IT’S a rite of passage for many Texans to retire to a home on the range. But unlike other wannabe cowboys, Jimmy Helms, a retired dentist whose patients included former President George H. W. Bush, wasn’t content with just a herd of cattle and a stocked fish pond. He built his own old Western town that recalls the days of lawmen and gunslingers on his 105-acre ranch.
“I guess I watched too many Lone Ranger movies as a kid,” said Dr. Helms, 70, who first thought of building the town in 1982 when his wife, Carol, suggested that he spruce up four decrepit barns on their recently purchased ranch, which was then their weekend getaway from Houston but is now their permanent residence. “I looked at the old barns and I thought, hmmm, maybe I could have me a town.”
Because he was still busy with his dental practice and he didn’t have the money to do it all at once, the town grew incrementally. It took three years just to get the rotted hay out of the barns and another decade or so to put new facades on them and renovate the interiors. He did much of the work himself but had help from a local handyman who built a mockup of the town out of birdhouses to guide them
This is news? I know a variety of people who have done this in Europe.... at private western towns that, in the Czech Republic alone include Halter Valley, Beaver City, and the now commercial Sikluv Mlyn. I have visited other private western towns in Austria and Germany -- Old Texas Town, for example, in Berlin. And they also exist elsewhere. Some people say they are building their own America, because they can't -- or won't -- travel to the States. The man who built Halter Valley told me he had been rejected for an American visa five times!
Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber