South Rim Trail at Big Bend National Park, Texas. (daveynin via Flickr)

South Rim Trail at Big Bend National Park, Texas. (daveynin via Flickr)

Friends No More! Big Bend Group Changes Name & Prepares For Dinosaurs

Friends no more! On Thursday, the Friends of Big Bend National Park announced a name change. The support group for the national park will now be called Big Bend Conservancy.

This is the fundraising group for Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. Courtney Lyons-Garcia is the Executive Director. “We started as small group. All vounteers, no staff. Being a friends group was a great way to start.”

Friends seems perhaps too casual, but Conservancy means business.

“We have grown a lot since then,” she says. “We have professional staff now. We have one-and-a-half staff. We have just grown. We have myself and a membership coordinator, Arlene Griffis, who lives in Marathon. We have an unrestricted annual budget of about $120,000, but we just wrapped up over a million dollars for the fossil exhibit.”

And that million-dollar project looks back at the legacy of dinosaurs that once roamed this land north of the Rio Grande. “Dinosaurs died out and mammals rose,” explains Lyons-Garcia. “You can actually see it in the rocks. It’s one of the few places on public land that you can do that, in the world.”


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Basketball in the Barrio, 2015, El Paso, Texas.

Basketball in the Barrio, 2015, El Paso, Texas.

A Sports Camp in El Paso That Isn’t Really About Sports

Schools are opening in West Texas and summer rituals are coming to an end. Student athletes – like cross-country runners and football players – have already been practicing – getting ready at late-summer camps. At one sports camp in El Paso, though, the focus isn’t really on sports.

Dozens of kids – ages 6 to 10 – are dribbling basketballs splashed with paint across a giant canvas of craft paper. Michael James is one of the camp counselors. “The ball started to get covered with paint and then they began dribbling up and down, so there’s these there are these beautiful patterns over about 30 feet of paper on the floor. There’s all kind of stuff going on here.”

We’re in El Paso, in the Segundo Barrio, just a few blocks from the Mexican border. Rus Bradburd founded the camp. He coached basketball at the University of Texas at El Paso and at New Mexico State. He describes the daily drills.

“Every eight minutes they go to a different station. Every interval they go from a dribbling station to a percussion station to a music station to a poetry station and back to basketball again. So we weave in basketball and educational aspects related to border culture.”

It’s not your typical sports camp. Nine-year-old camper Paz Martinez even has trouble describing what she’s learned: “I learned lots of new basketball tricks and um…how to do…some different kinds of crafts.”

The three-day camp is called Basketball in the Barrio. And it costs one dollar for three days of activities. Bradburd started the camp as a reaction to other sports camps – which he describes as money machines marketed to wealthier kids.


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Artist impression of white dwarf. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, S. Geier.

Artist impression of white dwarf. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, S. Geier.

Texas Astronomers Discover Massive Outbursts in Dying Stars

This week Texas astronomers are announcing a new discovery: that dying stars display massive outbursts as they decay. These hot, bright flashes haven’t been seen before in stars like these.

Almost all stars end up as white dwarfs, when they run out of the fuel that makes them shine. And as white dwarfs, these dying stars pulsate like a heartbeat: bright then dim, bright then dim.

“These stars vibrate. They ring, really like a bell, in a regular – a very regular – way,” says Keaton Bell, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. Working with J.J. Hermes – now at the University of Warwick in England – Bell found something different happening with white dwarfs – an irregular heartbeat. “That regular rhythmic brightening and dimming that we observe is broken up with a fairly large outburst event, where the star gets very bright for many hours.”

To find this phenomenon required a dedication to observation. Bell explains, “This star was observed for more than 1-1/2 years, just pretty much continuously. The telescope stared unblinking at the same patch of sky.”

And to make this discovery, Bell and Hermes didn’t rely on earthbound tools. “We’re not getting data during the daytimes or when it’s cloudy from the ground. And so we may miss these rare events from traditional telescopes.”

