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Brewster County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page takes the walk of shame [UPDATED]

Don’t get me wrong – I love the Brewster County Sheriffs Department. They’re the folks who keep us safe and sound in the Big Bend region. I have no complaints. I’m a fan. The deputies with whom I’m acquainted are pleasant, professional, and get the job done. I’ve met Sheriff Dodson a couple of times and he seems like an alright guy and then some. And their weekly “sheriffs blotter” pieces are always interesting, and often unintentionally hysterically funny (most funny entry ever: police were dispatched to a trailer park because a woman was overheard hollering “help!” but upon investigation it was determined that her dog’s name was Help).

But honestly, whoever is running their Facebook page this week needs the weekend off.

On their official departmental Facebook page, they posted a story of dubious linage, from a website I’d never heard of. The alarmist headline of the story is “BREAKING: TEXAS POLICE ARREST MUSLIM TERRORIST WEARING ISIS BODY ARMOR.”

Please note that other headlines of note on the aforementioned website include:

OBAMA MOCKS CHRISTIANITY

AL GORE ADMITS THAT GLOBAL WARMING IS A MYTH

RESEARCH FRAUD: VACCINE LINK TO AUTISM COVERED UP BY TOP SCIENTISTS

Another headline at the website, ironically, is “ISIS LIVING AT 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE?”

Look, this website (to which I will not be linking) isn’t the first wacko right-wing website to spread disinformation all over the internet. But when otherwise-credible law enforcement agencies get involved and help them spread their drivel, that’s a different story.

When the Brewster County Sheriff’s office posted the story on their page, I was amazed, and questioned the post in a comment. I was quickly joined by several others who had similar concerns about spreading alarmist “news.”

Then whoever administers the Facebook page for the Sheriff did something amazing. The administrator claimed that they weren’t saying it was true, they were merely asking the public for verification that it was true.

Oh really? Here’s a screen shot of the Sheriff’s office post when I first saw it:

BCSO 1

But here’s another screen shot of the same post a couple of hours later, after the department was claiming “hey, we’re just asking!” Notice their edit up top:

BCSO 2

 

Funny thing – they weren’t “just asking” when they first posted it. They were posting drivel. Also, they weren’t learning how to spell “authenticity,” but I digress.

Terrorist organizations are just about as serious as it gets these days. People need accurate information, not alarmist fiction. And for the alarmist fiction to be presented by a trusted law enforcement agency is the height of irresponsibility.

What’s the harm, you ask? As of the last time I checked, 54 76 82 people had shared the original post to their own Facebook walls. And those people aren’t “just asking.” Because they trust their sheriff’s department.

Too bad their sheriff’s department Facebook page administrators believe everything they read on the internet, huh?

UPDATE: the Sheriff’s Department, via comment to their original post, now says this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 4.55.50 PM

Unfortunately, they have not removed the original post, and now 79 82 unsuspecting people have shared this false story on their own Facebook pages. Instead of spreading information, your Sheriff’s Department is spreading fear.

UPDATE 2: they finally removed the post…at least an hour after determining it was false.

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Molly Ivins can’t cook that, can she? (book review)

I have a personal longstanding theory that the only real difference between a great journalistic news story, and a great bar story, is that one should never let accuracy get in the way of a great bar story. Otherwise, well done journalism is the same thing – just damn good story telling.

Ellen Sweets has managed to exceed both thresholds in her new book about Molly Ivins. It’s both a fair accounting of Ivins, and a great extended bar story very well-told.

Stirring it up with Molly Ivins – A Memoir with Recipes by Ellen Sweets (foreword by Lou Dubose) is the most recent look into the life and times of a woman who is already well-documented, and Sweets tackles the topic from a unique angle – food. Anybody who knew Molly already knew she was a bit of a foodie, but when Sweets described to me a year ago her book idea of setting her Molly memoir in the kitchen, it frankly seemed like a bit of an odd, yet interesting idea.

But after reading the book it makes perfect sense, and it’s a great read.

