30-Dec-2001 -- Continued from 31N 102W
After completing 31N 102W, our team turned east on US 190 and drove on. We turned north on SH 163, then east on County Road 209, gradually getting closer to the confluence. After pulling off the road to decide on a closer route, a ranch hand from the Noelke Ranch (formerly De Long Ranch) came by asking us if we needed help. This was the exact ranch we needed to find, and after a quick phone call to Mr. Noelke, we began driving down a ranch road towards our goal (we discovered later that Mr. Noelke is a prolific newspaper columnist).
The ranch hand showed us a survey plaque near a water tank, but this did not mark the confluence. We drove through twin gates into cattle pastures. The road turned away from the confluence, so we disembarked and proceeded on foot.
Then followed a jaunty walk betwixt cow paddies and between cacti that slowly zeroed out the GPS and we stood like men amazed. On any road map, we would be standing in the middle of a very large white space. But our GPS unit, hearing voices from heaven, had led us unerringly towards another intersection of imaginary lines. The cows around us seemed decidedly unconcerned about either our presence or the presence of a confluence.
The ranch hand came out in his truck, viewing our successful confluence visit with the same indifference as his cattle. Why is it that a confluence's guardians - for no one ever owns a confluence - never seem to appreciate what they live so near?
We have completed three confluences in two days (I write this in the Trans Sport on the way home). There is a West Texas mindset, a certain laconic determination against the sun and wind, a silent confidence in one's ability coexisting with a soft-spoken modesty. We have traveled to crosshairs of time and space, and we began to trace the route home.