It was from the telescope on the Kepler spacecraft that made the discovery possible. Bell says, “This discovery was enabled by the sheer amount of data that the Kepler spacecraft provided us.”

Bell and Hermes are publishing their findings in academic journals.

FWTSR image

Report for August 26th

Punch Kennedy receives a vision of the future, or maybe the past. The final episode of the series. End credit music by G Wayne Thomas from the Morning of the Earth OST, courtesy of Anthology Recordings and their Surf Archive … Continue reading

The Far West Texas Surf Report airs each Wednesday at 11pm.
A woman wades across the Rio Grande from Texas into Chihuahua. The woman is a US citizen on her way to see family in Mexico living a few hundred yards from the shoreline. (Lorne Matalon)

A woman wades across the Rio Grande from Texas into Chihuahua. The woman is a US citizen on her way to see family in Mexico living a few hundred yards from the shoreline. (Lorne Matalon)

Skirting The Law To Survive On The Rio Grande

CANDELARIA, Texas — The United States and Mexico are pouring money into a showcase experiment to rescue damaged economies on the Texas-Mexico border.

But that experiment only involves two towns, Boquillas in Mexico and the community of visitors and National Park Service personnel at Big Bend National Park, a epic mosaic of desert, rock and sky that already draws hundreds of thousands of adventure travelers every year.

There are dozens of other towns along this section of the border, forgotten, struggling, forced in some cases to break the law to survive.

To put that reality in context, one need only look back to April 2015. Then, citizens of two countries witnessed a choreographed but symbolic event on the Rio Grande.

US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell had crossed the river in a rowboat, with Mexico’s Environment Secretary, from Big Bend National Park to the Mexican village of Boquillas.

“It’s not the same as crossing into Tijuana or Juarez,” she said as residents watched her tour the town after sprinting up the banks of the river.

Mexican villagers, US Park Rangers, Mexican Army and US Border Patrol agents mingled to celebrate the second anniversary of the opening of the border opening here, the first of its kind on rural parts of the river since the terror attacks of September 11, 2011.

The economy’s been given at least a shot at recovering from the trauma of a sealed, post 9-11 border.

“This is a positive story about a border, a border that doesn’t have a fence, a border that has a river that takes people back and forth,” said Secretary Jewell.


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James Spriggs, of the Spriggs Ranch south of Marfa, says he discovered this pipeline survey stake on his property after previously refusing to let surveyors come onto his property. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

James Spriggs, of the Spriggs Ranch south of Marfa, says he discovered this pipeline survey stake on his property after previously refusing to let surveyors come onto his property. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

West Texas Rancher Says Pipeline Company Surveyors Trespassed

A West Texas rancher says land surveyors came onto his property without permission while planning a route for a natural gas pipeline. The pipeline company says it was an accident.

Presidio County rancher James Spriggs of the Spriggs Ranch recently found survey stakes spread out in a line across part of his land.

The find prompted him to put up a “no trespassing sign” on one of his gates, which he says he’d never done before.

“We never really had problems with people coming onto us without permission in the past,” he says. “This is a whole new ball game.”

Spriggs says he’d already refused multiple times to let surveyors come onto his ranch. The discovery surprised him, because he was actually getting ready to change his mind.

“I was basically ready to go ahead and sign just to get ‘em out of my hair,” he says. “But the last time they caught me on a bad afternoon and said ‘you either sign it now or we’ll have a court order in 48 hours.’”

“At that point, I told ‘em bring the court order and bring the sheriff too,” he says.

That never happened, and Spriggs says he hasn’t heard from the surveyors since.


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Grape vines at Mesa Vineyards, the state's largest winery and vineyard, located in rural Pecos County, TX. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Grape vines at Mesa Vineyards, the state's largest winery and vineyard, located in rural Pecos County, TX. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

The Biggest Winery In Texas Thrives In The Desert

The Texas wine industry’s been growing in recent years – with new tasting rooms and vineyards popping up in the hill country and across the state.

When you think about Texas wine, you’re probably imaging a quaint little roadside farm in the hill country somewhere.

