Surviving the Simple Life

Fort Davis is a small, historic town in far west Texas, population just over a thousand. Located in the Davis Mountains it was established in 1857 and served as home to the U.S. Calvary. Today the restored fort is a tourist attraction, as is the nearby McDonald Observatory which hosts “star parties” every Tuesday and Saturday nights allowing the public to peer through its big telescopes. Because, “the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas,” my husband and I looked forward to attending one of these celestial evenings.

Our plan was to reach Fort Davis before nightfall, check into the quaint, historic Hotel Limpia, grab a nice meal at the hotel’s restaurant and then drive up the mountain to the observatory for an evening with the stars. Unfortunately we were delayed, arriving in Fort Davis tired, hungry and well after 9 p.m.

The hotel restaurant had closed for the evening but if we hurried we were told, we might find something to eat at Uncle Buck’s Convenience Store – the only place still open. Grateful for the tip we hurried down the deserted street to the small, wooden frame building with a faded Uncle Buck’s sign on the door. The porch groaned beneath our feet and the screen door screeched our arrival.

Admittedly, our expectations were not high, and in that respect we weren’t disappointed. A rack in the middle of the room was half-filled with a selection of corn chips, potato chips, salsas and dips. To the left a refrigerated case held soft drinks and beer. We asked the young clerk if the store had paper plates. No, but he’d sell us two from his personal supply. He disappeared, re-emerging moments later. “I had this in my truck,” he volunteered, proudly offering a white knife and fork set still wrapped in plastic. We took it, along with a bag of Fritos Corn Chips and spicy bean dip, thanked the clerk and headed back to the hotel. There was always breakfast, we consoled each other, ripping into the bag of chips.

The hotel’s hospitality was warm and friendly, the bed comfortable. We slept late and rose refreshed, but starving. Inquiring at the front desk we learned the hotel didn’t offer breakfast on Sundays, but two other places did; the Sunshine Bakery just down the street, a small adobe building we had seen the night before; and Indian Lodge, a State Park facility built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, located eight miles out. The Lodge’s breakfast buffet sounded just the ticket for two hungry souls.

It was after 10 a.m. when we reached the park entrance. John waited as I dashed in to pay the park entrance fee. The clerk sighed when I mentioned how we were looking forward to breakfast.  “I hate to tell you. We close our breakfast early on Sundays to get ready for our fabulous lunch buffet.” My stomach growled in protest.

“It’s Sunshine Bakery,” I announced to John, climbing back into the car. So, okay, a croissant, or a donut or two, would be fine.

The handful of customers seated among the wooden tables seemed promising. The cashier/waitress handed us a menu. There were no croissants, donuts, or cinnamon rolls, only burritos – bean, bacon and egg, sausage and egg, potato and cheese. These had to be the most authentic, best burritos this side of the Rio Grande we reasoned, and ordered, our mouths salivating in anticipation. John pulled out the credit card. “Oh, we don’t take credit cards – only cash or checks.” We had neither, as I had left my purse at the hotel. We’ll be back, we grumbled, our usual cheery disposition fading.

“Just forget it,” John muttered once outside. Dropping me off at the hotel, he went in search of brake fluid for the car, returning some 30 minutes later empty-handed. The good news, the brake fluid could be gotten at the next town over; the bad news, he had returned to Sunshine Bakery, cash in hand only to be told, “Sorry. We stopped serving breakfast at 11.”

We did finally feast that day at Indian Lodge’s “fabulous lunch buffet,” enjoying one of the most celebrated meals of our lives. In retrospect, though frustrating, the adventure provided a nice reminder that there are still communities that live simpler and slower – untouched by fast food giants and mega superstores; where hours of the day, and days of the week still mean something, and catering to your every desire isn’t a priority.