Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 3, Summer 2000 Page: 39
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(Living History, continued from page 15)
living link to a period only 21 years after
Don Meliton's [Milton Faver's] death. But
what if a terrible mistake had been made
in restoration? Might the walls be too tall,
despite the extrapolations from the old
photographs? Might the courtyard-porch
roof be the wrong configuration even
though its design was based upon different
wear patterns imprinted on the adobe
walls? Restoration was very nearly complete
at El Cibolo, and there was little desire
to rip out a structural element and begin
On the appointed day, Mrs. Dutchover
arrived, driven by her son Fred and looking
very alert indeed. With some anxiety,
we escorted her into the courtyard, where
she took a long look around. At her request,
she was rolled from one corner to
another and back again. Finally, she began
to speak, revealing valuable information
about the configuration of undocumented
"But what about the fort itself?" she was
"Ah, perfect," she replied, perfect in
every way, just as it was when she was a
child although "newer."
"All except for the missing room that is."
There was an intake of breath around her.
"A missing room? What missing room?
"Over there," she replied. "In front of that
tower. My father used to store hay in it."
We quickly took her to the northwest
corer of the courtyard and asked her to
indicate the shape and dimension of the
missing room. Then we constructed the
room just as she had described it. The room
was missing because its foundations were
missing when the archaeological excavation
in the northwest corer of El Fortin
del Cibolo was conducted. The Whites had
constructed a small building on the site of
the room, eradicating the evidence of its
II UFI IIfI
~The I known to us as the Transos,
B end, or far West Texas elicits
many r t nses from many people. They
always me back with stories. They are
al ed, moved, stirred. Ask anyone
who's been there, and if they say they
didn't feel something, they're lying.
Those who haven't been there don't really
get it. They try to. They can hear their
friends' stories. They can sense the excitement
in the tellers' voices, the frustration
at being unable to completely capture the
area's bewitching essence.
In some ways, the region is not very unlike
lots of others. You can start your description
that way. Like many parts of the
world, there are few trees. Like many parts
of the world, there is little water. Like many
parts of the world, there are mountains.
There are snakes. There are grasses. Goats.
There is sky, lots of sky.
Yet there are so very few other things
we are accustomed to. No towering cities.
No lakes. No forests teeming with wildlife
and campers. No strip malls. No noise.
None. Only long, empty one-lane roads
traversing a great emptiness and a few
lonely things we recognize.
This emptiness though is crashing with
vigor-a kind of prismatic vision, accustomed
to chaos, is brought to bear to these
very few ordinary landscape parts. They
become immense, towering larger than
their pedestrian counterparts in other regions.
You have seen sunsets. Nowhere have
you seen sunsets like those over Marfa. You
have seen graveyards. Nowhere have you
seen graveyards like that in Terlingua. You
have seen red cliffs. Beat-up dogs. Dust. You
get the picture.
These hardy elements are the only ones
strong enough, passionate enough, unfortunate
enough to live there. So not only
must the visitor rely on these elements for
company in this adopted context of almost
complete isolation, but in a way these
things have come to rely on one another
to overcome their loneliness as well.
And they dance with such passion in
combat of their loneliness. And they spawn
such strange creatures! The dancing lights,
the origin of which no one can explain.
See them! There is no explanation. Purple
and lavender deserts, the children of sage
and August rain, the strange communities
brought together by water and earth. The
dust devils pirouetting at the feet of proud
...you can sense the joy, so you
just watch in slow motion and
celebrate the dance. In silence.
And the dance isn't for you. Or about
you. You aren't invited. It's like the solitude
you feel at an exotic wedding-illiterate
and dumb, you can hardly communicate
with the participants, but you can
sense the joy, so you just watch in slow
motion and celebrate the dance. In silence.
The people there know this. The
woman with the Irish passport and Spanish
name who sells designer linens out of
an abandoned gas station knows this. The
man who makes a living selling hubcaps
knows this. The renegade tax evaders and
coyotes know this. They drive without licenses.
Without license plates. Without
doors sometimes. Until recently,
Terlingua's Starlight lounge had no roof.
They know that what's happening out
there is bigger than they are.
Forgive me if I offend anyone's geophilic
senses by saying that the Hill Country is
indeed God's Country.
But God and the Devil are still fighting
over Big Bend.
Or perhaps they're dancing?
Franklin is the THF executive director.
HERITAGE * 39 * SUMMER 2000
Where history, people, and places come together
BY OLIVER FRANKLIN
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 3, Summer 2000, periodical, Summer 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45389/m1/39/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.