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San Angelo Standard-Times To print this page, select File then Print from your browser URL: http://www.sanangelostandardtimes.com/sast/news_local/article/0,1897,SAST_4956_4948734,00.html There's lots to love about West TexasBy Rick Smith, rsmith@sastandard times.com or 659-8248August 27, 2006What do we love about this place where we live? In the August issue of Southern Living magazine, Texas native Gary D. Ford made a list. His ''40 Reasons I Love Texas'' range from horned toads (horned lizards) to high school football. Although he's from Kilgore (his East Texas hometown ranks No. 1 on the list), Gary doesn't neglect the western half of the state. West Texas entries on his list include Big Bend National Park, the Davis Mountains area, Midland's ''Summer Mummers'' melodrama and San Angelo writer Elmer Kelton. (Gary ranks Elmer with Texas literary giants Larry McMurtry, Horton Foote and John Graves. He says ''The Time It Never Rained'' is among the 10 best Texas books.) Gary's list inspired me to make my own abbreviated West Texas version. If you have other suggestions, let me know, and I'll add them to the list. Meanwhile, ''Five Reasons I Love West Texas'' are: 1. The McCulloch County Courthouse Ghost. Everyone loves a good ghost story, and Brady has one of the best. The ghost who is said to inhabit the century-old building on the courthouse square smokes cigars, rides the elevator after midnight and throws books at less-than-friendly lawyers. (Who wouldn't love a ghost like that?) Some courthouse visitors claim to have seen him peering out a first-floor window just to the left of the main entrance. One family captured him on film. Do I believe in the ghost? I believe the people who work in the courthouse have seen and heard something. I slow down and look at the left-hand courthouse window every time I drive through town. 2. Pecos cantaloupes. Question: What could be better than living next door to the best cantaloupe crops in the world? Answer: Discovering that Blue Bell makes a limited edition ''cantaloupe and cream'' flavor every August using the Pecos fruit. (Don't bother looking for it in the supermarket. I ate it all.) 3. Jim Runge. Love him, hate him, but you can't ignore Schleicher County's most colorful character. Jim's the guy who's constantly creating goofy festivals in Eldorado. The annual goat race? That's his. And you've seen the ''Hysterical District'' on U.S. Highway 277 in Eldorado? The roadside signs spoof is Jim's creation, too. His latest brainstorm, scheduled for January, involves Elvis impersonators and Elvis-inspired contests. Jim claims that Eldorado has more Elvis impersonators per capita (15 per 2,000 residents) ''than any city in the world.'' Even Sonora. 4. The Miles metal man. You're driving through Miles toward Ballinger on U.S. Highway 67, cruising along. Then, just as you pass the convenience store/Chevron station, your passenger points to the right yells, ''Look at that!'' That is a huge, hulking metal man with outstretched arms who stands by the side of the road greeting passersby. Depending on the season, he might be dressed in a Santa cap, holding an American flag or outfitted in cowboy clothes and shades. Bobby Burrus, who owns Burrus Custom Trailers, welded the metal sculpture a dozen or so years ago from spare pipe and other scraps. To create his masterpiece, Bobby measured his own body then used the measurements to build the metal man. That way, he could dress the creation in his old shirts and jeans. Bobby named his creature ''Frank N. Burrus.'' Every time I drive through Miles, there's Frank, waving at me. I always smile back. 5. Mesquite. I know, I know. True West Texans are supposed to hate the brushy, bristly, ever-spreading nuisances. But you have to admire something that can endure drought, deer, sun, wildfires, bulldozers and much cussing year after year after year. Mesquite trees were meant to be here. You can have the prickly pear, though.Copyright 2006, San Angelo Standard-Times. All Rights Reserved.
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