The Band of Fathers Cabin Build

A little more than seven years ago I started Band of Fathers, a group for men interested in embracing God’s vision for biblical manhood. Our Band of Fathers are committed to doing life in community with one another because alone is dangerous. From the start we committed ourselves to doing three things: shared study, shared mission, and shared adventure.

In addition to meeting every Wednesday for a time of study around the dinner table, we have also engaged in shared mission by serving people in need and shared adventure in the great outdoors. We have summited Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, and have enjoyed camping, hiking, biking, and paddling adventures. I look forward to meeting with my Band of Fathers every week.

At a recent meeting, the guys in the group gave me a card and asked me to read it before starting our lesson. My eyes got wider as I read the card. After I read it I looked up in disbelief. The guys had pooled their resources to bless Cheryl and me with a guest cabin at our place in Big Bend. They would buy the materials and build our guest cabin on site.

A little more than a month later the guest cabin has become a reality.

This past week several of the guys purchased the materials and transported them to the build site. Cheryl and I arrived at our cabin a couple of days early to prepare for their arrival. The convoy pulled onto the property at mid-afternoon on Friday and the guys wasted no time in off-loading and staging all of the materials.

The next order of business was to measure and prepare the site and to mark the locations for eight piers. We drilled down three feet and set each pier in concrete. The following morning, half the guys set the ledger boards and then secured the floor joists and screwed the decking in place. The rest of the guys framed the front and back walls of the cabin and set them in place.

Once the front and back walls were secured, the next step was to add the roof rafters, roof decking, tar paper, and finally the metal roofing and trim. When the roof was completed some of the guys framed the side walls while others set the siding and the skirting around the perimeter of the cabin. As soon as the siding was in place, we painted the exterior walls and trim.

On the final morning we installed the exterior windows and door trim, finished painting the exterior walls, and installed the nine-light door and hardware. In a span of 48-hours the cabin build was complete. Unbelievable — this was nothing short of an old-fashioned Amish barn-raising.

At the conclusion of the build, the guys used a Sharpie to write encouraging words and Scripture passages on the inside walls. We prayed together and officially named the cabin the BOF (Band of Fathers) Cabin — a place where family and friends can enjoy periods of rest and that will serve as a base camp for outdoor adventures.

In the months to come Cheryl and I will finish the inside of the cabin a little bit at a time. We will also add solar panels and batteries, gutters and additional water catchment, and a front deck and shade awning held up by rough cut cedar posts.

Cheryl and I are beyond grateful for my Band of Fathers and the generosity they have shown us. Even though only half the guys were able to make the trip, all of the guys in the group contributed to make this dream a reality. The new guest cabin will always be a reminder of the kindness of friends and the goodness of God.

I am blessed to do life in community with my Band of Fathers. I treasure their friendship and look forward to future adventures with them and more time around the campfire under the magnificent Big Bend sky.

Working Remotely at the Cabin

With more international travel on my horizon, I was happy to get away for a few days to work remotely at the cabin — and to just plain work hard at the cabin. The windshield time on the road to Big Bend and the solitude at the cabin have done me a lot of good.

I set aside time to work on writing and editing two upcoming publications for our men’s ministry and our missions ministry. I am excited about our new Men of Character devotional guide that will go to press soon. This is a follow-up piece to our Men of Courage guide that is available in seven languages and has now been used by thousands of men around the globe.

I also got tons of work done on our 2023 missions ministry piece that will be printed and mailed to homes of our members at the end of November. Really exciting stuff as we work with our partners to cover every home and every nation in prayer in 2023.

I also completed some fun projects at the cabin — always enjoy that!

I made more Texas-themed chairs for sitting around our fire ring on dark and starry Big Bend nights. These sturdy chairs are fun and easy to make and very comfy. I enjoy experimenting with variations on the Lone Star and Texas flag colors. There is something so relaxing about sitting in these chairs and talking around the campfire.

