Sunday, May 20, 2012


As we head out into the higher elevations of the Davis Mountains, I can feel my heart swell with the openness of vistas that allow for seeing a hundred miles in any direction. This feeling is bred in me and lies at the core of what I long for, when in more constrained society and environments. The walls come down, the protective nature becomes more primal, and for me there is more room for joy.  The spirit flies.


Ft Davis State park and Indian River Lodge are our destination for the next few days. We are camped in a shaded arroyo in this beautiful park, where wild Javelina and Prong horn antelope roam the area with plenty of snakes and lots of pretty birds. The park is quite high (5-6000 ft), and though we have no cell service, we can get wi-fi at the lodge which is one of the CCC’s amazing facilities, that has withstood and prospered for 80 years, giving enjoyment to thousands of traveling Americans, as well as international travelers from everywhere.

The past couple nights we have spent in the Davis Mountains State Park, a spectacular example the enduring work performed by the Civilian Conservation Corps created  by FDR to employ desperate Americans impoverished by the Great Depression.  Back in 1935, some 350 young men trekked up into this gorgeous canyon and constructed first a work camp, then mountain access roads and trails, and finally a crowning masterpiece, the Indian Lodge.  All the buildings are constructed of locally harvested materials, including the massive 40# adobe bricks that form the foot-thick walls of all buildings, the stucco surfaces painted a brilliant white, the stone roadways and trail markers, and even the bulrush ceiling poles found on the banks of the Rio Grande.  We are here in a cool oasis in the middle of the Chihuahuan desert, a place once thick with black bears and cougars and still full of deer, pronghorn antelope, javelina wild pigs, and amazing bird populations.  The buildings are perfectly preserved and form an elegant ambiance at the luxury lodge and the shaded campsites where we reside.  I cannot recall ever seeing a more beautiful and lasting monument to the New Deal, or a more appreciated project built by young men who signed on to hard labor in exchange for three meals a day and $25 per month, nearly all of which was sent home to help feed their hard hit families and siblings.  Here is a project that no Texas rancher would ever have conceived or accomplished without federal stimulus.  And just down the road is another CCC built oasis in Balmorea, complete with 2 acre swimming pool and a vast irrigation network.
As we hear the outcry from conservatives to rein in government spending, let’s not forget the wonderful successes of the CCC and the stimuli that helped our nation recover from that depression.  Magnificent public works projects are not the province of private investors and will not be accomplished by lowering taxes.  Our nation has so many opportunities for public investment and such resources that can and must be harnessed to ready our infrastructure for coming generations of Americans.  We cannot succumb to individual greed and shortsighted policies that will leave our children poorer.  Take the example of the CCC as testimony to America’s bright future.

 From this home base, we head down for a day trip into Marfa, where I was born. Marfa has  evolved from the small Tex/Mex town I was born into.  Even in 1947 the town had a lot of character, with numerous artists and eclectic folk, but mostly , it was a ranching town. After Hollywood discovered it, and filmed the epic movie GIANT here, things began to change more toward the eclectic.  Housing famous movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean brought a bit of the avant guard to cowboy country. After Hollywood left, the town struggled on for a few decades until a group of way out in space East coast artists “discovered” it, and two new movies, recently famous NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and primed the town economically again, and now the weird mix has created a little town recently named in the Smithsonian Magazine as the 4th best small town in America! Believe me, the locals are still shaking their heads in wonder. As one local told us, “25 years ago, all the kids could not wait to leave Marfa. Now, they all really want to move back to the IN place.”

Michael and I visited some of the quaint establishments, as well as my old stomping grounds.  My grandparents on my fathers side owned the Marfa Hotel off Main St, and as a kid I visited them there often, after we left Marfa for points further west. We looked up the doctors home/office, where I was born, and talked to many locals that remembered visiting Ms. Niccolls snack bar as kids, or helping in the hotel.  The movie GIANT spawned the fancy hotel Paisano around the corner, which is still a beautiful center Oasis on Main St. The old Marfa hotel is being renovated into apartments by “one of those weird investors”, according to the local talk. It was good to see someone is preserving the old building, weird or not.

We ended the day by visiting a shop where a young man is making handmade boots in the old way, where I was hoping to get fitted for a pair of “cowgirl” boots for my 65th birthday, coming soon. It did not work out, but it was fun talking to him and seeing the individual boots he was making. This is a dying art he has rejuvenated, and he has been discovered, receiving orders from all over the world. Such a polite and genuine Texas ranch boy, a new generation of art meets country. (

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