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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Billy the Kid, Buddy Holly, and Don't Forget The Vixens

 On the way to the Dimmit, TX quilt show we drove the meandering Hwy 84 and ended up eating lunch at the Rodeo Grill in Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, served by a friendly cowgirl in hotpants and false eyelashes. We were perplexed by a headline in the local paper: “Coaches Honor Vixens.” What the heck was going on here? After reading further, we were relieved to learn that the local girls’ high school basketball team were known as “Vixens” (the boys are called Foxes). It's always good to read beyond the headline.

A stop at the Billy the Kid Museum gives the story of the Lincoln County War and the death of Billy the Kid, right there in Fort Sumner in 1881. Not wanting to take the time to stop at his nearby grave, Tom had to settle for “Billy the Kid’s Gun,” a Winchester 73, displayed behind glass, that Billy gave to a friend . 

Tom found more guns displayed, too, which made his day.  There were also old wagons and even a hearse! 

  Billy the Kid Museum was definitely worth the stop. Tom, of course, had a field day and took too long while I stayed out in the car with Miss Pearl.

Not far was Clovis, New Mexico, where famed Rock and Roll star Buddy Holly first recorded his hits in the 1950's. A recreation of the Norman Petty Studio, where Holly recorded, commemorates the “Clovis Sound” of the late 50s and early 60s. Easy to find, it's right downtown, across from the Mesa Theatre.   

Maybe Buddy Holly saw The Searchers there in 1956.  In the movie,John Wayne said “That’ll Be the Day”  several times, the inspiration for one of Holly’s biggest hits.

It turns out that Holly wasn’t the only one recorded by Petty, and the list of hit makers puts the “Clovis Sound” right up there with the “Memphis Sound” and the “Motown Sound." Not bad for a little metropolis of around 38,000 today--which must have been far fewer in the 1950s.     

Crossing the border into Texas, we drove toward Dimmit looking for a campground. Dimmit is in the middle of the “Llano Estacado”-----the “Staked” Plains of Texas. Four hundred miles long and 150 miles wide, flat, there is nary a bump on the horizon any way you look except for the occasional granary each tiny community seems to have.   

   We finally camped at Palo Duro Canyon, on the eastern escarpment of the Plains. 

     Sometimes called the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” it is, in fact, the second largest canyon in the US. The climactic battle of the Red River War with the Comanche nation was fought here in 1874, so the Canyon has historical significance. A trip to the Panhandle Plains Museum at Canyon, Texas, 12 miles to the west, exhibits relics of that war, as well as other displays of the area’s rich history.  

A couple of days spent here allowed Tom and Miss Pearl to play Comanche while I went to the quilt show at Dimmit, 70 or so miles away.

When we finally left the Canyon, we headed south to Lubbock. Hungry for breakfast, we turned off at the sign for Happy, Texas, looking for a café. We vaguely remembered a movie named after the town.

Happy, Texas, doesn’t seem too happy; it looks like it is dying. Population is posted as 645, but we could not find one restaurant, despite the fact that a freeway sign had advertised one. Driving around the town showed us a clean, well ordered town but with lots of shuttered buildings along Main Street. Few people were to be seen----Tom complained that it was like a town in some Twilight Zone episode, but it was Sunday, so maybe everybody was at church.    Interestingly, another early Rockabilly star of the "Clovis Sound," Buddy Knox, who had a hit with "Party Doll" in 1957, was born in Happy.

            Happy and towns like it on the Llano Estacado are sitting on a huge underground pool of water, the Ogalala Aquifer, extending from Texas to South Dakota.
 Discovered in 1906, water dating from the Pleistocene era proved to be plentiful and attracted thousands of settlers to the Plains to grow wheat and other crops. Serious pumping began in the 30s, faster than the replacement rate, lowering the water table drastically. Some predict only a few decades more before it will be no more. Hmmm...another Dust Bowl, anyone?
By the time we got to Lubbock, that is exactly what it felt like as we drove through 30 miles of wind and dust to get to the town. We learned later it was caused by a big brush fire southeast of the city.
 Lubbock was the home of Buddy Holly, so a stop at the Buddy Holly Museum seemed mandatory. A bit disappointing, however, especially compared to the Norman Petty museum in Clovis. And, the famous statue of Buddy that is supposed to be in downtown Lubbock has been removed for refurbishing.
Ms. Pearl found Buddy's glasses, though.

Leaving the next morning, we were happy to find we were only about six hours from home. Enough time for a stop at Clovis to go antiquing, and then home.

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