I took some time drive in to Terlingua Ghost Town to have lunch with my neighbor Chris Smith. Chris lives a couple of miles from us and kindly keeps an eye on things when I am away. My favorite meal at the High Sierra is their bacon cheeseburger — one of the top burgers in Brewster County. Definitely worth checking out the High Sierra if you are ever in this remote neck of the woods.

I also added another Blink security camera at the cabin for a total of six cameras. I can now remotely enjoy views all around my cabin from anywhere in the world. I have to confess that I check in daily to watch the sun rise over Nine Point Mesa and then set behind the silhouetted mountains to the west of the cabin.

As we do on every visit to the cabin, we enjoyed food and fellowship with several friends here. It is always fun to reconnect with our Big Bend friends and to get caught up on local happenings. We all sat around the campfire until late.

I was happy to find that because of the monsoon rains, all of our water catchment tanks are full — giving us a total of 2,075 gallons of water. And, the desert has never looked so green and vibrant. The little ocotillo plants that I put in the ground more than a year ago finally came to life. These plants flank our gate and are small now, but I can’t wait to see them grow. They are going to look magnificent.

One final project I had to start on was digging a 45-foot long swale and berm in a low spot on our north tract. This will help us to capture more rain water as part of our permaculture plan. Later on we will add selected seeds of native plants along the berm. And then I will connect this swale with our other 150-foot long swale and extend it an additional 25-feet to the East.

It’s hard to believe that Cheryl and I are now in our fourth year of our off-grid adventure. And what an amazing journey it has become. We have learned so much. And we know that there is still more to learn as we enjoy this place and continue to find refreshment under the magnificent Big Bend sky.

A Solo Trip to the Cabin

Since my last trip to the cabin I have logged ten international flights that have taken me to Israel, Turkey, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Somaliland. I absolutely love being out among the nations, but I don’t mind telling you that spending so much time in airports can make me long for windshield time in my Tundra.

This past week I borrowed a trailer from my friend James to haul cedar posts and rain barrels to the cabin and hit the open road. Ten hours later I pulled up to my gate and breathed in the welcoming view of Nine Point Mesa and Black Hill to the East.

Knowing I only had a few days at the cabin, I planned my time well so that I could complete my projects while enjoying the views that make my heart happy. And, of course, I always look forward to reconnecting with good neighbors and friends who live here year round.

My first project was to utilize all of the scrap wood in our container to build some comfortable Texas-themed chairs for the fire ring adjacent to our shade structure. These chairs are fun to build, comfortable, and look great. I built three of them on the first day and a fourth on Sunday afternoon. They came in handy on Saturday evening when all of the neighbors came over for a hot dogs and s’mores cookout.

My second project was to add rain catchment to our new shade structure. I opted to use five rain barrels. I positioned them behind the half wall of the structure so that they would not obstruct our view to the north.

Once I leveled and lined up the barrels I added bulkhead fittings and linked them all together. These barrels will give us an additional 275 gallons of storage, bringing our total catchment capacity to 2075 gallons.

My final project was to set cedar posts on the new five-acre tract that we purchased last year. I managed to get in twenty-two of the fifty posts in the ground. As with our other fence, I am installing a cedar post every fifty feet and t-posts every ten feet. Once I have all of the posts in place I will stretch field fencing topped with a strand of barbed wire.

I did get to enjoy good fellowship with my neighbors. I joined several of them for pizza at Long Draw Pizza in Terlingua. The owners, Andy and Mallory, are gracious hosts and make the best pizza in Brewster County and beyond. On Saturday, everyone came over to the cabin for a cookout. And on Sunday after church I enjoyed a delicious steak lunch with my friends Mark and Michelle. We are blessed with good friends and neighbors here.

An added bonus was a magnificent rain storm on Sunday afternoon. Being in the middle of one of these storms with strong winds accented by thunder and lightening is an amazing experience. After my first desert storm years ago I had a better understanding of John Denver’s lyric, “You fill up my senses like a storm in the desert.”

