VisitBigBend.com , the go-to website for all you need to know about visiting the Big Bend of southwest Texas, recently enlisted me to do a Top Ten for visitors headed to that faraway part of the state I like to think of as the Texas of the Imagination.
The semi-ghost town of Valentine, 39 miles west of Marfa, is gonna be wide open for bidness Saturday February 14 for the big Big Bend Brewing Company Valentine’s Day Party and Dance at Valentine Merchantile. The music lineup includes Tessy Lou and the Shotgun Stars, Mike and the Moonpies, the Crooks, and the Joe Ely Band. The Texas Music Hour of Power will be broadcasting live from the event and taking listener dedications and shoutouts online (email@example.com), and the Image Wranglers will be doing Picture Radio in a show of force.
Bat Conservation International stewards the Bracken cave, where during warm months the largest concentration of mammals in North America – twenty million Mexican-free tail bats – emerge from the cave every evening in search of an evening meal of mosquitoes, moths, and other insects, ranging more than one hundred miles at time.
Between the overwhelming smell of bat guano, the sight of thousands of creatures swirling out of the cave, observed and coveted by snakes and raptors, may be the most miraculous event in nature I’ve ever witnessed.
The cave is a few miles from Interstate 35 north of San Antonio almost next door to the Natural Bridge Caverns and is in real danger of being encroached upon or wholly engulfed by housing subdivisions.
It’ll be interesting to see how that “progress” vs. miracle of nature battle plays out.
I’ll be talking Dallas and the Cowboys and signing books at the Dallas Convention and Visitor Bureau Open House, this Thursday, 5:30 – 8 pm
325 N. St. Paul St., Suite 700, in downtown D
Go to visitdallas.com for more info.
My phone talk with Michael Pollan that ran on Talk at Ten
on KRTS-FM in Marfa, MarfaPublicRadio.or
Texas Coop Power’s water issue follow the link to download the pdf file.
I’m proud to be a part of the team that put this issue together and especially proud of the journalism done in the name of Texas and its future.
Once deemed too ‘secret, occult and concealed’ to regulate, groundwater remains a vexing subject too deep to capture for today’s lawmakers
By Joe Nick Patoski
August 1, 2012
Water: It’s a deep subject, and veteran journalist Joe Nick Patoski has been trying to get to the bottom of it for years. Spring-fed Jacob’s Well, his favorite swimming hole, sustains the Blanco River and recharges the Edwards Aquifer. But while Wimberley’s Jacob’s Well is threatened by drought and increased pumping of the Trinity Aquifer, some homeowners in nearby Austin have paid to have private wells drilled in the Edwards—not for drinking water, but for water to keep their lawns lush and green.
Water is water, except in Texas.
All of Texas’ freshwater comes from precipitation. Where it goes when it falls makes all the difference in the world.
Surface water, meaning creeks, rivers and lakes, is considered a public resource commonly owned by the people of Texas. Simple enough.
Groundwater, that is all water that you can’t see below the surface of the Earth, is a whole other matter. That water, contained in aquifers and bolsons (Spanish for “bag,” in this case meaning hollowed basins), found tens, hundreds and sometimes thousands of feet below the surface, is regarded like oil or other minerals—a resource owned by the owner of the land above it.
In 1904, the Texas Supreme Court determined in the Houston & T.C. Railway Co. v. East case that property owners could pump as much groundwater as they pleased without regard to the effects on neighbors’ wells. Groundwater, the court ruled, was too “secret, occult and concealed” to regulate. No one understood how groundwater worked, so the court applied rule of capture, a remnant of British common law, to the case.
In February 2012, the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling in the Day v. Edwards Aquifer Authority case affirmed that the property owner of the ground also owned the water under that ground.
The problem with both decisions is that groundwater does not observe property lines. Some aquifers are so large they span several counties. Some, hydrologists have learned over the past century, are actually moving rivers. Plus, no matter how groundwater moves, what’s clear is more water is being pumped from underground than is being put back in through recharge.
That explains why other states in the American West have developed different laws and strategies regarding management of groundwater. Texas is the only Western state where rule of capture is law. That may work well for property owners wanting to sell their groundwater, or sell their mineral rights, but not so great for most of the rest of the population that relies on water as a life source.
