Welcome to Elemdale

Elemdale cover (1)Elemdale is a small town in Texas—so small you won’t even be able to find it on a map. It’s ensnared between the Barron River and the Wallace Mountains. They say its population is 11 thousand now. I say that must include the dead.

Story goes, it was founded in the late 1800s by a cattle rancher with a wife suffering from “the hysterics.” His brother, a well driller, had dug the couple a well. They had hesitated to drink such odd-tasting water, but before too long, the husband couldn’t keep his old lady away from it. She guzzled it up day after day until one day the man found her out in the field dancin’ a jig. “That there water’s keepin’ her sane, I swear it,” the rancher told his brother. “It’s got to be some elements in the water.”

The rancher’s brother put the word out about the healing powers of the water. People from all over flocked to the rancher’s place to try out the powerful medicine put forward by none other than Mother Nature. Doctors and scientists trickled in at first then flooded the rancher’s place to study the water. The discovery? Lithium salts. Companies began forming to sell the water, the rancher’s brother being one of the first. He named his company The Southern Elixir Water Company. A few doctors pitched their savings into a pot and opened a sanatorium, Element Dale Elixir House, later renamed Element Dale Tranquility Place. Doctors from around the country began sending their overwrought, crazed, and neurotic patients to Element Dale’s famous sanatorium.

During the Great Depression, mineral water companies suffered due to the luxury nature of their product and the cost of a trip to Element Dale. On top of this, the Food and Drug Administration began to closely monitor medical advertising and put a damper on the medicinal claims being thrown around by the water peddlers. This coincided with many medical advances, lessening the public’s interest in natural healing. Most of the water companies closed by the 1940s, but one company still remains: The Southern Elixir Water Company. Founded in 1910, it is the only place in Elemdale where you can sit at the bar and order “top shelf” without getting drunk. The sanatorium, Tranquility Place, remains, though if you ever find your way to Elemdale, you’ll hear the local folks refer to it as Crazy Dale. It sits on Element Hill just west of Caddo Flats overlooking the Barron River.

To the south of the breezy banks of the Barron River and just beyond the tree line, the sandy riverside sprouts into a thin forest of lush green trees, leveling out atop a cliff covered in the pristine grasses of Elixir Hills Country Club Estates and Golf Course. Beyond that is Element Dale proper.

To the north, the sand takes on a different life complete with sand burrs and sticker weeds, serving as the crumbing foundation of the ramshackle community known to the locals as Caddo Flats. Caddo Flats is the ugly residue of a once-thriving community that had moved further south, leaving behind the ambitionless, the downtrodden, the destitute, and the skitzed out. The fine folks just south of the river in Element Dale proper called this place Caddo Flats and its inhabitants, Caddo Rats.

The Barron River is the great divide. It separates the “regular folk” in the south from the “trash” in the north. But there’s truly no regular folk in Element Dale—or “Elemdale” as the lazy tongues of its inhabitants call it. How could there be? A town spawned from the likes of mental patients and lithium-laced water?

It’s a dreadful place really. I wouldn’t recommend trying to find it. As with most dreadful places, it comes complete with secrets, lies, deceptions, and best of all…violence.

If you think you’d still like to take a gander and get to know some of Elemdale’s finest folks, let me know. I’d be happy to tell you all about them.

—Bebo Franklin