It’s one thing to surf the Web and browse the latest news from across the country and around the world. It’s an entirely different matter when the very first story you read involves people, and places, you know.
That’s what happened when I logged on to our site and read the featured story on July 6. Sterry Butcher at The Big Bend Sentinel filed a report about a West Texas resort called Lajitas. A former cavalry post that traces its heritage back to Black Jack Pershing, Pancho Villa, and the Comanche Moon, Lajitas dodged a bullet and staved off foreclosure by seeking federal bankruptcy protection. In the oversized tradition of the Lone Star State, the sums involved are staggering: 25,000 acres of rugged Chihuahuan Desert, hundreds of millions in assets, a $12.5 million secured loan, and an additional $1 million owed to the usual lot of unsecured creditors, including Texas Monthly and the Golf Channel.
Lajitas is a quick drive from where I grew up. I love South Brewster County and have driven the length of the River Road, FM 170, countless times. I first visited Lajitas when Bill Ivey ran the trading post. He had an old goat named Clay Henry, whom the locals had elected mayor. Clay Henry was a beer-swilling fool, a platform that led to several landslide re-election campaigns.
I remember finding out that Austin telecom magnate Steve Smith had bought Lajitas at auction from Walter Mischer for $4.5 million in 2000. Though I had moved to Dallas, I visited the new and improved resort on several occasions, was wined and dined at the Ocotillo Restaurant, and teed up at the Ambush, an 18-hole masterpiece designed by Roy Bechtol and Randy Russell. After reading Butcher’s article, my first call was to Bill Ivey.
“You want to buy it?” he asked, breaking into a laugh. No, I didn’t. The truth was I wanted to know how such a beautiful resort in such an amazing part of the country could burn through hundreds of millions of dollars and end up running on empty.
“It’s simple,” he said. “People who come to the Big Bend live outward. They want to be a part of the land. It’s big and it’s open and it’s beautiful. Those other things-gourmet wines and spa treatments and a great golf course-that’s not what it’s about,” he said.
Although he was talking about a destination resort, in my mind, Ivey was addressing the mission of this publication: getting our readers to live outward.