Law west of the Pecos

Judge Roy Bean famously used his saloon in West Texas as his courtroom and proclaimed himself as the “law west of the Pecos.” Judge Bean was apparently a big fan of the British actress and socialite Lillie Langtry, who was nicknamed “the Jersey Lily” after the flower that was the symbol of her hometown of Jersey. Judge Bean named his saloon in her honor, calling it the “Jersey Lilly” (using two L’s). Coincidentally, the name of the settlement where Roy Bean’s courtroom was located, originally called Eagle Nest, was renamed Langtry after an engineer and foreman with the railroad named George Langtry. The site today is a Texas Information Center and rest area along US 90 west of Del Rio, and, yes, west of the Pecos.


Glen Canyon Dam

Glen Canyon Dam is a concrete arch dam constructed on the Colorado River in  the far north of Arizona. It is named for its location in the gorge known as Glen Canyon, now largely submerged, where the river enters Arizona from Utah. The dam backs up the river to form a reservoir, named Lake Powell, extending far back into Utah. Below Glen Canyon Dam, the Colorado River flows freely for 370 miles before encountering the next dam, Hoover Dam, after flowing through the Grand Canyon.

The west intake towers

Hoover Dam was built by the Bureau of Reclamation in order to control floods, provide water for irrigation, and produce hydroelectric power. It is not without artistic flourishes, however. Art Deco stylistic touches are evident in many details of the dam, including the two pairs of intakes towers. The dam is built in an area called the Black Canyon on the Colorado River, on the border of Arizona and Nevada. The two states are in different time zones, and the towers feature clocks showing the time in their respective states, in this case the two Nevada towers.

An evening on Main Street

Most of Main Street in Ouray, Colorado consists of historic blocks of buildings built around the turn of the 20th Century. The wealth produced by the local mines led to architecture that befitted its prosperity. The Victorian aspect of the town has not been diluted over the last century by ski resorts because Ouray sits in a canyon with terrain too steep for skiing. Duckett’s is the closest thing to a supermarket in town.

All clear

The San Juan Mountains are a particularly steep range in southwest Colorado. Avalanches are frequent in this precipitous landscape and pose a serious threat to life and limb; so much so that the local authorities display this large avalanche advisory on the side of a building in Silverton. If you don’t mind delaying your visit until August, however, you will have one less thing to worry about.

Bisbee from atop Castle Rock

The old copper mining town of Bisbee, Arizona clings to the slopes of the Mule Mountains. This vantage point from atop a rock outcrop known as Castle Rock looks down over Tombstone Canyon in old town Bisbee. Unseen around the curve of the highway is the played-out open pit copper mine, the huge chasm called the Lavender Pit.

The fleur-de-lis fence

In the old mining town of Jerome, Arizona, an overgrown yard full of junk is secured with an ornate iron fence. The high fence features two stacked courses, and uprights each tipped with a fleur-de-lis, the familiar emblem originating with French heraldry. The elaborate enclosure seems a lot more fancy than the humble vacant lot would merit.

The old homestead along the Mimbres

An old barn is the only building left standing on this long abandoned homestead along the Mimbres River in eastern Grant County, New Mexico. Today, the site is a nature preserve protecting an important stretch of the upper Mimbres.

“Remember the Alamo”

Originally founded in 1718 as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo today is remembered and revered as the site of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. On the morning of March 6, Mexican forces under the command of General Antonio López de Santa Anna attacked and overwhelmed the small force of Texans, killing every defender to a man while sparing just a few women and children noncombatants. The roughly 200 defenders faced a force of perhaps several thousand Mexican troops. Among those who died in the massacre were James Bowie and William B. Travis, the commanders at the Alamo. Also killed was the famous frontiersman and ex-congressman Davy Crockett.

The cruelty and barbarism shown by Santa Anna galvanized Texans and stoked their resolve. The following month, on April 21, 1836, Santa Anna, commanding a force of 1,500 men, was defeated in the Battle of San Jacinto by a force of 800 Texans under the command of General Sam Houston. The battle lasted only 18 minutes. Only nine Texans were killed, while the Mexicans suffered 630 dead and 730 captured. The rallying cry of the Texans: “Remember the Alamo!” Today, the Alamo is completely surrounded by the urban landscape of San Antonio, Texas.


Silverton’s back door

The town of Silverton, Colorado was once a silver mining camp but these days it depends upon tourism for its economy. Most visitors to Silverton arrive via US-550 or the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the area in the town’s center is full of shops and eateries which cater to the tourist trade. Driving into town from the back side, however, presents a different picture, one that is much more as it was back when Silverton was just another remote mining camp in a high mountain valley.