portolan (portolan) wrote in off_grid,

The Field Lab: Off The Grid in West Texas

I can recall from my youth (which exists now only in my fading memory and the annals of history) watching the earlier incarnations of what has become Texas Country Reporter, a human-interest news show that explores the backroads and backstories of fascinating people around the state of Texas.

There was the guy who built his home from a decommissioned missile silo in West Texas, the old barber in East Texas who's been clipping hair for decades and decades, the tasty eatery in Beaumont, the centenarian porter at a regional airport who still makes his way to work everyday and helps people with their luggage. Stuff like that.

The host, Bob Phillips, is personable -- and, for me, his distinctive voice (sounding like it is perpetually trapped mid-gulp) and inflections have become synonymous with these sorts of down-home segments.

This weekend, I caught part of an episode that profiled John Wells, a former fashion photographer from New York who has staked out a life for himself near Study Butte, Texas, just outside Big Bend National Park amidst the austere West Texas landscape, sometimes desolate, sometimes starkly beautiful, sometimes both.

There are those who can't fathom forsaking their shopping malls, conference rooms, office buildings, department stores, mega-multi-movie-plexes, and other so-called accoutrements of civilization. But, Wells instills a purposeful drive to reconnect with nature and the purity of a self-sustaining life.

It would seem, looking from the outside, that such an existence highlights both the boon and bane of solitude, occasionally conjuring its darker cousin, loneliness. But, some people are better suited for limited opportunities of face-to-face interaction. And Wells manages the tether of DSL to remain connected via the Internet.

He still exercises his photography skills, too, keeping his daily blog lively and documenting life around The Field Lab.
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