A poem by a San Angelo high schooler some 70 years ago depicts a Big Bend region that, thankfully, seems no less true today.
The Big Bend’s Voice is That of Silence
From 1941 to 1970, the Texas State Historical Association quietly published a small magazine called The Junior Historian. In it were original articles, editorials, stories, and poetry written by high school students from across Texas.
The idea behind The Junior Historian was to encourage young Texans to be constant in their pursuit of Texas history, both as contributors and readers of the magazine. In its inaugural issue, Editor Walter Prescott Webb explained the vision:
There are a thousand good stories hidden in the memories of older people, stories of their own recollections of younger days. There are interesting excursions to make to historic sites, to old forts, along early trails, and to the courthouse where the county’s records are kept. In many homes are faded letters, diaries, or newspaper clippings which make the past glow with reality. We believe the history of Texas is worth preservation; we believe that the youth of Texas can and will help preserve it.
No longer published, the archived collection of The Junior Historian is now itself a little bit faded, but no less important for its contribution to preserving Texas history.
We’d like to help extend the life of The Junior Historian, and to ourselves make the past glow with reality by introducing, from time to time, select works from the magazine.
We begin with a poem about the Big Bend region of Texas, written by Pete Williams of San Angelo in 1944. The Big Bend region has to be visited to be understood, but we believe young Williams has described its magic aptly through verse. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the poem is that if you do visit the region, you’ll agree that not much has changed in the 70 years since it was written. Our favorite line: The Big Bend’s voice is that of silence; Never a word has it spoken.
The photos above, by the way, are by No. 4 St. James' Creative Director, Caleb Kerr. The top photo, the night sky in Big Bend, is one of our favorite images from our collection.
Lies the Big Bend with rugged mountains and valleys
That have never known the touch of a human foot.
Others have felt only the moccasined foot of the Indian.
Through this land flows the Great River
Like a ribbon carelessly dropped
Among the ruts and holes of a wagon trail.
Down its treacherous waters have floated
The dead bodies of bandits, Indians, and hostages,
And herds of wild horses and buffalo have grazed along its banks.
Here the Chisos Mountains, like giant emeralds, undiscovered in the wilderness,
Rise to shelter the deer, the bear, and the Red Man;
And secrets of gold and opals lie locked within them.
From their peaks the rugged mountains of Old Mexico
Rear their soft azure outlines agains the sky;
And the setting sun paints the scene
With all the blended colors of the rainbow.
The Big Bend’s voice is that of silence;
Never a word has it spoken. And its silence
Has the power to still even the memory of sound.
The Big Bend is like a land once known and then forgotten,
Where modern machines and evil ways have never come—
A land where legend is stronger than truth.
To some this land has a desolate beauty or none;
To them its magic shall be closed forever.
But those who worship Nature unadorned and simple
Need nothing save the open sesame of their love.
To them the Great Back Door of Texas will open its beauty and its truth.