WHEN LAST WE CHECKED IN on doings in the remote West Texas town of Cornudas (Reporter: “ Dream for Sale,” December 2003), locals were gathered, their breath bated, around what was believed to be the only laptop in Hudspeth County. The exact location was a back corner of the Cornudas Cafe, a burger-and-gas stop sixty miles east of El Paso on the Carlsbad Highway, and the occasion was the fast-approaching deadline of an eBay sale of the town itself—the cafe, gift shop, six-stall RV park, six-room motor court, three rent houses, four picnic areas, and palatial Palm Harbor residence of town owner May Carson. With time running out, and a high bid of $1,300,200 registered online, the 67-year-old May was already counting all the piña coladas she’d buy when she took her proceeds and relocated to Costa Rica.
That was a year and a half ago, a time not long after the Internet’s belated arrival in Cornudas (population: 4; number of stoplights: 0). After twenty years as the sole owner/builder/manager of the 129-acre town and its myriad businesses, May saw the Web as a way to sell out fast and get on to a hard-earned retirement. But when one Cornudan excitedly read aloud the high-bidder’s eBay purchasing history, no one seemed to realize that the same-day payment he’d made on his most recent buy, a pair of $19 glow sticks, was more an indication of his purchasing power than his integrity. Sure enough, a week later, the buyer had faded into the ether, Cornudas was back up on eBay, and May was still at the cafe grill, flipping her trademark green-chile burgers and dreaming of the surf.