But what you might not realize is that there’s a big player in the industry just off a lonely stretch of I-10, way out in the West Texas desert.


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Cutting Horse Competition Brings Together Ranch Hands to Test Skills

When Richard Simms, a certified National Cutting Horse Association judge from Brenham, Texas, sits down to grade riders on horseback, he always fills in a box that reads “amount of courage.”

“I want to see them go to the wall and not quit on the wall, I want to see them come of the wall with that cow and try to stop that cow in the middle of the pen,” Simms says. “To me that’s courage.”

For a sport that nods to the early days of rodeo and has its roots in friendly cowboy competition, the romance is fitting. And even more apparent than usual last Sunday at the 06 Ranch in Alpine, which employs real cowboys the rest of the year and sits at the base of Hancock Hill.

Several dozen riders and the same number of horses came to compete last Sunday in front of Simms. Some came from their ranches near Midland or Fort Stockton to compete. Others just took it as an opportunity to see the 06 firsthand.

As spectators watched from pick-ups, the people on horseback took turns trying to something seemingly simple: isolate and keep one cow from a herd.

The cow goes left, the horse moves left.

The cow goes right, the horse moves right.

It’s a dance of sorts says Dawn Lacy, who’s married to the owner of the 06, Chris Lacy.


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Report for August 12th

One thousand waves…one thousand dreams. End credit music by The Val Dusty Experiment, from Andrew Kidman’s Litmus OST, available August 14th from Anthology Recordings. More info at anthologyrecordings.com.

The Far West Texas Surf Report airs each Wednesday at 11pm.
A map of intrastate pipelines in Texas. Opponents say the Trans-Pecos Pipeline would amount to a de-facto international project. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Marfa School Superintendent, Tax Experts, Discuss How Trans-Pecos Pipeline Would Be Valued

Property taxes have been a hot-button issue in Presidio Country for several years as home values in Marfa have risen. Taxable entities, such as county government and the school districts, are affected by these swings. Monday night, the Marfa School District held an informational workshop on the Property Value Study. It was led by Carla Pope-Osborne, an Austin-based lawyer working on property tax appeals.

Earlier this summer, superintendent Andy Peters met with officials from Energy Transfer, a Dallas-based company planning the Trans Pecos Pipeline that would pass through the district on its path of carrying natural gas from producers in the Permian Basin to consumers in Mexico.

“I really thought those were more fixed costs,” said Peters.


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American and Mexican runners finish a 10K race on the Paso Del Norte Bridge in Juarez, Mexico, looking toward El Paso, TX, August 8, 2015 (Marfa Public Radio / Tom Michael)

American and Mexican runners finish a 10K race on the Paso Del Norte Bridge in Juarez, Mexico, looking toward El Paso, TX, August 8, 2015 (Marfa Public Radio / Tom Michael)

An International Race Reconnects El Paso & Juarez

Each year, 6 million pedestrians and 9 million vehicles cross the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. This weekend, however, it was 1,000 men and women in running shoes. It’s a 10-kilometer bi-national race that may signal a new phase for a once-troubled borderland.

The sun is rising over the city of El Paso and Roberto Barrio is with his dog Watson at a coffee-shop. It’s race day along the border. “The run is the Run Internacional. I think that’s it going to hopefully be a great tradition that they start up again.”

Due to U.S. security concerns AND Mexican drug violence, this event hasn’t been held in a decade and half. But times have changed and Barrio is taking a holistic view.  “Because El Paso – Juarez is really one city.”

Chelsea Shugert will also run across the Rio Grande. The 24-year-old from El Paso grew up keeping away from Mexico. “I was barely 16, 17 when it started getting really bad, so now I’m excited for the opportunity to experience Juarez and Mexico and the friendliness of it… like my parents talk about how it used to be.”