Admittedly, I have a sky-high number of conflicts of interest here: Molly Ivins was a close friend of mine. Ellen Sweets is a close friend of mine. And Ellen included me in the book. But precisely because of all of the above, I can tell you with high confidence that if you ever spent evenings with Molly, reading Ellen’s book will give you the gift of spending one more. Even better, if you never got to spend that evening with Molly, you’re in luck – after reading the book, you’ll feel just like you did.

This is not your standard-issue cookbook, although it has a ton of recipes that I can’t wait to try. But if your singular goal is life is to continue to avoid finding out first-hand whether the stove in your kitchen actually works, you’ll still enjoy the book, assuming you love a good bar story about a fascinating, rowdy, complicated, and – at least to progressives and First Amendment advocates – inspiring Texas woman.

I loved Molly Ivins, and I loved this book. The last of it made me cry, the rest of it made me laugh, and the entirety of it made me hungry.

If you want a small taste (sorry) of Ellen’s writing, courtesy of The University of Texas Press, here’s one chapter near and dear to my heart, since it’s about Molly and me. And after you read the excerpt, don’t be a cheap-ass – buy the book.

Westward Ho, Ho, Ho


Molly and I had lots of plans, some sillier than others. One was to eventually relocate to Marathon, a little town in West Texas, and open a pseudo greasy spoon that would serve wonderful food. No white linen, no stemware, maybe not even matching plates and flatware. Just tables filled with pecan-crusted catfish, smothered chicken in onion gravy, perfectly roasted chickens, fresh-picked vegetables, cloud-soft biscuits doused with butter churned from the milk of local cows.


We would come up with menu ideas. My daughter, Hannah the Chef, would execute them, and I would greet guests pleasantly or otherwise stay out of the way. One sure offering would be coq au vin.


Close by our dream café Molly and I would pool our resources–hers substantial, mine meager–and plant a double-wide (hers) and a yurt (mine) on a patch of West Texas real estate in Marathon, where she did in fact buy a double lot. When her health took its final turn south, she ended up selling it to political strategist Harold Cook, a friend who, like a handful of other Austin renegades, was doing his part to Democratize that arid neck of the woods, as in “Let’s turn Brewster County blue.” In the best Molly tradition, it was the kind of sale ranchers probably did a century ago with a smile and a handshake. Like a lot of other friendships, this one evolved from a meal a long time ago.


Molly and me, unfortunately near the end

Cook was working at the time for Representative Debra Danburg, arguably the most liberal snuff-dipping Democrat in the Texas Legislature at the time. Molly, who was writing for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, stopped by the office to chase down some story or another. She and Harold struck up a conversation. One thing led to another and the two began to hang out, a coalition built on mutual political interests–solidifed, naturally enough, at a political event.


But let him tell it: “Debra had been scheduled to participate in roasting Glen Maxey [the first openly gay member of the Texas Legislature] at a fund-raising dinner for the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby at Scholz Garten, but Debra had to cancel at the last minute, so I filled in. Molly was emcee for the event, and she introduced me as a legislative aide for Debra Danburg, which, she said, was “just like being Murphy Brown’s secretary.” (This popular and sometimes controversial 1990s sitcom was set in a newsroom where investigative reporter Murphy Brown was plagued by a string of hilariously inept secretaries, often portrayed by high-profile celebrities.)


“I started my speech by reading a mock letter from Danburg, which she’d supposedly written and which started out, ‘Dear Glen, I hate it that I couldn’t be with you and LGRL tonight. I would have been there if I could, but I got another offer that sounded like more fun, so fuck you.’ Molly decided that anybody who would say the f-word in public was A-OK in her book, so we stayed late, got drunk, and after that I was a regular.”


The friendship grew. Cook even made chili in Molly’s kitchen, having learned to cook out of desperation and self-defense while a student at the University of Houston. Too broke to eat out and too proud to scrounge meals at his parents’ house, he taught himself, delving into the kitchen bible of the \’50s and \’60s–the red plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. He particularly remembers an evening when he made chili for her.


“She kept standing over my shoulder and tasting stuff, suggesting more of this or more of that. I told her I don’t like backseat drivers and to leave me the hell alone and let me cook my chili.”


