I’ve been meaning to write about Brewster County for a long time. I haven’t gotten around to it before now, because it’s difficult to know where to start.
For the geography-impaired, Brewster County is in the Big Bend region of West Texas. Just across the county line in Presidio County is Marfa, where people go to be discovered. In South Brewster County is Terlingua, where people go to disappear. In between are Alpine and, where I hang out, Marathon.
If you look at a county map of Texas from the primary election, Brewster County is that Obama island on the border, in the sea of Clinton country. There have been days where the hottest spot in Texas was at the lower elevations in South Brewster County on the Rio Grande, while at the same time the low temperature for the state was happening in Alpine or Marathon, because of the higher elevation. The country is indescribably beautiful. Photographs do it no justice, and descriptions generally fall short of reality. Big Bend is truly where the deer and the antelope play, and where the stars at night are big and bright. (clap-clap-clap-clap)
Well forget all that – none of that crap is why I go out there.
The reason I love it is, the people are nuts. Stark raving lunatics. And all in a good way.
Pound-for-pound, there is more absurdity per square mile than anywhere else, per capita, according to 4 out of 5 dentists. Chances are good that whenever Molly Ivins strayed from writing about politics, she was instead writing about something weird happening somewhere in Brewster County. Like the time some folks in Terlingua were mulling over Washington’s desire to build a border wall, who then built a test wall and had a contest to see how long it would take somebody to successfully scale it (winning entry: 30 seconds). And like the good people of Lajitas who elected a goat, Clay Henry, as their mayor. And the tourists who got drunk and castrated the mayor. And the resulting trial, which ended with…wait for it…wait for it…a hung jury.
No matter what direction you randomly look in Brewster County, one is always left with the strongly-held impression that you just can’t make this stuff up.
At no time is Marathon weirder than at new year’s, when about 30 of my friends and I converge on the unsuspecting town to behave badly for a few days. Most of us are authors, journalists, lawyers, lobbyists, politicos, or their significant others. While there, we turn into dominoes-playing, tequila-swigging, big-talking, practical-joking lunatics with an apparent bent toward non-destructive pyromania.
Of all the colorful characters in the region, none are more so than George Covington. It might be a 276-way tie, but George is right up there somewhere. He writes a column for the Alpine Avalanche, 30 miles, or half a grocery store trip, away from Marathon. No matter what he writes about, it’s both funny and thought-provoking.
Turns out George, whom I haven’t met face-to-face yet, went to college with Senator Judith Zaffirini, and in a recent column suggested that the entire Texas Legislature be replaced by clones of Pete Gallego (the local state rep) and Zaffirini. I immediately and strenuously objected to the notion, because an entire legislature cloned from those two would create a severe shortage of tequila and red meat in the Capitol. Despite the best efforts of Zaffirini, Gallego, and their clones, progress would come to a screeching halt in the absence of those two crucial legislative lubricants.
Zaffirini sent me the most recent picture of George “Is That Your White Cane, Or Are You Happy To See Me” Covington the other day, so I’m stealing it to post here. From the looks of things, it seems the sight-impaired Covington is on his game.
Meanwhile, a group of the above-mentioned lunatics who usually converge for new years is also converging on Marathon this weekend, for our “Summer Solstice” celebration. Yes, I know the summer solstice has already passed. But I guess we figure that any day our group is in Marathon, the full-time residents of Marathon know it will seem like the longest day of the year.