>Life at the Taco Stand

December 13, 2009 at 1:21 pm (Uncategorized)


Blue-gray gnatcatcher

My art show experience set me up perfectly for this job.

The Taco Stand is about the same size as my 10×10 foot art show canopy, and there are periods of little traffic interspersed with a mob. I’m selling fees and park passes instead of art, but I don’t have to worry about the booth blowing away in the wind or collapsing in a deluge, which is what happened to me after a six-inch downpour in Lafayette, LA one April. I hit the road in the dark to open the stand by 8 a. m. and drive home in the dark this time of year. And I answer the same 10 questions and give the same spiel all day – with a smile.

House finch

There’s heat and air conditioning in here, plenty of light, a great view, and I can even shut down for lunch and eat in peace. In between tending to visitors, I brush up on the fee collection regulations, the uniform regulations, the park regulations, and anything else that looks official and informative in here. I also research things on the computer (yes we have internet in the Taco Stand) that visitors ask me about, so that next time I will have the answer. For instance, “how many national parks are there?” Fifty-eight, with a total of 391 units managed by the National Park Service. That includes National Monuments like Devil’s Tower, National Seashores such as Cape Cod, National Battlefields like Gettysburg, and a whole bunch of other National This’s and That’s.

Rufous-crowned sparrow

I also research the identification of flowers and plants I’ve photographed, using the numerous books I checked out of our natural history library. All this between “Welcome to Big Bend. The Entrance Fee is twenty dollars,”and the various other chores.

Rufous-crowned sparrow

The mesquite tree in front of my picture window is sometimes decorated with birds, as if they all decided at once to become impromptu Christmas ornaments.


There have been verdin with their yellow heads, sassy cactus wrens, drab rock wrens, quiet canyon towhees, inquisitive rufous-crowned sparrows, and just as I wrote this, a male pyrrhuloxia which alighted long enough for a splendid photograph. (Of COURSE I keep my camera handy!) As you can see, these birds are related to the familiar cardinal.


A cactus wren found a feather under the mesquite a couple weeks ago and carried it in its bill for a few minutes before realizing that it wasn’t nesting season after all and let it go.

Cactus Wren with feather

The resident ravens, George and Gracie (or Heckle and Jeckle depending on who you’re with) show up mid-afternoon and we have a little chat. They most likely have a territory they cover, looking for road kill or live food, or dried berries or whatever strikes their fancy. At night they often roost on the vigas of the maintenance shed behind the visitor center. I’m never sure just which one’s George, since they both look alike.

George and Gracie lovebugs

Yesterday I saw six desert bighorn sheep on the tall mountain outside the Taco Stand. I told Gary at the Visitor Center and he put a scope on them. The visitors were tickled to see them. Later that afternoon there were 14. Some of the rams would butt horns, and it took two seconds for the sound to carry. (Okay schoolchildren, if sound travels at approximately 1125 feet/sec. how far away were they?) Now I know if I hear a sharp “crack” in the distance to look for the dueling bighorns way up high.

The “Taco Stand” and the bighorn sheep mountain

Mule deer often come close, too. Mulies don’t run so much as they bound, almost as if they are on a pogo stick. Whitetails run, their tails high so the white flag will flash a warning. We have a species of smaller deer in the Chisos Mountains called the Carmen Mountain Whitetail Deer, which often show up at the lodge, as do the javelinas.

Mule deer buck across from Visitor Center

And once, a gray fox with its extra long tail crossed the road while I watched from the Taco Stand.

Gray Fox


That’s all folks!

1 Comment

  1. Cindy McIntyre said,

    >This was posted Dec. 20 – I did the draft Dec. 13.

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