CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — If Carlsbad had a best-seller list for books of local interest, a new publication at the Carlsbad Caverns bookstore would make a strong bid for the top spot.
“On the Desert’s Edge,” by Dale Pate and Ronal Kerbo, first went on sale in May, and it is selling well, said T.K. Kajiki, executive director of the Carlsbad Caverns Guadalupe Mountains Association.
Both Pate and Kerbo worked at the Caverns – Pate following Kerbo as the cave specialist.
“We both lived up at the Caverns,” said Kerbo, where the housing was at the edge of the huge formation known as El Capitan. The tallest mountain in Texas at 8,947 feet, the formation is an ancient marine fossil reef.
“We were on the edge of the reef,” he said. And because the Chihuahuan Desert began there, the writers chose “On the Desert’s Edge,” for their book.
The facts, nothing but the facts
The book is replete with photos of the two national parks, but the true gems in this publication are the short anecdotes from the authors’ memories – memories of the good and the bad, and the unfounded accusations that were kept alive by rumor and not much else.
One such story involved Kerbo and his reputation as something of an environmentalist who could be suspect following any act of eco-vandalism.
It was 1978 and Kerbo was in the little grocery store in White’s City, the small town that sits at the gateway to Carlsbad Caverns. The CEO of the White’s City Corporation, Jack White Jr., approached Kerbo and asked point blank just how many of the city signs had he cut down along the highway.
Kerbo denied any such activity while White continued his accusations. Finally, Kerbo tells readers that he did, in fact, know who had cut down the rather unsightly billboards that stood along the highway. But it was not him.
Kerbo eventually became a good friend of White.
Kerbo said the main reason the project was born was, from his perspective, the two men’s desire to work on something together.
He modestly said that Pate designed the book and put everything together
“I just wrote stuff and sent photos,” he said.
The book is laid out in such a way that a reader may pick it up and read one page – containing a short tale about the park or the people who come there, and a photo of a view from El Capitan. And the facing page is a short poem about the white rocks that seem to flow like water down the bottom of the canyon as the light fades and night approaches.
In a foreword, well-known author Michael Ray Taylor says this book is the way Pate and Kerbo share some of their secrets.
“Through poetry, photography and essay, they here reveal the slow way the landscape of the Guadalupe Mountains … has shaped them, season after season …. With the slow assurance of a growing cave formation or a seasonal desert stream, they have carved truth from the landscape.”
Pate termed the book “a learning process.”
And he feels sure the reader will see the fun shared by the authors. The juxtaposition of the two spectacular national parks – one in New Mexico, one in Texas, but both beautiful and close together – is amazing to contemplate.
“This book tapped some of the things we really cared about,” Pate said. “My whole goal for the book was to be a real positive celebration of these resources.”
He also described the book as their look at the things they did, things they could talk about to encourage others to go hiking, go inside the caves.
In closing, the authors repeat that mantra:
“… the magic of these wild places still exists,” says Pate
“… and all you have to do is walk out the door and down the path,” says Kerbo.
The book, in glossy stock with soft cover, sells for $24.95 at the Caverns bookstore.