[Tweeters] McAllen Texas

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign15 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 4 20:37:33 PDT 2018

Hey, I've been there!

Not recently luckily. Apparently the place is currently overrun by 5 year
old's that are MS-13 members and whatnot, and dangerously disorganized ICE

Nope, I was there in 1974, calmer and gentler times and was just an
innocent birdwatcher on a long birding journey with my good buddy Curtis.It
was the last weeks of September.

We had just driven from Seattle to Brownsville Texas in a drive-away car.
Curtis, a consummate con artist, somehow talked the car guy into allowing
us ten days for what should have been a 4 day trip.The car was an Opel
Manta (sort of a poor mans 240z), Curtis used to have an Opel, and the
first thing he did was disconnect the odometer. I guess we were then
technically criminals.

Our modus operandi was to bird all morning, then drive to the next wildlife
refuge, usually arriving at night, birded all morning and on to the next.
We stopped at Leadbetter Point, then drove all night to Malhuer, then to
Bear River, spent a few days in Denver, then on to Bitter Lake. The last
very long night was across Texas, where doing 80mph on the interstate we
hit an Armadillo, which must have curled into a ball at the last minute and
sounded like we hit a concrete basketball - it sounded like half the
undercarriage of the little car got trashed. Don't know about the Armadillo
but the car was OK.

At some appropriate time we hooked up the odometer again to show some
realistic mileage and delivered the car to Brownsville early in the
morning. Then we caught a Greyhound back to McAllen, and by night were on a
local bus (an old rounded bus like they used to have in Seattle in the
60's) stopping occasionally to drop off someone on a farm road.

The bus was packed with what is currently referred to as "brown people",
all happily chattering away in high speed spanish. A pretty friendly crowd,
minding their own business.. Curtis and I the only white boys on board. But
then the bus stopped to pick up this guy at a dark spot on the road. White,
about the size of a refrigerator, dead eyes,and knife scars all over his
face, this was one bad-looking dude. The whole bus went silent and everyone
just kinda looked down at their knee. The hombre got off in a mile or two
without incident and everyone started talking again.

Curtis and I got off at our crossroad - to Santa Ana National Wildlife
Refuge - about a seven miles south hike with our backpacks pretty full. It
was a dark night, but as our eyes adjusted we noted that we were passing
through Orange groves - perfectly ripe although the skins were still green.
Feasting along the way, we came across Sugarcane fields - also ripe - and
ate plenty of that too. Off in the not so far distance a pack of big deep
voiced dogs started barking - uh oh - but we continued quietly down the
road, arriving at Santa Ana. It was dark and we set our tent up outside the

Packing up early, we were packed up before the refuge workers showed up -
all very nice folks who had no problem with us camping outside the gate,
off the road. We spent a couple of nights.

Well there we were at famous Santa Ana, although not as famous as now. No
paved trails (I just checked the website) or viewing towers, or people
either - we only saw about 4 people their each day. Yup, it was just dirt
trails through the Spanish-moss covered Texas brush.This won't be a total
laundry list of all the birds we saw, but did get to see Least Grebe, the
funky Chachalaca's, Green Jays, and loud Kiskadee Flycatchers all over the

The trails were replete with the giant webs of Golden Silk Spiders - big
gnarly things- the webs about 3 ft across and walking into one is somewhat
akin to walking into a badminton net - they are pretty strong, We were
lucky to come across several big Indigo Snakes - supposedly the longest
North American snake- coiled neatly like stacks of black garden hose.
Armadillos rooting around.

At night, by the tent, the glowing eyes of Pauraques calling from the road,
and a magic show of fireflies in the woods. Great.

Next on the agenda was Galveston, where Curt's Aunt and Uncle lived. Very
nice people, they loaned us a car and we got to see all sorts of cool birds
and the largest snake I've ever seen out side a zoo - a giant Western
Diamondback Rattlesnake which stretched nearly clear across one lane of the
main island road - nearly 8 ft long and thick. We encouraged it off the
road from a safe distance. The telephone wires along this road were loaded
with Scissor-tail Flycatchers.At night Common Skimmers lit up in the

Next stop Greenwich Connecticut and New England, but that's a whole other
story. Looking up Santa Ana, I did note a site re: The Border Wall and the
refuge, but after hearing all the outrageous news out of McAllen I was
already depressed. "I need to hear someone with some soul" I thought, so I
cranked on the Staple Singers and after a few tunes I felt a little
better,.Just sayin'.

Jeff Gibson
Port Townsend Wa
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