ground. I have never seen the park this green. The rain that we have been getting has been well worth the cold dreary days.

Camp Barkeley
Camp Barkeley is green as well, and it is just as beautiful if not more than last week. DJ stopped to allow me to photograph the lush green fields left behind by our pleasant weather. DJ followed the road that snakes through the rich farmland, and along a trail that took us through the hills until we came upon Hidden Valley Road (CR 101). Before the road lined with elegant homes dead-ended, I spotted two caves atop a steep hill on the west side of the road. Small bats could be seen dangling from the ceiling of the south cave. I was excited to share my discovery with my best friend.

County Road 298
Once we turned around at the end of Hidden Valley Road, DJ and I ventured onto CR 298 and headed west. We took the first dirt road to the north and found an abandoned home. I wonder, did a family live here? Was the home once loved? The brilliant spring flowers, though unkempt and wild, suggest that the home was loved at one time. Behind the home two large turkey vultures flew away from the shed and circled the home. An old windmill still stands tall next to the shed, but the rust and weathering of the wood suggest that the mill has not been used in years. The scent of lavender filled the air, and the dark thunderous clouds provided an ominous backdrop to the sad, broken down home.

DJ and I ventured from one county road to another, some without signs. Down one road, we found a lush green field that surrounded a blue and yellow pump jack that looks unlike any pump jack I have ever seen. The pump jack relied on a different system of levers and pullies than typical pump jacks do allowing the pump jack to look like a working piece of art in its movement. The open beams allow air to flow through the mechanism, which must be why they chose this particular style for this particular location. The wind is much stronger here than anywhere else in the area.

County Road 52
DJ and I found ourselves on CR 52 where we passed the R&R Ranch. The fence around the ranch was quite a bit higher than other West Texas ranches. We soon spotted why the fence was so high, for we approached a heard of dear lazing about the open green field.

County Road 352
DJ and I followed CR 52 to CR 352, where we zigzagged up the mesa hillside. Here, we found a massive AES Wind Farm. The mills climbed high into the sky and hummed lightly. Here, I found a twisted old tree, which I found fascinating, so I decided to snap several shots of the gnarled limbs of the tree.

Farm to Market Road 89
West on FM 89 led DJ and me to more windmills, some of which were thinner and more streamlined than any that I had seen before. These mills seem to reach even higher into the sky pulling energy from Mother Nature’s winds. Along the way, we saw many of the Texas Redbuds in full bloom. I insisted on stopping to photograph the beautiful pink trees.

Farm to Market Road 126
DJ followed FM 89 to FM 126, where we found another deer ranch with much bigger deer on it. I begged DJ to stop so I could photograph the deer. As I quickly but quietly approached, the deer turned away from me and prepared to bolt. I called out to the Alpha Male speaking softly and assuring him I was no threat. I crouched down as I continued to speak softly, and he turned back toward me. He came closer, and his heard went back about their business. I swear this mighty elk posed for every photo I took of him. When I got back to the car, DJ and I discussed what happened. He was astounded that I was able to call the deer back to me, as was I. As we began to pull off, another passing motorist stopped to photograph the heard; but the heard did not stay for them.

Nolan County Road 202
Further west, DJ turned north on Nolan CR 202. We found, once again, a massive wind farm. I suppose wind energy is the future of Texas commercial growth. Here, I found a pump jack amidst the massive mills and decided that another stop was warranted. I photographed the pump jack with the windmills in the background showing both the present and future of energy.

Doris Cemetery
Doris Cemetery is located on the east side of FM 126 at a curve past a rock home to the west just before the Nolan CR 202 Junction. This cemetery is the most empty of any cemeteries DJ and I had previously visited. There are approximately thirty-five plus graves that are marked unknown. I estimate that at least 75% of the cemetery is marked unknown.

Junction Nolan County Road 202 and FM 126
Here an old dilapidated store sits. Only the concrete walls of the store stand. The interior of the store is filled with garbage, old cans, a lot of beer bottles, cactus, and mesquite trees. Some of the trees even poke through the windows of the building growing inside of the store.

County Road 344
DJ took us down CR 344. Again, on the north side of the road, we saw another deer fence with what look to be antelope behind it. Wow! I had never seen a deer leap along as high as these deer leapt.

Around the corner, DJ stopped to allow me to photograph two Billy Goats, who tried to mosey away until I began to call them back to me. They turned around, allowed me to photograph them, and went on about their business.

Interstate 20 and Beyond
DJ and I stopped in Sweetwater to get a bite to eat at the local sandwich shop before we headed back east. We traversed to Lake Sweetwater, where I used to frequent when I lived in Sweetwater. The park is no longer public and belongs to a private golf course. The lake is almost non-existent, as it has dried up mostly. There was not much to see.

Outside of Sweetwater (south), we found a historical marker of the place where a C47 Transport plane crashed with twenty-five Army Air Corp officers and enlisted men aboard. The plane went down at 6:30 a.m. on April 20, 1945. There were no survivors. It was determined that the plane came down due to equipment failure during a thunderstorm. I had never heard any stories about the plane crash that took these soldier’s lives.

Eventually, DJ and I arrived at I-20 and headed back east to Abilene. We did not see much aside from a few empty cotton fields and natural gas pumps, so we took a detour to the north of the interstate. Here we found the remnants of three small towns that I have never heard of, Boyd Chapel, Nienda, and Radium. Historical markers state that all three communities lost many of their citizens due to World War II.

DJ and I saw several dilapidated homes where Boyd Chapel once stood, and we stopped to take pictures of one. While photographing the run down home, a flock of what look to be barn swallows flew from the dead trees surrounding the home. I snapped a shot of the birds and wished that I had that zoom lens I have been wishing for.

Nienda still had a few homes with families busying themselves about the yards, and a cemetery. In the cemetery, we saw several graves marked as unknown. The sun began to lower in the sky, and I was able to get a beautiful shot of the headstone of a girl, Clara Munoz who passed away shortly after her fourth birthday. We searched but found no sign of the town of Radium.

The evening began to close in on us, so DJ pulled over allowing us to sit hand-in-hand and watch the sun go down. The sunset was one of the most beautiful I have seen. Then again every sunset I have with DJ is beautiful because it reminds me that I have had another day with the love of my life, and every day with DJ is precious.

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