Section 12: Del Rio to Carizzo Springs
Today we are getting picked up by Maddy and Courtney! It was just enough of a motivation to get us up and at it early in the morning. The first half of the day took us through the edges of Eagle Pass, which were surprisingly interesting. You never know what you are going to get with town outskirts - sometimes fast food strips, sometimes run-down neighborhoods, sometimes industrial lots - but today it was an eclectic mix of local shops and services; some of them, like the dance hall, belonging to a different era (or a different country). Several people had told us that Eagle Pass had more of a Spanish-speaking, Mexican vibe to Del Rio’s Americanized style and that was exactly what we found. It made for a fascinating aesthetic, the businesses were well-cared for but felt just a shade foreign to our Anglo, east-coast sensibilities. The passing cars flew by at a speed we were becoming accustomed to and we were mostly able to ignore the weight of the stares by concentrating on our newly-compelling surroundings.
We were on the lookout for the Kickapoo Casino, owned and operated by the Kickapoo tribe. It was easy to spot; the modern, newly-built entrance and sign stood out against the well-worn gas stations that lined the edge of town. This is the only casino in Texas (a fact that shocked us) and the tribe is profiting from the monopoly. The other two Native American tribes in Texas - the Tiguas and the Alabama-Coushattas - are prevented from operating casinos by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, which superseded Indian sovereignty by granting both federal and state authorities control over certain types of gaming on Indian lands. We couldn’t help but wonder if the decision to allow the Kickapoo to operate a casino correlated with their 125 acres of land along the border.
Did Texas recognize the amount of money that a casino right on the border was bound to bring?
Maybe we’re totally off, but we were definitely curious. Before the casino was opened in 1996 the Kickapoo tribe was poor and overlooked. One of Bob’s friends described seeing tipi-like structures under the International Bridge in Eagle Pass that some tribal members inhabited for a portion of the year. Casino money modernized the area and we saw the results today, very tidy, well-serviced neighborhoods.
Eventually we ran out of town and hit the familiar South Texas desert scrub. There is more water here, thanks to the ever-widening Rio Grande, and the low-lying bushes are slowing transforming into leafy trees. This land may have fewer buildings but every inch of it is accounted for, and all afternoon we watched the trucks laboriously turn onto the narrow and gated dirt roads that latticed the landscape. Most of the property out here seems to be small to medium-sized ranches and landowners appear to be opening their property to oil and gas exploration. Many of the gated entrances have a parked RV/trailer where a caretaker checks authorized drivers in and out. We also noticed another large feedlot, the smell announcing its presence before we turned the corner.
What was that little car pulling over up ahead?
Maddy and Courtney in the cutest bright-yellow VW bug. They had driven several hours from Austin and found us, sweaty and hungry, on the side of the road. We piled into the car and drove back to the hotel in Eagle Pass, pointing out some of the highlights of the day as we passed them. In addition to being supportive friends, Maddy and Courtney are both intelligent and compassionate gals and their curiosity about the project has us talking excitedly for the rest of the night. A margarita or two definitely helped us along in our quest to make the most out of their visit!