Traditionally I support writers and writing by having guest writers come on this site. Mary Black has written a wonderful place-based novel which she talks about below. I am a great fan of Paleolithic fiction! That world is our home, our heritage, who we are...
Guest Blogger: Mary S. Black
I fell in love with the Lower Pecos region of Texas more than 20 years ago. It is dry and rugged, and can seem lonely and little travelled. The region is centered on the mouth of the Pecos River, where it enters the Rio Grande, about 50 miles west of Del Rio, Texas. There is one two-lane highway where semi-trailer trucks drive 80 mph from San Antonio to San Diego day and night. The Southern Pacific Railroad runs parallel to the highway, mostly, and long freight trains snake across the desert. Hardly anyone stops to spend time here on purpose.
Yet for those who do, new worlds await. This land that looks so forbidding, with parched, rocky uplands, and steep stone canyons that pass in the blink of an eye when you’re on the highway, has nurtured animals and people for thousands of years. The region is famous for its archaeological sites and abundance of complex, abstract rock art made by ancient human beings so long ago. Who made those paintings? What were they trying to tell us?
Those questions spurred me to write Peyote Fire, Shaman of the Canyons, to bring those ancient people to life. In it, Deer Cloud, a young man who lived 4,000 years ago, is painting the stories of the gods on the wall of a rock shelter when the death of his grandfather changes his life. I did extensive research to portray the life ways of these people accurately, and to understand, perhaps a little, their world view. In their legends, human beings and animals were once one. Their knowledge of animals and plants was subtle and huge (especially compared to someone like me), and their respect for the living world knew no bounds. They knew how to survive in ways modern people can barely comprehend, and through that illustrate the ingenuity of all human beings.
Today the area is popular for deer hunting and fishing on Lake Amistad, which was formed about 40 years ago by damming a section of the Rio Grande. Trophy hunters come for white-tailed deer and bass. But ranchers have given up raising cattle anymore, it’s just too dry. Long ago there used to be buffalo, especially in wet years, as old bones attest. The bones of more than 800 bison at the bottom of a cliff in a small box canyon are evidence of a huge buffalo jump several thousand years ago. Further under the cliff are bones of saber-toothed tiger and mammoth. The land supported these animals and many others along with the people who stalked them, and painted stories for future generations to remember, if only they would stop to listen.