Where water is abundant, rule of capture works fine, because whatever water is pumped out from underground is usually replenished. But in arid, water-short regions, such as all of the state west of the 98th parallel (roughly following U.S. Interstate 35), the devil’s in the details. Consider this: It’s perfectly legal for a single landowner, taking advantage of his or her property rights, to drain so much groundwater that neighbors’ wells go dry or the groundwater underneath their property disappears.
The most notorious case illustrating that point is when Clayton Williams Sr. and other businessmen pumped groundwater below land they owned west of Fort Stockton to create a pecan orchard in the desert. Because of their actions, Comanche Springs, the largest springs in West Texas, went dry, forcing more than 200 truck farms east of town to go under. Williams’ right was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court in 1954.
The Texas court has since reaffirmed property owners’ right to underground water; in 1999, the court upheld the right of Ozarka to mine a spring in East Texas for commercial purposes, even though it caused neighbors’ wells to go dry.
The Texas Supreme Court’s decision in early 2012 affirmed that Texas landowners own the groundwater “in place” beneath their property, and that they may have a valid claim for compensation from the government if regulations go too far in limiting their ability to capitalize on their groundwater.
Still, there are limits to unregulated pumping.
The withdrawal rate of pumping groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer—one of the world’s largest underground aquifer systems that covers most of the Great Plains, including the Texas Panhandle and South Plains—has exceeded recharge of the aquifer through rain and snowmelt over the past century. Parts of the water table in Texas have been drained, while less than half of the underground aquifer’s original ground water supply remains. Pumping costs have increased to the point where many Texas farmers have quit irrigated farming altogether, even if groundwater is available. In other words, pumping without regulation is unsustainable.
In 1993, Federal District Judge Lucius D. Bunton III ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set pumping limits in the Edwards Aquifer—which at the time supplied San Antonio with all its drinking water—to protect endangered species dependent on the Comal and San Marcos springs, the biggest spring systems in Texas.
“Without a fundamental change in the value the region places on freshwater, a major effort to conserve and reuse Aquifer water, and implemented plans to import supplemental supplies of water, the region’s quality of life and economic future are imperiled,” Bunton wrote in his decision.
Bunton’s ruling led to the creation of the Edwards Aquifer Authority by the Texas Legislature. The authority regulates pumping from the Edwards Aquifer.
In 1997, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1, establishing statewide water planning for the next 50 years. The bill and subsequent legislation have stated that the best means of local management of groundwater are the 101 groundwater districts established across the state. The rub after the Texas Supreme Court’s 2012 decision is, if a groundwater district or other government entity limits a landowner’s desire to pump, the landowner can sue the district for a “taking” of private property.
“While the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling in the Day case makes clear that landowners own the groundwater in place beneath their property, it is much less clear how far a groundwater district may limit pumping before it amounts to a taking of private property,” says attorney Tom Mason, the former general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority who now specializes in water law in Austin.
Which means groundwater districts, regional planning groups and state water authorities, in order to ensure sufficient water supplies 50 years from now, will have a hard time managing groundwater in a way that allows long-term, sustainable use by a variety of landowners/pumpers.
So, groundwater is a property right, and as such requires a whole lot of trust and awareness of the unwritten “law of the biggest pump” when it comes to management of groundwater resources locally, regionally or statewide. Otherwise, if all property owners exercised their right to pump, there wouldn’t be any groundwater left to fight over.
Surface water, on the other hand, is owned by all Texans, even though despite the different laws, really, it’s all the same water.
Joe Nick Patoski is the author of nine books, including Generations on the Land: A Conservation Legacy (Texas A&M University Press, 2010). Patoski, an avid swimmer and kayaker, lives in Wimberley, in the Hill Country.
Here’s some of the back stories to fill in the blanks from the Drive drive I did for Texas Monthly’s Drive issue, June 2012
The PRE DRIVE part of the drive:
INTERSTATE 10 WEST
“The Land of Living Waters” earns its name from the hundreds of springs in the area and from the North Llano and South Llano rivers which converge here. The South Llano River State Park, three and a half miles south of town offers tubing, swimming, fishing, and paddling, as well as camping, picnicking, hiking, cycling, and birding opportunities, while a number of ranches as well as motels offer accommodations Lum’s Country Store and a Cooper’s serve top-shelf barbecue in town.
For more information: junctiontexas.net
Cool radio (except when they run Rush): KOOK, 93.5 FM, The Real Deal, a local station beaming from Ozona that plays retro country music with a great morning show hosted by Gordon Ames and Kinky Friedman doing the station IDs.