Over the years the two spent time together in Marathon. She enjoyed piddling around, clearing cactus and moving rocks from point A to point B to make parking space. He became a piddling-around pal, primarily helping with the heavy lifting. Molly told Cook about wanting to build a writer’s shack on the property, but acknowledged that because of her illness, the six-hour drive from Austin was just too much and she wouldn’t use the house as much as she would have liked.


She decided instead to pool resources with her brother, Andy, for a place in the Hill Country village of London, only three hours away. They planned to have a few chickens, maybe a cow or two, and a vineyard, the results of which would be an insouciant Chardonnay bottled under the label “Château Bubba.”


Molly offered to sell her piece of Marathon property to Cook because she felt he understood the spirit of the place and would care for it as she would have wanted. It would have been just like Molly to give it to him had Jan Demetri, her accountant, not intervened. Instead she sold it for the same sum she had paid for it several years before. Who knows how much it’s worth now. But, once again, that was Molly.


Cook ponied up the cash, but they didn’t even do a formal sale for at least another year or so–it was essentially a handshake deal in the best Texas tradition. There’s an excellent chance that neither of them bothered with details long enough to find a notary public. Instead Molly insisted on a formal ceremony transferring “moral and spiritual responsibility for her property.” This not-so-solemn rite was performed up the road, at the home of Ty and Kate Fain. It was originally scheduled to take place at the actual property, but the peripatetic West Texas weather refused to cooperate. Instead, at a New Year’s Eve gathering Harold placed his left hand on a Texas State Directory and pledged to take care of the place and continue the frivolity and ridiculousness Molly had initiated.


As it’s turned out, he has indeed built the writer’s shack that Molly envisioned. The porch is almost as big as the cabin–to accommodate a crowd of friends sitting around talking politics, laughing and telling lies, just as Molly would have wanted.

(Excerpted from Stirring it up with Molly Ivins: A Memoir With Recipes by Ellen Sweets, Copyright ©  2011. Courtesy of the University of Texas Press)

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Waiting for rain

Yesterday was the most depressing, and most hopeful, day I’ve ever spent in the Big Bend/Davis Mountains region, when I surveyed damage from the Rock House fire that started in Marfa, raced through Fort Davis, and is still burning East of the McDonald Observatory.

On the road between Marfa and Fort Davis

On the road between Marfa and Fort Davis, one can drive miles without seeing a living thing – there is nothing left alive between the deep blue sky and ash-covered dirt – only some charred fence posts along the road remain.

In Fort Davis, the scars of the fire’s path make many acts of heroism obvious. At house after house, one can see where the fire came right up to homes, then split before coming together on the other side to continue its wind-fueled death march. What happened is obvious on its face: residents – defying orders to evacuate – stood shoulder-to-shoulder with volunteer firefighters, and they never gave up on beating back the flames to save their homes. Armed with little more than garden hoses, shovels, and courage, most succeeded.

Outside the McNight Mansion
Inside the McNight Mansion

The biggest architectural casualty of this war appears to be the McNight Mansion in Fort Davis. Just across the road from the historic Jeff Davis County courthouse, the mansion is situated in a grove of giant old cottonwoods. The rock exterior shell of the house remains, but that’s just about all. The house doesn’t look like it merely burned – it looks more like a bomb hit it. Inside the house, everything is destroyed. And yet, on the mansion’s porch, a wood porch swing remains completely undamaged, swaying in the West Texas breeze.

A few blocks away, the home of a decorated combat veteran burned to the ground. Searching through the rubble later, the man apparently found his Medal of Honor, before the heavy equipment came in and scraped up what was left of the house and hauled it away. Already, there’s no sign that the house was ever there.

From the high altitude of the McDonald Observatory, one can see vast expanse of fire damage in the region, as well as the smoke plumes of pockets of fire still burning, which according to local ranchers may never be extinguished until the rains come.

Despite the enormity of it all, there is no sign of despair, but plenty of signs of hope and determination. Fort Davis is bustling. Clean-up operations there are already well-underway. In fact, most buildings that burned have already been cleared away by crews. Galleries and restaurants are open, main street is undamaged, and the welcome sign is up.

