National Geographic : 1993 Sep
IDE-THROUGH CUSTOMER Leman Barmorepicks up some cold ones at the Cut Rate liquor store in Pecos, Texas-self-proclaimedhome of the world'sfirst rodeo, in 1883. "I should have been born back in horse-and buggy days," says Barmore. "People didn't worry aboutgetting someplace so fast." A plumber, Barmore doubles as a member of the sheriff's posse, unarmed but ready to ride on the rare searchfor a lost hunter or child. Keith McBee of Odessa prefers a pickup to tote his four-month-old daugh ter, KaSandra. "That's my pride there," says McBee, an oil-truck driver whose kin drove cattle between treacherousHorsehead Crossingand Castle Gap. Pure Texan, KaSandranow loves riding the family pig, Boss Hog. tend the barbecue, fix engines, change tires. Was there anything she couldn't do? "Nothing," she said. "I've birthed pigs, bossed oil-rig crews, butchered cows, broke horses, worked in sewers. "Worst thing I ever did was shovel pig manure. But we needed the money." Not true. Worst thing she ever did was pick up the phone seven years ago and hear the sheriff say there'd been an accident at her daughter's boyfriend's house. When she arrived, there was blood every where. Her daughter's. She'd been shot. Sue rushed to the hospital. "I've seen it all," Sue said wearily. "Slaughterhouses, oil-field accidents. Noth ing prepared me for that." "That" was Eva wired to monitors, tubes everywhere. They'd had to amputate the arm. The Pecos-Riverof Hard-won Dreams As Sue stood by her bed, Eva opened her eyes. "Don't worry, Ma," she said. "You learned me to be tough." "Not that tough," Sue said softly. s THE PECOS nears the Rio Grande, the Chihuahuan Desert, which shadows he river south of Roswell, tightens its grip. Out here, they say, everything stings, bites, or sticks. Beware of scorpions in your shoes in the morning. Of snakes in your sleeping bag at night. Of a malevolent litany of cactuses: cat claw, devil cholla, horse crippler. And yet, when dusk soothes the skyline, you nearly forget. The fever of day breaks. The light softens. The caliche road glows. As if to amend for its harshness, the desert ever so slightly relaxes.