75 Miles - No Water  LbNA # 23176 (ARCHIVED)

OwnerEl Lobo    
Placed DateJun 17 2006
LocationRankin, TX
Found By Gryzzled Gryphon
Last Found Apr 29 2007
Hike Distance?

This letterbox is located, fittingly, in lonely, dry country, along a modern asphalt highway. Here cars and trucks zip past, often at speeds approaching 75 miles per hour. But it also is situated on a different trail, the “Goodnight-Loving Cattle Trail,” that ran from north central Texas westward to the Pecos River, then northward into New Mexico and Colorado. There was a stretch of this route, 75 miles in length, which took cattle herds 3 days to cover and then only by traveling non-stop. What one modern automobile can traverse in one hour has been called the “most severe drive on all the Texas trails.” Since this route was also used by the Butterfield Overland Mail and by emigrants headed to California, it has been described in literature from the time period as “a seventy-five-mile trail of animal bones, discarded household goods, and broken wagon parts.”

East of the box’s location, along the trail, is the Head of the Concho, situated where Centralia Draw and South and North Mustang Draw and East Snow Draw all converge to form the Middle Concho River. In the 1860’s, that was the last sure place for water between the Concho Valley and the Pecos River at Horsehead Crossing. From that point, the trail to the west stretched out over this hot, dry southern end of the Llano Estacado, or Staked Plain. Only ‘Wild China Pond,’ east of the box’s location, would sometimes serve as a possible water source but more times than not, it was dry. A mixed cattle herd travels about 12 to 15 miles a day and needs to water each day, especially after being on the move. Charles Goodnight, Oliver Loving, and others learned the hard way about this most deadly stretch of trail. They watered the herds well at the Head of the Concho, struck out late in the afternoon, pointed the herd into the setting sun, and traveled night and day, without rest and without water, for three days. After emerging from Castle Gap, a one-mile long break between King and Castle Mountains, the water-starved cattle would catch the smell of water from the Pecos River twelve miles away. The resulting stampede to the river was as disastrous as the trail behind, and losses were great.

Times are different, and modern man is a stranger to thirst. But the early settlers and native people of this area knew the ominous significance of having to cover a distance that is described as “75 Miles – No Water.”

The letterbox is located near the intersection of Highway 329 and FM 2463 thirteen miles northwest of Rankin, Texas in west-central Upton County. To find the box, locate the highway sign that warns of a “stop ahead” for travelers going north on FM 2463 and approaching Highway 329. It is about 1000 feet south-southwest of the intersection on the east side of the road. Stand facing the sign. Look off to your right for the largest mesquite tree growing in the fence line. Walk to the tree (about 18 steps at 90 degrees magnetic). Almost at the base of the tree but still on the road side of the fence is a large rock covering the letterbox.