Our goals for living in our RV are fairly simple: see new places, meet new people, learn new animals, and enjoy new experiences. In the past six months, we have seen several new places, met some amazing new couples, learned about dozens of new birds and other animals, and had a few memorable experiences.
On Monday, March 20th, we set off full of hope for more "new"s - a new gate, new friends, new wildlife, and new unforgettable moments.
As we pull out of Cowboy RV Park in Cotulla, TX, we head out of town on the same highway we've driven every day for 47 days. We pass the same familiar ranch gates, the same fences, the same trees and flowers and fields. But when we reach the road where we would normally turn to head toward our old familiar gate, we continue straight till the road dead ends. We turn left and head toward Carrizo Springs, TX.
Driving down Highway 85, we see numerous ranch gates with horseheads and fires blazing from flare stacks in the distance. The land, in spite of the dry heat of South Texas, is green and lush with flowering Retama, also called the Jerusalem Thorn, which is currently in full bloom; Mexican Leadtrees, with their fern-like leaves; and wildflowers in bright pinks, soft purples, vibrant oranges, and sunny yellows. Prickly Pear Cacti line the fences and are peppered among the trees. We pass through Big Wells and Brundage, small towns that, with the exception of the change in speed limit, a stray gas station or two, and a few small houses and mobile homes, you would never know were towns at all.
Arriving at the outskirts of Carrizo Springs, we note the Carrizo Springs Municipal Golf Course, a Super 8 Motel, a Methodist church and the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. Inside Carrizo city limits we spot the intermediate school, a large park with a lovely playground, and a ballpark. Further into town, we see law offices and a multitude of mom and pop restaurants, along with gas stations, salons, auto parts stores, a garage, a car wash, grocery stores, hotels, fast food chains, and more. Carrizo Springs has a population of nearly 6000, only 2000 more than Cotulla, but with much more to offer.
After stopping for supplies, we continue on our journey to our new temporary home. On the opposite side of Carrizo, we notice the post office, more fast food joints, and several run down old buildings. Outside Carrizo, we see much of the same countryside - cattle grazing in the fields, fences, low trees, shrubs, and cacti lining the roads. We survey the occasional houses we see, as well as the ranch gates, some small and unassuming, some large and ornate.
Faith Ranch Road is peaceful and quiet. Traffic is sparse on this particular morning. Horseheads dot the landscape often, bobbing slowly up and down. As we approach the ranch and our new gate, we spy the large metal sign announcing Faith Ranch. We pull in and our new neighbors are standing outside the guard shack smiling and waving to welcome us. We stop and exchange introductions, and instantly we know we've made new friends.
The Faith Ranch occupies roughly 42000 acres of land at the intersection of Dimmit, Webb, and Maverick Counties, thirty miles southwest of Carrizo Springs, TX, stretching to the Rio Grande at the Mexico border. With over 200 wells, it stays relatively busy year-round.
We park our tiny home and appraise our surroundings. We are parked off the main road through the ranch, away from the worst of the dust and noise. Trash cans are located near the guard shack. We have real electricity as opposed to a generator. Our fresh water comes from a 1500-gallon tank which we share with the second couple, Cara and Dennis.
We again have an air-conditioned guard shack. This shack is larger than our last one. and is again equipped with a microwave and mini fridge.
We finish setting up, unpack, eat lunch, and prepare for our first shift - noon to midnight.
"Do you like Cajun food?" Cara had asked when we first pulled in. Cara's reputation as a phenomenal cook has preceeded her, so when she offers us generous plates of food, we quickly accept. Cara is from Louisiana, and her cooking is decidedly Cajun. We open our boxes to find, to our deep delight, fried shrimp, fried fish, and a shrimp and crawfish etouffee. Dinner that evening is the best Cajun meal we have had in a long time. Mmm... mmm... MMmmm...
This location has its own Greater Roadrunner couple, whom we instantly name Mr. and Mrs. Roadie. During the day, we notice them darting around with nesting materials. As the sun is setting, we have the opportunity to witness their mating ritual. I take pictures, and as I watch, Mr. Roadie occasionally glances at me. "Nothing to see here," he seems to be telling me. I am close enough to hear his little legs thump, thump, thumping. After he finishes, he struts around her, then struts away, looking terribly pleased with himself. Over the course of the week, each day at dusk (and sometimes during the afternoon as well), they do the deed with no concern about us watching. Often he holds a moth or cricket in his mouth, which he gifts to his special lady before he struts proudly away.
Here's hoping we get to see the babies!
Other bird species we had at our first gate also live here. Curve-billed Thrashers and Northern Mockingbirds make regular appearances. We see a Northern Cardinal and several Pyrrhuloxias.
Our new gate adds a couple of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, a pair of jet black Chihuahuan Ravens, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and several Common Starlings, also called European Starlings because of their origin, to our mix of feathered friends.
In addition to birds, we have several neighborhood rabbits and skunks. The rabbits hop by every evening around dusk. The skunks scuttle out to dig around in the dirt around 9 pm. We also learn a new animal, called the Javelina, or Peccary. This pig-looking mammal has darted across the road two days in a row, frantically trying to find a way through the fence, running toward us along the fence, before finally giving up and heading back the way it came.
On Tuesday, just our second day on the job, we look down the little side road that runs by our camper, and are startled to see a large black snack slithering his way across the dirt road. For a road, it's not very wide, more like a dirt path, partially overgrown in the middle, and only 9 or 10 feet, but he stretches almost all the way across it. My first thought was that it was a black rat snake, but when I mentioned it to one of gentlemen who works on the ranch, he said it was most likely an indigo. While rat snakes eat mainly rodents and birds, indigos eat, among other things, rattlesnakes. As long as he earns his keep, we'll let him stick around.
Another definite advantage here at Faith Ranch is that the cattle we see here at this gate are all enclosed behind a sturdy fence. Should we choose to, we have the pleasure of chatting with the numerous cows and heifers when they make their rounds, but we are not required to be cattle-herders in addition to being gate guards.
This pretty gal stared at me like this for approximately 12 minutes. Or maybe it was 2 minutes. I don't know. It seemed like an eternity. I took several nearly identical pictures of her, thinking that at some point, she would blink or stick her tongue out or SOMETHING. But she just stood there looking at me intensely.
Every morning I either go for a jog, or take a walk with the camera. I listen to the birds chattering back and forth, the crickets chirping, and the breezes running through the grasses and shrubs. I scan the sides of the road for snakes, careful to keep a healthy fear of and respect for nature.
We stay fairly busy each day, with Sunday being the only relatively quiet day. In addition to oil field traffic, we also see many Border Patrol Officers; the ranch manager, a sweet middle-aged man with a great sense of humor; the ranch biologist; hunters headed to the adjacent ranch; and researchers from Texas A&M.
Overall, we are pleased to be here at Faith Ranch. We know it holds excitement and adventure for us, and we look forward to meeting the demands of the busy season in the coming months.
Welcome to exquisit