In the Shadow of the Chinatis: A History of Pinto Canyon in the Big Bend

In the Shadow of the Chinatis: A History of Pinto Canyon in the Big Bend

by David W. Keller

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Winner, 2020 Al Lowman Memorial Prize for Best Book on Texas County or Local History

There is a deep and abiding connection between humans and the land in Pinto Canyon—a remote and rugged place near the border with Mexico in the Texas Big Bend. Here the land assumes a certain primacy, defined not by the ephemera of plants and animals but by the very bedrock that rises far above the silvery flow of Pinto Creek— looming masses that break the horizon into a hundred different vistas. Yet, over time, people managed to survive and sometimes even thrive in this harsh environment.   
In the Shadow of the Chinatis combines the rich narratives of history, natural history, and archeology to tell the story of the landscape as well as the people who once inhabited it. Settling the land was difficult, staying on it even more so, but one family proved especially resilient. Rising above their meager origins, the Prietos eventually amassed a 12,000-acre ranch in the shadow of the Chinati Mountains to become the most successful of Pinto Canyon’s early settlers. But starting with the tense years of the Great Depression, the family faced a series of tragedies: one son was killed by a Texas Ranger, and another by the deranged son of Chico Cano, the Big Bend’s most notorious bandit. Ultimately, growing rifts in the family forced the sale of the ranch, marking the end of an era.

Bearing the hallmarks of an epic tragedy, the departure of the Prieto family signaled a transition away from ranching towards a new style of landownership based on a completely different model. Today, Pinto Canyon’s scenic and scientific value increasingly overshadows the marginal economics of its past.

In the Shadow of the Chinatis reveals a rich tapestry of interaction between humans and their environment, providing a unique examination of the Big Bend region and the people who call it home. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623497361
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Publication date: 01/31/2019
Series: The Texas Experience, Books made possible by Sarah '84 and Mark '77 Philpy
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
File size: 51 MB
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About the Author

DAVID W. KELLER is senior project archaeologist at the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross State University. He is the author of Below the Escondido Rim: A History of the O2 Ranch in the Texas Big Bend and Alpine. He resides in Alpine, Texas.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments ix

Chapter 1 The Fault Line 1

Chapter 2 The Terrible Mountains: The Natural and the Early History of Pinto Canyon 6

Chapter 3 Cañon del Pinto: The Settling of Pinto Canyon 42

Chapter 4 Signal Fires in the Chinatis: Bandit Raids and the Mexican Revolution 73

Chapter 5 El Camino Afuera: Adjustments and Departures 100

Chapter 6 Sangre del Cordero: Drought, Depression, and Texas Rangers 120

Chapter 7 Madre Patria: Mexico, Family, and Ranching in the 1940s 153

Chapter 8 Tierra Seca: A Parched Land for Lost Dreams 187

Chapter 9 Tierra Perdida: A Lost Land 217

Chapter 10 No Ranch for Old Men: Changing Times 236

Chapter 11 Only the Land Remains 269

Notes 273

Bibliography 319

Index 345

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