In the country the fire didn’t reach, it’s so dry that every blade of grass is dead, and even the old oak trees are dropping their leaves. Cattle look stressed. There’s no moisture at all in the air. The hot dry winds continue to blow. But there’s more to do than just stand around and wait for rain.

One rancher, having already lost all his cattle and his range land to the fire, was busy helping others by hauling cattle feed to another rancher who lost his grass, but not his cattle. The man’s truck, struggling up a mountain with an over-loaded trailer behind him, overheated. We went to get him more water, and he continued on his way with no sign of discouragement or defeat, to help somebody else.

Clean-up efforts are underway in Fort Davis

Others are stockpiling and distributing hay and feed, which has come in, donated or at cost, from every part of the country. The hardware store in Alpine is encouraging people to buy a fence post, at their cost, to donate to ranchers who lost miles and miles of ranch fencing, which costs $5.75 a linear foot to replace. Schools are having bake sales, churches from all around are pitching in what they can. The Feds have brought in the heavy airborne artillery, some of it standing by at the Alpine airport, there to ensure that pockets of fire still burning don’t spike out of control and start this nightmare all over again. People at the Texas Department of Agriculture are putting donated equipment together with the highest need, and have started a fund to help replace ranch fencing.

In this region, helping each other out is apparently what you do while you’re waiting for it to rain.

When the rain does come – and sooner or later it always does – life will return with a vengeance. We saw signs of that yesterday, just outside of Marfa where the fire first started. Fire crews there attempting to stop the fire at its origin dumped a lot of water on the ground. And as a result, poking through the dark ash along the road, are fresh sprigs of green lush grass.

Here’s where to contribute to the relief fund.

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Cowboy up.

On Monday I wrote about the massive Big Bend/Davis Mountains range fires that began Saturday in West Texas while I was there, endangering a bruised-but-not-beaten Fort Davis, and are still being courageously battled as you read this. Progress is being made, but it’s slow, difficult work, made no easier by the abundance of fuel and high winds.

Tired firefighters still working on it. Photo courtesy of Mike Micallef, of
Alpine’s famed Riata Restaurant (click on photo to enlarge)

This isn’t just a local West Texas story. Texas Monthly Editor Jake Silverstein and I, each of us part-time Big Bend residents, have given media interviews to attest to the importance, beauty, and spirit of the region and its people during this tragedy.

The fires have also brought out the very best in some damn good people, and relief and rescue efforts have moved into full swing, even as the fires are still being fought. Cowboys from Oklahoma have offered to volunteer to drive down with their horses to round up cattle and move them to safer ground. Offers of hay and spare range land have been made, by ranchers, some of whom may not have it to spare.

Veterinarians have offered their services to treat injured animals. Shelters have opened, food and clothing have poured in from all corners, and the area’s hotels and rental resorts in Alpine, Marfa, and Marathon have thrown open their doors to those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed and who need a place to stay. Such a high volume of clothing and canned goods has appeared out of nowhere that area emergency management teams have requested that no more be sent – and said that what they need most is financial assistance. The fire teams need to be re-supplied, and other recovery efforts need to be staffed and supplied as well.

That’s where you come in. Many have asked on Facebook what they can do to help, so here are two recommendations, to benefit those on both two legs and four:

The Jeff Davis County Relief Fund, which is coordinating a little bit of everything (thank you Juanitajean.com for posting this) Update: now you can contribute online.

Grand Companions Humane Society, which is in Fort Davis, and is helping with displaced, lost, and injured pets.

Here’s a powerful video by area photographer Tanner Quigg, which documents the devastation (viewer discretion advised – some images are disturbing). Tanner is selling his photographs this weekend in Alpine to help raise money for the effort as well.

Please consider pitching in if you can. And if you want updates on the progress, Marfa Public Radio has been doing a bang-up job with regular updates on their website, and the Big Bend Fires Facebook page is a goldmine of information too.