The storm added lots of water to the new rain barrels and filled the 150-foot swale that I completed last year. We will add more swales in strategic locations to capture and keep more water on the property as part of our permaculture plan. The cherry on top was a beautiful rainbow stretching from Nine Point Mesa to Red Bluff.

And now, it’s time to make the long drive back to the suburbs and back to the office on Tuesday. I will return refreshed after having my senses filled by the beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert and the magnificent night skies in this wide part of Texas. I am really glad to have made this solo trip to cabin.

Halley’s Comet and The End of the World

My grandfather was 66 years-old when I was born. I was at his bedside when he died 30 years later. The years between my birth and his death were magical years for me. His influence in my life was significant, to be sure.

My grandfather and I spent a lot of time together. And he told me stories, lots of them. He loved to read and he understood how to use stories to whip up bowls full of childhood curiosity. I couldn’t get enough.

As I got older he gave me books, lots of them. Books bulging with stories that begged to be read at a time when television was beginning to bewitch children. Books that introduced me to wonderful characters like Androcles and the Lion, Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver, and others who lived in times and worlds beyond my own.

Perhaps best of all were the stories he shared from his own childhood. By the time I came along he had already lived an amazing life.

Felipe Garcia was born in 1893 on a ranch in Duval County. He worked as a cowhand on the George West Ranch, attended business college in San Antonio, and became a real estate developer.

He sold a car to Pancho Villa, played a key role in recruiting Hispanics to serve in the First World War, and started the first Hispanic Boy Scout Troop in Duval and Hidalgo counties. He served on the Mission city council and in his later years was recognized as the longest and oldest serving city commissioner in Texas.

There is so much more to tell, but I will do that a bit at a time as I begin a journey to blog about his story.

I recently started reading through his personal journal, two notebooks bulging with single-spaced lines hammered on to the pages in uneven Courier font using two index fingers on the lettered stems of his Royal typewriter.

I was delighted to read one of the stories he had shared with me more than once when I was a kid — the 1910 appearance of Halley’s Comet. This is the story in his own words:

Ranch after ranch, men, women and children were very much upset about Halley’s Comet being so clearly visible for several nights in a row. The fantastic stories about what was going to happen when its tail would hit the earth. All these scenes took place, and one could observe how many of these simple folk would re-act. To think about the earth being destroyed was no fun at all.

I remember that the night the comet was supposed to strike the earth several of us boys made our beds in a wagon that we may be able to see what was going to happen. That early morning was supposed to be the time that the comet would hit the ground. We were a disappointed group, we did see its tail probably bigger than before but this lasted only a short time, as the sky began to darken with gulf clouds which obliterated the scene. So this year of 1910 was not the end of the world.

It was also the general conversation among old pioneer residents that there would be a time that the earth would be destroyed because people were beginning to fly contrary to the wishes of Almighty God.

Whatever the anguish, anxiety and suspense Halley’s Comet bought to this area’s inhabitants, the news of its failure to destroy the earth was accepted calmly and reverently. I was glad that the suspense had ended to our favor.

Halley’s Comet makes its rounds about every 75 years or so. When my grandfather was a teenager, the comet streaked across the night skies in April 1910. This was also the first time in human history that the comet was photographed.

Interestingly, a French astronomer named Camille Flammarion claimed that gas from the tail of the comet “would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet.” That claim went viral and so, even in rural Duval County, folks believed that the appearance of the comet spelled the end of the world.

Like my grandfather and his friends, I am glad that the world is still here. And like the pioneer residents of Duval County, it would be wise to not behave in ways contrary to the wishes of God.

More stories from my grandfather’s journal to come. Stay tuned.

The Pace of Progress Off the Grid

We started our off-grid adventure four years ago with nothing but raw land surrounded by some of the most magnificent views in the Big Bend of Texas. Although we had no intention of developing our property for full-time living, we nevertheless wanted a comfortable and inviting place to visit several times a year.

Four years later we have a cozy cabin powered by solar panels, almost two-thousand gallons of water catchment capacity, a workshop, and a recently added shade structure that we are developing into an outdoor kitchen. Looking back, it has all happened slowly — one small project at a time.

