Theyre not entirely alone. There are also 300 head of cattle, dozens of deer, nine horses, at least one jackrabbit, untold mountain lions, swarms of large-horned sheep called aoudad hundreds of them. I ask to get the lay of the land, insomuch as one can when the land spreads out for 60,000 acres. Waynelle suggests we take a mule up to the spring and then go look at the canyon. A mule ride sounds nice a slow ride on a slow animal and certainly easier than jumping right onto a horse. Except, I quickly learn, the mule that Waynelle is referring to is not a four-legged horse-donkey hybrid. The Mule is actually a four-wheel-drive machine that looks like a golf cart built for the Terminator. As such, it is ideal for getting over the rock-strewn paths that cut through the ranchs hills and valleys.
The rocks. So many rocks. The Mule climbs. It falls. It sways like a small boat on a rough sea. Waynelle shouts over the Mules engine and the crunching rocks beneath us, People say that when God got done with creation, he took all his leftover rocks and put them out here. People might be right.
I ask her if the ranch doesnt feel like a desert island sometimes. In miles, its not far from the stores and art galleries of newly hip Marfa. But that rocky road makes it difficult, almost treacherous, to reach. Once youre here, youre really alone. How does one live like this? I wonder aloud. Waynelle wonders in return: How do you live with all those people around you all the time in the city?
Theres no time for an answer, because we are about to fall off a cliff. The Mule is 18 inches from the edge and Waynelle must maneuver. Shes searching for a good view of the canyon that cuts a swath through the ranch and runs nearly all the way to Mexico, which is in view from the ranchs hilltops. The canyon is something right out of an old Western. This whole ranch is. Plentiful cacti. Hills and valleys. Bright sunshine. No wonder Bear Grylls, from Discovery Channels Man vs. Wild, shot an episode here. He went down into that canyon, surviving for a couple of days on rattlesnake meat. Alonzo Flores, the ranchs full-time wrangler, also tasted a bite of the rattler. Tell em how that snake was, Alonzo, Red will insist later, while frying homemade tortillas for lunch. It was pretty bad, sir, Alonzo replies. I spit it out when they werent looking.
After dismounting the Mule, its time to really ride. We head for the stables.
Alonzo has to fetch the horses. I follow him up the hill behind the ranch house, where a few horses graze on a ridge in the distance. Alonzo whistles loudly. The horses eventually heed him, walking first and then galloping toward us. They get bigger. And bigger. And louder. And faster. Im going to be trampled! I scramble back down the hill. This is not a good start.
When did horses get so big? Ive been up close to horses before. Ive ridden on their backs twice. But most of my equine experience has come while gambling at racetracks, wearing a suit and tie. But even up close, those thoroughbreds didnt look as large as the ones at Old Alazan. Maybe Im getting smaller.
Alonzo saddles up. Joining him are Kevin, the Strachans son-in-law, and two of his friends, who are here to hunt aoudad. Waynelle tells me that Buck is my mount. The plan is to ride north to where a few dozen cattle are gathered and lead them down a hill a bit. Its not so much a cattle drive as it is a cattle walk-around.