Much to my amazement, in November of 2006, I found myself returning to the state of Texas, a place I’d bid a firm adios to many years before. This time around I brought a more mature point of view and was prepared to find only the best. Our six months at the Caverns of Sonora was a time of many contrasts. Dry, dusty, heat, and typhoon like storms; meanness and heartbreak, generosity and laughter; disregard for material things and respect for the wonders around us.
Caverns Of Sonora
We were lucky enough to begin working at Caverns of Sonora (Texas) on November 1st. It ranks among the top 4 most beautifully decorated show caves in America (the exact pecking order depends upon which one you are working for at the time). Only a few miles off I-10 at exit 392, they also have a small very affordable, campground with water and electric available for RVers and tenters too.
Like everything created by God, Caverns of Sonora is unique; every cave is different. There is a reason to visit as many as possible to see what Nature has done with the same idea in various places. Visitors who stopped by weren’t always sure they wanted to go on the tour. “We just went to Carlsbad.”, they’d tell us. I’d answer that “Carlsbad Cavern’s really big thing is that it’s a REALLY big thing! While the Caverns of Sonora are a more intimate work of nature and 90% active. You need to see both caverns to appreciate their individual beauty.”
My personal favorite part of the cavern is the Christmas Tree Room. Hundreds of tree-shaped formations, decorated with sparkling crystals, make me imagine snow fairies might be hiding behind each one.
Tears in the Desert
One thing the Caverns of Sonora had to show off was it’s trademark Butterfly. A rare formation made up of two fishtail-shaped helictites, it was a strange, translucent, and wonder filled thing. The Butterfly took thousands of years to form and brought breathtaking moments to thousands of people who stood in awe of it’s delicacy.
And then in a few seconds, just before Thanksgiving, it was destroyed forever by a selfish, thoughtless, ignorant vandal who thought nothing of snapping off and taking away a wing for the heck of it! This supposedly privileged young person, attending a prestigious college, apparently never learned the first thing about respect for what has been given to us all to enjoy. Where were his parents when he should have been learning that we are all the stewards of these natural gifts?
The Caverns of Sonora has scores of sights more awesome than the butterfly, and they will not suffer from it’s loss - any more than we will all suffer from the loss of one more bit of beauty in an increasingly unbeautiful time.
Bob Cats and Pea Hens and Armadillos-Oh My!
Clancy discovered and protected us from rattlers on 3 occasions in California, whimpered longingly at the sight of horses as we drove, survived vicious attacks by Smokey the Guard Cat at Moaning Cavern. She was even able to withstand the unstoppable energy of Mystic the Wonder Pup, son #2’s terrier mix, while trying to nap in the shade, For the most part, however, she had led a fairly sheltered Second Life of her own since joining our adventures.
Then we arrived at The Caverns of Sonora! In a dog’s world a terrific place to be is where there are new sights, sounds, and smells. At the beautiful Caverns of Sonora, Clancy was afforded an embarrassment of riches!
Our site was directly across the road from a solar powered deer feeder that spewed corn out for the gentle creatures twice a day. At dawn the release popped open and Clancy jumped up on our bed. She managed to push the accordion shade up a fraction of an inch with her nose and one of us would oblige her and open it all the way. Then she sat on our pillows and watched Deer TV on her wide screen.
Big Jim and I never tired of watching them either, and one morning I saw a doe teach her baby how to get a drink from a frozen water station right behind our Adventurer.
“Put your front paw on the hard water. Now raise it and bring it down sharply. Ha ha, I’m sorry, Sweetie, did I forget to say you might get your nose wet?”
We tried to let Clancy have some freedom, and at first allowed her to run around with the other 4 resident dogs who had grown up on the ranch surrounding the caverns. Unfortunately, she simply couldn’t figure out why the deer wouldn’t stick around and play tag and she’d follow them far out onto the range. There she took the opportunity to chase sheep and goats being raised for wool. She went wild with the exhilaration that a good chase involved - until she ran into a cactus, anyway. There were also cows, and her beloved horses but chasing any of these animals was simply against the rules. We also worried because there were snares set all over the ranch for bobcats and we were afraid if one of the cats didn’t get her, the traps would.
Gophers, prairie dogs, mice, squirrels, and even a skunk were considered fair game in her mind. Luckily they’d been there longer than she and knew the bolt holes so she never did catch them.
Then there were the armadillos! These funny looking armored rodents drove her crazy. She quickly learned to avoid the pair of pea hens that spent their days on the porch as these birds, which were bigger than Clancy, would, when backed into a wall, simply turn around and chase her! It was funny however, when they would fly up to the roof top to see her take a flying leap expecting to go with them. She finally met her match when she cornered a porcupine! At that point and since the only command Clancy simply ignores is “come”, we reluctantly attached her to a tether once more.
Meanwhile, back at the cave, Big Jim was delving ever deeper into cavern lore and soaking up all the experience he could at the feet of Bill S. one of the smartest and most knowledgeable men I’ve had the privilege of knowing. (he is also one of the all time great raconteurs and practical jokers as well as one of the best BBQ cooks in the southwest! ) Bill is the center of a great crew with a heart as big as Texas. His goal in life is to be a Desert Rat and spend his time exploring caves and studying artifacts.
Living in Sonora amongst some of the most open and honest people I’ve ever known, gave me a new appreciation for the Great State of Texas. There is little pretense and each person is welcomed for who he is rather than what he is.
See Y’all down the road!