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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Arrives—and with it, Memories of Injun George

An unmistakable sign of spring, the return of the buzzards.
Spring has sprung in Roscoe.  Fruit trees have blossomed, and all the other trees, excepting the old mesquites, are budding out.  Lilacs and forsythias are in full bloom, and wildflowers, especially those little purple ones, cover yards, lots, and other open spaces all over town.

Moreover, the buzzards are back.  A few could be seen as early as last week, but then on Monday afternoon I saw a flock of forty or fifty of them circling overhead over in Sweetwater, confirming their annual return to the area.   

So, not only are the local signs of spring on display, but the new season has also officially arrived according to the calendar.  Today, March 21, is traditionally seen as the first day of spring.  

Scientists are even more precise.  For them, spring arrives at the exact moment the sun is positioned directly over the equator of our tilted earth.  This year, that moment occurred yesterday at exactly at 12:14am central time (i.e., on the 20th because this is a leap year).   And when the sun came up yesterday morning over Egypt, the Sphinx was pointing directly at the rising sun, as it always does on the first day of spring.

Many of us can remember when Roscoe had its own special spring ritual, and I was reminded of it on Monday when Stanley Cleckler came by the house with several old copies of the Roscoe Times, each of them containing commentary on the rain dance that used to be done each year by Injun George, a.k.a. George Parks, in some lonely spot in the country at sunup, always on the morning of March 22.

This ritual was not confined to Roscoe, however, but was done in a couple of other west Texas spots every year, the continuation of a ritual of the Plains Indians, who observed the practice in these parts long before the white man came. 

Injun George’s version of the ceremony was a variation of the original, though.  He did his first rain dance in 1972, after hearing of an “Injun John,” John W. Crim of Muleshoe, who performed a similar ritual there that he’d learned from his father, who in turn had learned it from the Indians in the nineteenth century.

The story goes that the elder Mr. Crim in the 1880s was in charge of the mule teams used in the building of the T&P railway across west Texas.  While in the mountainous Van Horn area, he noticed early on the morning of March 22 puffs of smoke winding upward from all the Indian huts in the area. 

He inquired why this was being done on that particular morning and was told that it was the Indian way of foretelling the crop outlook for the year.  Just as the sun came up, the fire was lit and something was put in it to make the smoke dark.

The Indians then watched the smoke swirl upward. If the wind that carried it upward was from the northeast, it foretold plentiful crops.  An east or north wind was pretty good, a west wind bad, southwest still worse, and a south wind terrible.

The rain dance around the fire was an innovation of Injun George, who did it in an attempt to bring plentiful rain to the Roscoe area.  Each year he would don Indian garb, including a headdress with feathers, and do his solitary dance at an undisclosed location.   Then, observing the direction the wind blew the smoke, he would make his prediction for the year and announce it in the Roscoe Times.

Once he started, he continued the ritual every year for the rest of the 1970s.  Then, in 1980, the year of the great flood, Injun George hit a major snag as several of the local farmers blamed him for the crazy weather of that year. 

Not too long before March 22, he fell from the press in the Times Office and broke his hip, causing him to limp around the fire on the morning he did his dance. 

All that spring and summer, it hardly rained at all, and then in September, the remnants of a hurricane stalled over west Texas and Roscoe got something like seventeen inches in two days, causing the worst flood seen in generations and wiping out what little cotton crop there was.

Several farmers swore it was because he limped around the fire on the day he did his dance.

Then, two years later, in 1982, May and June were so wet the farmers couldn’t get into the fields to plant their crops, and Injun George decided to give it up.  Here is his final quote on the issue from the Pickin’s column of the Roscoe Times of June 25, 1982:

“Injun George has resolved never to do another rain dance.  This is the second time in three years when his dances have nearly drowned Roscoe out.  Find you a better Injun.”

Injun George went to the Happy Hunting Ground the following year. 

Tomorrow is March 22, the day that the Plains Indians--and Injun John and Injun George--always lit their fires and observed the direction of the smoke.  All swore to the accuracy of the ceremony’s predictions.  I do not intend to light a fire and perform the ritual at dawn, but next week I will duly report here in the Roscoe Hard Times the findings of anyone who does. 

Let me know.



The City of Roscoe will hold its annual Spring Clean-Up next week from Monday, March 26, through Saturday, March 31.  Hours of operation will be 9:00am to 7:00pm.

Dumpsters will be available at the Roscoe recycling center at Business US 84 just north of the railroad tracks, and separate areas will be designated for tree limbs, brush, and metal objects.  There will also be a place for tires.

For more information, contact City Hall during business hours at 325-766-3871.



It is signup time again for boys and girls who want to participate in this year’s Roscoe Little League program, and the deadline for registration is this Friday, March 23.  The first meeting is also this Friday at 6:00pm at the Roscoe Elementary School.

If you have questions or need more information, contact David Pantoja at 325-280-1917.  The Facebook page is here.


The all-District 9-1A, Division I, honors have been announced, and a number of Plowboys and Plowgirls have been named.

For the Plowboys, sophomore Jesus Leanos was selected as one of two Newcomers of the Year.  The other was Kelby Bell of Haskell.  Also, Keeston Ford received honorable mention. The District MVP was Jesse Ramos from Stamford.

In addition, four boys received academic all-district recognition: Brant Burnett, Keeston Ford, John Hermosillo, and Luke Rovig.

For the Plowgirls, Lynnsi Moses was on the all-District first team.   Jacinda Morales and Faith Boren were on the second team, while Sarah Kingston and  Mirian Solis received honorable mention.  The District MVP was Chelsea Rodgers of Hamlin.

Ten Plowgirls also made academic all-district: Kendall Moses, Lynnsi Moses, Natalie Anthony, Carolina Perez, Stina Tomlin, Jacinda Morales, Faith Boren, Torrey Willman, Sarah Kingston, and Mirian Solis.



Several Plowboys and Plowgirls scored points at last Saturday’s Piper Relays in Hamlin.  Athletes from 23 area high schools competed in the boys’ events, while girls from 27 high schools participated.  

For the Plowboys, Jesus Leanos came in third in the 3200 meter race with a time of 11:00 minutes; Eduardo Gallegos was fourth in the 400 meter dash at 54.82 seconds; and Devon Freeman was fifth in the pole vault with a jump of  11’6”.

For the Plowgirls, Jacinda Morales was third in the 800 meter race with a time of 2:34.

Both the junior high and high school track teams will participate in Saturday’s track meet at Rotan.  The meet begins at 9:00am.



This was an unusual week for weather—not for the rainfall or the high temperatures, but for the lows.  For four consecutive days—Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—the temperature never fell below 60°F, not normal at all for this time of year.  The daily highs during this spell were in the mid to high seventies, except for Sunday when it got up to 83°. 

Then on Monday morning, a front moved in, temperatures dropped, and we got about a quarter inch of rain, bringing the total for the year up to five inches.

Since then, the sun has come out, and it’s been breezy and cooler, with lows dropping back into the forties, more normal for this time of year.  The forecast is for warmer weather as we move into the weekend with sunny skies and highs in the eighties and lows in the fifties.

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