The Town of Pecos City
Essay by Alberto Alvarez
Pecos Texas, the County Seat of Reeves County, is the home of the world’s first rodeo and is also known for its famous cantaloupes. This growing rural community with a population of 8,700 is located at the northern end of the Chihuahuan desert two hundred miles east of El Paso and seventy miles east of Odessa on Interstate 20.
This rural community is currently experiencing unbelivable growing pains due to an oil boom recently recognized as the second largest oil drilling site in the state of Texas. Pecos, like a number of other rural West Texas communities, has experianced rapid economic growth and economic downfall. With the current oilfield drilling boom within Reeves County, Pecos is experiencing tremendous present economic growth which should continue as long as there is oil in the ground.
In the early 1930’s and on through the late 1970’s, Pecos was a progressive town due to agriculture, primarily cotton farming. As a result, manual farm labor was in high demand thus came the opportunity for many locals to obtain employment. Additional man-power aslo became available through the Bracero Program which provided temporary work permits allowing Mexican citizens from Mexico to obtain seasonal work in the United States.
During that period which I refer to as the cotton boom, down-town Pecos consisted of all types of businesses from nationally known department stores like Sears, Montgomery Words, J.C. Penny, C R Anthon, Woolworth’s, along with jewley stores, three movie theaters, auto dealerships, and a train depot. Pecos also had a number of grocery stores within the city limits. In comparison, currently there is only one grocery store in all of Reeves County.
During the agricultural heyday, everyone was happy and content because they had a steady source of income. This experience gave young people like me the opportunity to be thankful that I had a summer job that would allow me to earn an income to be able to buy school clothes and school supplies for the upcoming school year. My experience spending summers in Pecos with my grandmother and working under what are now considered harsh conditions was in a way a blessing as it really prepared me to be able to breeze through Marine Boot Camp after graduating from high school.
The agrucultural work was hard, working ten hours a day six days a week in the fields chopping cotton earning fifty cents an hour. People of all ages, males and females, would wake up at 4:30am and work all day under the hot summer sun. There were no restroom facilities, no shade and we were constandly sprayed with DDT by crop dusters. Regaredless, no one ever complained. Whenever the DDT spray fell on the buckets of drinking water, we would just splash it out with our hands and drink up. On the upside, I attribute the hard work I did as a kid to the good work ethic I practiced as an adult. Kids as young as the age of 12 would work in the fields beside their family members delivering water, sharpening tools, chopping cotton, and would earn more skilled labor and better pay the more seasons they worked. At a young age, we learned how careers were built and what it took to be a hard worker, which stayed with us even if we left the agriculture profession.
In the early seventies, when I returned from Vietnam, there were fewer and fewer cotton fields surrounding Pecos. At that time, diesel fuel cost skyrocketed and the farmers who depended on their huge diesel powered pumps to pump water were not able to irrigate their crops at the same costs that they had for decades before. As a result of this, the agriculture workforce dropped, whole families were out of work and the population declined from 15,000 to 7,000 by the end of the 1970’s. The whole area was desolite from the mid-70’s till the early 2000’s. However, in the past few years as oil drilling has picked up in the county, so has the community, but it is uncertain for how long.
Pecos is a strong community. I believe that growth is inevitable and better things are soon to come. On a number of occassions I have been asked why do I choose to live and remain in Pecos and what does Pecos mean to me. To me Pecos has always meant: Oportunidad (Opportunity)