Monday, September 8, 2014

Doug & The Rabbit Ear

When my father died in 1973, I found in his belongings an old sepia-colored photograph of a stark desert setting.  The most conspicuous features were a pair of low hills, distinctive mainly because the surrounding area was so flat.

My father grew up in the northwestern corner of the Texas Panhandle, just across the state line from
Clayton, New Mexico. Nothing on or with the picture indicated where it was taken, but I suspected it was in the vicinity of Clayton, an area which Dad sometimes mentioned.

A year ago, I found myself driving through that area. I’d spent a couple of days poring over records  at the Dalham County Courthouse.  I’d also located my great-great-grandparents’ graves at the Texline, Texas, Cemetery. After all that searching, my wife and I were headed west, out of Texas, and braced for a full day’s drive to Salt Lake City.

Then something caught my attention. The unwavering horizon had a slight deviation after all. The closer we got to Clayton, the more clearly a couple of mounds stood out, making a memory flash appear in my mind of that old photo of my Dad’s. When the hills were close enough to register a strong match with the image in my head, I pulled over and took a picture.

Back home in Spokane, I dug out Dad’s photo and verified that I had located the same place. A little time with Google filled in some blanks.  The early Spaniards called the two hills Orejas de Conejos, or Rabbit Ear, and when the Santa Fe Trail became a significant route from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Rabbit Ear was a landmark that alerted wagon trains to a surprisingly good supply of water, food and grass.  

In the 1920s, my father and his family pushed on to the Pacific Northwest with its towering mountains, so different from the flat monotony of the Great Plains. Dazzled as he was by the Cascades, my father found enough meaning in his memories of the Rabbit Ear that he held onto that photo the rest of his life.  I probably will too.

Story & Photos shared by EWGS member, Doug Floyd 

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