high desert sketches
The dreaded Chupacabra rises from the cactus patch
By GEORGE A. COVINGTON
The Big Bend species of Chupacabra is unique, born in the mercury sludge at the bottom of the deepest cinnabar mines in Terlingua. Like many creatures in the Big Bend, its parentage is uncertain. It has the cunningness and sometimes appearance of a rather scruffy coyote that retired from politics just before the indictment arrived. It stands upright like a large kangaroo rat, and its ancestry includes coyote, a bit of velociraptor and chameleon lizard. Found as an infant by an elderly and loving curandera, she passed as a scraggly coyote pup, and was soon named Travieza, little troublemaker.
After last year’s Halloween column, “Chupacabra, the Legend Begins,” considered a neo-cult classic by many of my devoted readers, I expected to receive hundreds of suggestions on creating an original “Origin Myth.” So far, I have only the ramblings of J.R. Smith all of which I printed in last year’s column. J.R., a cowboy painter who holds the distinction of being the only cowboy painter I know who has actually worked with cows, was my beginning inspiration this year. In case you don’t remember J.R.’s contribution, here are a few excerpts.
“You’d think that in south county “old chupa” would have morphed into a beast the size of a cow elk by drinking from some old Indian spring, a spring that seeps from the depths of one of the old Terlingua mines. Said chemical residue causing their eyes to glow in the dark like the Marfa Lights! These cow-elk-size chupas probably would have tusks much like our suicide pigs, better known as javelina. The mine residue would probably have the same affect as Three Mile Island does on its reptile distortions (mutants is probably a better word, but in the case of “old chupa,” distortions seem to fit better!”
It is not easy to design a creation myth, so I am falling back again to the help of the brilliant and creative members of the Library Lizards. This incredibly imaginative group of first- and second-graders meet weekly at the Alpine Public Library (APL) under the direction of the brilliant and enchanting Mary Beth Garrett. As he did last year, legendary Terlingua Ghost Town entrepreneur Bill Ivey is putting up cash for the first, second, and third places in my annual Chupacabra drawing contest. This year, first place goes to Colleen Roberts, second place goes to Hero Lopez, and third place is Jeremy Hinojos.
The kids say that a Big Bend Chupracabra would have the ability to teleport, since the county is so big. Also, skin with scales, yellow eyes and bilingual.
Thus we have two possible “Origin Myths.” From J.R., a fearsome beast to terrorize Halloween celebrants. From the Library Lizards, we have an interesting creature that favors Travieza, the troublemaker. Luckily, Travieza has the ability, thanks to her chameleon lizard ancestry, to change her appearance to anything she wishes. She rejected Frankenstein and Dracula because they are imports from European culture. She decided La Llorona was too difficult to imitate because drowning misbehaving children in dry West Texas could only be accomplished with garden hoses and overlooked dog water bowls. She is evolving. Will she become the terrifying monster of J. R. Smith, or is she the terrifying little girl that hangs around the Cow Dog Emporium of Pineapple and Pulled Pork? Who knows?
The APL is considered one of the best small town public libraries in America. Many of its programs provide an opportunity for Alpine’s more creative young people to exercise their gifts.
Mary Beth is supervising the APL’s first comic-con on November 5th. “We are collaborating with the Sul Ross State University Library’s Comic-Con to offer kids 12 and under an afternoon of “G” rated comics, graphic novels, and superhero activities and projects. SRSU is offering teens and young adults an afternoon of not-always-“G”-rated comics and activities.”
“At the library, kids will start the day making superhero caps and masks. Then it’s on to comic book creating, superhero board games and lawn games, and LEGO CHIMA building. With 35 NEW comics and graphic novels added to our wide collection, the kids will have plenty to read. Thankfully, National Honor Society students from the high school will be helping with all these activities.”
The winning three Chupacabra drawings will be on display through Halloween at Ivey’s Emporium. Also on display will be a 3-dimensional paper-mâché representation of a Chupacabra created by Rhyen Guanajuato.
George A. Covington has worked in the fields of law, education, journalism and disability rights. He considers himself retired from every one of them with the possible exception of journalism. He is a graduate of the University of Texas schools of journalism and law. He moved to West Texas – Alpine – in 1997 after a 20-year career in Washington, D.C. where he once served on the staff of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (Democrat) and shortly thereafter served as Special Assistant to the Vice President of the United States (Republican) 1989 to 1993.