Cenizo Journal Winter 2021 - Page 22

Anton hauled 30 scrap tires from Austin and 150 from a local mechanic in Terlingua . The tires , packed with rammed earth , form the above-ground walls and provide a base for the domed roof . Recycled cans and concrete mortar are laid as a form for the concrete and rebar which becomes the foundation from which the domed roof is constructed .
Though he spent his life in Texas , his only experience with the Big Bend region was a brief visit at 12 years old on a road trip with his family . He knew nothing about Big Bend National Park , nothing about Terlingua , and nothing about the enormous and picturesque landscape of which he was soon to be a part . He knew little about the climate , which is why he embarked upon his new adventure as a land owner and builder in the Chihuahuan desert , just north of the Mexican border , in the relentless heat of summer .
From the beginning his plan was to excavate and build several adjacent subterranean domes with a living area between them , covered by a larger connecting roof . That first summer in 2013 , Anton dug out the first dome chamber by hand with a pickax and shovel . The summer heat restricted him to work only for a couple hours around sunrise and sunset . The rest of the day he spent in the only shade he could find , underneath his Jeep . To keep cool he spent five or six hours reading or napping , laying on a piece of cardboard under his high clearance vehicle . After six weeks of this Anton decided to leave and come back to work in the cooler months . His routine until recently was to work on Lake Travis in the summer , and spend the cooler part of the year building his place outside of Terlingua .
The town of Terlingua , already a remote outpost , is a 45 minute drive down seven miles of a slow dirt and gravel road to Anton ’ s land . And , though the vistas from his location are vast and far-reaching , there are no visible signs of humanity except for the remains of an abandoned hunting camp in a nearby arroyo , and the rough road that leads there .
In the early 1970s Terlingua ’ s phone book was one page long . Idealistic desert lovers slowly trickled into the area , restoring ruins in the ghost towns of abandoned mercury mines , as well as erecting their own unique desert shelters .
These early transplants fell in love with the canyons carved by the Rio Grande , their Mexican neighbors , and the beauty and space of a vast mountain desert expanse . For decades Terlingua was a small , friendly , and resilient group ; a diverse community tied together by their love for a place and their ability to survive in it . In recent years , the effects of social media , internet sites like
Airbnb and reality shows and other programs about the area have turned this once-intimate community into a sprawling , ever-changing collection of “ locals ” buying up and developing the land and / or living off increasing tourist dollars .
Hard won Terlingua locals are made with time and love of solitude . After seven years , Tinner is not about to give up building his vision of sustainability . Yet , after recently purchasing a small boat , he allows himself time to float the Rio Grande and explore the desert wilderness that has become his home . Though his tenure in South Brewster County is reaching toward a decade , he still knows only a handful of people and has little interaction with the waves of tourists and locals circulating on the distant pavement of the Terlingua Ghost Town . Anton Tinner ’ s experiment is not only a remnant of the past , but also hope for the future .
The future Anton hopes for is not only regarding his 20 acres , but is aligned with an organization called the Venus Project . According to their website , “ the Venus Project recognizes the important connection between global resource management and problems such as war , poverty , and hunger . This project presents a new socio-economic model utilizing science and technology toward social betterment to achieve a sustainable civilization of abundance for all , without exception .”
If one can successfully build and live off-grid in a remote desert landscape , it can be done anywhere . Anton is not the first , nor likely the last , to put his ideals into practice in one of the many remote pockets of the Big Bend . Oftentimes out of necessity , and for lack of infrastructure , many structures in the area rely on solar and wind power , water catchment , grey water systems , composting toilets , solar hot water heaters , and various other sustainable technologies . These technologies provide the comforts of the modern world and allow the opportunity for individuals as well as communities to connect with a simpler , slower , and more ancient way of life .