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Thoughts on the West Texas range fires

I woke up Saturday morning in my little corner of God’s Country in Marathon, and did what people do in the high country desert region of big bend – looked at the weather report. Dire warnings of fire danger had been growing more shrill by the day, and apparently today was to be the day.

By mid-morning, the winds, blowing from the south-southwest, had picked up until they were howling along at 25 mph or so – not really outlandishly high for springtime in that area, but coupled with last year’s high rainfall totals and resulting high grass, and the subsequent drought and cold winter guaranteeing all that grass was dead and dry, it was a recipe for disaster.

By noon, the fire conditions were all anybody in town wanted to talk about, and right on schedule, several range fires popped up simultaneously just West of there – in the Marfa and Alpine areas.

Fueled by the high winds and dead grass, one of the fires raced North to Fort Davis – even reportedly out-running, and presumably incinerating, the local audad herd. Audads are wild mountain sheep originating from Northern Africa, which have taken up residence in the region. As any local will tell you, they’re nimble.

By mid-afternoon, highway 90 West between Marathon and Alpine had been closed, and at the Marathon grocery store, two little old ladies in a mini-van called me over to their vehicle. They were parked outside the store, trying without much success to maintain their composure. They had small children in the back seat, and had been trying unsuccessfully to get home to Fort Davis. I read them the latest fire warning reports off my phone, and nothing I found online calmed them – the news was all bad (and got worse later).  I asked what I could do to help, but they were content to hang out at the store until the roads re-opened. I don’t know if they made it home, or if they have a home left to return to. Marathon was noticeably filling up with people such as they, people who could make it no farther West.

Smoke from area range fires obscures mountains West of Marathon

By late afternoon back in Marathon, 40-50 miles away from the worst danger, the smokey dusty haze hung in the air, almost obscuring the mountains to the West. A few hours after sunset, the electrical power was cut to the entire town – the fire had apparently crossed a major line somewhere Northwest of us.

I returned to Austin Sunday morning, as roads behind me were apparently being closed as new fires popped up. Back in Austin, it’s still unclear from news reports whether the Fort Davis-area fire is fully under control, but meanwhile other fires have started in the region. In Fort Davis, an absolute jewel of a town, an estimated 30-40 buildings have been burned, including, ironically, the water department. After the town ran out of water, volunteer fire fighters continued to protect the town using dirt. Accurate news is still hard to come by, but thankfully, there are still no known human casualties.

Most people I talk with in the Big Bend/Davis Mountains region of Texas love their lives. They chose them specifically – many aren’t originally from there – they displaced themselves from wherever they were in the first place, moved there, and wouldn’t live anywhere else. While some of their lives are precarious in some way – because of finances, advanced age, or lack of available health care – it seems like most of them wouldn’t have it any other way. I think for some, the precariousness of it all even adds to the experience. In that regard, not much has changed for a century.

I’ve always loved this region of Texas, and the people who live there, but perhaps no more so than when things they’ve worked hard for are in acute danger of being lost. As they always do, right now they’re pulling together to help each other – the region’s hotels and resort rentals are throwing open their doors to those displaced by the fire, and the Red Cross, FEMA, DPS, Forest Service, Border Patrol, and countless local and regional agencies and non-profits are doing what they can.

Here’s how you can help, if you’re so moved.

UPDATE: According to the Associated Press, the fires are indeed not under control. But at least they’ve brought in the big guns to fight ‘em.

UPDATE #2: Marfa Public Radio continues to lead the pack on frequent fire updates, and their most recent update seems to indicate that firefighters are making some progress.

UPDATE #3: A ton of people keep coming to this post, so I’ll keep updating the post.  Here is a very useful Facebook page set up specifically to share information on the Big Bend/Davis Mountains fires.

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Shooting the moon in Marathon

We here at Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters don’t often go into detail about our love for the Big Bend region of Texas, specifically a town named Marathon, although some might have noticed on the lefthand side bar the odd placement of the current weather in Big Bend, right under the odd placement of the current weather in Austin.

Then again, we here at Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters wonder how many readers mistakenly believe that those headquarters are actually in Austin, and not Big Bend? Everthinkathat?