One of the first things I did when we started our off-grid adventure was to get a little black book — a place to scribble notes, sketch ideas, make materials lists, and record our progress. This simple step has made a huge difference because it has kept me focused on planning and completing one project at a time.

Developing anything off the grid requires careful planning, in large part because if you forget something it is a long way to the hardware store. And because we only visit our cabin a few times a year, we can’t afford to waste time by postponing a project because we failed to plan accordingly.

We have learned that redundancy in regard to tools and supplies is important to making progress. This usually translates into buying an extra coupler or an additional box of screws or extra lumber or whatever the case may be according to the project at hand. Over time I have built a good inventory of extra items — the things that I know we need to stay on track with our projects.

Although we like to visit our cabin to relax and unwind, we also want to take advantage of our time there to make a little more progress on the development of our property. It is a long way from our driveway in the suburbs to the gate to our property so we always plan on completing at least one or more projects every time we visit.

This past week we added pavers to the area under our shade structure. Because dust is an ongoing reality of off-grid life in the Chihuahuan Desert, every little thing we can do to mitigate the dust is a win.

I ordered three pallets of pavers from McCoy’s Building Supply in Alpine and had them delivered to the property. In preparation, I leveled the area and ran a line of mason twine from post to post to guide the installation. I then notched the corner pavers to lock them in around the corner posts and then started the installation.

Getting the first row of pavers perfectly level and in line was important to avoid having to deal with cumulative error on the next rows. This was the tedious part of the process but worth the extra attention to get it right.

All in all it took us a day and a half to install the pavers. Having knee pads made a huge difference since I spent most of the time on my knees while Cheryl handed me the pavers. I had to cut the entire final row of pavers and was happy when I laid the last one in place.

Once we completed the installation, we swept sand between the joints to lock everything in place and then added a line of gravel around the perimeter. I am thinking about adding a decorative border around the perimeter sometime in the future. We’ll see. And then the final step in this phase will be to add an inch or two of gravel all around the shade structure and cabin.

Spending a day and a half, mostly on my knees, setting one paver at a time in place reminded me that this is how we have been able to make so much progress over the past four years. Like eating an elephant, it all happens one small bite at a time! That is the pace of progress off the grid.

Boys, Mentors, and Adventures

When Cheryl and I bought our little slice of heaven in the Chihuahuan Desert, we dreamed of developing our property not just for ourselves but for others as well. In particular, we talked about hosting at-risk boys and offering them the opportunity to experience outdoor adventures, including doing work projects that require cooperation.

My friend Ryan Orbin, the Director of the Hangar Unity Center in Brookshire, and I have had lots of conversations about how to help at-risk boys become good men. He works for an organization called Eyes On Me, Inc — a ministry that exists to mentor, disciple, and serve at-risk youth and their families.

Earlier this year, Ryan approached me about hosting a Spring Break adventure at our place, including a work day, for boys from Brookshire. I immediately agreed. The Hangar has a great mentoring program that is making a difference in the lives of young boys. Some of these boys are one decision away from becoming a statistic. But thanks to Ryan and his team, things are changing.

Motivational speaker Josh Shipp knows what it means to be a kid at risk of becoming a statistic. Thankfully, one caring adult made the difference in his journey. Josh champions the belief that every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story. Josh is absolutely right in his observation. One caring adult willing to mentor a kid can make all the difference.

Cheryl and I have waited with anticipation for Spring Break. We headed to the cabin this past Sunday to get everything ready for the Brookshire Boys Big Bend Adventure.

The boys arrived late Tuesday afternoon as temperatures started to cool. The first order of business was to set up camp. For some of these boys, this was their first time to pitch and sleep in a tent. My friends James and Selim, members of my Band of Fathers group, came along to prepare meals.

We spent each evening around the campfire. My friends Doug, Ba, and Bobby are three of the men who meet with the boys week after week. I was so glad they joined the boys for their week of adventure. All of these men shared good insight into biblical manhood each evening around the campfire.

