Texas Nudists Coping With Heat in Obvious Way

By DAVID CASSTEVENS
|  Friday, Aug 13, 2010  |  Updated 9:15 AM CDT
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Texas Nudists Coping With Heat in Obvious Way

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Murry Conarroe knows how hot it gets in August.

When the 59-year-old retiree isn't playing water volleyball or pitching horseshoes buck naked, he maintains the solar-powered weather station at Wildwood Naturist's Resort, a nudist camp in Wise County.  Instruments record temperature, wind speed, barometric pressure and other readings. On Aug. 2, 1998 -- the year the resort opened -- the mercury reached 112 degrees.

"It was miserable," said Conarroe, a full-time resident.

Conarroe and his like-minded friends appear completely at ease walking around in a social setting without a stitch. They speak of feeling free, liberated, unencumbered by the chafing restraints of the textile world.

Going au naturel, as the French say, is one way to combat a summer heat wave, such as the one that has scorched North Texas the past two weeks with 13 100-degree days in a row.

But what about when it turns cold?

This year, on Jan. 9, the low temperature at Wildwood was 7 degrees.

Do you not wear anything?

"We're nudists," Conarroe said, amused by the question. "We're not stupid."

During winter, he said, naturists don bathrobes or sweat shirts and pants to stay warm. But on this sunny weekday afternoon, guests lounged around one of the resort's two swimming pools, working on their all-over rotisserie tans. Tarzan would have felt overdressed.

Summertime, obviously, is the peak season for clothing-free vacationers.

The nude recreation industry is an estimated $440 million annual enterprise, according to the 30,000-member American Association for Nude Recreation. North Texas is home to four of the association's camps, with Wildwood and Bluebonnet Nudist Park situated only two miles apart.

"We're friendly competitors," said Edy Moss, one of Bluebonnet's owners. "There is room for everyone."

About 75 guests, including a few families, spent last weekend at Wildwood, which charges $35 per day for an individual and $40 for a couple. Many nudists hold annual memberships and keep recreational vehicles on the property.

Two dozen nudists live on the wooded 118 acres.

Some guests played volleyball. Others shot pool or played air hockey and pingpong in the spacious air-conditioned game room.

Bluebonnet recently staged a Mediterranean-themed potluck dinner and dance.

Armadillo Resort, in Poolville in Parker County, advertises "Under the Stars" popcorn and movie nights on Fridays. But the outdoor movie watching had to be scrapped this summer because of a malfunctioning projector, an office manager said.

Pondarosa Resort near Canton, east of Dallas, offers Karaoke Nights and weekend Texas hold 'em poker tournaments. Its website reads, "Bring only your smile, sunblock, a towel to sit on and, if you stay the night, a toothbrush."

"NOTICE! Nudity may be encountered beyond this point."

Connie, one of the managers, elaborated on the signage. Unlike some resorts, Wildwood is not clothing-optional.

"If you're going to a nudist resort, expect to be nude," said Connie, who asked to not be identified by her last name.

More than 75 percent of the nude recreation association's members are older than 35. At Wildwood and Bluebonnet, many guests, if not most, are 50 and older.

Club rules prohibit overt sexual activity, sexual harassment, and obscene or vulgar language.

"There is absolutely a difference between social nudism and adult-oriented businesses," said Bluebonnet's Moss. "Inappropriate behavior isn't tolerated. I rarely have to kick someone out."

Similar rules apply at Wildwood.

"If people come here expecting an orgy, they'll be sorely disappointed," Connie said. "It's comfortable here. It's wholesome. Natural."

Naturists say they are not exhibitionists or swingers but rather normal people who enjoy the feeling of the sun and the wind on their skin. At night Wildwood guests watch meteor showers and listen to the long, lonesome howls of coyotes.

Some nudists are members of The Naturist Society, an organization whose stated mission is to promote a culture of body acceptance through clothing-optional recreation.

Wildwood and Bluebonnet each host an annual 5K as part of a five-event nude racing series staged in Texas and Oklahoma. (In Arkansas, meanwhile, it is unlawful for any person, club, camp, corporation, partnership, association or organization to advocate, demonstrate or promote nudism.)

Katy Marquis smilingly calls herself the "(water) volleyball queen" at Wildwood. A pleasant, cheerful woman with short graying hair, she moved to the resort five years ago and lives there in a 16-foot mobile home.

Married in 1964, Marquis and her late husband practiced nudism privately. When he suggested spending a day at a nudist resort, she flatly refused. Finally, on their 35th anniversary she relented and agreed to visit -- just once.

"I fell in love with it within 30 minutes, for one simple reason," she said. "People were genuine. They sat and talked to me. They weren't talking to the clothes you wear or the car you drive or your occupation.

"In the clothed world I've been kind of treated as a second-class citizen. In that world, I'm just a little short fat old lady of no consequence.

"I know I'm fat. But here" -- among friends, her extended family -- "I'm a person."

On July 4, Marquis celebrated a milestone.

She turned 65.

At a party in her honor she happily twirled around the dance floor with every man who attended, each partner fashionably -- and unselfconsciously -- dressed for the occasion in his birthday suit.

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