SIMON BROTHERS MERCHANTILE, Exit 438, 18 miles west of Junction and a mile north of the highway, is worth a looksee to soak up the general store atmosphere, get some coffee, a drink or a burger in the café in back, admire the deer trophy heads on the wall, or pick up copies of Racks pinup calendars featuring pretty, scantily clad young women posing with deer antlers and a Keep Roosevelt Wild bumper sticker. Not for nothing is this The Horniest Little Store in Texas.
3861 State Loop 291, 325-446-2604 Simonbros.org
SONORA, Exit 400, marks the halfway point of Interstate 10 across Texas. The Old Ice House Ranch Museum, Old Ice House Ranch Museum, 206 S. Water Ave., 325-387-5084, tells the town’s history and features exhibits on Will Carver of the Wild Bunch gang, who met his demise here, and water drilling, which made this part of Texas habitable. Open Wed-Fri 1-4 pm, Sat, 10 to noon and 1-4pm, or by appointment. Donations appreciated. The Eaton Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and Nature Center offers three miles of hiking trails on its 37 acre spread which shows off flora and fauna from the Hill Country and the Chihuahuan Desert, which converge here. Open sunup to sundown. Free. 500 City Hill Rd., 325-387-2615, eatonhill.blogspot.com
For more information: sonoratexas.org
CAVERNS OF SONORA The Caverns of Sonora, Exit 392 eight miles beyond the town of Sonora and 7 miles south of the interstate, is the premier show cave in Texas and easily on par with Carlsbad Caverns as one of the most magnificent in the world, give its abundance of helictite calcite crystal formations. Guided walking tours and specialty tours are scheduled throughout the day. The basic two hour tours is $20 for adults. Camping and RV hookups available. Open daily 8-6. 325-387-3105, cavernsofsonora.com
CIRCLE BAR TRUCK CORRAL A small automobile museum with custom rods and pickups is attached to the Circle Bar Truck Corral, Exit 372 Taylor Box Rd, 7 miles before Ozona. Taylor Box Road, 325-392-2637
THE DRIVE DRIVE begins here:
OZONA, Exit 365, has the last dependable gas, DQ, and Subway of this journey. The Visitor Center Park on the south side of the Interstate has 24 hour restrooms along with information about local attractions. The Crockett County Museum, 408 11th Street, 325-392-2837, crockettcountymuseum.com , M-F 9-5, Sa 10-3pm, tells the local history, focusing on the early pioneer settlers. $2 donation is requested. A statue of Davy Crockett, the county’s namesake, is at the south end of the town square.
For more information: Ozona.com
FORT LANCASTER HISTORICAL SITE
This frontier military fort, established on Live Oak Creek in 1855, thrived for six years until the start of the War Between the States, providing protection to travelers and freight haulers on the Government Road from hostile Indians. The 82 acre park stewarded by the Texas Historical Commission, has a visitor center with a stagecoach out front and a fine exhibit inside detailing life at the fort. Behind the center are the ruins of the fort which make for a splendid 2.5 mile walk if the weather cooperates (it can be torrid hot here in the summer). 9-5 daily. Admission: $4 adults. 432-836-4391, Visitfortlancaster.com
SHEFFIELD boomed in the 1920s with the discovery of oil, but took on an all-but-abandoned look once the nearby Interstate was finished in the 1980s. Despite a growing population of 600, motels, restaurants, and other traveler services have dried up and blown away. At 1:30 pm on a weekday, the sole service station with an Open sign was locked, with a note attached to the door “Closed until 2 pm. If you need something, call….”
SANDERSON is the self-declared Cactus Capital of Texas. The collection of stucco and adobe buildings suggest desert, while the architecture of the former Kerr Mercantile building is a Trost & Trost classic from the Chicago School. Several restaurants and four motels provide the essentials. The Terrell County Visitor Center on US 90 East, 432-345-2324, has all the details. Sanderson also has a shuttle service for Lower Canyons river trips on the Rio Grande. A mile-long nature trail connects the high school football field track to Javelina Hill, a scenic overlook above the town.
For more information: Sandersontx.org
Last part of the stories behind the story of my West Texas Music drive, one of 16 drives featured in the June 2012 Texas Monthly Drive issue.
