Old-School Marfa

If you’re looking for a piece about how cool and hip Marfa, Texas is then you’ll be disappointed with this read.

I’m don’t want to talk about how famous, minimalist artist, Donald Judd, “discovered” Marfa in the 70s or how Houston attorney, Tim Crowley, “revived” Marfa in the last decade. I could link to countless articles from The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Town & Country, and Time Out New York that sing the praises of this small, West Texas town. I’m not going to go on and on about how Hollywood has struck Oscar gold with Marfa as the backdrop.

Want to know why?

Because that’s not the Marfa that I love.

I was eight the first time I went to Marfa. My mother and I were visiting my uncle who lived in nearby Alpine. We drove 26 miles in search of the famous Marfa Lights and dipped cones from Dairy Queen. I got the ice cream, but the lights were elusive.

It was fifteen years until I would return to the remote, West Texas town. My boyfriend invited me to his hometown of Fort Davis, just 21 miles to the north. In 1997, the town was untouched by Tim Crowley. The Donald Judd disciples and other hipster types hadn’t migrated, set up galleries, or purchased vacation homes. No, fifteen years ago, people who were born and raised and/or worked in Marfa could actually afford to live there.

The picture of Marfa is now painted as the next Santa Fe or Aspen. I surely hope that isn’t the case. Marfa has always felt like my little secret. It’s sort of like that great hole-in-the wall bar you love that others have finally discovered. It’s still great, but not the same.

When I think of Marfa, thoughts of trips to Mondo’s for Mexican food and Baeza for feed bring a sense of nostalgia. Remembering the countless rounds at Texas’ highest golf course makes me grin. And no matter how many crazy art installations pop up (Prada Marfa, anyone?) and fusion restaurants appear, this dusty, West Texas town will always be Dairy Queen dipped cones and the Marfa Lights to me. Certainly, I’m not the only one.

On Christmas day, I braved the bitter cold in an attempt to capture the Marfa I know and love. These photos are the result.

Marfa23This is highway 17 looking south to Marfa from Fort Davis. The terrible wild fires of 2011 that nearly destroyed Fort Davis traveled along this road.

Marfa19The Presidio County seat is in Marfa. At 3,855 sq miles, the county is larger than the state of Connecticut.

Marfa22This Cadillac was painted as a tribute to West Texas and sat alone along Highland Avenue.

Marfa21The artist’s detail on the car is spectacular.

Marfa31There’s no barber’s pole, but Quintana’s Barber Shop will treat you right.

Marfa18El Paisano is a classic hotel in Marfa and dubbed a National Historic Landmark.

Marfa17The six flags that have flown over Texas guard the entrance of the hotel that hosted Elizabeth Taylor, James, Dean, Rock Hudson, and Dennis Hopper while filming Giant.

Marfa16Shades of this Coca-Cola advertisement remain across from El Paisano.

Marfa20The store is gone, but the advertisement remains in this alley along Highland Avenue.

Marfa15At the intersection of Highways 90 & 67, graffiti expresses the feelings of some locals.

Marfa26Baeza Feed Store, formerly Godbold, serves as a necessary resource for many area ranchers.

Marfa12Texas pride shines through with a twist.

Marfa9My trips to Marfa aren’t complete without a stop at Mondo’s.

Marfa29You won’t see this picture in the glossy magazines. It’s on the edge of town along Highway 90 heading toward Valentine.

Marfa28American Pickers should make a trip to Marfa.

Marfa30Just outside the city limits on the Pinto Canyon Highway, lies one of the Eppenauer Ranches.

Marfa11Across the Pinto Canyon Highway from the Eppenauer Ranch is this weathered barn. Antelope are a common site around Marfa.

Marfa10Entering Marfa from the Pinto Canyon Highway, the mountains, water tower, & county seat are seen.

Marfa8The pool hall was closed for Christmas.

Marfa2Odd sights abound in Marfa.

Marfa7Many cowboys have honed their skills at the Marfa Roping Club’s arena.

Marfa6These cattle loading pens are located along the railroad and have been around since 1920. They have earned a Texas Historical Marker.

Marfa5Cattle were brought to the pens in order to be shipped by rail. They are still weighed here prior to being shipped by truck.

Marfa25This was the office for the Marfa Railroad Pens, but burned years ago. It faces the tracks.

Marfa3Looking past the pens to the vast landscape

Marfa24Leading into Marfa, here’s look at the rails that were used to carry the cattle away. Trains still pass through town.

My idea of Marfa is very much different from what Condé Nast writers and New York City reporters are spewing. As a native West Texan, I ain’t buying what they’re selling, at least when it comes to Marfa.

I prefer to keep the wild in my West.

For more on West Texas, check out my post here.

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  • Mary Puckett via Facebook
    January 6, 2012

    What a super article you produced, guess you found extra special motivation. I have tried to post the link to my Facebook wall but just get a pop up that it is closing the window:(

  • Leah Travels via Facebook
    January 6, 2012

    Thanks so much, Mary. I shared it to your page for you.

  • Janet Grubb Adams via Facebook
    March 21, 2012

    another great piece

  • Leah Travels via Facebook
    March 21, 2012

    Thanks, Janet. Nearly froze taking those pictures.


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