Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bracketville, TX

Many Times when exploring the small towns of America we've been pleasantly surprised by the hidden beauty and interesting things to see and do. Our visit to Brackettville, Texas was not one of these. Located 30 miles East of Del Rio on the main route to San Antonio, Brackettville has one stop light, a crumbling main street, and one gas station. It does, however, have two redeeming assets; a drive-through beer barn and Fort Clark Springs, where we stayed at the RV Park. Fort Clark Springs was the last Calvary post in the US Army before closing in 1946. Over the years the fort lay mostly dormant until purchased by a private group in the 1970s, when work was begun to turn the fort into a combination resort, RV Park, and housing development. It's an interesting mix of beautifully restored old buildings and houses, enclaves of crumbling WWII houses and old mobile homes, and recreational facilities, including a golf course and large pool. Some of the old barracks have been converted into modern hotel rooms adjacent to the old parade field (now a par-3 golf course) and officer's housing area. The pool, spring-fed and a constant 68 degrees, was the brainchild of General Johnathan Wainwright, who being frustrated by years of funding disapproval, decided to instead call it a "horse trough" and then finally received the money with which he built the pool. Local legend is that his ingenuity earned him an assignment to Corregidor Island just before it's capture by the Japanese in the early stages of WWII. The Fort was interesting to explore, with an excellent museum and many activities. The RV park was also interesting - almost all of the residents were returning snowbirds from the northern states and Canada. Our neighbors had been returning for 11 and 8 years respectively, and it was obvious that the park residents were like an extended family, with nightly get-togethers, pot-lucks, and card games. Its doubtful Brackettville would exist without the employment opportunities of the fort; there's no industry, services, or other activity besides being the county seat. Ruins along Main Street, vacant buildings, and depressed housing all point to a town whose time has passed. Another disappointment was our trip to Alamo Village, billed as "an active movie set", and of course, the site of John Wayne's movie "The Alamo". Built in 1959 for the movie, the set was used for other westerns of the time, such as "Bandelaro" and "Two Rode Together". Since then, it's been used for TV shows and movies ("Lonesome Dove" being the most memorable), but judging by the state of the buildings, it hasn't received much attention in recent years. As you can see by the pictures, we were
practically the only people visiting the set. We were told that during the summer things pick up, but I can't imagine visiting this place in the heat of July and August. At least, we thought, we could visit Del Rio and Laughlin AFB for some shopping and exploring. There's a saying in the Air Force that if transferred to Laughlin, make sure you travel with your family at night or at least blindfold them prior to leaving San Antonio. We can certainly confirm that it's the right thing to do. The base, while modern and fairly large, has the poorest commissary and exchange facilities we've ever seen. For a base this size, housing looked mediocre, and worse, the only other shopping is 8 miles down the road in Del Rio. You'll notice I didn't include any pictures of Del Rio; there's no point in wasting pixels just to create depressing images. Ah well, the beauty of our lifestyle is that we don't have to stay in any one place very long, and so we're moving on to spend a few days in Marathon where we'll visit the Big Bend National Park and surrounding area. Come back and see what we've found!

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