Today, we conclude where it all started, at least for the teenagers known as Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
The Hub City is the largest city in all the Great Plains, and home to Texas Tech University. But for all its assets, the city’s contribution to rock and roll is the one that continues to resonate around the world, even if some of the locals are still uncomfortable with the social implications the music wrought.
THE BUDDY HOLLY CENTER is Lubbock’s all-purpose museum with art exhibitions and traveling exhibits, and music on the patio during summer months. The main attraction, of course, is Buddy Holly, whose life is celebrated in the Buddy Holly Gallery, a permanent exhibit at the center with a $5 admission fee.
Showcases are devoted to Buddy’s childhood with his leatherwork, Cub Scout uniform, and drawings of cowboys and horses, and self-portrait in pencil, and his personal record collection, which includes The Midnighters’ “Sexy Ways” and Larry Williams’ “Slow Down;” his early influences; his rapid rise; Petty’s studio; and to the Crickets.
The Gallery features the writing of Robert Palmer from the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, a music timeline from 1929 to 1959, and a touch screen It’s So Easy trivia quiz prepared by the late Bill Griggs, the World’s #1 Buddy fan. It isn’t as easy as Griggs would have you believe.
Sample question: Buddy had a pet cat named Booker T and a pet dog named
b) Reddy Teddy
c) Alonzo, the correct answer
As Holly’s renown grew, his glasses got bigger, although the pair he died with, which are on display, were classic black horn-rimmed frames.
There’s a 15 minute film where Paul McCartney makes clear the Beatles’ biggest influence were the Crickets, Keith Richard discusses the Holly sound, Don McLean discusses “American Pie,” his song about the plane crash that killed Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper, J.I. Allison demonstrates rhythm, and Vi Petty plays Celeste. Gallery admission: $5
An adjacent room with no admission fee is the West Texas Hall of Fame loaded with great casual photos of Holly and Jennings, along with a special shoutout to Bill Griggs, the world’s #1 Holly fan who spent the last years of his life in Lubbock by choice. The Ivy West Texas Music Map illustrated by John Chinn in the center’s hallway shows all the talent who came out of the region. 1801 Crickets Avenue @ 19 th St., 806 767-2686, buddyhollycenter.org
Directly across from the center is the West Texas Walk of Fame, honoring entertainment celebrities from the region (hey, y’all, where’s Natalie Maines?) whose centerpiece is a life-sized statue of Buddy Holly brandishing a guitar.
THE CACTUS THEATER, a block from the Buddy Holly Center, is Don Caldwell’s musical labor of love and the linchpin of the Depot Entertainment District. The Cactus presents live music and musical performances most weekends and many weeknights. The Buddy Holly Story musical has enjoyed several extended runs in this lovingly restored 30s vintage venue.
1812 Buddy Holly Ave. @ 19th, 806 762 3233 cactustheater.com
KDAV AM 1590, one of the coolest oldies radio stations anywhere, welcomes visitors to step inside the radio station and see the disc jockeys in action up close and personal. The station bills itself as the Buddy Holly station, and I gotta say, there’s something about hearing “That’ll Be the Day” crackling over the AM radio while cruising Lubbock’s wide streets that make everything seem right in the world.
1714 Buddy Holly Ave., 806 744 5859 kdav.org/kdav
LUBBOCK HIGH SCHOOL is Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ alma mater as well as the most significant architectural structure in the city. The red-tile roofed, sand brick high school is between downtown and the Tech campus on
2004 West 19th @ Avenue D, 806 766 1444. Call the administration office in advance to request a hall pass to view the Buddy Holly showcase in the hallway
STUBB’S BARBECUE is where folks like Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Terry Allen and the rest of the Lubbock mob played back in the 1970s before all of them, Stubbs included, moved away. The Stubbs barbecue sauce legend started here as did some storied events such as Jesse Taylor’s Sunday Night Jam and the night when Tom T. Hall played pool with Joe Ely using an onion as the cue ball. Underneath the statue of Stubbs in overalls holding a heaping plate of ribs is a small plaque that reads “There will be no bad talk or loud talk in this place” – Mr. Stubblefield’s mantra that was written on his menus and posted throughout his joint. Having enjoyed the establishment in its heyday, it’s startling to see how small the building footprint is today. 108 E. Broadway http://stubbsbbq.com/started.php
Continue on East Broadway to MLK, turn right and continue to Teak and follow the signs to the Lubbock cemetery and the final resting place of Buddy Holly. The simple gravesite is plainly marked. Tradition mandates you leave a guitar pick on the flat headstone. The earth from which Holly sprang from and to which he returned may look hard and desolate, but it’s fertile soil for music makers who sound like Texas.
