Preview: Palenque Falls

Palenque Falls Country Club was a routine job until the “Snakes” took control. The Snakes, as in “snakes in the grass” (a characterization to which an amateur herpetologist among us objected) were a small coterie at Smitty Associates who, radicalized by climate change, revolutionized our renovation of Palenque Falls. Their pals blistered it in social media and vandalized its water pipes. Within the firm, the Snakes had a second moniker, the Smitty “Dissociates,” which they adopted with glee. Us they dubbed the “Cowboys” and “Meatheads.”

At first, the rebellion was shrugged off as dumb-kid pranks. We Cowboys went about our business-as-usual. The rocking jukebox in the Grille alias Saloon greeted us mornings with a Who’s Who of an era:

David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home
Neil Young, After the Gold Rush

Once, a rattler slipped through the jukebox’s “stage door” and coiled around Alice Cooper’s Killer for a siesta. Once (it could not happen twice!), a disco ball (the Saloon was transformed into the Discotheque for weddings, quinceanarias and reunions) fell victim to its own excesses with a spectacular crash. Try dancing on glass shards!

A tipping point was reached. Its life blood cut and its reason for being questioned, Palenque Falls was in the throes of desertification. The fairways curving through the landscape, and the greens dotting it, turned brown. Exposed rocks on the par-three 4th, the Niagara hole, could have passed for a tomb for Lazarus. The clubhouse, the members’ home away from home, had become, according to one eyewitness:

A garden of cast-off bricks…A kind of great mass of filigree just winding all around itself…(an abandoned chair) rather poignant suggesting the transitoriness of time and the universe and also you can get a better view of the scaffolding in the roof.

The Cowboys huddled and saw two futures. The firm could spiral toward insolvency after our client, or it could join the Snakes in the entropic business. We chose entropy. Cowboys and Snakes began to mingle, hybridize. The jukebox was hauled away. In the room with the abandoned chair, mysterious evidence of a vanished readership was found among the golf books. Ballard, Beckett, Borges, Calvino, Carroll, Dante, Eliot, Milton, Poe, Swift and Wells were accepted by the impartial local library.

During one of my unsettled nights under the new mandate, I viewed drone footage alone in the Saloon, following our progress-in-reverse from the perspective of “outer space,” until contrary activity, a counter revolution, attracted my attention. Over the course of days, August 3 to September 1 to be exact, a spiral was raised in a lakebed, or playa. Initially dry, it was filled with water, then heavy equipment, which was not authorized to be there, did its thing. Trucks dropped loads of red rubble, bulldozers pushed the red rubble into position. My aerial witnessing was visceral. I felt the imprint of tire tracks and mud cracks. Both types of behemoth caused red dust to plume in the wind.

Four “Ants” directed the operation, a counter-revolution of building rather dispersal. You could tell they were the leaders by their periodic huddles. One Ant spent a lot of time with a filmmaker or geologist’s tripod. One was boss of the construction crew. The other two shaped the structure – let’s call it a ramp. As the ground reabsorbed the water (evaporation sped by hot weather), I speculated that the H2O allowed the ramp to settle offshore. The pouring and spreading hulks churned up a precarious catwalk, guided by stakes placed in a curving pattern. When one white steel beast keeled over, it was rescued by a yellow one. A shaper would measure the ramp’s slopes with more stakes. From on high, the competed work resembled a teardrop on the land.

Once word about the ramp got around, one of the boys (women in the golf industry? May they be drawn to entropy!) had to see it for himself. We were at our motel in town when he called us. It was too late to stop him.

I’ve entered the frontier! Who is with me? New friends: a vaquero hat and black boots. Sure, cowboy boots befit our recent gang affiliation, but these puppies with square tips caught my eye at the Salvation Army, the fashion emporium for my wallet until our radical business model proves itself.

Graham, Kenneth, Wind in the Willows (1908)
Holt, Nancy, The Making of Amarillo Ramp (1973/2013)
Mojtabai, A.G., Blessèd Assurance: At Home with the Bomb in Amarillo, Texas (1986)
Smithson, Robert (1938-1973), Collected Works (quotations from Hotel Palenque (1969/72))
Tatransky, Valentin, Catalogue of Robert Smithson’s Library: Books, Magazines and Records (1973)

Robert Smithson’s Amarillo Ramp in 2016