The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

8 March 2003

Strip mine

Ever been to Farwell, Texas?

Neither have I. And I can't think of any particular reason to go there, unless I were driving to, say, Clovis, New Mexico, where Norman Petty and Buddy Holly created a unique rock-and-roll sound, in which case Farwell is the last town in Texas before crossing the border.

And that's actually an issue. According to the 1859 survey defining the border between Texas and New Mexico, the dividing line is supposed to be right on top of the 103rd meridian. The New Mexico/Oklahoma line is along the 103rd. But the Texas border, as drawn, was about three miles west of it, which makes for a weird-looking jog in the state map, and towns like Farwell, Texas are supposed to be in New Mexico.

At least, that's the argument being made in Santa Fe, where a bill has been introduced into the legislature to seek return to New Mexico of this narrow strip of land. Three miles doesn't sound like a lot, but we're talking Texas here, and the strip, which covers the western edges of ten Texas counties, includes 603,000 acres of land, more than 900 square miles. New Mexico's draft constitution in 1910 claimed the border should be on the 103rd meridian as intended; a Congressional investigation was convened, to which New Mexico, not yet a state, was not invited, and Congress opted to leave the border in place. Apparently dark hints from Austin suggested that if New Mexico really wanted to become a state, they would shut up about the border; they did, and they did.

That was 1912. Ninety-one years later, why pursue this? A clue might be found in the wording of the bill:

One hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the office of the attorney general for expenditure in fiscal years 2003 and 2004 to sue the state of Texas for the return of six hundred three thousand four hundred eighty-five acres of land taken from New Mexico due to an error in drawing the north-south boundary between New Mexico and Texas. The attorney general is further instructed to seek compensation for subsurface mineral rights, oil and gas royalties and income, property taxes and grazing privileges that New Mexico has not realized due to the boundary error.

I suspect the Texans are chuckling, but if I know Texans like I think I do, they won't take this lying down. Especially in Farwell.

Posted at 3:03 PM to Political Science Fiction


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Good thing W. ain't in charge of Texas no more. That axis of evil thing might've made it all the way to Santa Fe...

Posted by: ronbailey at 3:52 PM on 8 March 2003

I know if I lived in Farwell I'd fight to keep what's-his-name as my gubnor rather than wind up with Bill Richardson.

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at 6:20 PM on 8 March 2003

A similar border dispute (on a much smaller scale) occurred here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area recently. Tarrant County (of which Fort Worth is the seat) sued Denton County (its north/northeastern neighbor), claiming that 5,500 acres within Denton County actually belonged to Tarrant County, citing an agreement from 1987 that realigned the Dallas/Denton County border. Basically, it was Tarrant's claim that, if Dallas County gained land, they should have as well.

Of course, the land in question happened to be worth quite a bit of money...around $150 million, not to mention potential tax revenue.

They slugged it out in court for awhile, with the judge eventually finding for Denton County. Unfortunately, it ended up costing Denton County over $1 million in legal fees and pretty much put a hold on all significant economic development in the disputed area for a period of time.

Oddly enough, at the time, I was living in Denton County, yet still officially a resident of Tarrant County. I was cheering for Denton County, though...

Posted by: Jeff at 10:36 PM on 8 March 2003

... and then there are some people... formerly Texan (if that is ever really true)... with perhaps even 'roots' from long ago in Mexico... who believe that Mexico should have the money coming. We must think about it. After all, it was Mexico at one time... not Texas or New Mexico... or Arizona, Colorado, Nevada or California for that matter. El spouso of mine even thinks we should make Mexico our 51st state. What do you think? ;-)

Posted by: ladiosa dellago at 8:51 AM on 9 March 2003

I don't think Mexico aspires to being the 51st state or anything like it; there has even been a slight trend in the Distrito Federal in recent years to refer to the country simply as "México" rather than "Estados Unidos Méxicanos", the official name, just to avoid too close an association with us gringos.

And I don't anticipate that Washington will write any checks any time soon for Mexican War reparations, nor that the southwestern parts of the US will secede, but clearly the US and Mexico are tied together in ways that the diplomats and the Department of Homeland Security ("DoHS!" - Homer J. Simpson) are failing to grasp. George W. Bush has a clue, but at the moment he's busy.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:28 AM on 9 March 2003

Aren't we all just one big happy region anyway, in these, the post-NAFTA days?

Posted by: Scott Chaffin at 1:48 PM on 9 March 2003

A waste of 100,000 dollars!! New Mexico is the weakest link!!! Goodbye!!

Posted by: Mike at 2:52 PM on 12 March 2003

Texas has it coming to them. That land was supposed to be New Mexico's and it's high time it comes back to it's original owners - including all the back profit from oil and mineral deposits.

And for those few Texas towns, believe me, you'll be better off in the Land of Enchantment.

Posted by: Greg at 11:49 AM on 13 March 2003