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South County - Terlingua, Texas


Regular readers will know Miss Kathy and I are planning an immigration to Terlingua, Texas hopefully sooner than later. Terlingua is in Brewster County —  the southern part scooched right up on the Rio Grande and Mexico.  It is 80 miles from the county seat and as such, enjoys (or suffers) quite a bit of separation from The Real World As We Normally See It.  Brewster Countians refer to the area as South County.  Those is Alpine or Ft.Davis might speak it with a hint of derision.  Those folks in Terlingua and Study Butte wear it like a badge.

You see, that part of the Trans Pecos is just tough living.  I’ll give you an example….  I was following one of those internet forums and the guy that started the forum lived in Houston and bought property in Terlingua Ranch.   The forum was filled with other like minded souls and The Guy was all amped up about getting out on his property and building some sorta habitation and living of grid.  He packed up his car and headed on out.  He did not post another message for a week — and then he was back in Houston.   He had tried camping in a tent on his property with plans to start his new life.  He could not even cook food on a camp stove because the wind was blowing so hard across the wide open Chihuahuan Desert…. and he spent all his money in short order with no real results to show.   So he retreated back to Houston because he was hungry and needed to earn some more dinero.  2 months go by and The Guy is posting on the forum about his new preparations and lessons learned and he heads out again.   2 weeks later, the forum completely disappears from the Internet.  Somebody didn’t –or couldn’t– pay their web hosting bill.  That was two months ago and The Guy has yet to re-surface.

Terlingua Ghost Town

They say South County is the place old recreational vehicles go to die — and old school buses and ocean containers. From what I can tell the miscreants and escapists who are having trouble paying their apartment rent or house payment or phone bills head out to the Big Bend Area thinking they are going to live off the land cheap and simple. They turn into The Guy after just a few weeks or months. Nothing is cheap when you are over an hour from the closest decent hardware store or grocery. You have increased transportation costs, concrete is 3X more expensive per yard than it is here in North Texas for example. It is NOT simple either. Where once water flowed unfailingly from a faucet, you now have water catchment systems you have to buy and then have the knowledge to install. Where light and heat once manifested itself with the flip of a switch or the turn of a dial, you now have battery banks and solar panels and charge controllers. Not cheap. Not easy to implement.  Yeah, Miss K and I are going to do our thing in South County — when we are ready.

Here is a great article from a real journalist that gives a good insight into the South County Scene…

New world in Old West: Once a frontierlike refuge for the anti-social, South Brewster County is seeing modern times.

By John MacCormack, jmaccormack@express-news.net

STUDY BUTTE — From his solitary encampment in a 1955 aluminum house trailer at the base of Bee Mountain, Bill Valentine can look south across the flats to the majestic Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park.

“I’ve been coming down here almost forever. I moved down in 1986, and one reason was there wasn’t anything here,” recalled Valentine, 75, a retired gymnastics teacher from Fort Worth.

“Back then, we probably had less than 500 people living south of Santiago Peak, and most of them lived in Lajitas. But we forgot to close the gate.”

What was once an uncluttered vista of austere desert and craggy peaks is now marred by stores, trailer homes, broken-down vehicles and other detritus of haphazard development.

“You could sit out here and not see anything. Now I see a lot of people,” Valentine said.

Bordered by vast federal and state parks on the east and west, and Mexico to the south, remote South Brewster County was long a magnet for chili heads, river rafters and people who just wanted to get away.

Among them were certain hardy and self-sufficient souls, including not a few misanthropes, who shared a deep distrust of government and mainstream culture, and were willing to endure deprivation and isolation.

You can still find characters like “Black George,” a bearded, elfish wanderer who has been visiting for a half century and lives in his pickup.

“Back then, the people were the outcasts and escapees from society, some on the borderline of the law. And it still attracts people trying to escape the city,” said George, 87, who attributed his odd nickname to “numerous dark pages” in his past.

And while bumper stickers such as “Federal Government: The New Organized Crime” are still seen, what was often called the last frontier of Texas is changing.

You can read the entire article here , it is worth the read.

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