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Desert Dispatch Vol. 11

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Big Bend by John Rambo. Each week, we'll feature a different image from a listener or staff member. Send your snapshots to photos@marfapublicradio.org.
Eli Hartman
PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Big Bend by John Rambo. Each week, we'll feature a different image from a listener or staff member. Send your snapshots to photos@marfapublicradio.org.

When visitors come into Marfa Public Radio, I usually guide them to this gigantic, topographical map we have in the office. The map spans the whole wall, and shows the entirety of our listening range– a stretch the size of the entire state of South Carolina, but with a fraction of that population. Marfa is just a tiny dot in the middle of it.

I’ve seen the map so many times that I don’t quite register it anymore, but the other day, I found myself really looking at it for the first time in a minute. So much of what the map represents is distance– acres and acres of privately owned land, populated by more cattle and cacti than people. A tiny vein of highway barely makes a mark through all of that space.

Our office map
Our office map

That unpopulated distance is a huge part of why we do what we do. Our aim is to connect and inform people across that vastness, so that come rain or shine, you can find our station.

And one of the main things we do is serve as a lifeline to this geographic spread. In these last few weeks, towns within our region have experienced heavy disaster events: a fire broke out in Alpine and tornadoes swept through Sanderson. Marfa Public Radio not only reported on these events as the news broke, but we’ve also followed these stories in the aftermath. Our aim is not just to report on a crisis, but to support communities beyond the breaking news, and continue to follow the story and the people impacted.

Here’s Travis Bubenik and Mitch Borden on reporting these stories:


The Fire in Alpine

An undated image of the now destroyed building in Alpine. From the early 1920s through the late 1960s, the building housed a single retail store. Via Alpine Historical Association
An undated image of the now destroyed building in Alpine. From the early 1920s through the late 1960s, the building housed a single retail store. Via Alpine Historical Association

“Part of me burned there.”

That’s what Alpine hair salon owner Eva Olivas told me recently about a devastating building fire that completely destroyed her business and multiple others in the town’s central business district.

Olivas said she lost everything in the flames - down to the scissors she uses to cut hair - but it was a heavy emotional loss as well, as she’d had the salon for more than two decades and spent more time there at home, basically raising her kids there while she worked.

Right after the fire, we started talking in the newsroom about how folks all over the Big Bend seemed genuinely shocked and saddened by it. The flames destroyed a more than 100-year-old building that housed a handful of popular local spots to eat breakfast, shop for antiques, get your hair done and more. It was clear from the chatter about town that in this region that cares deeply about local history and generational memories, the fire was just a gut punch for the whole community.

Olivas has found a new temporary home for her salon and is taking clients again, while groups like the Alpine Historical Association are working to raise money for the impacted business owners.

-Travis Bubenik

Listen to Travis’ piece here.


The Tornadoes in Sanderson

Jake Harper owns Ferguson Motors, a local coffeeshop hit hard by the storms
Jake Harper owns Ferguson Motors, a local coffeeshop hit hard by the storms

"There's no way to take it in all at once," Jake Harper told me. "There's no way to fix it all at once. We can't have all the answers all at once. So we're just doing what we can every day to move forward."

Jake Harper is one of the owners of Ferguson Motors, a coffee shop in Sanderson,Texas, a small town in Terrell County hit by two tornadoes earlier this month.

The storms destroyed multiple buildings, displaced residents and injured 12 people. Last week I drove out to see how recovery efforts were going and met up with Harper. He worked almost non-stop to get the shop up and running again after windows were shattered and huge sections of the building's roof were torn off.

The interior of the Ferguson Motors event space after the storms.
The interior of the Ferguson Motors event space after the storms.

Harper doesn't know how long it will take to get the shop back to what it was before the tornadoes, its event space was filled with debris and needs major repairs. Still, Harper was looking forward to getting back to serving coffee to locals.

Ferguson Motors reopened last week. To hear more about recovery efforts, check out my full story tomorrow.

–Mitch Borden

Tune in to Morning Edition and All Things Considered tomorrow for Mitch’s piece, and check out his prior reporting on the tornadoes here.


Caló

Chansa- It means chance, but in Caló, the predominant nuance is that of “maybe,”as in a 50/50 chance.

Caló is a borderland dialect. You can find more episodes here.


Other programming:

Black bears were hunted out of West Texas by 1960, but in the late 80s, they returned to Big Bend National Park, from the mountains of Mexico. And the story isn’t over. From the Davis Mountains to Del Rio, bear sightings are on the rise, and scientists at Alpine’s Borderlands Research Institute are taking note. Hear about their findings in this Nature Notes episode.

A black bear gazes out from behind a sotol plant in Big Bend National Park.
Rick Negele
/
National Park Service
A black bear gazes out from behind a sotol plant in Big Bend National Park.

Big Bend National Park has announced its new superintendent - a longtime U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee. Anjna O’Connor has most recently been a supervisory program manager for the Corps, and has managed Army Corps campgrounds, environmental programs and other projects in Texas in her career. Travis Bubenik speaks with O’Connor about her vision for the Far West Texas park. Listen to that conversation here.

Last week, environmental groups continued their legal fight over plans for a major new natural gas pipeline through West Texas. They asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a permit issued for the project earlier this year. More on that from Travis Bubenik here.


High Five

Last night, DJ la Única stepped in for Marfa Mystery Hour, spinning country and norteña tunes through the evening.

Here are five songs from that set:

  1. Ya Para Que - Los Rieleros Del Norte
  2. Corazon, Corazon - Adolfa Urias y Su Lobo Norteno
  3. Who Were You Thinkin' Of - Texas Tornados
  4. He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones
  5. Mil Noches - Cornelio Reyna

You can catch The Marfa Mystery Hour every week at 8p.m. and find all of our music shows onour Mixcloud.


PSAs

The monthly Marfa Parks and Recreation Board meeting will take place this tonight at 6pm in the Casner Room at City Hall and the public is invited to attend.

For more information, visit cityofmarfa.com.

If you have PSAs you want on the air or in this newsletter, head to www.marfapublicradio.org/psa.


Merch in the Wild

This week, a listener spotted three ¡Como No! Tees drying in the desert heat.

Do you wear your ¡Como No! shirt out and about? Do you sip coffee from your Marfa Public Radio mug on your porch?

If you wear, use or spot Marfa Public Radio merch, send a photo to photos@marfapublicradio.org with the subject line "Merch in the Wild.”

And you can get your own MPR merch here.

Zoe Kurland is a senior producer at Marfa Public Radio.