Desert Mountain Times
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‘Shady deals’ sometimes lead us to larger wings

Mountain Shadow Lake (aka Lake El Paso) as it once was, seen on roughly 4,500 acres on El Paso's east sde, 10 miles north of Horizon City. (Photo from

Mountain Shadow Lake (aka Lake El Paso) as it once was, seen on roughly 4,500 acres on El Paso’s east side, 10 miles north of Horizon City. Now it’s dried up, abandoned; but could a resurrection be in store for it? (Photo from

By Dan Bodine


Yeah, the above headline is a bit incongruous, but so is the thinking of us humans!  Reacting to growing pains, and what it causes, is what it is!

And no end in sight for this as a people either! Locked in tight as a human race by our own foolishness, we are! I’m gonna do this; I’m gonna do that! Buzz words in reality that make up our life insurance.

A news flash of an example of this is resurrecting a nifty hideaway lake just east of El Paso.

Shadow Mountain Lake is a spot of gold awaiting a taker! Even maybe as a retreat for disabled vets and their families! A little help, please, is the hint.

Hee, hee. Immediately when I read this (ABC-7 news link here), I saw Postmaster Frank Hernandez standing across the counter of the old post office down in Presidio. Telling me a story.

Remember the way — before he ever got into some serious recollecting — he’d always remove a hanky from his back pocket with one hand? And his eye glasses with the other?

He’d clean the lenses with the hanky for a few seconds, looking down at the floor; then smile to himself while putting them back on. Dead giveaway! Preparing for launch, it was. A story was coming.

This was just a few years after I’d arrived there myself, a gringo oddball for sure — right off the turnip wagon!

The newspaper-ad promo I’d fallen for (a few years earlier — that’d landed me in this northern Chihuahuan Desert’s bit of paradise), didn’t involve land. It offered fancy of a certain kind of newspaper position.

Fastest growing weekly in Texas looking for good person to take it daily!

Hee, hee! Couldn’t have been talking to anyone else but me, right? I mean, I was just finishing up closing down three of these weeklies in Chapter 11 bankruptcy court in Fort Worth myself,  ’cause they weren’t fast enough — in producing revenue!

Gosh almighty, Bodine! Where was your head then!!

And then later as JP (had to take a 2nd job just to pay my printing bills on this new one); and wouldn’t you know it, I’d be staring — along with former Presidio County Atty. Teresa Todd, for one — at more shady deals than there are Marfa lights sightings! On riverview property land deals!

None of ’em ever topped Frank’s though. He told me of a lady who came in to the post office looking for some land once she’d purchased 10-12 miles upriver there. You wanna grow wings fast, friend, this is the place to do it! Grow ’em or die!

Hee, hee. This tract set just next “to a large shopping mall.” Bless her heart, “she had the photo with her to prove it was there, too!”

We’re all fools sometimes, right? Most of us good ol’ boys and girls!? Even three quarters of the time, some of us? (Except on Friday bingo nights!?)

I mean, who doesn’t get fool-happy when tempted with 99 shades of paradise; and the possibility — real careful here, the possibility — of hauling off more riches than even your great-great grandkids will ever be able to spend?! Huh?

Ain’t that the way America’s frontier was tamed? One fool winging it at a time?!

You with me now?! I mean, what good would the lottery be, say, if in fact somebody, somewhere, didn’t win it sometime? And walk away will all our killings in the process, huh?!

Those nuggets of gold! That collectively help fund our kids’ education!

Buying into pie-in-the-sky land deals — or job deals, as was in my case — is the same damn thing! A lottery! A shot in the dark! As American as the Dallas Cowboys! Oh heel to the mighty!

God intended me to be this very next person! is our thinking whenever we hear or read something like this. I just need to act on it!

This woman (can’t recall what state Frank said she was from) had gotten her land thru direct mail offers.

One of my old file photos, taken from F.M. 170 farther north toward Candelaria. There are no shopping malls up this way. Not yet. (DMT photo)

One of my old file photos, taken from F.M. 170 farther north toward Candelaria. There are no shopping malls up this way. Not yet. (DMT photo)

When she turned up northwestward on 170 from Presidio and “drove and drove and drove” without finding anything, she figured she’d better go back to town and ask someone who knew directions to this mall. She stopped at the post office.

“How do you tell someone innocent like this, who’s just put up her life savings on a dream, that they’ve been had?” Frank more or less asked me.

I doubt few will go to the trouble he did. And how this woman got out of it we’ll never know. But bless her heart!

The next day Frank drove up U.S. 67  to the courthouse in Marfa, to the tax office, and researched bearings and physical positions on the property.

Then he came back down to Presidio and met with the woman, and in separate vehicles they turned up the river on F.M. 170 and went to look for the land markings he’d found.

And finally pulled off the highway onto a small dirt trail for a ways, and got out.

Hot day, it was. Hot sun overhead. Sweating.

Bare, rocky land, it was, too.  North side of the highway, side going up toward the mountains. Large, clump boulders laying about.

Frank found a certain marker and stepped off some distance from it. And stopped. Raw, undeveloped land. No water; no utilities.

The woman was still clutching her “sale” papers, including the somehow-juxtaposed con photo of the riverview property, mall-by-the-mountains. She looked tensely puzzled.

“Here’s your land, lady,” he told her. “As you can see, there’s no shopping mall out here.”

She stood expressionless, frozen in time for some moments, quizzical eyes staring at him, still blankly. It wasn’t cave-in time yet though.

Steadfastly her face continued to hold off the horribleness of being taken — especially in some loony-land purchase as this! The denial fight inside her was on, obviously. And it showed no traces of abetting, Frank said.

His task finished, he politely told her he had to get back to work, and walked back to his truck. And left.

Driving away, he glanced back — to look at her a final time. Standing there taking in all of her dream purchase.

She was crying though, she was. Finally. Big heaving sobs. All alone, clutching the lying papers to her face.

The woman had reached out for something back there. Had felt a tinge of personal growth inside her. And  bought a lottery ticket on a shady land deal.

But there was no gold nugget here. Not for her anyway.

What more can one say?

Fair? Fair?

Life is always fair.

You get what you pay for!

All you need is to grow some wings to get out of it sometimes.


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Category: Border Stories

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