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A Visit to the Wild Bunch, Photos Included!

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  • A Visit to the Wild Bunch, Photos Included!

    Seems to me there were two Wild Bunch gangs. One was Butch Cassidy's gang which I believe later morphed into his Hole-in-the-Wall gang. The second Wild Bunch gang was known as the Doolin-Dalton gang. These Dalton boys really got around, as I recall one or more also rode with Butch Cassidy.

    The third Wild Bunch gang is a fictitious gang seen in the movie by Sam Peckinpah. This gang and movie was not based on anything to do with the two historical gangs. Pure fiction. But what a movie!

    For the fictitious historian in us, I wanted to go visit the stomping grounds of The Wild Bunch, the cinematic one. So it's time to saddle up and ride my pony to San Rafael, TX where the bank robbery takes place in the opening scene of the movie. Below is my pony all packed up and ready to go. Isn't she cute? I like to leave at dawn. You can see morning twilight in the background.

    Uh, anybody know where San Rafael, Texas is located?

    Last edited by Alatriste; 05 Mar 10, 14:50.

  • #2
    San Rafael, Texas is styled as a South Texas town. So in riding down into South Texas, after about a day's ride I find myself at the border in the town of Laredo, Texas. On the Mexican side of the border is the town of Nuevo Laredo which is in the news quite often due to the narcotraficante wars that are ongoing.

    Laredo itself is a very historic town. When Texas became independent, or pehaps after the Mexican-American war, the Mexicans built Nuevo Laredo across the border. Laredo is laid out as a typical Spanish colonial town with a central plaza church, etc.

    Here is a photo I took of the central plaza with the church in the background

    Historic homes and buildings surround the central plaza. Lots of people sit in the park, all times of the day. It is a pick-up point for people who commute back and forth across the border.

    The hotel I stayed in is called La Posada and is also located right there at the central plaza. It is a wonderful historic building. At one time it was a convent. Then it became Laredo's first high school. This first photo I took from the central plaza looking at the entrance to the old convent.

    And here are successive shots of the interior. Very nice interior courtyards all in the original Spanish-colonial style.

    Last edited by Alatriste; 05 Mar 10, 21:58.


    • #3
      The back of the hotel sits on the bank above the Rio Grande river. I can look out of my hotel room and see Mexico. I don't hear any gunfire. Is it safe to crossover?

      Man! That Mexican flag is like muy grande!

      I decide to walk across the bridge. Pretty crowded, long lines of people coming into the US. No lines going into Mexico Wuz up wit dat?

      Now I am in Mexico. Looking back at the US I see another flag that is muy grande!

      Shall I loiter on the Mexican side? Maybe drink some beer, do some chica watching?

      After some loiter, I head back to the hotel. Post ops maintenance on the pony is all done. She did well, about 400 miles from Houston to Laredo. So with the day's business concluded, it's time to get a steak dinner. Next to the old convent is the old telephone company, which was a private home before that. Here is where the first phone was installed in Laredo. The historic building is now a great steakhouse. Hey, we are in Texas! Time to get that steak before I saddle up again in the morning and head for San Rafael, Texas.
      Last edited by Alatriste; 05 Mar 10, 13:04.


      • #4
        Nice tour! Thank you. :-)

        If you ever do the Dalton gang tour please be sure to post that one here too. I need to get to Coffeyville some day!
        Armchair General Magazine
        Weider History Group


        • #5
          San Rafael, Texas is actually a fictitious town. It only exists in the movie The Wild Bunch. However, the movie did not use a set on a studio lot. They used an actual town, but that town is 300 miles deep into Mexico from the Texas border.

          Examine the image below. This is called SPOT, my personal satellite tracker. This is not a map aid GPS. SPOT is an orange box that I strap to my pony's tail rack. SPOT pings a satellite and then puts my location on a map that can be seen on the internet. This is a device that lets friends and family know where I am for their peace of mind. There are also some emergency functions on the device for rescue. A lot of outdoor adventure types carry a SPOT with them in the wilderness. It's also helpful for body recovery. In any case, here SPOT is tracking my ride from Laredo, down into Mexico (actually the return ride). You can see near ping 11 that I was in the town of Parras de La Fuente. This town, Parras for short, is the town that was dressed up to be San Rafael, TX in the movie. So, San Rafael, TX is actually in Mexico.
          Last edited by Alatriste; 05 Mar 10, 22:01.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Eric Weider View Post
            Nice tour! Thank you. :-)

            If you ever do the Dalton gang tour please be sure to post that one here too. I need to get to Coffeyville some day!
            Thanks Eric. There is more coming up from this trip. This is one of the most exciting ways to look at History, IMO.
            Last edited by Alatriste; 05 Mar 10, 13:53.


            • #7
              The northern states of Mexico are for the most part a high plains desert. When I ride through this country on my pony, I can't help but think of Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter. On this ride I will experience elevation changes that take me up to about 5,500 ft. The temperature changes are noticeable during the climb as you ride up to three separate plains. Typically the elevation change is experienced through the next cut through mountains.

              Like this. Notice nobody is on the road.

              The typical mountainous terrain that borders each desert plain looks like this.

              While the terrain of the plain itself looks like this.

              It's lonely out here. So I have to take care of my pony so that she doesn't breakdown. This is where my military training comes in...BII and PLL, and a good preventive maintenance program keeps maintenance incidents from happening. Out here and all alone, nobody is coming for you if you break down.

