Blue People, Red State - Winter 2010 travel blog

border fence

border patrol

Old Pumphouse

nearby swimming hole



With bright blue skies and warm sunshine we are finally getting the weather we all drove down here for. We are camped in a little enclave of good old boys from Missouri. They are incredibly warm and friendly. They come up to us with big hugs and tell us horribly racist jokes. We don't laugh. All of them are camped in trailers that are half living space and half garage. Their garages are for the three wheeled motorcycles that they brought here to ride on beautiful days like this. I felt somewhat amused to watch this gang of geezer bubbas drive off on their tricycles. It is unlikely that we will become good friends...

We headed off to a golf course and put in another bad round. The affordable golf courses have little grass and a ball hit with any gusto goes on and on and one and on. What vegetation they have is brown and the ground is sandy. But there are no water hazards and sand traps and we came home without losing any balls. You have to take your victories where you can find them. And the weather was gorgeous!

On the way home we stopped in Hidalgo at the Old Pumphouse. A tour visiting here was offered from our campground, but we were not alert enough to sign up in time. This historic spot on the Rio Grande River was easy to visit on our own.

When the king of Spain decided to develop this land just north of the river, he gave out long, slender parcels of land. An old map looked like the teeth on a comb. This was so everyone could have access to the water, because without water, this part of Texas would look like a scrubby desert. The area became known as the Magic Valley, because the soil was so fertile. But the river has carved its way down through the soil and it was hard to get the water up and out of the river bed.

In the early 1900's a steam powered pumphouse was built here. Initially the boilers were heated with wood fires, but by 1988 when the pumphouse was finally replaced by more modern facilities, the boilers were heated with natural gas augmented by electric pumps. The chimneys stood 125 feet into the air and could be seen from miles around in this flat land. Canals routed the water north via gravity and another pumphouse enable the water to irrigate thirty miles north of the river. It would have been easy to let the pumphouse fall apart and deteriorate when it was closed as many buildings around here have, but a local group took it upon itself to restore the facility and operate tours. They also built a bike trail along the river that goes into town which we would have loved to ride, but it has been destroyed by the construction of the fence separating us from Mexico.

The glimpses of the fence we have seen so far are rather unimposing, but if my memory is correct the major wall building project is in Arizona, not around here. Our tax dollars at work.

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