The editors thought I was joking when I pitched this idea. “Ten things to do in El Paso? What’s No. 1? Leave?”
Actually, that’s No. 5, but I’m getting ahead of my story.
San Antonio has the Alamo, Fort Worth has the Stockyards, Austin has Sixth Street, Marfa has its lights, but El Paso
has … no respect.
Time to change that. Here are 10 things to do that’ll leave you singing El Paso’s praises:
10. Start a Marty Robbins song, or make one up. Like this:
Out in the West Texas town of El Paso,
John Wesley Hardin got shot in the head.
A short while later, Deputy Marshal George Scarborough
Filled John Selman’s body chock full
9. Stroll through Concordia Cemetery. Speaking of Hardin and Selman, you’ll find their graves (and many others’) at this 1853 boneyard. One of the West’s best graveyards is sure worth a visit, but I wouldn’t want to stay here.
8. Get a pair of boots, cheap. Since many Concordia souls died with their boots on, get in the spirit. El Paso is the home of many factory bootmakers, and those factories have outlets. Go shopping for discounts at Justin, Tony Lama, Lucchese or Cowtown.
7. Get a pair of boots, not cheap. The bootmaking capital of America is also home to some high-end bootmakers. Go for a custom job and make an appointment with Champion Attitude, J.B. Hill, Rocketbuster, Stallion, Westar Sales Corp. and Ammons Boot Company.
6. Pig out on Mexican food: Avila’s; Rosa’s Cantina; Little Diner & Tortilla Factory; or find your own hole in the wall.
5. Leave. Flying? Check out the “Paths of the Padres: Discover El Paso’s Historic Missions” display at the airport. Driving? Day trips are great (south into Juarez is always an adventure). Go east on U.S. 62/180 along the old Butterfield Trail to Hueco Tanks and the Guadalupe Mountains. Or meander along the Rio Grande to historic and charming La Mesilla, New Mexico.
4. Follow the Mission Trail. Even if you don’t believe Billy the Kid’s connection with the San Elizario jail, the Mission Trail is an absolute must. Four centuries of history are well-told at Ysleta, Socorro and San Elizario.
3. March into Fort Bliss. Established in 1848 and still active, Fort Bliss offers a variety of museums chronicling the post’s history. The highlight might be the “replica” museum, a recreation of the old Magoffinsville Post, circa 1854-1868.
2. Tour those “other” museums. For a city that gets no respect, El Paso boasts a wealth of museums, and not just Fort Bliss. You’ll find museums dedicated to firefighters, the Holocaust, archaeology, art, medicine and even the El Paso Museum of History.
1. Finish that Marty Robbins song. You can’t help it. Marty’s spirit, coupled with the ghosts of El Paso’s heritage and history, take command. Pretty soon you’ll want a small guitar and a Nudie suit so you can start crooning.
I know I’m taking a songwriter’s liberties here (Selman died in surgery, and, for all I know, Hardin was wearing Cordovan alligator slippers when he bit the dust), but here’s my Marty Robbins voice again:
That they died with their boots on isn’t surprising
With this old burg’s hist’ry, one of
Home of folks tougher, and masters
El Paso City: Soul (Sole) of the Wesssstt!
Johnny D. Boggs’ favorite Marty Robbins song is “Big Iron.” Or maybe it’s “Tie Your Dreams to Mine.” No, it’s “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife.” Or, wait….