So I’ve spent a lot of gas going to a lot of small towns in Texas the past year. We actually really love taking the road trips, but in no place have I found what I thought I’d find–a place where the oilfields are active, where the towns are actually keeping the money.
First we went to Karnes City, because we’d heard it was booming. Well, there were hotels and man camps for the oilfield workers, a few bars (Garcia’s Bar in Boom Town was inspired from one I saw here), a couple of places to eat. But the town itself? Not much there. That same day we drove down to Cuero, which is probably the most boom-y of the towns we saw. Main Street had shops that clearly catered to new money, architects, a spa, a couple of salons. (Actually, all the towns we went to had at LEAST two salons. We Texans don’t get teased for our big hair for nothing!) There were cute shops, antiques, boutiques.
And the traffic! Holy smokes, big trucks going through all the time, very loud. This is how I imagine Evansville will end up at the end of the series.
Not satisfied, we also went to Three Rivers, which we’d also heard was booming. Um, nope. The refinery is literally steps away from Main Street. There were taquerias everywhere, a few hotels, a big man camp out by the reservoir (which I stole for the reservoir in Wild Texas Swing), but not a lot going on. An antique shop, a movie theater (tiny) and a barbecue place, where the sheriff and the mayor sat at a table by the window and people stopped to talk to them. (Yup, stole that, too.)
Our last boomtown search was down I-35 to Cotulla. NOW, we saw a LOT of oil-related businesses on the way down. There are a lot on 281 heading south, and even on I-10 heading east. But on I-35 South, yeah, a LOT. And the oilfields are a lot closer to the highway, once you get south of Pearsall. I was astounded by all the industry I saw. And yeah, a little sad, because while there’s not a lot down there, well, now it’s really ugly.
And the hotels! I’ve never seen so many in one place, outside of Orlando. Brand new, and they’re still building. Lots of restaurants, mostly fast-food, nearby, both in Pearsall and in Cotulla. But when we drove back into the towns–Cotulla, especially, we saw the boom hadn’t reached the town proper. Houses were in disrepair, as were roads. Storefronts were empty, no places to eat or shop.
Our take-away was that in order to make money from the boom, you have to have money to begin with, to invest in a business that you know will be needed (taqueria, laundromat, man camp). Or you have to be able-bodied and willing to work the long hours in the field. Yes, Cotulla does have a brand new elementary school, but I’d love to see these towns get more money from the oil industry and be given the chance to prosper.