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Monahans, Texas ~ ‘The West Texas Oil Patch’

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Apparently the ‘oli patch’ in West Texas is booming : Odessa-Midland to Monahans to Pecos.

No housing available. People living and working out of RVs cars and pick up trucks and tents.

Monahans is a gritty oil-field town that the highway betrayed by becoming I-20 and moving to the other side of town.

Like most small towns the nicest properties are the high school and the established churches.

A bit of quirkiness east of town on Business 20: The Million Barrel Museum.

The remains of Shell Oil’s mid-1920’s attempt to build an oil holding reservoir prior to the arrival of the pipeline to this region forms the centerpiece of the Million Barrel Museum. Oil in this vast quantity weighed more than the seamed sections of concrete covering the 52o’ by 420′ roughly circular 35′ deep reservoir could hold. Over time the oil leached away as well as evaporated even though the reservoir was covered over with a redwood dome supported by creosoted timbers. Designed to hold 5 million barrels the reservoir was only filled to the 1 million barrel point before the leakage issue was discovered. At a later 1950s date a local Monahan’s entrepreneur attempted to bring water sports to the west Texas desert in the form of a million barrel lake. The water sports recreation area opened and closed the same date, professional water skiers notwithstanding. Water being twice as heavy as crude oil (imagine that) the reservoir held water even less efficiently than it did crude oil.  After drilling six wells to fill it with water the reservoir would not hold water.



We were encoraged to ride our bikes inside the Million Barrel Reservoir. The graffiti is encouraged: students in the graduating class of Monahan’s High School are allowed to write their names on the walls.

Five miles further east of town off I-20 and the frontage road is more west Texas uniqueness : Monahans Sand Hills State Park.

Some stabilized but many dynamic sand dunes abide. The stabilized hills are the product of shin oak and other desert plants. The dynamic hills are a product of the wind. During the week the park seems to be nothing more than an I-20 RV overnight camping spot. The weekend sees some day use in the form of kids and families sand surfing the dunes and hills.





One of my favorite singer-songwriters was born and spent his early years in Monahans. I spent part of this President’s weekend trying to track down Guy Clark‘s birth home, the home he grew up in, the Green Frog Cafe as well as his one-legged grandmother’s hotel/boarding house. Due to it’s being a weekend and a holiday weekend to boot the Monhans Libray was closed as was the County Archives. No one seemed to know, at least no one that I talked with. The front desk lady at Fermin’s Restaurant who did not know me from a hole in the wall spent a bunch of time with me trying to figure out who on a mid-Saturday afternoon might provide me some answers. Thank you for your time. You made me feel welcomed!


No one (that I spoke with) in Monahans, Texas knew of Guy Clark.

For as often as Monahans is referenced in his songs, either specifically or contextually, or in his concerts the Town of Monahans is missing the boat by not honoring and acknowledging this, what should be, a  ‘favorite son’.

Posted by bigdawg on February 16, 2013
1 Comment Post a comment
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