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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Living off the Land

July 28, 1998

Big Bend Gecko has a place in Texas

On a clear June night in the summer of 1956, on a rocky
slope in the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area in southern
Brewster County an astonishing discovery was made.

While checking snap traps set to collect rodent specimens
during an ecological survey. a large ground gecko was found
in one of the traps. The lizard was preserved and
transported to Texas A&M University where it was found to be
closely related to the forest-dwelling geckos of Mexico and
Central America.

More than twice the size of the common Texas Banded Gecko,
this new lizard was described by W. B. Davis and J.R. Dixon
in 1958 on the basis of the single specimen which they named
Big Bend Gecko, Coleonyx reticulates. For the next 15 years,
all attempts to secure an additional specimen of this
remarkable reptile met with failure. Doubts began to build
as to the validity of the existence of a population of these
lizards in the Southwest.

The mystery remained unsolved until the summer of 1971.

As unexpectedly as the first specimen had appeared in 1956,
not one, but several Big Bend Geckos were collected in
southern Brewster County along the Rio Grande. No less than
four where collected on the highway right-of~-way in the
Black Gap Wildlife Management Area and at least three were
found on Highway 170 between the ghost town of Terlingua in
Brewster County and Redford in Presidio County.

The common denominator of these collections was that all
were collected after dark and on nights following
particularly heavy rain. Several were maintained in
captivity and at least one female is known to have laid eggs.

In captivity, Big Bend Geckos have lived for many Years. All
adults are quite large (100-160 mm) and possess the ability
to move quickly when disturbed. They are alert and very
interesting to observe when they are feeding. Insects such
as crickets and mea~lworms are readily accepted as food by
these geckos. When pursuing such prey items, the lizard
creeps to within an inch of its quarry and becomes
motionless -- much like a cat stalking a mouse. A violent
lunge forward and the insect is in the jaws of the gecko.

Another interesting behavior is "tail-wagging'' which occurs
when the lizard becomes nervous. When the gecko feels
threatened, it moves its tail slowly from side to side. It
has been suggested that this behavior distracts potential
predators, such as birds or snakes, which would aim for the
tail. As is the case with many lizard species, the tail
will separate allowing the gecko to make a quick getaway.
The tail is later regenerated.

Since 1971, the Big Bend Gecko has been frequently
encountered with as many as 20 or more lizards seen each
summer. The range of the gecko has been expanded with the
discovery of specimens in the Mexican states of Coahuila and
Durango, and it is likely to inhabit much of Chihuahua.
Despite the frequency of encounters, relatively little is
known of the species' life history due to the animal's
secretive nature.

The Big Bend Gecko is afforded protection against collecting
activities by the State of Texas where it is classified as
"Threatened." A permit from the State of Texas is required
to capture or maintain this species in captivity.

Talking herbs

By Sue Toone
What a summer! The hot, dry wind and high temperatures we
have had this summer has been unreal. The drought is leaving
a heavy imprint on crops, animals and people.

But be of good cheer -- fall is just around the corner, so
now we can plan our fall landscape and fall garden. There
are many vegetables from which to choose and transplants of
fall annuals, such as zennias, marigolds and celosias, which
add instant color to the landscape. So, let's begin.

Probably the first consideration for a fall garden is the

If tomatoes and peppers are in your plan, be aware that the
spot needs to have eight - ten hours of direct sunlight per
day. Also, the peppers will not be quite as hot as those
grown during the summer.

After choosing the site, soil preparation is next on the

We need to remember that we are still in a drought so our
soil will dry out in a few hours. With this in mind, work
the soil to a ten-inch depth, define the furrow and water
deeply before transplanting or planting. You may need to
spread about one inch of potting soil or vermiculite in the
shallow furrows. This will aid the germination and provides
a soft bed for the tender roots.

After planting the seed, place a board over the seed row to
keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. Remove the
board just before the sprouts appear. Mulching between rows
also helps keep the soil cool.

If you use transplants, be sure to "harden them off" by
placing plant outside in a sheltered environment for several
days, then place them where you choose but provide some sort
of shade from the hot afternoon sun for a while.

Now, here we are at the easy part. When plants are large
enough, add mulch around the plants to aid in weed control
and for water conservation. Water and fertilize as
recommended for the plant and watch out for pests, and
control them right away.

