Transient Friends and Communal Fireplaces in Marathon, Texas

Shake a hand in the Big Bend.

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The RV Park in Marathon, Texas has this adobe courtyard with a communal fireplace. Wood is provided for free. Individual campsites aren’t allowed firepits, so two or three crews (at least during spring break) of campers show up nearly every night. Our first night here this time o’round I was working at the fireplace, before anyone had shown up or it was lit yet. An older man underneath a cowboy hat arrived and began to light the fire.

“I find that when I start a fire,” he said with a smile or a smirk, “people show up with guitars.”

So I closed my laptop and went home and produced one. My guitar was cheap and I bought it on a whim from a man who’s nose had been burned off in Oregon. It’s a beach guitar. My kids beat on it and I suppose you could say that’s what I do with it as well.

As I returned to the fire with my six string and six pack, another guitar and its owner had already arrived. I haven’t played in front of people more than four times since I was a teenager in a punk band playing barns in rural PA. I sung a tune about a train song.

9 out of 10 nights since we’ve met everyone from a crew of 9 college kids who traveled here from Michigan to float the Rio Grande to families with young year girls who keep a notebook full of drawings of the birds they’ve seen to a plethora of tourists from Wisconsin or Florida who’ve come to the area to escape whatever lives they lead.

More RV parks should adopt this communal firepit idea. It brings people together, we’re all doing the same thing, searching for the same ideas, the same experiences, and so often we keep ourselves quartered away in our own little rectangular plots of land.

It’s because of that (and a dozen squared intensely interesting locals and random unexpected interactions) that I find this little West Texas town so appealing.

My birthday was last Thursday, and random people I didn’t even know (or at least recall ever meeting) extended their greetings. We went to the library yesterday and, it being our second visit, were extended an invitation to tour the closed museum as a woman remembered me (and more importantly Tristan) from years ago. Funny how thousands of people’s worth of recognition on the internet doesn’t quite equal one smile and a handshake in the real world.

This is West Texas. Yes, there are beautiful mountains and exceptions small towns, but it’s the townies and tourists alike who make the experience. Everyone’s escaping so they come to a place with nowhere to go.