Friday, October 19, 2012

Pool Party in Cornudas, Bring Sunscreen

I have been looking for cheap American land for years. There are lots of companies that sell land and there are lots of "too good to be true" properties out there as well. My latest favorite on-line real estate site is Each state seems to have a lands of dot com site, and I have been browsing a lot of them: landsofArizona, landsofNewMexico, Colorodo, Nevada, California, you name it. But Texas has a little town called Salt Flat. It is in the Big Bend area of the State, which is still "wild west"-ish and desert country.

Salt Flat was once a thriving salt mining town about a hundred years ago or so, but now has a single struggling cafe run by a woman named Shirley. It is situated a few miles from another unincorporated town called Cornudas. That is where we found our dream land. It was a small city lot sized piece of land for the small price of $400. The location was not land locked, meaning there would be road access to it, and there were no restrictions on the land, no time limits to build, and an RV could be parked on it. The only catch is that there was no water or electric to the site. One would have to put in a septic system and their own well once they decided to build. Sounded good to me, and a trip to the Salt Flat Cafe was an adventure my husband and I were both into.

We wanted to know what was up with the land and what the "catch" really was. It was an excuse for a destination, and we were headed to our dream land with eyes wide open.

Our adventure began in Carlsbad, New Mexico. That was the last real town before heading deep in the heart of desert country. We stocked up on drinking water, water for washing and cleaning, food and gas. I checked on nearby towns to see where food, gas and water could be obtained. Then we were off.

The drive through the Guadalupe Mountains provided great views.

The desert area that followed was quite nice as well. Then we came across Salt Lake, and the name says it all. It was a dry white salt bed with no water to be found anywhere near.

We did see a few cows grazing in the cactus filled rolling hills just past Salt Lake on the outskirts of unincorporated Salt Flat, Texas. Then we saw it, the cafe we read about on the internet. Of course we had to stop and have a meal.

After we finished our meal we chatted with Shirley a while. The conversation moved to the topic of land for sale in the area. We were warned about various scams and told stories of people who purchased. She said the land was purchased from a Rancher in the area, but not paid for, and the seller was getting money from people who were not able to get deeds to the property. We were told about one person who put a well in on their property. They had to go down 1600 feet and were only getting one gallon of water per hour from the well. She cautioned us to be careful.

We went further down the road, to the town of Cornudas, and followed the directions to our possible plot of land. The directions said to turn South on FM 2317 from Hwy 62 and drive 4 miles. The La Hacienda Estates was there on the west side of the road. Well, 4 miles took us to the top of a hill with no signs or break in the fence. There was just a lot of desert and cactus.

We finished our scenic drive down FM2317, then turned onto FM 1111 to loop back to Hwy 62. Our next step was to go into May's Cafe in Cornudas and see what she had to say. Oh sure there is land, she said. In fact she showed us a spot for sale, complete with a well. There was a mobile home on it, and it came complete with furniture, and food. It was only $23,900. I said thanks, but was more interested in the plots of land that were 10 acres, 5 acres and the ones that were advertised for $400 for 1/5 of an acre. We were told no land could be sold for under 10 acres, it was against the law. When I asked about people getting deeds to the land, of course they were getting deeds. I asked about the 1/5 of an acre lots that were being sold, which I found listed on the internet. May said "oh that Michael", but said nothing else. We thanked her for the information and headed out.

We knew the land was a scam, but the weather was great, and we had plenty of supplies to keep us going. Hwy 62 was a well travelled road that led to El Paso and had picnic areas along the way. We spent some time in those picnic areas enjoying the desert view.

A few days later we stopped in at the county courthouse in Sierra Blanca to see what they had to say about the land. Oh, and I sent the fellow selling the property an email. I said I followed his directions and found nothing except desert and fence. I asked if there was a road to the property, a sign, or any indication of where the land was. He told me to go to the courthouse and ask for the plat maps on the property, nothing more.

The folks at the county courthouse were quite friendly. They also had a sense of humor regarding the land we were referring to, or I think they did by the way they laughed when it was mentioned. We were told to go to the main office in the courthouse and ask for Virginia Doyal, and that is what we did.

Virginia had another lady at the courthouse look up the two plat maps of La Hacienda Estates, and we all had a look at them together. She asked who was selling the land. When I mentioned Kent Taylor's name, she laughed. Apparently she has had dealings with this man, a lot of dealings. She said he was not a nice man, and often swore at her on the phone, referring to her as Virginia - dot - Doyal, which is part of her email address. He didn't like the way the courthouse refused to process the land sales, and how she would tell people the lots could not be sold in sizes lower than 10 acres unless they had water and electricity on them. She may have even told people that there was no water available, even if you tried to put a well in on your property. We chatted for a long time with Virginia as we looked over the maps. I said there was no road into the Estate, not even access from the road or a break in the fence. She was not at all surprised. Then we saw it. There was a pool and recreation area marked on the plat map. We all burst out laughing. How could there possibly be a pool in the middle of a dry desert! And when I looked for the lot number that was being sold on the internet, it was at the far west side of the La Hacienda Estates. That just would not do. I asked Virginia what would happen if we purchased one of the lots. We knew there was no water, and we were pretty certain nobody else would purchase any or move onto the land as there was nothing there. She said we would not get a deed, but nobody would bother us if we parked the RV there. We would have a document showing we paid for a lot, and we would be left alone. The only problem would be if we had to put in road access, that would come out of our pocket. Virginia asked if she could come visit and use the pool, and we told her she would always have a spot waiting for her, just as soon as the pool went in. We thanked her for her time and said we would say hello from her when we emailed Kent Taylor.

I fired off an email to our new best friend Kent and asked if I could have a lot by the pool. There have been several emails back and forth, with Kent offering sites for sale, and me requesting a lot pool side. I also asked when he expects the pool to be completed. I don't have an answer on that yet, and don't think I ever will.

The sad thing about these land deals in the area are that some people purchase the land, spending thousands of dollars for their dream acreages and come out to find bleak, dry desert land. One fellow who had just left his wife, purchased land with his life savings and drove out to the area to find such huge disappointment that he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

We came down to the Big Bend area of Texas because we were curious, and we read about Salt Flat, Texas on the internet. This was an adventure for us, with the added bonus of a land investigation to keep it interesting.

Pool party at Rae's Place, just as soon as Kent builds it for us!!


  1. OK...the next time the two of you are in town, I'm definitely duck taping myself to the back are have waaaaaaaaay to much fun!
    travel safely
    Patty Rae

  2. Two things -
    I am showing gas prices in Texas as cheap at about $3.29 - what are you seeing?
    If you want to look at land or housing try Zillow - it is not perfect but it is sufficient to give you an idea

  3. Gas prices in Texas seem to average about 3.49. We have seen them as low as 3.33 at Walmart with membership. So far we have just been in West Texas.