Last Timing is a critical factor in growing vegetables. If
tomatoes and peppers are in your plan, transplant

the first of August is also the time to plant transplants
of the cole crops and plant seeds for squash, green beans,
cucumbers and potatoes from tubers.

About the middle of August, it is time to plant the leafy
crops such as spinach and leaf lettuce, and the root crops,
such as turnips, carrots and radishes.


Range roots may be dying for a drink

By Claude W. Porter
Contributing Writer
Ranchers are watching their grasses in wonder, waiting for
a growth that the past month's spotty showers should have
brought. But no greening of pastures is occurring in many
areas. Some ranchers feel that the roots of the grass have
succumbed to lack of moisture and died.

Drought conditions continue to plague cattlemen in the
Trans-Pecos region. Even though some spotted thundershowers
have fallen in Culberson, Reeves, Ward, and surrounding
counties, a pall of dry weather hangs over the region.

Bruce Carpenter, Livestock Specialist with the Texas
Agricultural Extension Service out of Fort Stockton, says,
"Taking a pessimistic approach, the grass could be dead."

"On the optimistic side," Carpenter continues, "it just
might take more than a half-inch rain to bring the grass

According to Carpenter, the grass in areas which have been
grazed close to the ground is more at risk than areas where
stems are left standing. The higher the stem, the more
likely the grass is to survive.

"It is important to move livestock away from areas where
the grass is very short," observed Carpenter. "Experience
has taught us that the presence of livestock on an
over-grazed range impedes the re-establishment of green
grass," he says.

Rancher John Moore, who has rangeland in Reeves, Jeff
Davis, and Culberson Counties, received approximately 1 1/4"
of rainfall in a very localized area, but indicated that on
the following day the evidence was hardly noticeable.

The rangeland in Midland, Winkler, and Ward Counties
operated by Mike Harrison of Midland is still basking in
hot, dry weather.

"We have not had any rain of any consequence on any of our
ranges," says Harrison.

Asked about conditions on the Fernandes ranches, Doug
Fernandes of Pecos, says, "Nothing has changed. It's still

The weather pattern for West Texas seems to show an
increasing daily occurrence of scattered thundershowers.
However, there does not seem to be a significant movement of
the clouds. This results in isolated pockets of moisture
which are quickly neutralized by high evaporation rates.

According to Robert Boyd, Meteorologist with the National
Weather Service at Midland, easterly waves of moisture from
the Gulf of Mexico are moving across West Texas. Convection
from the afternoon heating is causing thundershowers to
occur. Atmospheric winds aloft are light and not causing the
clouds to move and distribute the moisture.

"Basically, it looks like more of the same for the near
future," says Boyd.

In the meantime, some West Texas ranchers have sold there
entire herds. Others continue to reduce theirs, and pray for
a break in the drought.

Just as a dove with a green sprig brought hope to the
inhabits of the Arc in the Old Testament, so it could be to
the ranchers on the opposite end of the spectrum in West

Cantaloupes still flying high in Texas

Claude W. Porter
Contributing Writer
Early this season Pecos cantaloupes appeared to be on the
verge of producing a bumper crop of high quality melons. But
as the blistering hot weather held on day after day, with
temperatures topping 100 degrees consistently, there might
have been question as to how the crop would fare.

"Nothing to worry about," says A.B. Foster, longtime local

Lower than expected yields from some farms in the area are
being reported, and there is some reported weather damage.
However, these are explained as being fairly routine annual
occurrences. According to Foster, the Pecos Cantaloupe Shed
is projecting this year to be the largest production in its

Are Pecos cantaloupes really among the best in the world?

According to a limited telephone survey of cantaloupe
consumers in both Houston and Fort Worth, undoubtedly, they
are among the best.

A string of telephone calls to supermarkets across the
state did not register a single complaint. All consumers
surveyed were pleased with the condition of the produce in
the stores and the taste of the delicacy on the table. The
melons all bore labels from Pecos sheds. They were purchased
from Kroger's and Randall's in the Houston area, and
Kroger's and Winn-Dixie in the Fort Worth area.

A random telephone survey of 20 Pecos residents found that,
locally, cantaloupes are mostly purchased from roadside
stands. Only two out of the 20 residents surveyed indicated
they had purchased melons from a local supermarket. About
50% of those surveyed indicated the product was about what
they expected. Approximately the same number said their
melons were "mushy", but blamed it on the heat.