On their first night around the campfire, we gave each of the boys a hydration backpack and lots of outdoor gear. Each of the mentors explained the reason they should carry these items on outdoor adventures and then used those items as a metaphor for how to deal with life’s challenges.

We planned two days of hiking adventures for the boys at Big Bend National Park. The weather was perfect for hiking. Our first adventure outing was to Santa Elena Canyon, one of the park’s signature vistas. We hiked along the Rio Grande River to the end of the trail.

From Santa Elena we headed to the Hot Springs where the boys soaked in the natural hot spring pool and then swam in the Rio Grande. Their laughter filled the air and it was hard getting them to leave.

We set aside day two for work projects that required a high level of cooperation. We divided the boys into three teams. Team Doug and Ba was assigned the task of pounding in t-posts along the northern border of our property. They learned how to use a level to check for plumb and mason’s twine to check the height of each post.

Team Bobby was assigned the task of clearing brush for a new fence. The lesson here was to learn the importance of removing things that prevent us from making progress. Clearing fence line is the first step to putting in posts and stretching wire.

Team James and Selim was assigned the task of installing a new gate on our northwest tract. The boys learned how to measure the proper distances between holes and then learned to use an auger and a post hole digger. They set the posts and then set the gate.

At the end of the day our campfire conversation was about the value of working cooperatively and leaving a signature of excellence in all they do in life. Ryan reminded the boys that the work they had done would now be a part of their legacy. Several of the boys commented on how they felt really good about what they had learned and the work they had done.

Day three took the boys back to the park where they hiked the window trail and then hiked to the balanced rock — two more iconic locations at the park. Some of the boys said that they learned to push past some of their fears about the outdoors. We reminded them that in both outdoor adventures and in life, alone is dangerous. Men often get into trouble when they do life alone.

Our final night around the campfire turned into a share time as the boys and their mentors talked about our time under the Big Bend sky. We concluded the evening with prayer and then a final night in the tents.

The boys headed back to Brookshire this morning. The place is quiet again but not the same. As I look around I see part of a legacy left here by young boys on a journey to manhood. The boys returned home a little wiser, better friends, and with the understanding that God does indeed have good plans for each of them. Cheryl and I can’t wait to host the next group.

Our Chihuahuan Desert Kitchen

The desert is not for everyone. I understand that. But, for whatever reason, I am attracted to the beauty of the desert like a moth to a porch light. It’s not any one thing in particular but instead several things conspiring together to draw me back again and again.

I like the long views, the amazing air, the heat of the day and the cool of the night, the first light of dawn and the signature of the sunset, dark skies crowded with stars and the silence of the night.

The desert is a spiritual place for me — one where I can practice neglected monastic disciplines like silence and solitude and simplicity. When I am away from noise and distractions that swirl around me like a desert dust devil then I can discern God’s voice a little easier.

I enjoy introducing others to the desert — the Chihuahuan Desert in particular. Our little off-grid cabin sits outside of Big Bend National Park and gives us easy access to some of the most magnificent landscapes in the Lone Star State. Cheryl and I have become amateur guides to friends who come to camp at our place.

We have been working hard to make our place as welcoming as possible. Every time we visit our cabin we invite our desert dwelling neighbors over for eats around the campfire. Always fun. To that end we added two fire pits and picnic tables that have seen lots of use.

We also added a shade structure to shelter an outdoor cooking area for those nights when the neighbors come over. On this trip we started and made a lot of progress on the outdoor cooking area under the structure.

I ordered our supplies from McCoy’s in Alpine and had them delivered directly to our place. The delivery arrived on time. Cheryl and I measured and marked and then staged supplies under the awning.

We started by setting the posts along the north side, taking great care to make sure every post was plumb. We then measured four-feet up and checked for level, marked and cut the posts.

Once the posts were cut to measure, we added the stringers to tie them all together to form the framework for the corrugated tin wall. We then painted all of the framework before cutting and installing the panels. I have to say that we love the look of the wall.

