Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier, Revisited

Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier, Revisited

Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier, Revisited

Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier, Revisited

Synopsis

First published in 1988, Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier was acclaimed by reviewers as "superb," "significant," and "utterly delightful." In this revised edition, Patrick Dearen draws upon the latest in scholarship to update his study of the Pecos River country of West Texas. It's a land wild with tales that blend history, geography, and folklore, and from his search emerge six fascinating accounts:
-Castle Gap, a break in a mesa twelve miles east of the Pecos River, used by Comanches, emigrants, stage drivers, and cattle drovers;
-Horsehead Crossing, the most infamous ford of the Old West;
-Juan Cordona Lake, a salt lake where sandstorms and skull-baking sun defied early efforts to mine salt vital to survival;
-The "bulto" or ghost who wanders the Fort Stockton night;
-Lost Wagon Train, a forty-wagon caravan buried in the sands;
-The lost mine of Will Sublett, who found gold and kept its location secret unto death.
Although linked by the search for treasure, the stories are as varied as the land itself. They speak eloquently of the Pecos country, its heritage, and its people.

Excerpt

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.

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