Big Bend National Park, Texas: October 20, 2021
We began the day with an early morning visit to the off-the-grid home built by Jamie Cowdery. The walls are pounded earth within a steel framework.
Much of the building materials were "found" in debris piles or otherwise scavenged. He invited us inside where he explained to us the provenance and raw source of his artistic creations.
In the corner behind the blanket is a "rocket stove" made from a 55-gallon drum. Pipes from the stove run along the wall within the seat under the blanket toward the eating area to provide hours of ambient heat.
Car parts, gas cans, and bed springs decorate his bedroom in a truly original fashion.
His kitchen counters are glass pieces set in Portland cement which he vibrated to evenly distribute the glass pieces. Once set, he sanded and epoxied the surface. They are beautiful.
This box-like creation is for taking advantage of the area's dark skies. A mattress goes inside and the space is surrounded with a fine mesh to keep bugs and other crawling creatures away. A wood stove sits at the end to provide warmth when needed. Once inside lay back and watch the stars above.
After the off-the-grid tour we drove to Big Bend to hike the challenging Lost Mine Trail. The round trip distance is 4.8 miles with a 1,300 foot elevation gain.
We hiked through oak, Texas Madrone, and juniper forests and there were a surprising number of wildflowers in bloom. Fall is Big Bend's green time as it comes after the summer monsoon season. Cacti bloom in the spring.
Down the mountain and finished hiking for the day our guide, Erin Little, took us on a walking tour and gave us a history lesson of Terlingua Ghost Town. About 200-300 people live in Terlingua full time. The number swells to 2,000 for the annual Chili Cookoff the first week of November.
|Starlight Theater and Old Car|
The old car sits between the theater and the old jail (public toilets behind the jail). We learned some of Terlingua's history, and although I can't recall all the details of the car, this is what I remember.
Cinnabar ore was discovered in the 1880s. Mr. Howard E. Perry bought the land and established the Chisos Mining Company which at its peak employed about 1,000 Mexican miners. The mine shafts were as deep as 800 feet down. The miners (mostly Mexicans who were paid about $1.50/day) chiseled out chunks of rock, put about 80 lbs into a sack hoisted on their backs, climbed a ladder 800 feet up to the top where the chunks were checked for quality, and then climbed back down the 800 foot ladder for another load. The chunks with cinnabar were smashed, the mineral heated and liquified into mercury (quicksilver).
By 1922, 40 percent of the quicksilver mined in the United States came from Terlingua, but production began to decline steadily during the 1930s. Mercury mining hit its peak during World War I as mercury was a bomb detonator. In 1942 the mining company filed for bankruptcy and Perry was broke.One of the Mexican workers finally saved enough money to buy that car from the Sears catalog. The car was delivered and he asked his wife to take a ride with him. She declined. The next day, he asked again and she declined. While the man was working, his two boys decided to make themselves comfortable in the backseat. They were smoking and inadvertently caught the seat on fire and the the entire car burned.
|Terlingua Trading Company Front Porch for music and shade|
|Votive Candle for a possible Texas Gubernatorial Candidate|
The Terlingua Cemetery was established in 1903 as a final resting place for miners and residents that succumbed to dangerous working conditions, gunfights, and the influenza epidemic of 1918. Many of these graves have lost their identifying information. Day of the Dead is marked here on November 2 with little tokens, coins and rocks placed on each grave. Each of these people have died twice already: first when the breath left the body and second when each was placed in the grave. There is a final death when you aren't remembered. Terlingua remembers.
The cemetery is in continual use and some of the most colorful graves are from the current era.
|The Grave of an Amateur Paleontologist|
|St. Agnes Church founded 1914|
Dinner was at Big Bend Boating and Hiking Company (Erin's company) on TX-118.