Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Field Lab

Next on my trip out for the month of March and April was on the way back into Big Bend. I stopped by for a visit in Terlingua Texas to meet with a local friend by the name of John Wells. John is an interesting character with a good conservative story to tell. He moved out to Terlingua a few years back and set up for himself a lifestyle lived "off the grid". Just a few miles off Texas Highway 118, you'll find his place settled in behind Packsaddle Mountain. Experiencing John's Field Lab was something I recall out of a movie, remniscent of the magician who goes to meet Tesla in the movie title "The Prestige". In fact, John's whole existence out in the middle of the desert is supported completely by renewable energy. And, seemily, on any day of the week you can find him out there working on some mysterious invention built and designed by him to harness these resources for everyday life. He gave me a tour of his multiple projects which included fresh water re-supply and direction, or harvesting rain and creek water, solar panel and wind energy arrays for electrical supply, solar bakery and ovens, a large green house and secondary quarters, even an insulated box cooler run the old fashioned way for cold beer storage.

The primary purpose for the visit was scheduled to be a mingling with the locals out at John's place, locals being a herd of Longhorn cattle. Throughout the afternoon the herd stayed a mile or so away from the field lab, grazing and moving about like spots of color on the desert in a stop-film annimated movie. Over John's time out at The Field Lab, he has become acquainted closely with a twentytwo year old Longhorn cow he's affectionatly named Benita. The owner of Benita, a local rancher, deeded the cow over to John as a gift on his last birthday, which is where I come in. John has commissioned me to paint a portrait of his favored Field Lab side-kick, and being a Texas painter of subjects such as cattle, a true Texas longhorn is just the sort of undertaking I've been looking for.

The afternoon passed by and by, yet no longhorns made their way toward a field lab visit. It wasn't till the evening, on the way out that John coersed them near the pickups with some sweet pellet food. Longhorns came from all around, circling, moaning, calling out long hellos to their bearded friend. I nelt down near a pile of pellets just off the road and calmly studied and photographed these massive creatures, swarming around me like schools of fish near a reef in the sea, their long pointed horns spaning distances of four and five feet, eyes watching me closely for guarantee of trust. I was almost able to feed from hand the bull of the bunch, Otis, as John refers, whom was also a target of study, but wiley and elusive, as most bulls are.

After a half hour of mingling with Otis, Benitas daughter, Carmela, and the rest of the group we moved on down the road as Benita herself was still a no show. We stopped at a point in the road where we could see another group of Longhorns off in the distance. John bellowed out a few calls, "Benitaaaaa". We waited, but still nothing. About the time we were going to call off the search, Benita shown herself in the distance. Making her slow conservative path through the desert she shown the enthusiasm of a lost dog who'd once again found her loving master. Shortly she approached, smiling all the way to sweet pellet rewards, ear and head scratches. I could see the twentytwo seasons marked on the condition of her horns, in the slow graceful patience of her chew, back and forth, like an old farmer with his tobacco, watching the sun go down. I'm glad we waited around, and she decided to grace us with her presence, the personal exchange made the importance of an accurate portrayal all the more important. All in all, the Field Lab experience was a well rounded one, my full gratitude and thanks are extended to John Wells and Benita for having me out, and showing me around.

Click title for a direct link to John's Field Lab blog

1 comment:

John Wells said...

I couldn't have said it any better myself....cheers!

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