Compiled by Kleo Belay
Scenes from the Old Study Butte Mall
In an area of great expanse and few services , the tiny tight community of Terlingua came to the Study Butte Mall for food , water , gas and community . The original Study Butte Store in the 1950s was located near the smelter of the mercury mine in Study Butte . It moved to its ultimate location near the entrance to Big Bend National Park in the early 1960s .
Eventually earning the name of The Study Butte Mall , it evolved over the years with a conglomerate of businesses .
The parking lot became a dance hall two or three times a year , when several bands would play and the community gathered . Christmas and Thanksgiving feeds were organized which were open and free to the public . For many years it was the only grocery store in town . Some proprietors started a charge account system , allowing regular shoppers to pay their tab monthly .
In 2012 the Study Butte Store shut down , the property was sold and gutted , and the gas pumps were removed . Lately the talk around town is of new owners putting in a wine bar and food stop of some variety .
Though there is hardly a trace of what once occurred there , the Study Butte Mall is a lively part of the community and history of Terlingua and Study Butte . Following are some reflections on “ The Mall ” from long-time Terlingua locals .
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“ The porch at the Study Butte store was always a gathering place for the sharing of information , the answering of questions , the measuring of social life , the exchange of all things human . The area residents at the time of the porch was a complete spectrum of life . From nuclear scientists to totally desert-educated goatherders , from bullies and ballerinas , to preachers of all walks , millionaires and weary paupers , all with a perspective on the mystery of life and a measurement of tolerance . Musicians gathered like blackbirds to share and spread their magic to the hearts of the folk and occasional dancers .
“ Also came tourists and travelers who all needed supplies . They were subjected to and blessed by this phenomenon of life , as generally it was something never experienced before or since . It would be a challenge in the post 9-11 , post COVID pandemic world to find such a daily gathering of social creativity with no norm . Each person did it their way .
“ This freedom to be without the social pressure to perform and conform hides deep in the desert . Sometimes you catch a glint of it in a sunset or in the smell of a night blooming cactus , reminding you to dream your sweet dream knowing you are loved .”
-Charles Maxwell first settled in the Terlingua area in 1975 and is part of a Big Bend area desert-dwelling family . He is a builder , yogi , and musician .
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18 Cenizo Summer 2021
Continued on page 20