I was on one of the dusty roads in Terligua’s ghost town riding in Mimi Webb Miller’s Checker Cab when a young girl flagged us down, ran over to Mimi and told her in an excited voice, “We’ve just found a house here. We’re moving from Austin next month.” There’s a reason Terlingua is known as Austin Far West.
That morning I stood in a long line of people waiting to get a bite of breakfast at a little walk-up eating place. It does a thriving business. Mimi owns it. She grew up in Wichita Falls. “When I came out here as an adult in my 20’s I went back home and asked my daddy why we never came out here when I was growing up. There’s a vortex here that sucks you in.”
She came out here, fell in love with a Mexican man and set up housekeeping on a ranch south of Lajitas and had 2 children. She became quite popular in the remote mountain country that is becoming more popular with Texans. When Governor Ann Richards came to the Big Bend to inaugurate the Wild And Scenic River portion of the Rio Grande, Mimi went down the river with her and had fun. “I’m John Tower’s niece,” says Mimi. “After that river ride, I decided I’m no longer a Republican. The Democrats go on the river, they get drunk and then talk politics. I’m changing parties.”
She says when she first got to Terlingua there were simple pleasures. “You could fish out here for catfish with ivory soap or something called hellgrammites which are dragon fly larvae and they just look awful. But fish love them. That was fun.“
Mimi is a little concerned about Terlingua’s growth. “It’s a little scary because it’s such a fragile area. We lack water and trash has become a problem. Who would have thought trash disposal would become so important down here?”
She has been in Terlingua 40 years and has found a lot of business opportunities. “My coffee shop is called Espresso Y Poco Mas. At first it was just a little window you walked up to and placed your order. But now we have a patio outside with tables and chairs and our menu has grown. I have a new place called Taqueria al Milagro. It’s a real elevated taco stand. It’s not expensive. You bring your own beer. We furnish ice. And then I have La Posada Milagro, a 7-room motel.”
Mimi owns property in Mexico. “If you drive to Lajitas, I own the mountain on the left. It’s about 6,300 feet high with a lot of waterfalls, one of them 40 feet. It’s the best drinking water in the state of Chihuahua. I actually built 2 duplexes overlooking the river and that little village across from Lajitas. I take people on tours into Mexico.”
She also has other enterprises that require her to be in California. She is a casting director and finds people to do movies and TV commercials. “Some are actors from the screen actors guild and sometimes they’re just regular folks. You remember when Cindy Crawford was younger and drank the Pepsi with short shorts on? That was mine. And I’ve supplied talent for super bowl commercials.”