A Wanderer with a Vision
When we met Chris, the owner of Cowhead Ranch he had just stepped out of his dusty white Lincoln and was being greeted by 3 yapping dogs. He didn't look too "cowboy" with his ball cap, down vest and dark shades, but when he opened his mouth, he spoke like a cowboy.
Chris greeted us with a strong handshake, but spoke gently like a man who was used to spending a lot of time alone.
Middle of Nowhere!
We heard about Chris and his ranch earlier that morning when we struck up a conversation with a waitress in Study Butte, Texas. When she heard the direction we were headed she mentioned the ranch and said we should stop in. She was new to the area and had been staying at the Ranch temporarily. She said Chris would love to have us stop in.
A Tiny Western Town
Chris was more than happy to show us the world he created with his own hands 10 years ago. He came to the area with no money at all and hinted at a rough life he hoped to leave behind. He managed to acquire this small bit of land and began building this dusty little "resort" with all the donated and discarded junk he could find.
I've seen plenty of created western towns in theme parks, but none had a church that was actually used. Chris took great pride showing us the church interior with donated pews and an alter. There was a large painting of Big Bend National Park and a stained glass window created for him by a neighbor. But, I was most intrigued by the keyboard propped in the corner and the tambourine on the chair. He said they often gather here on Sundays or Wednesday evenings. I loved picturing the folks who might sit up in front and tap out a sweet rhythm to a hymn!
Chris was equally proud of the saloon with the satellite dish and propped up porch roof...heavy with sundried antlers and bones. The dirt and distant mountains made the whole thing seem like a movie set, but it was real. This isolated ranch, 25 miles from the Big Bend entrance is not a place we would have found on our own!
Pool and Booze
The felt on the tiny pool table was coated with a bit of dirt and the floor had a soft layer of sawdust. There were bottles of liquor and a table for cards and "Wi-fi!" Chris announced proudly. Chris said this was where people did a lot of hanging out, when they weren't around the campfire singing, or in the "Nine Point Social Club" where meals were served.
The dogs happily trotted along as Chris showed a few choice cabins for $15.00 a night. He grinned pretty big to tell us they even had air-conditioning!
Bring Your Own Bedroll
He reminded us to bring our own bedrolls and pillows next time we come. This room had 2 sets of bunks. Nice for a family of 4! A vase with a couple flowers and a book...that I don't believe was the Bible.
We toured the bathhouse with an actual cowboy tub and a restroom with a real toilet. As we wandered, the wind began to gust and the temperature dropped in a matter of minutes. It was hard to imagine this place in summer when temps are in the 100s!
Thanks Cowboy Chris!
I could picture myself actually coming and spending a day or 2 just to find out more about you. I can't imagine living in such an isolated, dusty world! It seemed lonely to me, but you reminded us you had more friends than anyone in the world. You showed us the names of all your visitors autographed onto the beams holding up the ceiling in the Social Club. You showed us quirky gifts given to you by guests who have kept in contact with you. You obviously enjoy being surrounded by the memories of the people you've met over just these past 10 years. I don't know what your life was like before, but I'm so glad you discovered a life that suits you so well now!
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers