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Terlingua Reprise - The Heart of the Desert

Miss K woke me up in the pre-dawn hours getting out of bed. ‘Where are you going?’ ‘To put on some more clothes. It is COLD!’ She was right, no argument there at all. During the night the Old Girl had cooled to an uncomfortable level. Nothing for it but for me to get up and get some heat going. I had not expected it to get so cool overnight but then the Midland weatherman routinely got the forecast down here wrong. His prediction of lows in the 40’s had missed the mark and then some. Low humidity, a cloudless overnight sky and higher elevation had all conspired drop the temperature to 29 degrees before daylight. A flip of the switch fired up the Generac generator and I made sure the electric heater was running back in the bedroom before I closed the door. Miss K was somewhere in that pile of down comforter and patchwork quilt on the bed. The Little Buddy heater was glowing in the front of the RV.

Desert Relic

It is Thursday, March 22 of 2012. We had made a fuel and water run to Study Butte the previous day. It is a 50 mile round trip and that is considered ‘close’ down here. First stop was to be water at the Cottonwood store. The 65 gallon nurse tank was sitting empty in the back of the Suburban. Plans changed when I saw Earl out beside the Study Butte store filling propane bottles. What a stroke of luck! You see, Earl doesn’t work everyday and when he does work it is only for a few hours at a time. The store is the only source of propane in South County and they have an elaborate and complicated propane filling schedule prominently posted on the front door. Experience has shown, like some many things in Terlingua, schedules are not necessarily any sort of commitment that the schedule will be followed. I think mainly it is to satisfy the button down requirements of the turistas that still have cubicle brains. Normal routine is to set your propane bottle with your name on it beside the scale at the propane tank. When Earl gets around to filling it, he sets it on the other side of the scale. The side of the Study Butte store looks like a small flock of white-gray eggie babies all snuggled up to the Big Mama tank. I never have asked because it might brand me as one of the city boys but apparently theft of the unsecured bottles in the dark hours of the night is not a problem. I guess it would be akin to stealing a man’s horse or something to snatch his propane bottle. You just don’t even think it. Oddly enough, propane was the same price at $36 / 40lb bottle we had paid a few days previously in Alpine.

Across the street after that to the Cottonwood Store for drinking water. I backed up to the black hose at the side of the building and Miss K goes inside to pay and replenish the beer supply. You let the water run for a minute at the base of the oleander to clear the hose out first and then put it in your tank. Water is $0.10 a gallon and it is ‘good’ water by Terlingua standards. Another oddity about Terlingua; they are stingy with their beers down here for some unknown reason. If a man wants to get a 12 pack of bottles, he buys 2 six packs. The 12,18 and 24 packs of bottles we have grown accustomed to in other locations just ain’t happening here and it is like that in all 3 beer stores in town. Maybe bottle beer is out of favor down this way. I certainly couldn’t tell ya.

Study Butte Store

There are 2 places for fuel – the Study Butte store and the Fina next to the Big Bend Motor Lodge. The fuel price signs in front of the business are both blank but the Fina generally is a few cents cheaper. Looks to be that way again today. The Store has one Dodge mini van from Colorado taking on fuel. The Fina a few hundred yards up the road has a line of vehicles waiting — many of them locals in desert beaten dusty trucks. I need gas for the Suburban and diesel for the Green Brute generator. Gas is $4.17 and diesel is $4.43. Miss K comes out of the store with a copy of the monthly Big Bend Gazette local paper and hollers at me that the radiator is leaking on the Suburban. Standing at the back hatch filling 5 gallon diesel cans I take a quick glance underneath and verify we do have liquid on the ground in the general area of the radiator. Next thing I know Miss K and the local guy in the Jeep with the hi-lift jack and 2 spare tires on the roof at the pump in front of us are down on all fours inspecting the suspicious water. Consensus after a few minutes is the previous vehicle had leaked the water; not us. With a wave, the Jeep guy takes off. Thank goodness we are driving a vehicle that fits in down here. A lifted F250 with shiny wheels gets you generally ignored. An hour in town sees us headed back north on 118 toward the Refuge. Not bad at all. Every propane, gas, diesel and water tank we have available is full up plus we garnered 2X6 bottles of Miller Lite. Miss K comments as we head up the hill out of town that she likes the casual atmosphere of the area. She is certainly right about that; pretty much anything goes. I comment to her that I see it more as laid back than casual. She thinks for a minute and concurs. ‘Terlingua Time’ she says and goes back to reading the paper.

End Note: Too Old to Grow Up Now by Calvin Russell from the Last Call, in the Heat of a Night cd.  8 minutes of guitar/harmonica goodness.

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3 comments to Terlingua Reprise – The Heart of the Desert

  • Don

    I have departed on more than one trip down that way knowing the forecast was predicting cold temperatures, and then not experience anything of the sort. Until the next day… Go figure.

    I tend to spend most of my turista dollars in Study Butte at the Study Butte Store and Cottonwood. They seem to be more in tune with the locals than the Fina store. That is my impression,your mileage may vary.

    Don

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    • Andrew

      Thanks for commenting Don.

      I agree with you on where the dollar seems most appreciated. The Study Butte store is more expensive on fuel and you have to go inside first to get them to turn the pump on as they have no card reader outside. I bought fuel there when we were fueling the Suburban. When I needed both gas and diesel, we went up to the Fina.

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  • So good to hear that there is still a place in this country where honesty is valued more than money.
    Mike

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