Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Legend of Lonely Lee

The trans-Pecos, Judge Roy Bean part of Texas is actually part of New Mexico, but don’t tell the boys in Austin that — they’ll tell you that they own clear to the state line.

It makes a difference who owns what, because in Texas even the dirt roads are paved. And in Texas, it’s almost all private land, filed and deeded down at the county courthouse. The trouble is, nobody could ever find a deed for Lonely Lee. There might be a reason for this, as we shall see:

Down near Valentine, Texas on the eastern fringe of the Chihuahuan Desert there’s a mountain sitting all alone known as Lonely Lee.

Lee, the lady they named the mountain after, lived in Valentine. Her style was unexpected. She had been there already.

Lee’s lover died in an April Apache raid, and she just faded away after that.

By May her shadow was becoming transparent, though nobody noticed. (The people in Valentine either raised cattle, fixed machinery, or serviced the men who raised cattle or fixed machinery, and they never noticed things like the transparency of shadows.)

Lee always called it Lonely Mountain. She liked it a lot. Almost every afternoon in May she’d climb to the top where she’d spend hours slowly scanning the horizon-line. “Lee’s gone to her mountain again,” they’d say.

From her vantage point Lee watched vultures and dust devils and listened to the claws of rock lizards on lava. The mesquite was greening up all around her, but she didn’t much care. Her favorite time was night, alone with the nighthawks. They didn’t make much noise.

In June she entered a subtle resonance pattern with her mountain. She loved it very much. On the night of June Full Moon her shadow was a crystal diffraction pattern behind her as she lightly climbed to the top of the basalt and settled down. Transparent coyotes ringed the cliffs and howled silently up to her.

The next morning they sent out a search party, and they knew exactly where to look — they followed her tracks to the base of the cliffs, but that was the end of the trail. Even the McClintock boys, Abe and Jed, couldn’t find hide nor hair, and they were the best trackers east of El Paso. “She done disappeared,” they said.

No one talked about her much after that. They left that mountain alone. Even goats wouldn’t graze there. Lonely Lee’s deed got lost somehow, though courthouses aren’t supposed to lose deeds. And to this day nobody will bid on that land when it comes up for auction, though nobody can quite tell you why.


Anonymous Jacques Conejo said...

Thanks Mr. G. Your vignettes are always a treat; a brief flight of fancy for the readers mind - a moment of re-focusing on images and ideas that delight.


7:37 AM  

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