Sunday, February 7, 2021

VALENTINE, TEXAS

 

Yes, there is a Valentine, TX. There’s also a Cut-N-Shoot, a Dime Box, a Loco, and a Ding Dong. I’ve been to all of these Texas towns except for Loco. I’ll have to check it out soon. I visited Valentine a few years ago on a trip to Big Bend National Park, which is located in West Texas on the border with Mexico. A stark, beautiful place. I went in the spring and the succulents in the desert looked like a professionally landscaped garden.



The reason for my visit was to immerse myself in the area in preparation for writing IF I CAN DREAM, one of the Hell Yeah books starring Tennessee McCoy and Molly Reyes. I absorbed the atmosphere of the Rio Grande River, the Chisos Mountains, a forest of wind turbines, and the old west flavor of the ranches and small towns.

One of those towns was Valentine. Just a spot in the road and a population of 134, I felt at home there. The place I grew up in East Texas was about the same size. While our school consolidated with one in another small town, my graduating class numbered only 35. Valentine has the claim to fame of having the smallest school in the state, usually around 40 students in K-12.
That’s not the only thing small about Valentine. There is no grocery store, no gas station, no ATM – and no crime. If you want to buy a Coke, you have to get it from the vending machine at the high school. Yet, the tiny West Texas town does have some claims to fame. One of those things was a famous artist – Boyd Elder. He always like to say he was the most famous artist you never heard of. In addition to painted bull and buffalo skulls, he designed the iconic covers for several Eagle’s albums – probably the most memorable one was for ONE OF THESE NIGHTS, a bull skull with lightning bolts. He also was the caretaker for a very unusual piece of art located right outside of Valentine – called Prada Marfa.      


Prada Marfa is a land art project of a life size Prada store filled with Prada products. The door doesn’t open and the meaning behind it is debatable, some cultural statement concerning excess and relativity, I suspect. The original intent of the artists, Elmgreen and Dragset, was to let the structure naturally deteriorate, but the area residents were concerned it could become a hazard. Elder was elected to maintain the piece. He passed away in 2018, I’m not sure who is taking care of it now. I remember the first time I saw it, I was not aware it was art, I thought it was the real deal. I remember stopping and wondering why it was closed – not that I could’ve afforded anything in the store, but I wanted to check it out regardless.

Valentine’s other claim to fame is the Post Office, or the service the Post Office provides. Like Christmas, Florida, Noel, Missouri, North Pole, New York, and Santa Claus, Indiana – Valentine is famous for people sending cards to the postmaster to be mailed out with the Valentine, TX postmark. Every year, a new love logo is designed by the winner of a high school contest and it is annually stamped onto some twelve thousand letters sent to lucky and well-loved recipients.

To commemorate the celebration, a West Texas brewing company called Big Bend Brewing puts on a party and serves a special concoction called TOTAL COMMITMENT – very appropriate.

For a bit of history, the town was given the name of Valentine because of the date of its founding in 1882 and also to commemorate one of the crew’s bosses, whose last name was Valentine. For years, nothing much exciting happened until in 1931 the town was hit by the largest earthquake ever recorded in Texas – a 5.8 on the Richter scale. It mysteriously transported fish into deep wells and rotated tombstones in the cemetery. Very strange.

All in all, my trip to Big Bend was amazing. Not only did I traverse through the desert, wade in the border river with another country – I also visited the Marfa Ghost lights…and experienced an event that confirmed I’m a bit nuts.

Let me make this quick – I bought a new BMW before I left for my mini, research vacation. Of course, in my defense, I didn’t take time to learn all the ins and outs of the vehicle. As I was driving through the backroads of the National Park, every time I got out to take a photo, I could hear this siren sounding in the distance. Sounded like one of those air raid sirens I’ve heard in WWII movies set in London. Dumb me, I imagined they had something to do with folks crossing the border from Mexico into Texas. After all, I spotted several checkpoints along the way. For some reason, they never looked at me and my two wiener dogs with suspicion. And there I was with that big BMW trunk, I could have been smuggling an Antonio Banderas lookalike to take home for romantic inspiration.

BUT…it wasn’t an immigration siren.

Finally, after I’d noticed I heard it everywhere I went, no matter the location, it finally dawned on me that it was a sound the BMW made when I got up out of the driver’s seat and the steering wheel moved automatically into the original position - - making a faint siren sound. Isn’t that crazy? No wonder, I’m an author. My imagination is vast, and I just make shit up. Ha!

One of my best memories while I was in the Big Bend area…other than seeing the Marfa Lights – amazing…was running into this sweet guy as I was checking out at the General Store in Valentine. I wanted to meet him because he could have been one of my McCoys. We got to talking while we were waiting  in line. I admired his belt buckle - - it was a Rodeo Champion buckle - - those always catch my eye. He told me he worked at one of the local ranches and I swooned a bit. Anyway, he asked me if I knew about the Valentine service the post office provided and I told him yes. He said he’d once used it to send his girl a Valentine. After I told him I was a romance author, he did his best to inform me of other places to go and things of interest to see. He wanted to know if I’d been to that Prada Marfa store and I told him I’d seen it but didn’t know what it was at first. The sweet guy confessed that he was local and hadn’t known what it was either. He’d actually went there to buy his girlfriend a gift, then figured out it was not a real store. Laughing, he admitted he thought it was always deserted because there weren’t many customers due to the lack of a demand for Prada purses and shoes in Valentine, TX. I think he was probably right. I asked him what he ended up with as a gift, since there’s no florist, liquor store, or even a Walmart for over fifty miles. After pulling out his wallet, he showed me his pretty girlfriend – now his wife – holding a newborn calf. Her name was Matilda, the heifer I mean, and he’d adopted her for his wife when she was orphaned. He patted the photo and said he still remembered bottle feeding her. He was excited to tell me that Matilda was now a mother twice over – and so was his wife, Laura. I’m not really sure who he was most fond of, to tell you the truth. Nevertheless, there are some good men left in the world and this cowboy was one of them.

So, if you ever go out toward El Paso, stop in at Valentine. And if you don’t want to make the drive, mail your valentine to… Valentine Post Office, 311 California Ave, Valentine TX  78954.

Giving your Valentine a Valentine from Valentine – you can’t get more romantic than that.

If you’re in the mood for a Valentine read – check out my HOT AND SPICY VALENTINE. For those of you who have been patiently waiting for the rest of Seth and Riley’s story, check out how I set them up in THE STORM YOU CHASE. Soon, I’ll get started on a book for their own happy ever after.

HAVE A HAPPY FEBRUARY.

Happy Valentine!

Love, Sable Hunter


5 comments:

Julie Lence said...

I love this Sable!! The Prada store is funny, but the Valentine post mark is great, but I think the best is the cowboy and Matilda. Glad you had a good road trip. Hugs!

kathleen Lawless said...

Fun read.

Sable Hunter said...

Thank you, Julie and Kathleen - I plan on going back this year. I love that area. Maybe I'll check on Matilda.
Ha!

charlene hunt said...

i LOVE your background history and you did NOT disappoint yet again - everything you research, like this and saying he could have been a mccoy - makes me want to travel to these places if i could - BRAVO once again Sable !

Sable Hunter said...

Thank you, Charlene - you made me smile.