An Oasis in West Texas

My father wanted his ashes spread near the little town of Christoval, Texas, where he spent a lot of his childhood. My sister and I went up there a couple of weeks ago to do this final task.

I’d never been there, though I’ve gone to nearby San Angelo a number of times, so I was picturing the usual sun-baked place with a dying downtown of decrepit buildings. But although the post office is the main building left downtown, there were trees everywhere you turned, courtesy of the south branch of the Concho River.

Our great-grandmother ran a hotel/boarding house there in the early 20th Century, catering to people with “consumption” who came there for the dry air and the mineral baths. I can imagine what a lovely place it was back in those days before air conditioning. I’m sure the summers were hot, but you could wade in the river and sit under a tree — no small thing on the edge of the Great Plains.

Here’s the area where we spread my father’s ashes:

Concho RiverIt was raining when we did it. We figured our father would think that was appropriate. Rain is a valued commodity out in the sheep ranching country where he grew up. Here’s another picture of the location taken the next day when the sun was shining.

Concho River 2We stayed at a guest cottage nearby. The guest cottage was near a winery — vineyards and wineries are common these days in Central and West Texas. The dry climate is good for grapes, though the changeability of the Texas weather sometimes hurts the crop. There’s a chapel at the winery. Clearly people have weddings out there.

The guest cottage was on the river, too.

Concho 3There’s an apartment building for sale in the old part of town. It used to be the mineral baths. It made me think Christoval wouldn’t be a bad spot for a writers’ community. It’s not far from San Angelo, which would make up for the fact that there’s not even a grocery store — just a convenience store at the gas station — anymore. And I’d be willing to bet the apartment building would be cheap, though it would probably need a lot of work.

It’s not a practical idea — just another fantasy. If we’d visited in August instead of November, the heat would have probably been annoying in spite of the trees and river. But it was still nice to imagine this as a resort for people living in weather-beaten country.

Concho River 5




An Oasis in West Texas — 8 Comments

  1. Well, it might be cheap, given that it’s at the intersection of no and where. Small towns in Texas are not everyone’s cup of tea, though.

    I am reminded that the writer Michael Ventura, who is from Brooklyn and then lived in Austin and LA for many years, now lives in Lubbock, because it’s cheap and he has some sentimental ties to it. (Many years ago he passed through on his way to California and ended up staying with the Flatlanders before they were the Flatlanders.) I couldn’t deal with Lubbock myself — my main memory of it is visiting my grandmother and rejecting her suggestions that I come live with her and go to Texas Tech — but the thing about all those dying towns on the Great Plains is that they are very, very affordable. No jobs, but if you bring your own way of making a living …

  2. I am opposed to Texas on principle, but what really weighs on me is the lack of medical care. Time is not our friend; we’ve got to be close to good medical facilities.
    I was impressed with Laramie, WY. It has the university, a big medical center (because of the nursing school) and masses of empty.

    • I object to Texas on principle, too, and I live there. But maybe we will elect Wendy Davis governor and things will improve. And the health care is OK as long as you have insurance.

      I love Laramie, too, but it’s a no go for me because winter. Also Cheneys.