If you drive I-10 East, two hours past El Paso you will reach the Van Horn Exit, only a midway point to our destination. You begin to drive south into the high desert of the Big Bend, officially known as the Chihuahuan desert, with towns averaging of no more than 7,000 residents, such as Fort Davis, Alpine and Marfa. Sitting atop an ancient volcano, which when erupted burnt all the oil away, or so the story goes, what remains today is the pristine land of the United States, untouched (except by the cattle) since its founding. Many of the ranches go back three or four generations, as do the occupants.
Walking into the local dive bar, you never know who you are going to meet, well-known authors, poets, sculptors, painters, astrophysicists, cowboys, Native Americans, many of whom have never left the state of Texas. As one cowboy put it to me: “If you ask anyone in the world what the best country is, they say the United States. If you ask what the best state is, they will say Texas. And if you ask for the best county, they would say Brewster County.”
In the land where everyone drives trucks just as much as they ride horses, and anyone can conceal and carry (most do), I found the heartland of the United States, and it wasn’t the land, it was the people.