The sudden death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this weekend in West Texas throws yet another Texas ranch property into the spotlight: Cibolo Creek Ranch, owned by Houston billionaire and Washington D.C. insider John Poindexter.
Poindexter says he invited Scalia, age 79, to his ranch this weekend as a guest along with about three dozen others. One of Scalia’s sons was to come but cancelled at the last minute. Poindexter says Justice Scalia was animated and engaged during dinner Friday night, but did retire early at 9 p.m. saying it had been a long week, and he was tired.
Poindexter tried to awaken Scalia about 8:30 the next morning, but the Justices’ door was locked and he did not answer.
Three hours later, Poindexter returned to the ranch after an outing. He and a Scalia friend from Washington got into the room, and discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head. His bed clothes were unwrinkled, indicating that perhaps he had died shortly after retiring the night before.
“He was lying very restfully. It looked like he had not quite awakened from a nap,” he said.
Established in 1857 by Milton Faver, known as the first Texas cattle baron west of the Pecos, Cibolo Creek Ranch is now a five-star resort, a rugged oasis of a retreat, once a grouping of real life forts where Indian attacks were fended off. One of the more artistic forts remaining is “El Fortin de Cibolo.” Many millionaires and celebrities have visited the 30,000 acres near the Chinati Mountains including Mick Jagger, Julia Roberts and Tommy Lee Jones. One of the Dixie Chicks, Emily Erwin, was married there. Rooms run $350 to $700 per night. Cibolo Creek Ranch was bought by Poindexter in 1988 when it was not in the best of shape. He meticulously renovated three of the forts into a luxury, 33-room resort with a pool, dining room, horseback riding facilities, hunting and private airstrip. The atmosphere is comfortable luxury — lots of sinkable leather chairs and sofas, luxurious rooms with a ranch theme. Located about 30 miles south of Marfa, most guests fly in by private plane to the airstrip or fly to Midland and drive 3.5 hours to the remote ranch near Shafter and Marfa.
Poindexter was profiled in this 2006 Texas Monthly story by John Spong, when he was trying to buy 46,000 acres of Big Bend Ranch State Park. He was described by Spong as a rather “stiff dude” who has never married (“It wasn’t that I didn’t like the ladies enough; it’s that I liked them too much.”) – ha!:
Poindexter’s way—the solemn, split-hair precision of his thoughts and his habit of walking the listener through each step of that thought process—is not of the desert, though it has served him beautifully in business. His company, which originally specialized in leveraged buyouts of manufacturing businesses, now counts the world’s largest maker of hard-bodied delivery vans among its holdings. It saw almost $700 million in revenues last year. But as the company’s sole owner, Poindexter sits alone at the top and freely admits to having a tin ear when it comes to how his statements play to others. He has historically avoided the press, claiming to have neither the capacity, desire, nor need for anything resembling publicity.
CultureMap editor Shelby Hodge also writes about Cibolo Creek Ranch, as she has been there. She says the accommodations in the forts are done in rich ranch style — think Anteks — with thick adobe walls and ceiling beams of cottonwood. Guests chose from courtyard or lakeside rooms. The kitchen provides Texas-style meals, including Tex-mex, three times a day but you can venture off into nearby Marfa (2000 people) for fun.
“Gourmet fare, luxurious guest rooms, dramatic scenery, Western history, longhorn cattle, horseback riding, mountain tours, and uncommon quiet —the offerings of Cibolo Creek Ranch combine in a secluded hideaway aimed at contemporary trailblazers.”
Star gazing, she says, is an “integral part of the ranch experience. Two Meade telescopes give guests the opportunity to view the stars in a sky unfiltered by commercial light.”
Poindexter’s ranch has earned three 18th century adobe forts spots on the National Register of Historic Places. His hunting trip weekends were one way he entertained guests. For those who really enjoy roughing it, Shelby says Cibolo offers a spartan nature experience:
The Morita Fort, 45 minutes across the property from the main forts, offers a rare experience. There is no electricity, so guests use oil lamps for light, cool breezes in place of air conditioning, a gas-log stove that provides heat, and a gas-burning water heater. This, Poindexter says, is where Mick Jagger and his family spent a full month on two consecutive summers.