TERRELL COUNTY, TEXAS

I recently watched “No Country For Old Men”. The film takes place in Terrell County, Texas, a very sparsely populated county in West Texas that borders Mexico.

I drove through Terrell County in January while returning to Austin from a few days’ worth of work in Fort Stockton. I hadn’t watched the movie yet and I drove most of the north-south length of the county just enjoying the scenery, disregarding the speed limit and interacting with the U.S. Border Patrol.

Take a look at a map and you’ll see few towns. As a result, there aren’t a lot of people in Terrell County, either. The 2006 census reports a population of 983 people in 2,358 square miles. There are no incorporated communities in Terrell County and the two towns I drove through (the only 2 towns, by the way) are Sanderson and Dryden. As a point of reference, Rhode Island covers 1,214 square miles, or about half the area of Terrell County.

Fort Stockton, TexasAt first glance counties like these appear to be dry, barren wastelands and perfect locations for the violent characters depicted in “No Country For Old Men”. It’s all in your perspective and I find these remote West Texas locations fascinating. It’s a rough landscape but there is a lot of beauty in it. When the light gets low it isn’t blocked by mountains or dense trees, making everything in these broad, arid landscapes turn infinite shades of red and orange, as the setting sun hangs on the horizon for what seems like hours.

The picture here is a result of just that effect. I was finishing some work on a concrete plant just off Interstate 20 late in the afternoon. A trucker had just disconnected his cattle trailer from his truck. We see cattle trailers a lot in Texas and they aren’t much to look at. This is the first time I’ve ever seen one transformed. As the sun set, the shiny metal surface of the trailer turned into a color that resembled copper or bronze. I dropped what I was doing to run over and make a few pictures before the light was gone. The next morning I had a few curious concrete truck drivers wondering what the hell I was doing with the trailer.

I’ve never considered myself a landscape photographer but it’s apparent that photographing the land in counties like Terrell tells as much about the people that live there as it does about the land in the image. Making a living in areas like these is not for everyone. Imagine settling there 150 years ago.

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