The Antelope Hills
One evening in 1541 Coronado camped here with his men while on his assigned task of finding the 7 Cities of Cibola, the cities of gold. He returns to New Spain with empty hands and pockets. Then in 1593, Francisco Leyva de Bonilla and Antonio Gutiérrez de Humaña pause at these hills during their unauthorized and ill fated expedition for Quivira, where it was said the residents ate from plates of gold. A little later in the journey, feverish with gold lust, Humaña murders Bonilla and then The Wichita massacre all in the party but one... a Native American named Jusepe.
Finally in 1595, the Spanish viceroy named Juan de Oñate to be the governor of New Mexico, adelantado and captain-general of the new province. Oñate was the son of Cristóbal de Oñate, the conqueror of Nueva Galicia where he operated mines, and one of the founders of Zacatecas. His wife was the granddaughter of the famous conquistador Hernando Cortez and the great-granddaughter of the Aztec leader Montezuma.
On June 23, 1601, Don Juan de Oñate and eighty to one-hundred men set out to explore the lands northeast of New Mexico into Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. They based their journey on the route taken by Humaña and Leyva, guided by Jusepe. The siren's song of Quivira and its gold sounds again in these hills. The party camps near here before heading north and meeting The Escanjaques and The Wichita. It was another long journey back to New Spain with nothing but injury and disgrace.
The Comanche ruled this area many years without challenge. Then in the spring 1858 Capt. John S. "Rip" Ford led a combined force of 102 Texas Rangers and 113 Indian allies, mainly Tonkawa, Anadarko, and Caddo, north from Texas. A little bit north of the knob on the left, Chief Iron Jacket (so named because he wore an old Spanish shirt of mail) met his doom at a creek named Little Robe. He believed his magic and armor would protect him from bullets. He was killed by a bullet from the rifle of Anadarko and Caddo chief Jim Pockmark.
Just South of here, on November 27, 1868, Custer set karma into motion with the Battle of the Washita that he would later reap at Little Big Horn.
Never one to be daunted by the shortcomings of others... or is that the lessons of history
in February of 2013 I set my sites on these hills and their gold. Armed with google earth/maps/crappy tourism shots/snow cover maps/ road condition reports/satellite imagery , I scout the place... piece of cake, I said. Timing and roads are working out well as I approach the surrounds. Then joy of joys, one of the roads that I fully expected to be muddy, was paved! Off the highway I go. Most of the 10 inch snow cover was melted or melting and the area was supersaturated. I knew it was going to come down to how it looked where it turns into dirt road and just how big of a dumbass I was.
About a mile and a half south of the hills I stop at the cattle guard at road's end. It's not as charming as Shel's Where the Sidewalk Ends
but with these hills looming ahead, it was just as enticing. I tell myself, "with a run at it, I can make it past the first bad spot." I knew then that it was decided... gold fever strikes again. At the time I didn't realize that the cattle guard was the point of no return. I fully realized this after going down the first supersaturated hill thinking, I'll never make it back up that. These roads were more reminiscent of pasture roads rather than any conventional road. Open range land... god it's a wonderful sight and feeling, that I didn't fully get to appreciate as I slipped and slid along in the mud. Steering seemed more dependent upon the ruts in the road rather than most things I did with the steering wheel. Yes... I was thinking omg wtf? The key was to never stop... if you stop you are stuck. I did find one hard spot in the road where I stopped, put on my boots and breathed for a while. I have a shot of it I will post later. The assessment was the same. I can't go back the way I came and it's not like I can turn around anyway. So off I go... telling myself I remember that this road loops back out to another. I wasn't sure because my map wasn't working on my phone... this area is so far removed that there is no service. anyway... I'm committed. The last few up and downs before the hills were a blur... mainly because of all the mud on my windshield As I arrive there wasn't a chance to stop. I'm starting to feel less superior to those goofballs that were out looking for Cibola as I watch my prize pass by the driver's side window.
I will confess to doubts at this stage.
...but the fates are always kind to small children and fools. After two harrowing up hill turns, the road turns into... well, a road, a muddy but an actual drivable road.
To make a long story longer...
I found gold.
It's a special place. I stopped and soaked in every bit of it I could. There wasn't another soul for miles(go figure) and all the sounds were of the wind and of the prairie. It was easy to imagine the wonder and sense of aloneness those tribes and explorers knew. I was a tiny speck in a very big place. I will return to this place when the Yucca blooms... and the damn roads are drier.
Jeeze it was fun.
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