Burnt Boot Creek by
we wanted were freshly made breakfast tacos followed up with some sweet Mexican
postres - but we ended up with a mystery along with our groceries. |
on Interstate 35 on our way home from a South Texas dove hunt, we began to realize
we needed some food on top of all that coffee we'd been drinking. Stopping at
one of the several fast-food franchises we passed would have been easy enough,
but I had a taste for some madre-padre food.
"Let's check out Devine,"
I told my friend Roger Moore. "I bet we can find a mom and pop place with some
The memory of the time I had dared to suggest eating at a Thai
food place in Canyon still fresh on his mind, my colleague-in-arms nevertheless
hit his turn signal. He pulled his pickup off the interstate for State Highway
132, which leads to Devine.
That's when we saw the green Texas Department of Transportation sign that temporarily
got our minds off our growling stomachs: Burnt Boot Creek. Not a particularly
appetizing name, but one that got our attention.
"Wonder how they came
up with that name?" I asked. A West Texan who wears his cowboy hat in the shower
and boots for house shoes, Roger had no answer for what has proven to be a tough-as-leather
has no shortage of Elm, Oak, Dry, or Brushy creeks, but Burnt Boot Creek?
The words "burnt" and "boot" aren't a particularly likely pair. I could see Burnt
Pear (as in Prickly Pear) Creek, Burnt Rock Creek, even plain old Boot Creek,
but why Burnt Boot?
I wrote the name down so I'd remember to check on
it when I got back to Austin. I had every confidence the origin of the name could
be found on line with no more difficulty than typing the words "Burnt Boot Creek"
into my favorite search engine. Easy as pouring sand out of a boot, I figured.
But the digital vastness of the World Wide Web proved silent on how Burnt Boot
Creek got its name, noting only that it is a stream in Medina County rising at
Ghost Hill and flowing to Devine.
creek begins at 29 degrees, 7 minutes north latitude, 98 degrees, 54 minutes,
28 seconds west longitude and ends at 29 degrees, 13 minutes north latitude, 98
degrees, 54 minutes, 56 seconds west longitude. In other words, it is not much
of a stream length-wise.
The U.S. Department of the Interior's Geological
Survey site offers assorted maps showing the creek, but the federal cartographers
apparently think that merely pinpointing a geographical feature is good enough
for government work. They offer no explanation as to how Burnt Boot Creek came
by its name.
My search did indicate that there's only one Burnt Boot
Creek in Texas and apparently only one other similarly named stream in the nation,
that being in Washington State in the vicinity of Burnt Boot Mountain.
Handbook of Texas, a treasure trove of information, has no mention of Burnt Boot
Creek. Neither does a history of Medina County.
So how did Burnt Book
Creek get is evocative handle? Unless some old timer has some insight, at this
late date we may never know.
Obviously, the back story has something
to do with a burnt boot. Someone either found a burnt boot in the vicinity and
thought that would make a catchy name for a creek or sustained a burnt boot along
The later seems more plausible. Once, camping at historic
Gap not far from the Pecos,
my friends and I sat around a campfire drinking coffee and telling tales.
cowboy-school teacher-turned talespinner Paul Patterson holding court, it was
easy to lose yourself, especially when he started telling how he had once seen
a cowboy boil a "pot" of coffee in a brown paper bag. I didn't drift back into
this century until I began noticing that my feet seemed awfully hot.
closer inspection, I discovered steam rising from my boots, the rubber soles beginning
to melt from being too close to the fire. I still have my feet as well as those
short-top hunting boots, but I came very close to finding out first hand about
burnt boots. Had Patterson's story been just a bit more engrossing, "burnt boots"
might not have been the first two words out of my mouth, but in retrospect I can
understand how the term could have special meaning.
So until someone comes
up with a better explanation, my broad theory on Burnt Boot Creek's nomenclature
will have to stand. One thing's for sure: The breakfast tacos we enjoyed in Devine
smelled a lot better than burnt boots.
Mike Cox |
14, 2006 column
by Mike Cox|
Texas Ranger Tales