Running virtually across the state of Texas is once again proving to be a challenge. With working, adventuring and recovering from the injuries sustained while adventuring, I am having a hard time getting in the miles and am pretty far behind schedule in both running and writing. A few weeks back I blew through Van Horn, population 1,907 and falling fast. I suspect that a fair percentage of the “locals” are in the federal witness protection program. This little community is 140 long miles from the state’s western border outside of El Paso.
The town is not named for U.S. Army Major Jefferson Van Horne who passed through the area in 1849 on his way to taking command of Fort Bliss. It is, instead, named for Lt. James Judson Van Horn who ten years later commanded an army garrison near some local springs that were strategic in this desert environment. Lt. Van Horn’s post was seized by Confederate forces in 1861 and he was taken prisoner. I guess that neither rank nor military success are requirements for having a town named after you in far west Texas.
The world might little note what goes on in Van Horn if not for two interesting developments. The first is that Jeff Bezos, of Amazon.com fame, bought 290,000 acres of land north of town as a launch site for his space tourism business, Blue Origin. The company is working to lower the cost of space flight so that we can all go. They actually have local job openings posted on their website. Pretty innovative stuff.
The second bunch of crazies working in Van Horn is a group of scientists from the Long Now Foundation. The foundation provides a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and helps make long-term thinking more common. They hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next ten millennia. The group is building a 10,000 year clock deep inside a mountain outside of Van Horn. This is an implicit statement of optimism about the fate of civilization. They are building the clock just so that you will ask why they are building the clock.
Admittedly, Van Horn doesn’t look like much on the surface, but there is some strange stuff going on out here where no one seems to be paying attention. Next stop on the journey is Balmorhea for some underwater meditation in the middle of the desert.