Marfa Coming and Going

Marfa is a quirky place.   It is known for the Marfa lights – mysterious orbs that appear in the night sky. But there is more to Marfa’s quirkiness than the lights. That begins west of town and goes east as well.

We could see this huge blimp from quite a distance. It remains tethered, but flies for the US Border Patrol.

West of town we came upon these massive cut outs.  The movie Giant was filmed here circa 1955.  There is a speaker which continually plays the movie theme.

There appears to be more of the set down the hill beyond the Little Reata entrance. The gate was locked and we weren’t as motivated to jump the fence as the other person who was there at the same time. It is also possible to call the caretaker to be allowed access.  

We were motivated enough to watch Giant that evening – all 3 hours and 18 minutes. It was very impressive how they were able to age the actors over such a long time span.

Marfa is also artsy.  Not every little town has decorated their auto parts stores.

The RV park was adequate at best but came with two perks.  Trains rolled by behind us all the time – cargo and passenger.  We always enjoy the trains.

The second perk was this little self-serve office.  Cute!

Our major excursion during this stay was north 30 miles to Fort Davis – have Senior National Parks Pass will travel!

Fort Davis helped provide security for those traveling the San Antonio-El Paso Road and was active from 1854 to 1891.  During the Civil War the fort belonged first to the Confederacy, then to the Union and was eventually abandoned.  It was later reoccupied by soldiers who pursued the Comanche, Kiowa and Apache.

The grounds are large and building condition varies from foundation only, to barely standing to nicely restored.

Officer’s Row

A large hospital was prominent at the fort.   We learned that frontier medicine was better than we may have thought.  The Army Medical Department learned much through the horrors of the Civil War and was able to pass on that knowledge to their frontier doctors.   In 1886 the Army established a corp of enlisted men to serve as nurses and hospital stewards.

Illness and disease (tuberculosis) killed far more soldiers than battle and the Fort Davis doctors treated their patients as best they could.

This building was primarily the fort chapel but served other purposes as well.  It was the courtroom for a case that became infamous.  Second Lt. Henry O. Flipper was the first black graduate of West Point and was stationed at Ft. Davis from 1880-81.  He was accused of embezzling while serving as quartermaster and court-martialed.

During the trial, Flipper was found not guilty but none-the-less received a dishonorable discharge.  Racial overtones were present in the trial.  Despite the setback,  Henry Flipper went on to serve as Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior.  In 1976 the Army reviewed his case and gave him an honorable discharge posthumously.

So back in Marfa we debated the merits of playing along and going to try and see the mysterious Marfa lights. Randy,  the analytic engineer, had already researched the mystery and found much more mundane reasons for the appearance of these non-mysterious orbs.   He was willing to go look for them but it was cloudy and rainy and we didn’t know if it helped or hurt our chances.  

It hasn’t been that long since we spent long cold hours looking for the Aurora Borealis in Alaska and that was way more motivating than these mysterious lights that couldn’t possibly have supernatural origin.

In the end we decided we would go the nine miles east of town to the viewing platform that was built for the very purpose of viewing the Marfa lights.  We went while it was still daylight during a break in the rain. Party Poopers R-Us.

We did not see the lights. Go figure.

About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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5 Responses to Marfa Coming and Going

  1. Ann Shadiow says:

    Once again another great adventure to see and read about. Cheers to you both and you never know what the night sky will bring, don’t stop looking up. !!! Safe travels and keep those adventures coming.

  2. Mark McClelland says:

    Having “seen” the Marfa Lights (maybe…) I can say that you didn’t miss much!! We have been to Fort Davis many times and have always found the hospital to be a sobering place to visit. The surgical tools look pretty basic! Did you see the Prada store (that isn’t really a store)?

    • Serene says:

      We did see the Prada store but not in time to get the camera out. It wasn’t worth it to go back out 37 miles for the picture.

  3. They are doing a wonderful job of restoring the fort. Were there reenactment volunteers giving tours when you were there? They are very good and entertaining.
    We’ve stopped by to see the Marfa lights a few times. Since we had to ask each other “Is that one?”, I’m not sure we really saw anything.

    • Serene says:

      No tours or reenactment when we were there. I’m sure it was Covid related. Randy just wasn’t really going to play along with the Marfa lights but I won’t hold it against him!

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