Written by Lois Rodriguez
As a crossroads city at the southernmost tip of Texas—and the state’s closest point to the interior of Mexico—it’s fitting that Brownsville would have a memorable train station. The city’s Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, built in 1928 in the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style, is a beauty.
Resting in the shade next to a pool of clear water, I could almost forget that miles and miles of West Texas desert surround me. But in fact I was in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, one of the most biologically diverse arid regions in the world.
Libby Lane cuts and sews her streamlined leather bags in an old converted bunkhouse on the Panhandle ranch where she grew up, surrounded by cattle and wide-open space. Although she has lived and worked in the fashion and art business in New York and Chicago, and her bags are coveted internationally, the 27-year-old prefers to work close to the land from which both she and her craft hail.
You can’t play a sad song on a banjo, says Chuck Lee. Which is a big part of why this banjo-pickin’ father of seven and plumber by trade decided to use his retirement savings to convert his backyard shed into a banjo workshop.
In his song “Stuff That Works,” Texas troubadour Guy Clark pays homage to “stuff that holds up … stuff that’s real.” His description of a favorite blue shirt worn soft over time is enough to make you wince at the thought of buying a T-shirt made in an overseas factory. Clark’s sweet, simple lyrics honor things with integrity—the stuff that lasts.
When Patricia Wolf was a little girl growing up in Pennsylvania, she often fell asleep at night gazing at the posters of Western landscapes she’d put on her wall, thinking: “Someday, I’ll live in Texas.”
In the 1960s, when former Nokona CEO “Big Bob” Storey was asked why he wasn’t buying from overseas to make his sporting equipment, he famously said, “If I have to import and send my employees home, I would rather just quit and go fishing.”
Behind his house in central Austin, in a tiny space decked out with machinery, an industrial oven, and a peg-board holding tools and designs, Nick Crumpton transforms the raw material of carbon fiber into sleek, lightweight riding machines.
"If you want to find out how to do something, you just have to start doing it,” says artist Joseph Hopps in his low East Texas drawl. “And if you are lucky, you will find someone along the way who knows more about it than you do.”
Robin’s egg linen, yellow seersucker, blue madras … The fabric options for a custom-made Dos Carolinas’ guayabera are as varied and inviting as the colors in a crayon box.
As familiar as bluebonnets and Dairy Queen, the Aermotor windmills that dot the Texas countryside are such a fixture that you might overlook them. But take note. These graceful machines turning in the wind have been hydrating Texas’ arid lands for generations, faithfully drawing water from as deep as 1,500 feet underground.