We drove through Terlingua, Texas, the International Chili Capital of the World, and met the vanguard of a cold wave at a Border Patrol checkpoint (only sniffer dogs and a citizenship question – they find southern accents reassuring) as we headed north to Marfa. We stopped in Alpine for diesel and provisions. I plead guilty to buying Williams’ Tex-Mex Chili Mix and adding a can of cilantro and lime chopped tomatoes. That and a pound of coarsely ground beef made some of the best chili ever, but maybe the 35 degree cold with a 25 mph wind had something to do with it.
We parked outside the Marfa Mystery Lights roadside park where people camp gratis, for as long as you like. We did some Marfa Lights research, and while The Google reserves judgment, The Kat says it’s pure folklore. I say the jury’s still out.
But the cars kept coming through from both directions. In the three hours before real dark a hundred people have come through here. Most get out, read the brass signs, shiver, and drive on. A few in heavy coats stayed, waiting for serious darkness. We have that now, and we see exactly what you would expect to see in the dark: nothing. The second night was just as cold but a little less cloudy, and even the signs on-site say the lights appear “on clear nights”. I talked to a bunch of people and found some believers including a couple who said they saw them last night, our first night there, which was cloudy. Others had their doubts, and several started laughing, then left after I told them Wikipedia says “the lights appear perhaps 12 nights per year”. Just then somebody spotted the Mystery Lights! I looked at them through binoculars and saw a pair of headlights moving down a mountain highway. I handed the ‘nocs to the skeptics next to me, who looked, and proclaimed to the True Believers – “Those are car headlights.” I never saw anything like Mystery Lights, but the weather wasn’t perfect. Maybe they exist, or maybe they’ve been developed as a tourist attraction for Marfa to go along with being where the National Movie of Texas (Giant), was filmed, way back in ‘56.
As part of an occasional series on colorful high school team names, (Rhinelander Hodags still takes the cake, but Fordyce Redbugs are so close!) I cannot overlook Marfa High. Marfa calls themselves “Shorthorns”, which seems silly to me, but after going 2-8 last year in the Manly Sport of Football, many a rival cheerleading squad next year will sell victory ribbons exhorting their own team to “Beat Those Marfa ‘Dites.”