In my glamorous job, I frequently get to travel to rather interesting places (for some definitions of the word “interesting”). For the most part, the great FSM did not put oil and gas in pretty places, which means some of the locations I go to give another meaning to the old John Wayne movie “Hellfighters“.
One place I spent a lot of time in, when I first got my engineering degree, was Goldsmith Texas, where I managed projects for a very large international that has since been swallowed up by a different very large international. I had interesting work and made many friends, and not having to actually LIVE in Goldsmith, I found it quaint, with some nice little country restaurants run by retired grandmothers. Thirty years later, and having gone through very dismal times, Goldsmith has significantly deteriorated but finds itself in the middle of a huge boom because of energy prices. All the little restaurants, and the convenience store that had a lunch counter, are gone. The only restaurant left in town is Lefty’s Grill.
Goldsmith is not all bad. I mean, there is the Goldsmith Men’s Club. I couldn’t enter the grounds, but the club appears to be a covered patio with a picnic table and a grill.
For some reason, they have a painted pick-up truck adjacent to the grounds. It has been there at least 18 months, since I started on a new project in the area. It is not until you step back, that you really get the full effect. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t actually driven through the far reaches of West Texas will understand how bleak this area is. I’ve read from historians that this area used to have stands of prairie grass as tall as a man, which is why the cattle drives from Mexico to Chicago passed through this area, notably on the Goodnight-Loving trail (Loving is the next county over). The cattle ate mesquite beans in the Mexican interior, and dropped them along the trails. Mesquite are water-thirsty, and grow taproots 30-70 feet into the ground, sucking up all the groundwater. They might make for some tasty barbeque, but they destroyed the native grasslands.
That’s not even the best part of Goldsmith. The Buckhorn has been in town for several decades. I’ve never driven by except at midday when it is closed, but it’s a big biker hangout on weekends. Just…lovely.
At one time, Goldsmith had small stores, an elementary school, a gas station, and a couple hundred people living there, mostly people who worked in the surrounding oil field and gas processing plants, who did not want to drive 15 or 20 miles ‘into town’. Now, there is a handful of mobile homes, a small post office, and a very run-down convenience store that doesn’t even bother to replace the burned-out florescent bulbs in most of the place, but always has tobacco, beer, and Gatorade. In the 1960s, my grandfather was the lead electrician at this plant, formerly owned by Phillips 66 Natural Gas. Back then, it was shiny, new, and state-of-the-art, but a few years ago it was purchased by Duke Energy Field Services (now DCP Midstream), which has a reputation for letting plants become neglected and ugly, which is what you see below.