Big Bend National Park 5: Terlingua Ghost Town (Travel Date Feb. 2013)

Terlingua is a ghost town in name only.  Scattered outside the stone ruins of the original town and its historic cemetery are what seem to be a couple of hundred squatters, campers, and even some bona fide single-family homes.  The rural areas surrounding Terlingua are also populated.  Terlingua claims to have invented the chili cook-off, now ubiquitous throughout Texas.

Entering Terlingua

Entering Terlingua

Walking a path through the historic ruins I meet a cordial middle-aged man called Clam.  He lives in an old Airstream trailer next to the community vegetable garden.  He’s built a 6-foot wooden privacy fence with an electronic security gate to form a small yard around the trailer.  When I ask him about recycling some plastic water bottles, he suggests I make fly traps out of them instead.  “I could use that in camp,” I reply.  He escorts me through his gate and shows me several such traps.  “This one must have 10,000 flies in it,” he says, as I avert my gaze from the pile of insect carcasses.  His yard smells like stale beer, which he uses to bait the fly traps.  Along the fence sits a row of rabbit cages, and the rabbits appear to be wonderfully cared for.  I don’t want to ask what the rabbits are for, so I go on my way.

Feeling under-fed after several days exploring the desert, I stop into the Mexican restaurant for a late lunch.  It’s me and one other lone traveler, but from his complaints the kitchen seems to be behind.  The waitress’ assurance that I will get timely food is enough for me to order the highly recommended fajitas.  For a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, this place delivers big time.  I soon receive a huge plate of fresh, tasty, food, and in the meantime I’ve joined the waitress in conversation.  She grew up in the Terlingua area, left for 15 years or so after high school, and has returned.  “Locals can’t afford prescription medicine,” she tells me.  Instead, they use creosote bush extract and colloidal silver to heal wounds and aches and pains.  I’m suspicious about the silver, but there is a store in town advertising it.  I stick with my Advil and ice.

A school bus converted into an income-generating  rental property

A school bus converted into an income-generating rental property

I head down the road to the regional auto mechanic to see if he can double-check the tightness of my truck’s skid plates, just to be sure.  They have just closed when I arrive.  The front counter area is adorned with memberships and awards from the National Rifle Association and a Texas state shooting association.  The friendly owner and I chat for several minutes, and I decide not to worry about the skid plates.

After a two-hour scenic drive west out of Terlingua, I return to the combination gas station/restaurant for fuel and ice cream.  I observe an energetic party in the restaurant, and the cashier informs me it’s a couple’s 60th wedding anniversary.  It doesn’t seem right to just buy gas and walk out, so I enter the room and ask for the guests of honor.  I introduce myself to the gracious elderly couple and congratulate them on their anniversary.  “Sit down,” the lady said.  “Have a piece of cake.”  I did, of course.  As we talk I tell them this is my first time visiting the state of Texas.  The lady’s face lights up as she takes my hand in hers and exclaims, “Well, you are blessed!  Have another piece of cake!”  I don’t argue.  I talk with several more party guests, and the few Terlingua natives in the bunch are thrilled to be living here, working in the mine.  Overall they are one of the nicest and happiest groups of folks I have ever met.

Terlingua sculpture garden; double-click the photo for best effect.

Terlingua sculpture garden; double-click the photo for best effect.

Historic stone ruins of the original town of Terlingua

Historic stone ruins of the original town of Terlingua

About Jerry
Working in Corporate America for many years, I wanted to break free of the office walls for a bit and explore the world. Having put the pieces in place, I am first exploring the USA by road. Colleagues and friends expressed interest in my travels, giving rise to Office Escape. It is my honor to share my adventures.

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