In the last post I mentioned two towns that we frequented during our stay near Big Bend National Park. One was Terlingua and the other Lajitas. Maverick RV Ranch, where we stayed is in Lajitas and Terlingua is about 17 miles north on the road back to civilization. I say this because these two towns are truly in the middle of nowhere, just like the national park. Terlingua’s history is as a quicksilver (mercury) mining town, but that has long passed and it is now a final stop on the way to Big Bend. Terlingua also sponsors an international chili cook off which is held the first Saturday in November and has brought it additional notoriety. It has a small grocery store, gas station, several RV parks, a couple of restaurants and a ghost town. Liz and I found the ghost town to be an interesting stop and well worth our time. It has, of course, the tourist trap Trading Co. which sells the usual novelties, but there is also plenty of information on the history of this
town and it’s quicksilver mines. We met one of the locals who filled us in on a lot of the details of the rise and fall of the mines and the town of Terlingua. He, like many other local residents had that rugged western look of being a self sufficient inhabitant of the desert. He appeared to be blind in one eye and his western style jeans and shirt were grey with dust from the desert. He was a pleasure to talk to and told us that he lives off the grid and relies on solar power and a little bit of propane to keep his place going. He travels on an ATV everywhere and does odd jobs around Terlingua. We also met a young attractive artist who was tending to an art gallery next to the Starlight Theater, She said that she was originally from upstate New York and passed through Terlingua with her boyfriend on a vacation and never left. I’m not sure what happened to the boyfriend, but she now makes a living from her paintings. I have to say that this is one of those places that attracts unique, some may say eccentric folks.
The Starlight Theater is a restaurant and saloon now, and Liz and I had Sunday brunch there which turned out to be fabulous. I had steak and eggs that was delicious and the Bloody Mary had just the right amount of spices to keep your lips tingling after each sip. As you can imagine there is only spotty cell service in the whole region, and once you get to the park there is none. However, some of the businesses do have free wifi that was actually pretty good. We had coffee one afternoon at La Posadra Milagro and used their wifi to download some data and take care of a few emails. As we drank our coffee there was another local there named Mike. He had an old pickup truck with a cap on the bed and it appeared that everything he owned was in that truck. He pulled out a tan case from the back and put it on the table. When he opened it, Liz and I just looked at each other in amazement. It was an old portable Smith Corona
typewriter. He immediately sat down at the table, put in a piece of white paper and began typing. About that time a young Hispanic lady with a somewhat dusty, disheveled sweatshirt and Jeans with a couple of kids in tow approached Mike and started signing. Mike responded to her and you could tell she was reading his lips. She stayed for a few minutes, and when she left, one of her kids stayed behind with Mike. It’s anyone’s guess as to the relationship between Mike and the young lady, but Liz and I love to “people watch” and as Liz always says “We love to sew a vest around a button.” Although, I didn’t get the sense that Mike was the father, he certainly quickly took responsibility of supervising the boy. I think this is just an example that it takes a village to raise a family and that people here in the rugged, sometimes unforgiving desert rely on each other to get through life. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The owner of the coffee shop came out and told us that she was closing, but that we were welcome to stay and use the wifi as long as we wanted. She said that Mike would probably like the company. We found most of the folks in this town to be friendly, helpful, and accommodating just like Mike and the coffee shop owner, which really made our stay pleasurable. In fact, there is a good chance we may be back again!
Some other pictures from Terlingua. Next post will discuss the outpost of Lajitas. See ya soon!!