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The James Lynaugh Unit lies 15 miles southwest of Fort Stockton. The road it's on, Old Alpine Highway, turns to dirt soon after. (Graham Dickie/KRTS)

The James Lynaugh Unit lies 15 miles southwest of Fort Stockton. The road it's on, Old Alpine Highway, turns to dirt soon after. (Graham Dickie/KRTS)

In Fort Stockton, Prisoners Connect to the Outside Through Radio

David Beebe, a DJ at Marfa Public Radio, knows a lot of music – enough to fill a three-hour slot every Tuesday night with just blues, funk, and R&B, genres he knows inside-and-out from growing up in music-rich Houston and playing in bands for 20 years.

Even still, every now and then, a listener asks Beebe to play a song on his show Night Train Express that he’s never heard of – and from a place you might not expect.

Like clockwork each week, a group of music aficionados living behind bars has been sending him requests from inside the James Lynaugh Unit, a prison located outside Fort Stockton with 1400 inmates. They want to hear largely forgotten funk and soul from the early 80s like Slave and other mementos from the blues wheelhouse.

This is all possible because inmates are allowed a personal radio with headphones if they stay out of trouble.

Assistant Warden Ralph Marez says the radios are transparent to avoid contraband issues, and the prisoners are free to listen to them “so as long as it’s on their own time.”


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Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Marfa Public Radio Community Correspondent

Never miss a city council meeting? Always finding interesting stories in the Big Bend? Go to a lot of community events or concerts? If you’re interested in sharing your knowledge and experience with Marfa Public Radio listeners, become one of our volunteer Community Correspondents.

We’re looking for engaged citizens from across the Big Bend. A Community Correspondent assists Marfa Public Radio with news gathering and producing stories from the community you live in.
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Fri. Aug 28 Interview: Mexican ceramicist Cipriano Bueno opens exhibit in Marfa that recalls the Aztec era

Today on West Texas Talk we have a translator helping us with an interview of Mexican artist Cipriano Bueno, whose ceramics are on display at the Greasewood Gallery in Marfa at the Paisano Hotel. There is an artist reception on Friday for this exhibit, entitled CIHUACOATL.

Bueno talks with Tom Michael about growing up in Ojinaga, Mexico, across the border from Texas; teaching art at the university in Chihuahua City; his approach to firing works in clay; and the history of northern Mexico. (Jose Grajedo assists with translation.)

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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“Myrmica puceron”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Keep Them Aphids Rollin': Ant-Aphid Symbiosis in West Texas

Predators and fierce competitors are facts of life in nature. But for many creatures, mutually beneficial relationships are just as important. In West Texas, we can look to the insect world for proof. On trees and shrubs across the region, … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm, and again on Thursdays at 7:06 pm.
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Desert Surf Films

Thu. Aug 27 Interview: Surfing in the Desert? Ballroom Marfa presents Weekend Films, Classic and Contemporary

On this episode of West Texas Talk, we visit with Ballroom Marfa Executive Director Susan Sutton, Communications Director Daniel Chamberlin, and Ian Lewis, creator of the Far West Texas Surf Report. Our topic is Desert Surf Films, curated by Sutton, and featuring two nights of outdoor screenings of classic and modern surf films.
Desert Surf Films includes two visionary films from the early 1970s, Alby Falzon and David Elfick’s Morning of the Earth and Elfick’s Crystal Voyager, along with shorts from Sam Falls & Joe Zorrilla and Ian Lewis.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Tue. Aug 25 Interview: West Texas EMS Workers

In urban areas, an ambulance ride is generally around fifteen minutes. In West Texas, the nearest hospital is often hours away. Today on West Texas Talk we explore the lives of West Texas EMS workers and the unique challenges that they face.

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West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Patty Griffin & Scrappy Jud Newcomb at the KRTS Studios, August 22, 2015.

Patty Griffin & Scrappy Jud Newcomb on the Big Bend region

On Saturday, Patty Griffin visited the KRTS Studios in advance of her benefit concert in Marfa that evening. She was joined by Scrappy Jud Newcomb.

Griffin talked about the music industry, her love of Mavis Staples, and previewed her forthcoming album, Servant Of Love. She shared a song that features Newcomb on guitar.

In this audio clip, both musicians talk about the beauty of Far West Texas.

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