Also in the lefthand sidebar, right under the weather, is a link to the live Marathon webcam, which Danny, the esteemed proprietor over at the Marathon Motel, re-aimed the other day to keep an eye on a fire in the mountains, and has apparently forgotten to re-aim back to its more picturesque view, but oh well.

So, while this has absolutely nothing to do with politics, it does relate to current events, at least in the sense of #supermoon being a trending topic on Twitter yesterday. And, I guess once the Republicans in charge over at the state Capitol figure out a way to screw up the moon, it will become political, and they’ll get right on it – Perry will probably even declare it another one of his emergencies.

But until then, the moon, in its closest orbit to Earth in years and full last night, was gorgeous and unspoiled as seen from Big Bend last night at midnight, when I shot this photo:

When that photo turned out so nice, it inspired me, stupidly, to set my alarm to get up in time to photograph it again as it set over the mountains to the West. It was made more difficult because the sun was also rising at the time, but this is what I got:

So, next time there’s an astronomical event, think about heading out to Big Bend. There’s a reason they put that big expensive McDonald Observatory out there. You can actually see stuff.

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Murderous, immoral marauders stalk Big Bend

George Covington is among the more colorful characters living in Big Bend. A regular columnist for the Alpine Avalanche, he is both legally blind and a photographer, and was a White House advisor to, of all people, Vice President Dan Quayle. He penned the following essay, which I am reprinting here with his permission, because it is further evidence toward my long-standing opinion that since deer are a menace to society, there should be more of them in my freezer.
-Fubar

By George A. Covington

Prepare yourself for a tale of terror.

Robbye Stokes, a conscientious and vigilant resident of Alpine Manor, was witness to one of a number of vicious attacks that have occurred in Alpine and will occur again unless we can stop the vicious beasts. Her Westie, Nieve, was sleeping quietly on her back porch when the wee beast let out a blood-curdling scream. Robbye rushed to the door and discovered that a deer had stomped the sleeping pup. Robbye grabbed pots and pans and chased the deer away. She has had to repeat the tossing of pots and pans on numerous occasions since the vicious attack. Little Nieve was forced to wear a cast on her hind leg for weeks.

If this were only the story of one malcontent deer it wouldn’t have the element of terror we now know it possesses. Radio Ray Hendryx, media mogul of the High Desert, says his Beagle, Sweetie, came off the loser in another confrontation with the giant, four-legged rodent berserkers. He explained that Sweetie was not the brightest dog in the pack and had been known to attack lawn mowers, weed whackers and 18-wheeler trucks. Sweetie was ripped from stem to stern but damage was done only to her coat and the vet quickly sewed her up and sent her back.

An even more terrible tale of terror is told by Andy Cloud, Director of the Center for Big Bend Studies and Alpine’s answer to Indiana Jones. “I live adjacent to Ray and Rita Hendryx and actually warned them last February after I had a massive buck attack my mid-size dog (Blue Heeler-Australian Sheppard mix). Although pushing 11 years in age, she was barely able to duck the attack (so no blood)—the behemoth went over her—but she was severely traumatized over the incident. I was standing in very close proximity to her (with a four-foot cedar stick in my hand) when it happened. After the pass he stopped and looked at me like I was next. I then mimicked the ape-man in ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ and went ballistic and successfully chased the deer out of the yard. If he had charged me like he had my dog I would have been toast. He kept coming back to my backyard desert garden over the next two weeks. I had 5-6 more incidences.”

This season we must be united in our goal of controlling the rampant violence, disease and other social disorders caused by deer. Annually, 1 million deer attack 1 million vehicles, causing $1 billion in damage nationwide.

These vandals are responsible for illegally crossing our borders carrying innumerable diseases, encouraging illegal immigration, drug running, and possibly global warming. They carry dear tick fever, which causes illness among harmless ticks and the dreaded Lyme disease. For years I thought Lyme disease was an aversion to limes, until somebody spelled it for me. There may be relief on the horizon thanks to a condition called Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

Hope is on the horizon. Shortly, deer season will open. Men who couldn’t carry groceries twenty feet will miraculously develop the strength to carry guns, ammunition and tons of beer up steep mountainsides and down narrow canyons. We must direct this ominous force in a new direction. Rather than forcing these fearless warriors out into the harsh environs of the High Desert, everyone with a deer problem should leave a six-pack of beer on their front porch and we can watch the deer disappear.

