The Weird, Weird West

The Weird, Weird West
Photograph by Andy Anderson

Location: Fort Davis

What You’ll Need: Cowboy hat, canteen

The pleasures of Fort Davis aren’t as arty or oddball as the ones in nearby Marfa or Alpine, but that’s not to say that things aren’t strange. For example, which is weirder: that Fort Davis and Jeff Davis County, in the mountains of far West Texas and 1,300 miles from Atlanta, are named for Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, or that the video explaining the history of the old fort is narrated by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

SATURDAY

It’s hard not to like a town where the best place to eat is a drugstore. That would be the Fort Davis Drug Store, a great spot for a big breakfast. The building sits on the town’s main drag, State Street, and it served as the locals’ prime gathering place when it opened, in 1950. Now you’re apt to see ranchers and realtors eating giant breakfast burritos or old-fashioned hamburgers and drinking malts made with ancient steel machines.

After eating, take a walk down State Street, past the Old West-era buildings, and visit some of the arts-and-crafts stores, including the Davis Mountains Broom Shop, which sells walking sticks and nineteenth-century floor-sweeping devices. Stop in Memorial Square, across from the courthouse, and check out the monument to the town’s namesake, who was the Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857 (he is also known for championing the idea of importing camels to West Texas). Perhaps in part because of his legacy, Fort Davis was home to the secessionist Republic of Texas cranks who engaged in a standoff with the Texas Rangers in 1997. There are still plenty of cranks living there; a rebel flag hangs outside the town’s rock shop.

You can spend a whole afternoon at Fort Davis National Historic Site, which sits at the north end of town. It was built in 1854 to protect the mail route that connected El Paso to San Antonio. When Union soldiers abandoned the fort, it was taken over by Confederates, who

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