Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Cyclone" Hits Balmorhea State Park & San Solomon Springs

"Cyclone," posting at ScubaToys Diving Forum, documents his recent sporting visit here with friends where he captured some pretty cool video and digital stills underwater at San Solomon Springs. My favorite part: A turtle comes up to check out his gloved fingers and to say hello [see the YouTube Video below].

There is much, much more, including his journal entry and photos of the visit, if you follow the link above to the Diving Forum.

Totally Sacred Beauty:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Obituary - Veterans Day


George Luis Rodriguez, Jr., 21, of Huntsville, Texas died Saturday, November 3, 2007 [in Balmorhea]. He was born on April 3, 1986 to George Luis Rodriguez and Cynthia (Ellis) Murton in Houston, Texas. George served his country in The United States Navy. He was a music lover that liked to play video games and play on his computer. In junior high and high school he was active in the L.O.T.C. and R.O.T.C.

George is preceded in death by his step-grandfather, Harry Thompson and aunt, Maggie Rodriguez. He is survived by his wife, Jillian Robinson Rodriguez [who survived the accident]; parents, Cynthia and John Murton, Jr.; brothers, David Rodriguez, Charles Hogan, John Murton III, and baby brother Nicholas George Murton; sisters, Vanessa and Brianna Rodriguez; biological father, George Luis Rodriguez; grandmother, Alicia; grandparents, Patricia and Bob Mullen and Johnny and Corliss Ellis; great-grandmother, Vivian; and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.

A visitation for family and friends will be from 5:00 until 7:00 PM Tuesday, November 06 at Sterling Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held at 10:00 AM on Wednesday, November 7 at Sterling Funeral Home with interment to follow in Palms Cemetery[in Liberty County].

A novel (torn in half), Rodriguez's computer and two empty Styrofoam cups of coffee were virtually the only items thrown from the car when he hit the tree on I-10 last week. They must have been in the front seat with the couple. I theorize that the computer was the distraction that allowed for Rodriguez's wandering to the left off the interstate, where he then overreacted sending the car into a skid to the right across both eastbound lanes into the trees.

Being present in the aftermath with Judge Carrasco, and having prayed at the now hallowed scene, left me with a sense of my own mortality and that of all sentient beings -- we are all, after all, only individual parts of a living organism we call the earth which is in constant renewal.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Young Navy Veteran Killed, Another Hospitalized, In Single Vehicle Accident on I-10 In Balmorhea

11/03/07; BALMORHEA, TEXAS -- This afternoon, shortly after 1:00 PM, Reeves County Precinct-3 Justice of the Peace Rosendo Carrasco, of Balmorhea, who has witnessed many tragic local events -- indeed, more than his fair share -- was called by DPS officers to the gruesome scene of a single vehicle crash where he dutifully pronounced the 20-something male driver of a blue Honda Accord dead at the scene.

The vehicle displayed California plates, but at this hour neither the destination nor the point of origin of the two travelers has been officially determined.

The accident occurred on eastbound I-10 and Highway 17, just east of Balmorhea, which is between Van Horn and Fort Stockton on a lonely stretch of interstate that traverses the remote West Texas wastelands where the speed limit is 80-mph.

UPDATE for 11/o4/o7; 11:00 AM: The young man's traveling companion, a young female also appearing to be in her twenties, was taken semi-conscious in critical condition to Reeves County Hospital in Pecos, thirty miles to the north along Highway 17. From there, according to a Pecos hospital spokesperson, she was transported via emergency flight to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa for intensive care.

She is now listed in stable condition; her family has been contacted and she is receiving family support at this hour. Any further details will not be forthcoming, including her name, age and home town, due to confidentiality issues governing medical records, unless she or her family authorizes the release.
The hapless eastbound travelers appeared to be currently active (on leave or reassignment) or recently discharged members of the U.S. Navy, perhaps in route from the California naval base at San Diego. Their duffel bags, naval caps and mountain bikes were left at the scene, sadly along with a blood covered white stuffed animal - a baby polar bear.

The name of the deceased veteran is being withheld pending official confirmation of his identity and notification of nearest of kin.

The driver appeared to have strayed to the left off the east bound interstate, possibly due to distraction or a brief nod to sleep at the wheel. Further investigative interview with the surviving victim is needed to confirm the critical antecedents.

Skid marks, however, indicate that a startled driver apparently over-corrected to get back onto the interstate after contacting the gravel off the left shoulder, sending the car into a 45-degree vector, skidding across both lanes to the right where the driver's side of the Honda then impacted an isolated stand of trees between the interstate and the south side access road.

