long the Guadalupe River just upstream from Comfort is Center Point.
A small place but nice in every way. Through the trees along side the road we
spotted a dam and followed the road around the local city park. The first thing I
can tell you is they have some mighty agressive ducks loitering around the place. I
don't know what kicked the lid off, but about the time I piled out of Nigel the Land Rover
for some photos they came up like I had a dinner bell hanging off my neck. Okay, maybe it
was all the Moon Pie crumbs still clinging to my jeans. I held my ground and they
stopped just within feeding distance. So I took quick picture and left, probably leaving a
decent trail of crumbs behind.
A few folks were fishing above the dam while most
congregated on the low water crossing. They weren't exposed to any risk from traffic cause
the road was washed out on the other site from the recent rains.
Maybe Center Point is the center of the world.
With a name like that its likely. I remember when Hondo Crouch, The Clown Prince of
Luckenbach, explained how his community was the center of the world. With an
imiganary piece of string and a pretend globe he provided proof positive. "If you put
one end of the string on Luckenbach and wrap it around the world in any direction" he
explained, "then bring the two ends together you're back in Luckenbach."
Anyway, I was remembering that memory when I was snatched back to the world most folks
hang out in.
"Look Camp Verde is that-a-way!" Ms
Intrepit exclaimed. "Want to check it out?"
I had about a millisecond to ponder the situation.
I don't know about you but I wear out a little time thinking, otherwise you might
as well give up brainwork altogether.
"Sure," I said when we already on the other
side of the turnoff.
Back when I published Enchanted Rock Magazine,
with Ms. Intrepid's help in its later years, we printed an article on the "Camels of Camp Verde". Neither
of us had ever laid eyes on the place so it seemed like a good idea. You oughta
know, just in case you haven't already figured it out by now, that publishers and editors
don't need to know squat about the stories they turn into print. It's all about
punctuation, grammar, column inches and the occasional fact.
Along the way we passed one of those "Guard Rail
Damage Ahead" signs. Now I ask you, what fool would think, "I ain't running into
that guardrail. It might not hold and I could have an accident."
Or, "I ain't running into that guardrail. The
poor thing has already suffered enough."
Or, "Ain't that a damn waste of taxpayer's
If it's such a risk, where's the highway crew?
What's the point? Maybe what the sign is really saying is, "We done spent too much
money on broke signs to fix this."
If I digress its cause every now and again I get
things on my mind that stick like seed ticks and itch mightily. You just gotta scratch
Anyway, as we neared Camp Verde the whole landscape
turned greener than green. Up next to these fields, the verdant hills of Ireland (which I
once saw firsthand) are kinda greyed out.
About Camp Verde. There's a store and, well, that's about
it. But what a store. I've seen more than my share of gift shops, tourist
traps and roadside attractions. But the Camp Verde Store is, in my opinion, about as
classy and interesting as they get. You don't know whether you're in a historic
museum, art gallery, candy shop or antique store. They have a little of everything
and it's all great.
In fact we weren't there a minute or so before Ms.
Intrepid, who pinches pennies till they beg for mercy, came up to me all excited like.
"Look what I found! The Roads of Texas."
What she was clutching was the best, and most hard to
find, Texas road map book that ever figured into print. You'll find every county
road in the state identified. There are even roads marked that hardly qualify as
deer trails. Now, we already had one of those maps in Nigel the Land Rover, but it
was given to me about a decade ago by one of the fellers who put it together. Mine
was a "working copy" with misspelled names and such marked for changes. In
some instances it was about as reliable as my memory.
I know that us getting lost has always been part of
the charm and adventure on these trips, but trust me. In my hands the odds hardly
change at all.
Back to the store. Just as soon as our eyes lit
on one incredible item they'd be pulled to another. From the pressed tin ceilings
and its Tiffany ceiling fixtures down to the 1875 candy cases the store is a stroll into
I hadn't thought about
Raggedy Ann or Charlie McCarthy in decades, but there they were. And more neat chain-saw
sculptures than you can shake a tree at, not to mention numerous elegant Indian
They even had piles of tiny "Lucky Pigs" which I had all intention of buying
before I forgot to remember I needed one. (Luck is always been kinda shy around me
and just maybe there was something to the claim. They were $1.25 each, which I
figure is just about bottom dollar on the price of Luck."
We visited for awhile with Mary Swindle, one of your
kinder, gentler proprietors before we lit out for the headwaters. I asked if she
ever went on the Internet but she said she didn't. "We don't even have calculators
here," she said while ringing up the price of the map book on one of the finest
looking old timey cash registers I ever laid eyes on.
Time was most everything was made to serve a purpose,
please the eye and last forever. Today, things are mostly made to amuse, they all pretty
much the same and some are broke before you buy them
Well, there I go again, flying off my story.
Back in Nigel the Land Rover I took a good look at
the map and it seemed then like we'd never reach my pretend starting point.
PAGE 1: THE UPPER GUADALUPE / PAGE 2: COMFORT
PAGE 3: CAMP VERDE / PAGE 4: THE HEADWATERS
PAGE 5: DOWNSTREAM / THE MAP
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