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Little Reata

by Magdalin Leonardo

All text and images © 1998 Magdalin Leonardo, email

I know that land ain't worth much. But then someday, I just might up and put my own fence around her...and call her "Little Reata." James Dean as Jett Rink in "Giant"

Seeing the ruins of Reata is one thing. Seeing the ruins of Little Reata is quite another. There's even less left of this "Giant" landmark in Marfa, but it IS easier to find. Just take Highway 90 west for a few miles, heading towards Valentine. Scan the barren landscape carefully and look for that familiar windmill; it will be on your right hand side.

Little Reata ruins

The two poles that held the original "Little Reata" sign in place still stand. Jett Rink’s famous windmill, which is also intact, is about 20 yards behind that. You can get a pretty decent view of these ruins from the road, but I just had to get closer. I took my first shot from just a few yards. Notice the skull in the foreground, an ominous sign for trespassers. (Yours truly included!)

Like Reata, the ruins of Little Reata are on private property; a barbed wire fence separates them from the road. But on closer inspection, I discovered someone (no doubt another diehard Deaner) had dug a huge hole underneath one of the wooden gates. So I took a chance: I left my car running across the highway, grabbed my camera, and shimmied my way underneath the barbed wire, limbo-style. (Ouch, that hurt!) But the scratches on my arms were well worth it.

windmill     If it wasn't for the fact that I was alone, without a gun, and in full view of coyotes, I would have climbed that darn windmill. (Lord knows I've dreamed about it). But I was only able to muster up enough courage to take one shot, about fifty yards away.

gate     As soon as my camera made its final click, I ran back towards the road as fast as I could and crawled back underneath the barbed wire. Cars and trucks flew by me as I bolted across the highway, no doubt wondering what the hell a woman was doing out there alone in the desert on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. But I didn't care. I felt completely exhilarated.

I waited until the road was empty; I wanted one final thrill. Rolling down my driver's side window, I roared off the pavement, raised my arm in the air, and screamed at the top of my lungs, "JIMMY DEAN!" I know it sounds crazy, but somehow I was convinced he was still there...convinced that somehow, somewhere, he could hear me. And I had the shivers up and down my spine to prove it...

All text and images © 1998 Magdalin Leonardo.

NEXT: El Paisano Hotel

Continue Your Voyage:

  1. Overview: Where the heck is Marfa?
  2. Getting There
  3. The Arcón Inn
  4. Part one, Reata Ruins
  5. Part two, The Ruins of Reata
  6. Little Reata
  7. El Paisano Hotel
  8. Borunda’s Bar and Grill
  9. Part One, Faces and Places
  10. Faces and Places Part Two
  11. “Jimmy Beans”
  12. Part One, Reata Restaurant, Alpine
  13. Reata Restaurant, Alpine, Part Two
  14. About the Author

Want to go to the often-changing James Dean Deaner Index?

You can go to the cover of Our Tentative Times any time.

Logo graphics © copyright 1997 by Mark K. Kinnaman, artist to the fans.

Email Magdalin Leonardo at

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See you at Little Reata.     friendly visitors since the last counter crash