This year we can enlist the entire family in this true war of righteousness. Don’t go lurking off into your usual hunting grounds Men of our Mountains. Teach your wife, your sons, your daughters to sling lead at these four-legged monstrosities. Remember the motto from the cult classic “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”? It should be over the mantle of every home in the West. “The Family that Slays Together Stays Together.”

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FUBAR-Cam update

Mojave Rattlesnake in Big Bend meets his maker, as he goes after neighbor’s cat.

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While many of you were sweating away the holiday weekend…

…Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters, Tequila Sunset Division, was miserable, just miserable, in the higher elevations of the Big Bend region, where yesterday it was a sweltering 77 degrees at 5 pm. But we managed to survive the ordeal because of the cool breeze, which probably made it feel like a slightly-less miserable 74. So how was Austin?

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FUBAR-CAM Update

This photo was taken mere seconds before an Austin political consultant (back to camera, thank God) disappeared into the ground forever, as a freak earthquake opened a fissure in the ground in Big Bend. In the distance is the glow of a massive explosion in El Paso, hundreds of miles to the West, as Texas state Senator Eliot Shapleigh loses his temper while reading Governor Rick Perry’s veto statements.

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And STILL the so-called “mainstream media” does nothing

As some readers may have noted, Letters From Texas, Consumer Protection Division, has long been skeptical of claims made in the Big Bend town of Marfa, Texas, regarding the mysterious “Marfa lights.”

To uncover the truth, a crack team of investigative reporters, cooperating in a (not particularly) limited partnership between Letters From Texas and MeanRachel.com infiltrated Presidio County, carrying with us special state-of-the-art SuperDopplerMega3DNightVisionCam equipment especially designed by the Letters From Texas Research and Development Laboratories to expose this fraud.

After a brief delay in the neighboring Brewster County town of Marathon, during which the team was hindered for 2 days in tequila-related incidents hardly worth mentioning at all, we arrived at the Marfa Lights viewing area. Our research quickly revealed that the land for this viewing area had been donated by none other than the former Republican nominee for Texas Governor, Clayton Williams.

Determined not to relax and enjoy it, we quickly set up our highly sophisticated SuperDopplerMega3DNightVisionCam. It didn’t take long to expose this for the fraud that it is. Countless tourists have visited this site from coast to coast for generations, all taken in, duped if you will, by the complicated hoax. Through the use of our sophisticated SuperDopplerMega3DNightVisionCam, the crack investigative team can now expose for the first time the true source of the Marfa light:

[larger photo]

There is no word yet on whether area State Senator Carlos Uresti or local State Representative Pete Gallego intend to convene legislative hearings on this disturbing matter, but we will let you know just as soon as they stop hanging up on us. There has been no sign of Congressman Ciro Rodriguez on this, although several 4×8 Ciro Rodriguez signs were spotted South of Marfa, between Presidio and Ruidosa, left over from the last election.

We will update this breaking news as events warrant. Meanwhile, this has been your Letters From Texas/MeanRachel.com investigative report.

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FUBAR-Cam Update From Big Bend

Yep, the white buffalo at the fabled White Buffalo Bar still looks as bored as ever. After dinner which included elk with truffle butter sauce, we – like the buffalo – are stuffed.

It’s not Cabo, but it’ll do in a pinch.

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Coincidence? I think not.

The stock market:

The Rio Grande River, Big Bend region:

If we get all the way down to Brownsville, we’re doomed.

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Chambers of Commerce running amuck

I guess if Marfa can turn a couple of flashlights into a major tourist attraction, Cuero is entitled to try and turn a hairless deformed coyote into…um…something similar to a hairless deformed coyote.

The video of the hairless deformed coyote is here.

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Wide Open Spaces

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.

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