The mythical healing springs of Reverchon Park

Welcome at last to the arrival of the wearin’ of the green, gents and ladies! Springtime’s officially here as of March 20. Have any of y’all visited our very own Reverchon Park lately in all its blooming glory — in the daylight hours, that is, when one’s erection isn’t necessarily being embedded, post-midnight, inside some anonymous stranger’s orifice behind the honeysuckle bushes?Reverchon Park, established way back in 1914 (the year WWI began), was Dallas’s first civic-planned greenspace, with its 46 acres of wooded oak and pecan groves. It was originally titled Turtle Creek Park but in 1915 received the name for which we know it by today, an homage to Dallas’s famed frontier botanist, Julien Reverchon.

But the park’s early establishment was hardly due to any visionary, forward-thinking by city planners. They simply viewed the new park as an easy, money-making venture due to the mythical healing properties of its hot springs — now long ago capped and buried — which had already become legendary.

I reside in a high rise directly overlooking said park, but I only became personally acquainted with its natural wonders three ago when, like all other gyms in the world, the one in my building shuttered its doors when COVID hit, forcing my personal trainer and me to improvise our regular workout routine. The children’s playground facilities at Reverchon Park suddenly became my neighborhood’s new, open-air fitness center where I took up [gasp!] yoga along with various other forms of stretching exercises.

Travis and I stood 10 feet apart, taking full advantage of the fresh sunshine’s free vitamin Ds. During breathers atop Reverchon’s arched stone bridge, we’d gasp in awe at the creek’s various species of turtles, who shared their home with darting little fish guarding nests of circular pebbles. Everywhere we looked, we saw gray squirrels, green and gray lizards, butterflies and even a majestic pair of white egrets that had taken up residency along with robins, jays, mockingbirds, swallows, sparrows, wrens and even the occasional hummingbird.

Then seemingly overnight, everything just suddenly vanished. The park went totally silent. No droning insects. No croaking amphibians or slithering reptiles. And, most horrifying of all, where the hell did all the birds so quickly just disappear to?

Nary a birdsong anywhere in Reverchon Park can be heard these days. Nor are there any birds building springtime nests in the park’s trees. In fact, the only wildlife still visibly remaining are but a few scampering, unperturbed gray squirrels.

So, what the hell happened? This is high spring!

A quick glance over the creek bank’s edge reveals a dystopian nightmare of plastic soda bottles, discarded tires, mangled electronics, distorted sports’ equipment, pieces of automobiles, reeking old blankets, shreds of clothing, bloated carcasses of lost dogs and feral cats — and not a single bird anywhere to be heard.

Here at the Ides of March, Rachel Carson’s prophesized nightmare has at last come true: Songbirds, like splattered insects on car windshields, have now all gone the way of the Caesars. So let’s get Anthropocene-extinction right to it. Shall we?

Dear Howard: With STIs so all of a sudden soaring lately — I blame internet porn — is there anything preventative, other than PrEP, that I can take to better reduce my chances of contracting something, well, scuzzy? I just don’t trust PrEP. — Dawn’s Ugly Light

My Dear Scuzz: You’re in luck, ho! First, though, a bit of historical perspective: Believe it or not, back at the dawn of this century, in the year 2000, syphilis had been all but eliminated here in the United States. Rates of gonorrhea, too, were in steep decline. However, whether one chooses to blame the shuttering of sexual health clinics, the proliferation of easy/sleazy porn, or HIV no longer being a death sentence, the incidence of STIs has since skyrocketed so that the C.D.C. estimates on any given day at least 1 in 5 Americans now harbors an STI.

Now, for the lucky part: Recent medical studies have concluded that just a single pill of the antibiotic doxycycline, if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, will stave off most any bacterial infection, including the unholy trinity of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea as per the San Francisco Department of Health. Oh, and on a side note, the meningitis vaccine also halves the incidence of gonorrhea.

So, remember, guys, the magic number is 72: That’s how many hours you have to pop a doxycycline if you’re worried about that freak off of Grindr last night, inside whose sphincter-gape you could hear your voice echo.

But let’s get back to Reverchon Park and a long-lost kernel of trivia y’all might find fascinating — or, perhaps, depressing. Anyone who has ever entered the park knows that its environs are about as ordinary of a cliché as any central city park. But lurking just beneath Reverchon Park, unbeknownst to the general public, is a liquid gem that could have forever changed its dreary destiny. Believe it or not, Reverchon Park once proudly claimed to be “The Hot Springs of Texas,” attracting 40,000 visitors a year who came to “take the waters,” bathing in the naturally warm, mineral-rich, artesian springs with mythical recuperative properties.

The Gill Well Springs, as they were known, offered the city a delightfully unexpected windfall, based upon the bath tubs and amount of water used. Subsequently, the grand opening in January 1907 of the Gill Well Sanatorium proved so in demand that in 1912 an indoor swimming pool was added.

So, WTF happened? Dallas, literally, was poised on the very brink of attaining the reputation as being an international spa town. Conveniently ahead of the curve, in 1894 a new hospital named Parkland opened just up the hill, the better to heal their patients.

Alas, though, our city’s elders decreed in 1917 that Maple Avenue should be straightened, despite the Gill Well Sanatorium standing straight in its new path. So the mineral-rich wells were capped to make way for a curve-free road.

Perhaps WWI played a hand in the Springs’ demise, too. Nobody, after all, was traveling during these years.

But the curative Hot Springs of Texas are still there, available to be re-tapped at any time.

Oh well. So much for the bane of Reverchon Park’s existence, that foul, plastic-strewn, songbird-free Turtle Creek blighting such waters of the curatively miraculous. If you ask me, it’s high time the city uncorks once again, the mythically Hot Springs of Texas. Wouldn’t it be just wonderful?

— Howard Lewis Russell

Forward any questions you may to