The impact was so violent that one of the trees, 7-inches in diameter, tore through the vehicle on the driver's side forward of the door, between the engine and the steering column, displacing the steering column across the passenger compartment to the right of the car, with the tree left standing inside the car in what had normally been the driver's line of vision. The windshield was shattered, pieces of it strewn all about; the car's frame completely mangled.

In a freak act of happenstance, the driver's air bag inflated from the steering column but to no avail for him, as it apparently inflated a milli-second after the actual impact with the tree and, while being displaced to the right of the driver, the air bag appears to have come to full volume in the split-second needed to save the life of his female passenger to his right but not his own.

The driver appeared to have died soon after loss of consciousness from massive chest injuries and/or a neck fracture that may have included internal bleeding near the heart and lungs and subdural hematomas in the brain from the shock of impact. Further medical examination is needed to determine actual cause of death.

A grim sense of tragic irony pervaded the scene of the accident
: an Apple laptop computer and its zip-drive along with two 8-ounce Styrofoam coffee cups from a MacDonald's take-out order -- coffee perhaps purchased in El Paso earlier in the day -- littered the prairie grass forward of the demolished vehicle -- poignant signs of alert and attentive wakefulness. The laptop and cups may have been thrown from atop the dashboard through the shattered windshield.

Compounding the irony is the tragical fact that the small stand of wild trees between the interstate and the access road was among the rare desert objects for miles with which the driver could have collided. Yet this was their moment.

For years, the group of trees has provided a shaded hideout for DPS troupers who lay in wait for speeders. It serves as the only natural highway refuge for miles in these northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert along Interstate-10. It is a serenely beautiful spot within sight of the Davis Mountains and Lake Balmorhea, one that has provided refuge for doves, quail, grackles and starlings and, more recently, of departed souls. It is the site of last year's mysterious discovery of a woman's body found beside the interstate. The mystery of her demise has never been solved.

The idyllic lone stand of cottonwoods and oaks near the exit to Balmorhea State Park is nourished by ground waters from nearby Lake Balmorhea and it's marshy outlets. Balmorhea is renowned as the West Texas Desert Oasis and is the home of San Solomon Springs, a natural desert wonder that feeds the lake as well as the irrigation system that powers the local agricultural economy.

The accident occurred on eastbound I-10, just east of Balmorhea where Highway 17, coming from Marfa and Fort Davis, temporarily joins I-10 before turning again northward to Pecos.

+May Julian's and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

reporting from the scene
* * * * * *


Saturday, 11/03/07; BALMORHEA
-- Shortly after dusk, two unidentified Pecos women traveling south on Highway 17 out of the Davis Mountains, struck and killed a cow that was loose on the highway near Balmorhea State Park.

The cow was one of several that have been spotted on the loose in the area of the park over the past week and is assumed to be owned by a local rancher in the immediate area.

The SUV in which the women were traveling on their return trip to Pecos was totaled but they were not injured, according to neighbors who live near the scene.

The identities of the Pecos women will be withheld pending formal announcement of the bar-b-que.

* * * * * *

[Story by Houston Chronicle] BALMORHEA STATE PARK — Oasis. It's a storybook word, but Balmorhea is the real deal. Long before the Civilian Conservation Corps transformed San Solomon into the world's largest spring-fed swimming pool, these cool, ancient waters poured forth comfort, bounty and survival in a hostile environment. "Mescalero Apaches camped here and farmed off this spring; early (Hispanic) settlers came in here and had (this as) their irrigation system," says lead park ranger Anthony Fleenor, the fourth generation of his family to work at the pool. Like much of West Texas, this area is desert, starkly beautiful. There are small patches of intense color, but mostly the landscape is brown and dry and challenging. Balmorhea, the desert oasis, is green and alive with birdsong. The waters gush out of San Solomon Spring at 18 million to 20 million gallons a day. Irrigation canals from the park run through the nearby town of Balmorhea and into the desert. They irrigate surrounding farms and fill 556-acre Balmorhea Lake. Yet since the 1930s the first use for all these gallons of waters has been bringing relaxation and relief to thousands of swimmers. Originally a Reeves County pool, Balmorhea became a state park in 1968. More than 200,000 guests come year-round to swim with the fishes in the artesian spring water. Bring 'em on, there's plenty of room. Balmorhea isn't big — it's huge. The pool covers 1.75 acres and holds 3.5 million gallons of water. The central portion is 200 feet across, and the longest wing is 389 feet....