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by Ken Rudine

Historically the first settlers from Europe came to The Rio Grande Valley in 1749. Hundreds of years before that Spaniards had brought into Mexico, large numbers of herd animals. As these herds wandered north across the Rio Grande that eventually resulted in the introduction of new plants to Texas, most notably Mesquite. In 1875, an antique map described the Valley as a grassy plain illustrating how little impact had been made at that time.

The untended cattle herds thrived and adapted becoming the Texas Longhorn breed. Meanwhile the jaguar and bears disappeared. The ocelot (which we have seen at Laguna Atascosa) and jaguarondi (seen at the Big Tree) still wander here. By the 20th century the irrigation system changed the valley from cattle to largely agriculture.

By 1850 the cowboys and vaqueros had perfected the skills and tools for working cattle from horseback. After the Civil War enterprising stockmen realized they could cause great cattle drives north to Kansas. Once there, the cattle could be sold and shipped to the eastern market. Round-ups and cattle drives faded away after only 20 or so years because railroad transportation took over. But memories lived on in books, movies and songs that kept at least this Texan singing “When its round-up time in Texas and the bloom is on the sage” for a lifetime.

The Old Military Road (OMR) closely follows the Rio Grande River the border between Texas and Mexico for 100 miles. The twists and turns of this road has its own way of exposing the people in their poverty or plenty, as it goes through 28 villages and towns along the way. It is only logical to think of this road, beginning in 1848 as the original route between Fort Ringgold in Rio Grande City and Fort Brown in Brownsville.

Ffort Ringgold entrance, Rio Grande City, Texas
The entrance to Fort Ringgold off US83 in Rio Grande City
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2009

We have traveled portions of the OMR many times in the more populated central and eastern section. The western section is more difficult with a feeling of desolation and the road is unsuitable at times. The Border Patrol is prevalent along the road’s entirety. One might suspect the road continues to Laredo (Fort McIntosh). No maps show this road to exist west of Rio Grande City. Starting at the village of La Puerta we intended to take the OMR as it crossed US83E but the road to La Casita was unsuitable. Continuing on 83, we took the Garciasville turn-off. On that road we crossed over the OMR and the paralleling railroad track.

Garciasville TX , Old Military Highway R R Crossing
Crossing the Old Military Highway and the paralleling RR track on the way to Garciasville.
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2009

La Grulla Cemetery,  La Grulla , Texas
La Grulla Cemetery
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2009

Next we crossed the dirt OMR again to visit La Grulla 3 miles south from 83. A small carnival was set up on a plot adjacent to the cemetery block. Quite a contrast! Returning to the highway because of unsuitable roads, we also skipped Alto Bonita, Ratcliff and Cuevitas. Next we drove to Los Ebanos, crossing OMR which again is still a dirt road.

Old Military Hwy & RR tracks, to Los Ebanos, Texas
Crossing the Old Military Hwy & RR on the way to Los Ebanos
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2009

Havana TX,  Iglesia San Jose Church
Havana - At the beginning of the paved portion of the Old Military Hwy
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2009

At Patricio Perez Road we turned off the highway to go to Havana. At the intersection with the OMR this time, it was paved. Instead of taking the OMR we bypassed the next villages of Chihuahua and Abram because we have been there before.

We left US83 at Mission going south on FM1016. There we joined an improved, paved (OMR,). Now past Bentsen Rio Grande State Park, we arrive at Madero and the nearby Mission at La Lomita. On the way to Granjeno we suggest you drive the Anzalduas Dam Road on the river. This is a manned Texas park, good for bird watching on the river.

La Lomita Chapel, La Lomita Texas
La Lomita - La Lomita Chapel
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2007

Progreso Texas Red Ant drive in grocer near school
Grocery near Progreso schools
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2009

Palm lined Old Military Highway , Texas, by the Rio Grande
Granjeño, 4 Miles S of McAllen
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008

Leaving Granjeno observe and follow the road signs carefully to Hidalgo. This is an area of many product distribution warehouses and trucks. It is also where US281 (from McAllen and north) joins the OMR and continuing all the way to Brownsville. Progreso lies at the intersection with FM1015. This is south of Weslaco where the 1015 onion was developed and named. The name (or number) is not after the road, but for the day on which it was first planted - October the 15th.

East of here, Relampago markers come up quickly followed by the towns of Santa Maria and Bluetown.

After more miles of crops we come to the Thornton Skirmish” Roadside Park, then Las Rusias, Los Indios, Carricitos, La Paloma, El Calaboz, Ranchito and Villa Cavazos.

Thornton Skirmish site
Thornton Skirmish site. "Like a road side park, no services." -
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2008

Los Indios TX view of distanct cemetery
Los Indios
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2008

La Paloma TX,  La Paloma Cemetery
La Paloma Cemetery
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2008

On the land between the OMR and the Rio Grande, paralleling the Carricitos/La Paloma villages, the Border Fence is being erected and video surveillance is operating.

Texas Mexico Border Fence

Texas Mexico Border Fence
Border fence
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2008

Texas Mexico Border Surveillance Camera
Surveillance Camera
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2008

Texas Mexico Border Surveillance Camera
Surveillance Camera
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2008

Old Brownsville City Cemetery  Masonic section, BrownsvilleTexas
The Old Brownsville City Cemetery, Brownsville Texas.
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2007

Now the highway turns away from easterly to a southerly track, coming to San Pedro (outskirts of Brownsville). It was Charro Days there so we opted to call our OMR trip complete at Villa Nueva.

© Ken Rudine

Related Topics:
Texas Drives
Texas Towns
South Texas

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