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Quiet Texas Town Provides Solitude for Residents


Most human beings are social animals and yet there are people who long to get far away from their fellow humans. Many of them seek remote and somewhat exotic locales.

One such place is Terlingua,Texas, a desert community near the Mexican border built around the ruins of an old mining town.

Getting to this part of far west Texas involves some long drives. Its 128 kilometers to the nearest town.

But many people are enchanted by the tranquility of the desert.

There are fewer than 300 full-time residents in Terlingua, but the population grows every winter with the arrival of people with mobile homes.

James Brasier came down from Clinton, Missouri. "It is really quiet. No noise and you can get away from all the fast world. Kind of a neat area."

Brasier is what locals call a snow bird, someone who comes down to escape winter up north.

Motor lodge manager Patricia Culp says escape is what this area is all about. "We get snow birds in January who will stay through the last part of March, first part of April, when it starts getting warmer up north. We have tourists who come down two or three times a year, people from different parts of Texas who love it down here and would like to live here if possible."

In the past few years, Terlingua has experienced a real estate boom. People are coming from far and wide to buy their own piece of the rocky landscape, where they can either park a trailer or build a real house. Some even use rocks from the old ghost town to build new dwellings.

The boom comes in spite of a drought that has all but ended one of the area's big tourist draws -- rafting on the Rio Grande river.

Big Bend National Park continues to attract visitors but there isn't much work anymore for river guides, like Mike Kasper. "You gotta be a pretty hard, tough guide to get a canoe or a raft down this river because it is so low."

Mike Kasper is a musician, artist and handyman in addition to being a tour guide. He says part of what drew him here is the creative energy of the environment. "There is a great draw out here to the sparseness, you cannot hide from yourself, there's just shadows. It is a pretty desolate part of the world and it is a great way to get inspiration. It is pretty bare, pretty exposed, pretty raw, pretty rustic and it is a great place for artistic juices to flow."

Terlingua is also known for its annual chili cook-offs and hundreds more people are expected to take up residence here later this year for the 40th annual event.

But all this activity is bothersome to old-time residents who came here to get away from the hubbub of modern society.

Resident Doug Blackmun knows why people come. He says, "One of the reasons people come out here is the solitude."

Rob Wright, another resident, says people leave, but they always return. "Used to be. It is changing. It has changed so much in ten years. The novelty has worn off for me, I may have to get out of here, or want to, but you always come back. Once this place is in your blood, you always come back. There is no doubt about it."