National Geographic : 1971 May
toward Big Bend National Park, the country was big and empty, with very little between gas stops. Under a clear sky I could see the Chisos Mountains a long way off. Big Bend a national park since 1944-embraces 1,100 square miles of spectacular canyons, lofty mountains, and desert. The park is bordered on the south by 107 miles of the Rio Grande as the river makes a U-turn on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Once an area of marshes and tropical forest where dinosaurs roamed, Big Bend is now the habitat of mountain lions, mule deer, pecca ries, and pronghorn, together with some 300 species of birds.* Great herds of cattle were brought into Big Bend in the early 1880's, when ranchers *Nathaniel T. Kenney's "Big Bend: Jewel in the Texas Desert" appeared in the January 1968 GEOGRAPHIC. found that the best grass in west Texas lay in the country around Alpine. It still does. Big Bend remains one of the state's most productive cattle areas. This is true in spite of occasional drought, when-as Texas au thor Virginia Madison wrote-"the grass gets short [and] the whole face of the region is lined with worry." In Big Bend I met a retired civil engineer from Michigan. We had a beer, and, as we talked, we watched a hawk sail high above us along the face of the mountains. It glided seemingly without effort, wings outstretched, feathers spread at their tips like fingers on a hand. Every now and then it would catch a gust of wind and suddenly tilt, like a high wire artist catching his balance. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all be like that hawk for a day," the engineer through here on their way to world markets. So strong runs the economic bond between the two cities that the Mexicans coined the slogan in the booming 1950's, "What makes Brownsville makes Matamoros."