By Bryan Heisinger
As the sun rises over the rolling hills east of the Shumla Campus, the thing that strikes me is how completely quiet and isolated the camp becomes when the day to day commotion of camp life is absent. Sitting on the patio rocking chair, I can stare out towards the horizon and see for miles in any direction across the rocky landscape that surrounds the Pecos River. It is hard to find any trace of civilization — this is Nature. The chirping of birds playing in the mesquite brush, the call of an occasional train passing south of the campus, and a random gust of wind whistling in the low lying shrubs are about the only sounds you will hear throughout the day. Now and again, I feel as if I stepped back to a time when Texas was young and wild. If a horse and buggy came rolling down the gravel driveway, I would be convinced.
Just a short walk up the knoll that sits behind the campus buildings, I can look south into Mexico and see the dark blue silhouette of the north east edge of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range looming far away in the distance. In between the campus and the distant mountains lay close to 40 miles of dry, desolate, desert country. From atop the knoll, I can also make out the south canyon wall of the mighty Rio Grande. Although, I can’t see the river from this viewpoint, I know the Rio is pushing her way south east through a series of bends and turns until she finally empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
When evening begins to set in and the sun begins to sink low, the sky above the campus slowly becomes a moving painting. Fantastic shades of blue, orange, red, yellow, and pink capture the upper atmosphere and mix together in a heavenly display of hue. Every night, I sit outside and watch this scene slowly fade to grey. After color has drained the sky, the constellations of Orion and Taurus begin to fill the night before me. Nighttime at camp can be eerily silent and very dark. It seems as if the strange creaks and noises from the buildings let loose when the sun goes down, just to keep me on my feet. Nevertheless, I manage to sleep in the bunkhouse quite well.
The surrounding landscape is primitive, but the campus is more than accommodating to the crew’s contemporary needs. With a stocked kitchen, wireless internet, and full library it is very easy to live far away from the city and be completely content. This place will live fondly in my memories for the rest of my life.