Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/589

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ALONG THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY.

pound-foolish,' but Jim ain't that kind of a hair-pin." If we needed further assurance that a future was in store for this enterprising town, we may surely find it in an item to the effect that "Hop Lee, Esq., a Celestian of great experience in the 'washeewashee' line," had opened a laundry opposite the post-office.

No town on the Border is going to retrograde with a live paper like "The Maverick" to guard its interests; and we heartily join in the invitation extended by the editor to a contemporary, to "shake" on his expressions of good will.

I crossed the Rio Grande over a temporary or "low-water" bridge, which had been thrown over in six weeks; the permanent one—if one can be permanent, in that terrible stream of floods and surprises—was then building, with an iron superstructure, and with six massive piers of cut granite founded on the bed-rock of the river. The town on the Mexican side of the river is Piedras Negras, attractive despite its filth and the squalor of many of its inhabitants. It is of stone and adobe, and lies about a mile away from the railroad station, which was then surrounded with tents, and houses in process of construction. Presenting my credentials, I was permitted to pass to the end of the track, in a box-car half filled with railroad ties, which every jolt of the train set sliding about in a most alarming manner.

Through the region having an outlet at Eagle Pass, formerly ran the great highway from Durango and Chihuahua and the rich Laguna country, northward, to San Antonio and St. Louis. The surface is nearly level, the soil fairly fertile, the crops of corn quite excellent, and the fields large, only needing irrigation to make them highly productive. Cultivation is not now extensive, as all available labor is employed on the railroad.

An immense trade was formerly conducted over this route by means of caravans, or trains, which also ran down to Chihuahua from St. Louis by way of Santa Fé and El Paso, a distance of over fifteen hundred miles; but later on, from Presidio del Norte and San Antonio. All this is changed since the advent of the railroad; but a picture of the trains in those old caravan days, by Mr. Bartlett, the United States Boundary Commissioner, may not come amiss. "If a merchant here desires to