If you’re on your way to Big Bend National Park, the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine is a great place to visit beforehand. In a historic 1930s natural rock building on the campus of Sul Ross University for the past 5 years, this 5 Compass, 70-year-old Museum focuses on 11,000 years of human habitation in this part of West Texas. Colorful locals like Pete Gallego, Jr. and Dan Blocker of Bonanza fame who played football on the high school’s team are included.
A super-sized relief map of the entire region, a button pusher’s delight, focuses on the geology, towns, and landmarks of this part of West Texas. It was the 2nd display that totally commanded my attention.
The first was Big Ben, not a clock but a 400+ pound black bear just inside the display area. Children and adults who act like children, like me sometimes, are naturally drawn to Ben and the gigantic pterosaur dangling from the ceiling. Ben died in a car crash near Alpine in June, 2009. Bears like him are found in “sky islands” (isolated habitats) in the mountains of West Texas. They were once so many of them in the nearby and lovely Davis Mountains that “the women-folk made bread out of bear oil” according to Will Evans.
Ruth drew me to the 3rd, a very interesting video about the many movies that have been made in this wild and empty part of Texas, like Giant, which was mostly filmed in Marfa, the next town west of Alpine.
Each year The Museum of the Big Bend draws locals and outsiders to “Trappings of Texas”. This year’s is its 27th annual celebration of “cowboy gear and fine Western Art” (sulross.edu/museum). The party begins on February 22 and runs until April 14.
Also on the horizon is a blockbuster show for Western Art lovers. The Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdenburg, New York, is sending pen and ink drawings, Remington bronzes including Bronco Buster, etc. to what will amount to a career retrospective on this highly respected American artist. Coming in September, 2013.
Downstairs is Maphead heaven. A small selection of historic Texas maps from the Yana & Marty Davis collection graces the walls of a well-lit, small room. They include the very first map (1753) to acknowledge Texas (Tecas) as a separate entity and not necessarily part of Mexico or the new United States.