One Houston family, surprised by the caller, commented
that their small son, after eating cantaloupe for supper,
had awakened his father early the next morning asking for

Foster commented, "When temperatures go as high as they
have this year and stay high as long as they did, it is
amazing that we are projecting our highest production in

The demand for our cantaloupes has never been greater,"
says Foster. "We are receiving requests from as far away as
Kansas City, but are having to turn them down in order to
service closer markets here in Texas. Cantaloupes from this
area continue to enjoy a growing reputation for taste and
overall quality."

Foster expects shipping to continue well into August.

George Barrera, manager of Sun Up Produce cantaloupe shed
in Pecos, said that the extremely hot weather has shortened
their packing season by about two to three weeks. Their
final run was made on July 17th.

"With temperatures this high, the farmer cannot get enough
water in the fields to prevent the vines from wilting in the
hottest part of the day," said Barrera. "When the vines
wilt, then the leaves part and a tiny area of the melon is
exposed to the hot sun. This causes a 'blister', or 'soft
spot', and we have to cull those out, but the melons we ship
are okay."

Both local supermarkets were contacted for comment on this
year's cantaloupes and their performance. They were
reluctant to comment, except to say that quality and price
on all produce can vary from year-to-year.

The market for Pecos cantaloupes seems to be very strong.
Generally, consumer acceptance is high. The total demand for
Pecos cantaloupes will not be met this year.

Geophysical Crew maps the underworld

Staff Writer
To map the hidden underground reserves of oil and gas, it
takes a higher intelligence. Namely, satellite location
systems, massive machinery and a solid computer database to
decode the mysterious information buried in invisible sound

Crew 787, recently joined for one week by Crew 739, both of
Western Geophysical Seismic Data Processing, are scouring
the surface and subsurface of the seemingly barren West
Texas landscape in Loving and Winkler counties.

Ever since Lyne Barret drilled the state's first oil well
on the close of the Civil War, these dry, thorny deserts
have been slowly leaking their secret to those who would
brave the terrain: "There's oil in them thar' plains!"

These days, technological advances have taken much of the
risk out of the business. Western Geophysical is on the
front end of de-mystifying the art of oil exploration by
creating three dimensional maps to lead oil and gas
companies to the underground reserves.

As Robert DeLeon, assistant party manager for Crew 787,
puts it, "For us as consumers of oil, we don't really think
about how they get (the oil)."

These photographs portray the basic steps taken that help
create the maps that lead contemporary oil and gas companies
to their murky, subterranean

Responding to the directions of orbiting satellites, or
Global Positioning Systems, surveyors --also called backpack
operators -- Benjamin Munoz, Jr., and Octavio Soto (back)
walk the terrain. They mark each coordinate that enters the
hand-held computer screen with pink and orange ribbon.

These "receiver" and "source" marks serve to guide massive,
earth-shaking machines to the correct locations.
Occasionally the equipment goes on the blink because of
interference with the satellite's signal, this is when the
pair are advised to "find the nearest shade tree" until the
equipment may be repaired. All Geophysical employees are
connected by walkie-talkie.

A line of five 42,000 pound AHV II vehicles (center photo),
known as "vibrators," follow these lines, shaking the earth.
At every 220 feet, these intimidating machines shake the
earth six times at 12 second intervals.

The sound waves produced bounce back to the "geophones,"
which send the signal to the mobile recording station.

Operator Frank Ornelas, who has been doing this type of
work for 20 years could not estimate how much ground he
helped map for the oil companies. Looking out into the
expanse, he said only, "There's a lot of land out here."

The employees generally put in 12-14 hour days. Here the
AHV operators are waiting to see if an afternoon lightening
storm would end their workday early. It didn't.

Assistant Party Manager Robert DeLeon holds strings of "geo
phones." Each highly sensitive spike on the line contains
one small magnet and a metal coil.

When the "vibrators" shake the earth, the returning
vibrations generate an electric current in the spikes, which
then pass on precise information to MRX boxes (Miniaturized
Remote Extenders) that convert the language of the vibrating
coils into data that the mobile computer system can use.

A continual problem for Western Geophysical employees is
the range of wildlife that enjoy chewing on the plastic
wires, not to mention the lightening that may knock out
whole sections at a time.

Sound waves, from six to 80 hertz (cycles per second), are
mapped on several computers in this mobile recording station. The information recorded here is then sent to the
company office in Midland, where it is converted into three
dimensional maps that are sold to interested oil companies.

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Pecos Enterprise
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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Copyright 1998 by Pecos Enterprise