On a brisk, cloudy October day in 2009, I went hiking with Sammy, who was an 80+ year-old lady. She wanted to show me the site of a known “Billy the Kid” hideout in Bailey County, Texas less than 15 miles from the New Mexico border. As we hiked up the side of the hill, equivalent to about a four-story building towards the cave I noticed off to the west a dying large tree. It turned out a big chuck of the hideout cave had fallen in over time, but I could envision why Billy would’ve of used it due to its vantage point of enabling him to see a far distance in every direction.
As we hiked back down the hill, the tree caught my eye again due to its shape of the upward turned branches. Located in a draw with small standing water, a big part of it was dead, while only a small remaining section was alive. It took forever for me to identify the tree based on the bark and dying leaves as a black willow tree. Native Americans used the tree for basketry, as well as treatment of fever, headache, and coughs. The bark of the tree contains salicylic acid, a chemical compound similar to aspirin.
Note: This photo was accepted in the juried “still” photography exhibit at the A Smith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas in 2015.
Photograph – © Christena Stephens Photography
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