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The Valentine State

By Bennett Owen

100 years ago yesterday, Arizona became the 48th state, the last piece of the puzzle in the contiguous US.

Credit: Paul Funderbird“The Grand Canyon is carven deep by the master hand; it is the gulf of silence, widened in the desert; it is all time inscribing the naked rock; it is the book of earth.” - Donald Culross Peattie

Credit: military museum"Fort Yuma is probably the hottest place on earth…A wicked soldier died there, once, and of course, went straight to the hottest corner of perdition, - and the next day he telegraphed back for his blankets.” - Mark Twain, Roughing It

Credit: "There is a muscular energy in sunlight corresponding to the spiritual energy of wind." 
- Annie Dillard   

“They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.”
                                                - Robert Frost

Credit: Maryland Weather“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
and waste its sweetness on the desert air.”
                                       - Thomas Gray

Credit: Gatley.blogspot“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome dangerous, leading to the most amazing view…
May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”
                                                                                       - Edward Abbey

Credit: tripadvisor


There Otter Be A Law – of Nature

By Bennett Owen

Trout Fishing in Yellowstone: Momma otter on the hunt in Trout Lake. Credit: gainesp2003

Now do yourself a favor and take four minutes and 35 seconds out of your busy weekend to have a look at an absolutely stunning compilation of images captured last winter in Yellowstone Park.  And then answer this question…while all other animals in the Park are foraging, scavenging, hunting, burrowing and otherwise fighting for survival amid an unforgiving winter…why is it that those damn Otters are having nothing but fun? Doesn’t seem fair but then again, nature and fairness have little in common.  Enjoy the excursion –

You may also want to browse through a previous post – We Bearly Knew Ya – 10 Surprising Things About Yellowstone


Away in the Menger – Rough Riders Apply at the Bar

By Bennett Owen

Credit: Whalt

For any Wise Man following the Lone Star westward, chances are they’ve spent the night at the Menger in San Antonio, the oldest hotel west of the Mississippi.

Credit: Menger Hotel

Founded by a German immigrant beer brewer in 1859, less than 23 years after the battle of the Alamo, it began as a boarding house but soon gained a reputation for its fine dining, including snapper soup made from turtles caught in the San Antonio river.

Credit: Photograph by Thomas D. Mcavoy for the October 12, 1959 edition of “Life” magazine © Time Inc.

By the late 1880s the Menger was one of the nation’s finest hotels. Its bar was outfitted with solid cherry wood, French mirrors and gold-plated spittoons…good enough for Teddy Roosevelt in 1898 when he recruited his famous Rough Riders to fight in the Spanish American war.

Credit: Roosevelt Rough Riders

The hotel also hosted Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (we assume not at the same time!), as well as luminaries such as, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean,  Lilly Langtry, Mae West, Babe Ruth, Oscar Wilde and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

History lovers tend to enjoy staying at the Menger while newlyweds might find the paper-thin walls … um … thin.  

Credit: Kathey Straach/Special Contributor 

The residence also has a reputation as one of the most haunted hotels in the United States, so those late-night clunking noises keeping you awake may not necessarily be the noisy next-door neighbor…


What Lies Beneath

By Bennett Owen

Do we really need any more evidence that everything’s big in Texas? Those million acre fires may be out but the drought that fueled them lingers in THE worst and longest dry spell the Lone Star State has ever recorded. A friend near Austin laments she usually has the fireplace roaring at Thanksgiving … this year the air conditioner was still on full blast.

One unforeseen silver lining is that history is revealing itself throughout the region as man-made lakes recede in the face of the very drought conditions they were supposed to ameliorate. And so, long forgotten villages like Bluffton are revealed for a short while.


Follow this link to see a video of Bluffton.

This gravestone marks the burial plot of a boy who died just short of his first birthday in 1882.


Further north, Lake Texoma has dried up enough to expose Old Woodville, Oklahoma…


An historic railroad town, legend has it that Bonnie and Clyde attended the cock fights here, camping out at a place called Washita Point –

Bonnie and Clyde, March 1933. Credit: Wikipedia

A retreating reservoir in Navarro County, south of Dallas has uncovered an antebellum slave cemetery


And along the southwest border, Falcon Lake has receded enough that the ghost town of Guerrero Viejo is accessible, including its impressive church, Nuestra Señora del Refugio. Unfortunately, it’s also virtually a no-go area due to the drug cartels. Please go to the website for more incredible images.



Seems sometimes it’s just one dam thing after another.  In my part of the world, the Clark Canyon Reservoir sits atop what used to be Armstead, Montana, a rough and tumble outpost that, in the early decades of the 20th century, had bragging rights as the biggest cattle shipping point on the Union Pacific Railroad.  Cattlemen out on Horse Prairie, the Big Hole, the Grasshopper, Blacktail and Centennial would trail their herds into Armstead for loading on a one-way eastward journey to the great feedlots and slaughterhouses of Chicago.    

Credit: NPRHA

One of Armstead’s honored residents was a champion rodeo rider named Alvin Owen who worked four jobs during the depression to keep his wife and two sons fed and who once beat a man to a bloody pulp for calling him a liar, the worst of all insults.  That gave rise to his youngest son’s oft-repeated threat, “be careful what you say or my Daddy will beat the hell outta you!” 

Credit: Montanarailroadhistory

Soft spoken, affable, yet resolute, Alvin Owen went on to found a trucking company that supported Southwest Montana’s economy for well over half a century.  His legacy lives on, though not too many people could pinpoint Armstead anymore. 

Credit: Smokstak

What I remember of the town is limited to the Hershey Bars I’d get at the general store when we drove out for a visit. By the time I was six we were riding over the town in an outboard motorboat. A couple of times since then, water levels have dropped enough to reveal parts of the old highway, the railroad bed and some building foundations. But what’s scarce in Texas is plentiful in Montana. So for now at least, Armstead remains buried in a watery grave.

Credit: Geolocations


Hot Springs Eternal – 10 Curative Qualities of Western Hot Springs

By Bennett Owen

Credit: Jack Crossen

In the early 1900s my Grandfather helped build the plunge at the upper end of the Grasshopper Valley…a place where the cowboys could have a soak from time to time and rest their aching bones. The Indians too were well aware of the curative powers that hot springs provided and of course the ancient Roman baths spawned some of the great spas of Europe.  

Credit: Jack Crossen

Grandmother used to fill up gallon jugs there to use as drinking water. My Uncle credits thermal baths with keeping his skin cancer at bay for decades.  It’s easy to be skeptical of anecdotal evidence but on a recent My-West road trip I saw a young boy cured of a nasty skin rash he’d suffered for years…and all he had to do was go swimming. Now that took some arm-twisting!

Credit: ©

That said, here are 10 good reasons to visit nature’s hot tubs:

-       Remarkably successful in treating skin disorders
-       Purifies the blood by eliminating toxins via sweat and diuresis
-       Well-known analgesic and painkilling capacities
-       Effective against rheumatic conditions
-       Muscle relaxant
-       Stress reduction
-       Balances mineral deficiencies
-       Benefits neuralgia sufferers
-       It cures insomnia – as in two kids sleeping 12 hours after swimming at Elkhorn
-       Negative ions contribute to a feeling of physical and psychological well-being.

Credit: Jack Crossen

And there is one more benefit that I can personally attest to. After a day of skiing, hop into a hot springs with your significant other…the snow all around…the stars dripping from the sky…and if that’s not a fountain of youth, I don’t know what is.


Now help us out here. If you have a hot springs health story please share it with us!