Fort Davis is a tiny, unincorporated town tucked beneath a small, remote chain of mountains deep in Far West Texas. Most Texans don’t even know where Fort Davis is. That’s how small it is, how remote. That’s one of the things that makes it a special place.
Also, it’s quaint. The bank has bars on the windows, kids play on the courthouse lawn, and it isn’t uncommon to see someone moseying down Front Street on a horse. There’s this special, dent-defying traffic pattern for pulling into the pantry-sized grocery store (usually works fine, but you must be comfortable facing on-coming vehicles). The vintage bookstore sometimes gives away fruit from local trees, whether you purchase anything or not. Each afternoon, the library resonates with the laughter of children bouncing between the shelves. The post office is where you visit with folks, and hopefully, remember to check your box for mail once a week. As one old rancher put it, “Around here, we’ve chosen to live pretty much like our grandparents did, just with a few modern conveniences.”
Mule slowdowns in downtown Fort Davis, Texas are much more common than traffic jams. Photo by Lindy Cook Severns.
There’s hiking, and wildlife, and a real fort, a lovingly preserved and skillfully restored frontier army post. On holidays and special occasions, authentically clad volunteer “soldiers” fire the cannon beneath the American flag that waves in the wind blowing down off the mountains.
Davis Mountains State Park adjoins Fort Davis National Historic Site at the top of one of those mountains. There’s a overlook where you can stand in shockingly unpolluted air and look down on the fort and the town that built up around it. Look past that and you’ll see Mitre Peak, Alpine, the last frontier. (Wow.) The first time I stood there, I was barely in my teens. I never imagined that one day, I’d call this wild place “home”.
Fort Davis National Historic Site in Jeff Davis County, Texas offers a glimpse into life on a frontier outpost. Photo by Lindy Cook Severns.
When I started painting this particular bird’s eye view of my vast backyard, I was mainly concerned with showing the sense of distance you feel when you walk out on the overlook and look down on town. That was a challenge, because I was looking down at the landscape, as well as across it. (Challenges are what make painting fun.)
The fort, the few scattered buildings of town were specks amid the rolling mountains and volcanic rock palisades. Not much of a painting challenge for those, just a few dabs of color here and there to suggest the architecture of civilization.
As I painted, I realized those two boulders would have to go… they distracted from the composition. (what self-respecting artist would put two big blobs of rock at the bottom of a canvas?)
Then, just for an instant, I felt the wind whipping my hair as I stood on one of those twin boulders in the foreground. I remembered effortlessly hopping across rocks with my little sister while trying to keep my toddler brother from rolling too far downhill. I heard Daddy calling us over to picnic on the quilt Mom had spread on the ground. (I hoped she hadn’t put mayo on my bologna sandwich this time…)
Fort Davis is a tiny, unincorporated town so deep in the mountains of Far West Texas, most Texans don’t even know where it is. Jim Severns looks down on town and the old frontier fort from a favorite vantage point in Davis Mountains State Park. Photo by Lindy C Severns.
The boulders had to be in the painting, composition be damned. The boulders EXIST. They are integral to this landscape. Place Holders.
The world needs more placeholders. This is a timeless view for anyone who has found their way to the mountains above Fort Davis.
In almost the same breath, I realized this was a landmark view long before there was a fort, or a town, or picnicking tourists. I let my imagination take over, and I painted the landscape as it must’ve been in days gone by, before there was a fort, or a town, or inspired artists roaming these mountains. No buildings. No people.
Just land. And sky.
If a mountaintop rises over West Texas and there’s no one to see it, does it still create memories?
You bet it does. As long as there’s a mountain, tomorrow’s memories will be there, waiting.
FORT DAVIS in DAYS GONE BY is a 10″ x 20″ pastel landscape painting showing the view from an overlook high in the Davis Mountains State Park in Far West Texas by Texas artist Lindy Cook Severns
“Fort Davis, Texas in Days Gone By” Lindy Cook Severns 2015
10″ x 20″ pastel on archival Premier #340 paper
To see more of my Davis Mountains landscapes and other paintings, visit my website for my Jeff Davis county fine art studio and gallery, Old Spanish Trail Studio