              Some of the old cattle drives used to bring their cattle up from Mexico. I don't even want to think about the hardship the cowboys and vaqueros had in doing this.
              Last edited by Alatriste; 05 Mar 10, 22:04.


              • #8
                On this desert road is the turn-off for the town of Parras. When Peckinpah directed The Wild Bunch, the setting was circa 1910 during the time of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. He must have known quite a bit about Mexican history and the history of the Old West and how these two histories intertwine. The movie involves the gang robbing a bank in San Rafael, TX and then fleeing across the border to Mexico. It appears that Peckinpah also knew the complexities of the Mexican revolution, being that in the movie the gang sets up a deal to do some gun-running for an element of the Mexican army. During the actual revolution there was a heavy flow of arms into Mexico from the US through private hands, for which Woodrow Wilson gave his unofficial nod of approval.

                Peckinpah probably picked Parras as the set for the fictitious San Rafael town because Parras is the birthplace of Francisco Madero. Madero is the Mexican president who essentially kicked off the revolution in Mexico.

                In any case, Parras is out in the middle of the desert. As I turn off the desert road for Parras, out of nowhere I see this...Trees? With changing colors of autumn? Recall that the desert is barely ten meters behind me.

                Then I see this...Vineyards?

                Then I see this...Clear running water?

                I then enter the town of Parras.

                Parras is a natural oasis out in the middle of the desert. It is the place where wine was first cultivated in the Americas in the late 1500's. It has the oldest vineyards and winery in the Americas. This is the town that would become San Rafael, Texas in the movie The Wild Bunch.


                • #9
                  And I can see bugger all, I'm reading htis at work and our software filters out the pictures!!!

                  Can't wait to get home and see this ride in the footsteps of the Wild Bunch in all it's glory!

                  The long toll of the brave
                  Is not lost in darkness
                  Over the fruitful earth
                  And athwart the seas
                  Hath passed the light of noble deeds
                  Unquenchable forever.


                  • #10
                    Here are some choice shots from the streets of Parras. After you look at them, then look at the YouTube clip from the movie and see if you can recognize the buildings from the movie scene. You can tell that for the movie they brought dirt in to put on the streets and also added a few props to the buildings.

                    This building is the bank in the movie. It had props on the facade and a sign saying "San Rafael". Looking along that street notice the pink building as well. Gunfire along this street in the movie.

                    Here is the pink building.

                    Looking down the street from the bank, at a right angle from the other street (the bank being at the corner), most of the filming in the opening shootout of the movie was done here as well as most of the gunfire.

                    Now looking back at the bank on the same street from above. The building in the foreground is actually a school. Some of the teachers came out to chat with me when they saw me taking pictures. They had no idea that a famous US movie was filmed in their town over 40 years ago.

                    You will get a few glimpses of this church in the YouTube clip.

                    The central plaza.

                    And now the YouTube clip.
                    Last edited by Alatriste; 05 Mar 10, 15:42.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Von Richter View Post
                      ...Can't wait to get home and see this ride in the footsteps of the Wild Bunch in all it's glory!
                      I hope you enjoy the story and the pictures.


                      • #12
                        That concludes the opening shootout of the movie. Other parts of the movie were filmed in other parts of Mexico. The final shootout was fortunately filmed very nearby.

                        However, before moving to the final shootout, let's look at some of Parras first.

                        Here is my hotel. It is a grand old home with an interior patio.

                        My room's exterior door. I was able to smoke some fine cigars in the hotel's interior courtyard without anybody giving me hostile looks or waving their hand in front of their nose. In fact in Mexico, fine cigars are like doe attractant

                        Last edited by Alatriste; 05 Mar 10, 15:54.


                        • #13
                          very cool. thanks


                          • #14
                            The most prominent feature in Parras is Santo Madero. This is a small Catholic chapel that sits on an extinct volcano plug. People like to walk/run up there and back in the morning for exercise. Sure beats running stadium bleachers.

                            As I said upthread, Parras is an oasis. The water flows from natural springs that are at higher elevations. The people have piped these natural waters to what they call estanques. These are swimming parks. Clean fresh spring water that circulates in and out of these pools.

                            In this photo which I shot in the morning, you can see the reflection of Santo Madero in the water.

                            Here I have taken a photo of the estanque from the volcano plug. Notice all the trees and the changing colors even though I am out in the middle of a desert.

                            The water flows down into the town from various springs via modern piping or old aqueducts. Here we see the Roman technology at work in the New World. Some of these aqueducts that are still in use are hundreds of years old. There is an open channel on the ground for use at that elevation, and there is another channel on top of the arches that takes the water down to lower elevations for use there.

                            The oasis ends abruptly. It is not a gradual thing. In the photo below you can see where the trees and vegetation stop cold and then we are back to the desert.
                            Last edited by Alatriste; 05 Mar 10, 16:17.


                            • #15
                              What will follow are some random shots of Parras. The town is immaculate. People are out sweeping the streets in front of their homes and businesses. I saw no litter, but did notice a few people picking up a few pieces of trash. The residents must be very proud of their oasis in the desert.

                              City Hall.

                              Central Plaza.

                              A clock tower monument.

                              Typical street. Note how clean, and the lanterns over the doors.

                              The gazebo in the central plaza.

                              More aqueduct.
                              Last edited by Alatriste; 05 Mar 10, 18:04.


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