Picture of Michael J. Brown

Pecos, Texas

Pecos (pronounced Pay-Kuss) is an old rodeo town named for the river on whose banks it was established in about 1873. Then it was the hub of a number of famous cattle trails, including the Chisolm and Goodnight-Loving trails. It remained a ranching and trading center until World War II, when Pecos became host to an army airfield used as the largest bomber training center in the U.S.

In my childhood Pecos was a big cotton growing area and was, and is still today, famous for its cantaloupes; this despite the fact that the aquifer supplying the region's water has long since evaporated. Most of the "Pecos " cantaloupes are now grown in Coyanosa, a tiny town some 40 miles away. The area formerly covered in cotton fields is now a barren wasteland host only to an asbestos plant.

From the present viewpoint on old highway 80, this community has definitely seen better days. Although Pecos has a population of about 9,000, the old downtown is practically deserted, with many stores shuttered and streets empty and barren of traffic other than that generated by tourists stopping by off Interstate 10 to visit the West of the Pecos Museum.

Nevertheless, the legal system is generating a lot of activity in both the State and Federal courthouses, which face each other across formerly busy old highway 80. The Federal Building and Courthouse was built in the 90's to handle the mushrooming docket of immigration and drug cases originating from the Federal Checkpoint at Sierra Blanca and off Interstate 10, which extends from California to Florida and is the closest interstate highway to the Mexican border.

Many of the drug and marijuana arrests on I-10 by Texas state troopers and drug task force agents are kicked over to the state by the feds, thus making the Reeves County courthouse at Pecos a much busier place than the older, quieter days. The Sierra Blanca Federal Checkpoint cases end up across the street in the imposing U.S. courthouse.

I don't know if Pecos is the smallest town in the U.S. to have its own Federal courthouse, but if it's not, that honor probably belongs to Alpine, a hundred miles away. However, the Pecos Division of the Western District of Texas is headquarted here, with Alpine as a part of the Pecos Division.

I enjoy going to this colorful part of west Texas and representing folks caught up in the ever-expanding web of federal and state law enforcement.