Marfa's magicPosted: Updated:
I recently escaped to a border region, of big skies and open spaces near Big Bend National Park. Our destination this trip: the tiny far west Texas town of Marfa, known for its country charm and edgy art scene.
Photographer Hugo Perez and I came to do a couple of stories. Among them a story that got a lot of attention after it aired. It focused on the Marfa police department closing down. "It's all about consolidation. What we're trying to do is run our community as efficiently as possible." Mayor Dan Dunlap told me during an interview on main street just blocks from the historic court house
Budget cuts were blamed but it was clear after talking to both the mayor and police chief, personalities played a role too. "All this funding out there to provide for law enforcement agencies to up the security for the border region - but yet we've got a mayor that's doing away with law enforcement," Chief J.D. Wilbourn told me. Wilbourn says he's personally written grants and brought in outside funding for the tiny force.
We interviewed him on his ranch where he's spending more times these days. The chief and two deputies were off the job October 1st. Mayor Dunlap told me the chief would automatically get an offer to serve as town Marshall as mandated by law. It's going to be interesting to see what the Marshall of Marfa does., said part time resident Don Shafer. " I think of the old Gun Smoke episodes and Marshall Dillon coming out."
Shafer and his wife Linda own a home here and split their time between Marfa and Austin. I found them at the popular lunch spot "Food shark" with some friends and their big black standard poodle. The old fashioned silver trailer serves up an interesting menu under a shaded area with picnic tables. By the time we got there the "Marfalafel," had sold out.
It was Friday and there were plenty of weekend visitors including a young couple who drove in from Dallas. We also encountered another couple from Houston. Recommendations that weekend included "Padres" a dance hall housed in a former funeral parlor. "They have cactus margaritas," Linda Shafer told us. They're hot pink from the "tuna" or prickly pear fruit.
With the weekend looming few seemed worried about a possible crime wave once the police department closed down. Linda recounted a story, "We know a man who rode his bike to the Get Go and left his IPod in the basket and when he came out it was not there. Citizens found out and essentially formed a posse and went after this, he was just a teenager, but none the less he took the IPod and that was wrong."
The idea of tranquility, great art (The Chinati Foundation is based here), and wide open skies that are the bluest I've ever seen that are part of Marfa's magic. And why it's a haven for people seeking even a brief escape from big city life in place that prides itself on being "how the west was."