We had time to add one of the countertop areas. I took old reclaimed maple floor boards from a gym demo and made a butcher-block type countertop. I think it turned out pretty good. I then cut an oval to receive a galvanized pail sink. On our next trip I will add the drain and run the gray water line to a nearby mesquite.

The final step was painting and installing a Texas-flag themed backsplash. Love the way this all came together. Next steps will include adding a counter top to the opposite side that will be used as a serving area. And then we will add a fire place in the center between the two countertop areas.

We want for our Chihuahuan Desert kitchen to be a place where neighbors, friends, and family can enjoy good food and fellowship in view of the surrounding mesas and mountains and under the canopy of the Big Bend sky. Just another reason why the desert is a special place for me and for Cheryl.

Ending and Beginning at the Cabin

Whenever folks ask me how long it takes us to get from our home in the suburbs to our cabin in Big Bend, I usually reply by saying it only takes us 8 hours and 60 minutes. While that may seem like a long trip to some, Cheryl and I have grown accustomed to the drive — making only four stops along the way.

We generally leave our home in Katy at 6:00 AM and travel to Luling for breakfast at Buc-ee’s — stop number 1. From Buc-ee’s we head through San Antonio and on to Sonora where we take Exit 404 to get fuel — stop number 2.

From the Pilot gas station in Sonora we drive the short distance to Ozona to have lunch at the Dairy Queen — stop number 3. From Ozona we drive toward Fort Stockton where we turn south toward Alpine — stop number 4.

About 30 minutes or so south of Alpine we pass Elephant Mountain on our left and then a few minutes later Kokernot Mesa on our right before Nine Point Mesa comes into view. Our cabin is just west of Nine Point. Although it looks close at that point, it is still another half-hour away.

After enjoying the holidays with our family, Cheryl and I packed up and headed to our cabin to spend the last days of 2021 and to welcome the new year. We always have a list of projects big and small but really just wanted to get away to enjoy the beauty of this wide part of the Lone Star State.

We arrived to find that our neighbors Joe and Lisa had complete our new shade structure. We have fun plans for this space so stay tuned. We decided to celebrate with a cookout under the awning, so we invited a few of the neighbors to join us. It was good to reunite with friends who are just as captivated by the beauty of this place as we are.

The next day I prepped the iron posts and purlins on the shade structure for painting and spent the better part of a day going up and down a ladder to apply black matte finish oil base paint. I don’t like painting with oil base but do love the results. It was worth the messiness.

Cheryl was excited to try her hand at Dutch oven cooking. Using a recipe from a Dutch oven cookbook she received from our friend Karen Attaway, she cooked her first Dutch oven meal — a baked fideo dish that was absolutely delicious. Looking forward to more Dutch oven meals.

I piddled with some scrap wood in our container shop and made some Texas-themed key holders. I hung the wooden Texas flag craft that I made. I also hung one of my favorite pics that I took a few months ago along the magnificent River Road between Lajitas and Presidio. This pic hangs over our bed and is just like looking out a window.

A few months ago when our son Jonathan visited the cabin, we started digging a swale as a part of our permaculture plan for the property. The swale will allow us to capture and keep more ground water on the property during the monsoon season. We extended the swale by about another 25-feet. We’ll add some native rocks and stones later to mimic a dry stream bed.

The days and nights this week have been magnificent. No air conditioning or heat necessary in the cabin. However, as I write this post the temps are expected to drop into the upper 20’s so we might have to turn on the heater later tonight. Thankfully our cabin is well-insulated.

Cheryl and I have enjoyed quiet evenings listening to music, reading, and savoring the beyond-beautiful night skies here. Tomorrow we will join our friends for worship at Terlingua Ranch Community Church, enjoy lunch at the Bad Rabbit Cafe — our Sunday routine — and then get ready to leave for Katy early Monday morning.

We remain grateful for this place that is so soothing for our souls and embraces us with the amazing beauty of God’s handiwork in the Chihuahuan Desert. The words of another describe how we feel about our little place in the desert: From the outside looking in folks don’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it. Thanks for following our adventure.

