Photo essay prepared by former Sibley Nature Center executive director, Burr Williams
A.C. Greene in A Personal Country tells of how people new to
West Texas thought the landscape was covered with peach trees, not
mesquite trees. The mesquite pasture in front of Binie White's house
does look like an orchard.
Kallus planted trees in front of the house she and husband Dan built in
the 1990s. The pear tree in bloom is a reminder to the original orchard
planted by her grandfather Ame Flache in the early 1900s.
The Kallus's grill under the mesquite trees with mesquite they harvest on the ranch.
Binie and Edna White's porch is on the east side so they can enjoy the long evenings of West Texas.
The storm cellar was built by first mounding up dirt, covering that with
black plastic, and then pouring concrete for the roof. The cellar was
dug under the roof. Over the years Binie has added even more concrete.
It was originally used as storage for canned goods that the family "put
up." Now it has some old keepsakes, but when huge thunderheads boil up,
it is still used for protection from tornados.
old round rockhouse was moved from the original homesite. At the end of
this photoessay is a photo of it 70 years before, with a wooden water
tank on top of it. Now it has an old metal stocktank on it. The Sawyer
family originally built it in the late 1800s.
At the old home site, the first storm cellar still remains. As many as 6 rattlers have been killed in it at a time.
The old Sawyer windmill with its wooden tower came down in 2005, after having stood over 100 years.
letter N can be seen on the upper right corner of this old surveyor's
marker that dates from sometime in the late 1800s - possibly as early as
the late 1870s. It marks the Borden/Howard County line.
When Binie got out of the pickup he started hollering and within a
minute one of five bulls in a 40 acre bull pasture came running.
Wimpy, the longhorn bull lives in a different pasture.
Binie White had to adapt the cattle feeding ring so Wimpy would not get
his horns stuck between the trusses as he fed. It was a hard lesson, for
he did get caught in it, and Binie had to torch a truss just to get him
Along the north end of the ranch one of the headwater draws of Willow
Creek was lined with old soapberry trees. "I have never seen them set
their berries," Binie reported.
the south edge of the range another of the headwater draws cut some low
bluffs in the hard red Triassic Clays. Water pools up after a rain.
In many areas of the "breaks" the red triassic clays hold bones of
pleistocene animals, as well as many buffalo bones. In this area Martha
and Binie and their family have found quite a few Indian artifacts and
an old calvalry gun (probably taken by the Indians in a battle.)
In the cutbank along the draw are deposits of a black material. Someday
an archaeologist might take a look at it and see what it really is - is
it charcoal from old campfires or wildfires, or just some form of
In this same area the plant Chimaya grows. (Use the website search
engine to learn more about Chimaya.) It was a favorite root vegetable of
Bitterweed is pretty, but deadly poison to sheep. The tight clay soil forms cracks when it is dry.
On a patch of bare red clay the seedlings of Texas geranium and the new
growth of hog potato poke up. About a week before an inch and a half of
rain had fallen, so the earthworms came to the surface and created
"castings," the small mounds of loose soil around the base of the
Algerita is common in the breaks. The shrub can be smelled from 100 feet
away when it is bloom. In May little red berries will cover it, and the
berries make a wonderful tart jelly.
In rockier soil javelina bush grows. It also has a sweet smell.
Cane cholla grows among the mesquite forest. It has red blooms in April, and the yellow fruits hang on for over a year.
In the foreground is tasajillo, the favorite food of scaled (blue)
quail. Beyond is a lote under the next mesquite. Prickly pear is a
common plant in the habitat, as well.
The bigger clump of grass is tobosa. The smaller grass is a mixture of buffalo grass and curly mesquite grass.
On the southwest corner of the ranch is the edge of the Llano Estacado.
The view looks out over the ranch, and far beyond, all the way to
At the Fairview school is an old wooden stile. The school was built in
1892 and abandoned in 1927, but used as a polling place through the
1930s. Wooden stiles are unusual in West Texas.
To the north of the school is a small cemetery with a half dozen or so graves. The land in between is kept mowed.
Peering in the old school, a person notices a "suspended" chimney. An old wood stove once hooked up to it.
Just one pane of old glass remains, giving a view of a hackberry that germinated long after the school was abandoned.
The school was built in the box and strip method of construction, without insulation. The outside was stuccoed over.
A grave site was fenced off once upon a time. A bird or a rodent planted a mesquite within the fence.
Bladderpod blooms just beyond this woman's grave - the first flower of spring over much of West Texas.
What happened to this woman's husband? What was the story?
This settler's child only lived a little over a year. Without modern
medicines and the ease of transport, the mortality rate in the early
days was much higher than it is now.
Binie White and his little wagon that he rode when his house was moved.
Look past the photo of Binie's uncle (who was born on the place) and see the old rock roundhouse and the old wooden water tank.