The Homer Wilson Ranch Trail

Big Bend National Park is an adventure-seekers paradise. From short day hikes to longer thru-hikes or off-road four-wheeling to night time star gazing, Big Bend is a Texas treasure that just keeps on giving.

Those interested in learning about the history that preceded the official establishment of the national park in 1944 can roam among the ruins of some of the original homesteads in this wide part of Texas. These sites are accessible by way clearly defined trails, mostly half a mile or less in distance one way.

The Homer Wilson Ranch Trail (or Blue Creek Trail) is one of my personal favorites. The Homer Wilson Blue Creek Ranch was established in 1929 and was one of the largest in Texas, comprising more than 28,000 acres — home to 4,000 sheep and 2,500 goats. The ranch was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

The trailhead is located at a scenic overlook a little less than 8 miles from the northern end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. This overview offers sweeping vistas of Blue Creek Valley — once the operational center of the Homer Wilson Ranch. If you look carefully you will see what remains of the old line camp on the bank of Blue Creek.

The trail leading to the old line camp is an easy downhill stroll that crosses two drainages and then climbs to the house on the bank of Blue Creek. For many years, this ranch house was home to Wilson’s foreman, Lott Felts.

Although abandoned in 1945, what remains of the ranch house is more than enough to give visitors an idea of what ranch life must have been like in the days before the establishment of the national park. The house was well built, featuring a flagstone floor, high ceilings, a centrally located fireplace, and a covered porch.

Hidden in the surrounding brush are the remains of a circular corral for the training of young horses, a rainwater cistern, a dipping vat and chute for sheep and goats, and a few other remnants of ranch life. The entire area is a time capsule worth exploring.

The half-mile hike back to the parking area is all uphill but not difficult at all. When hiking in Big Bend, always remember to take a hydration pack or bottled water — even on short hikes. If you are interested in hikes that will help you to learn about the history of Big Bend National Park, definitely include the Homer Wilson Ranch Trail hike on your day-adventures agenda.

From Curbside Trash to Cabin Treasure

I have always been attracted to broken things. I think it’s because I enjoy looking beyond the actualities in something tossed aside to consider the possibilities. Giving broken and discarded items a second chance can yield some pretty cool results.

A couple of weeks ago I drove a friend home from a meeting and noticed a large trash pile in front of his neighbor’s home. Among the bulging bags of garbage was a yellow bench that looked to be in pretty good shape — at least it did from a distance.

I walked over, picked up the bench, and put it in the bed of my truck. When I got it home and did a closer inspection, I discovered all of the reasons why the bench had been tossed to the curb.

All of the joints were wobbly and weak. The mortise and tenons on one of the cross-braces had rotted away. The paint job was a globby-bad mess and there was considerable dry-rot on one of the armrests.

No worries!

I could not wait to get the bench to the cabin to start the repair and restoration process. I made a list of things I would need and only had to buy some wood dowels and plastic wood filler for this project. I had everything else in my shop. This project would cost me about $15.00 total.

The first thing I did was to address all of the loose joints. I cleaned and sanded these areas and then drilled holes and glued in reinforcing poplar dowels. I then reattached the horizontal cross-brace using poplar dowels. I clamped everything together to give the glue time to dry.

The next step was to address the dry rot in the armrest. I applied layers of pliable plastic wood and built the area up. Once it dried I sanded the area down, following the shape of the armrest. With this final step complete it was time to paint the bench.

I wanted to keep with the Texas-themed outdoor furniture at the cabin, so I painted the bench red and then added a small lone star medallion in the center of the backrest. I used the official Texas flag shades of red, white, and blue.

I love the finished product. We will keep this bench on the small front porch of the cabin where it fits perfectly. Cheryl and I enjoy sitting on the porch in the evenings, waiting for the stars to populate the Big Bend night sky. We will enjoy sitting on our salvaged bench that only took a few dollars and a few hours to be transformed from curbside trash into another little cabin treasure.