Clovis may be across the line in New Mexico but for all practical purposes it could just as well be the other side of Lubbock or Amarillo. It’s a classic western city, defined by railroad lines but laid out for automobiles. The boulevards are spacious and wide, ideal for cruising.
Clovis native Norman Petty started building his recording studio in 1948 in order to record his own mellow music group, the Norman Petty Trio, featuring his wife Vi on vocals. But when Buddy Holly and the Crickets showed up in 1958, Vi and Norm’s own recording dreams took a back seat to the hot rock and roll band from Lubbock. Soon, Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids (“Party Doll”), the Fireballs (“Bottle of Wine”, “Sugar Shack”), the Stringalongs (“Wheels”), Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings (“An Empty Cup and a Broken Date”, “Tryin’ To Get to You”, “Ooby Dooby”), and the Nighthawks (“When Sin Stops”), and Waylon Jennings (“Jole Blon”) joined the Crickets in making the pilgrimage to Clovis. where 12 Top Ten hits were recorded in 15 months.
The sound he created is associated with West Texas rock and roll, wide open, with plenty of space, drenched in echo – part and parcel of the Petty touch.
Since Petty’s death in 1988, the studio has been frozen in time.
The original chair in the control room is perfectly sited between the original Lansing/Altec speakers, which Petty suspended from the ceiling as he did the air-suspended equalizer, all the better to hear “Peggy Sue” and other hit records recorded in the studio. Ken Broad attributes the success of the room to its design (“No flat walls in the studio. They’re cylindrical.”) and to Petty’s perfect pitch.
Shirley Broad plays the celeste keyboard that provided the hook to Holly’s “Every Day” on request and Dean will fire up the Solavox organ that Petty added to “Sugar Shack” after the Fireballs left the studio. If you’re lucky, David Bigham will come along – he’s one of the Roses singing group that backed up the rock and rollers on their recordings after Bigham came to Clovis as one of the Teen Kings, Roy Orbison’s band, after Roy, dissatisfied with his first recordings made at Sun Studios in Memphis, sought out Petty. Petty liked the Roses backing vocals and recruited them to come to Clovis and record for him.
The apartment in the back of the studio was built by Petty for the Crickets, so they could stay and record as long as they wanted. The living area features some innovative designs (eg. a bookshelf built into the fireplace) and zoomy features that capture the essence of 50s moderne.
There’s even an early microwave Petty bought for the apartment. Between the recording studio, the apartment and the home he designed for Vi and him, it’s obvious this eastern New Mexico native was some kind of visionary.
1313 West 7th, to book a tour, contact Ken Broad 575 760 2157/356 6422 Donations requested. I dropped a twenty.
FOXY DRIVE-IN, six blocks from the Petty studio, is a classic 50s establishment with curb service where Holly and his band used to order taquitas, rolled and fried little flautas, now 85 cents each, whenever they were recording. Burgers are pretty great too, with curb service, natch.
720 West 7th @ Thornton, 575 763-7995
NORMAN AND VI PETTY ROCK & ROLL MUSEUM takes the macro view of Norman Petty’s influence on West Texas music in a soda shop/jukebox kind of setting in the basement of the chamber of commerce building. The nine foot Stratocaster and the half circle of piano keys out front mark the spot. Norm and Vi’s private life, Norman’s recording technique (his original mixing board is here), his relationship with Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and the other bands that flocked to the studio for the magic sound are all showcased, with great photographs of the lesser-known acts. 105 East Grand @ Main Street, 800 261 7656 Hours: 8-noon, 1-5 weekdays, weekends by appointment only. Pettymuseum.org $5 admission
The sound that came out of the Biggest Little Music City in the Whole World is celebrated at the Clovis Music Festival the first weekend of every September
Part Three of the stories behind the story of my West Texas Music drive, one of 18 drives in Texas Monthly’s Drive issue, June, 2012
CANYON is the gateway to Palo Duro Canyon, Texas’s Grand Canyon, and the home of Texas’s Smithsonian, the Pahandle-Plains Museum, which tells the stories of the people of the Panhandle, the Great Plains, and far North and near West Texas. It’s a beautiful building loaded with outstanding artifacts and recreations of dugout, Indian communities, and old western towns. One of my favorite artifacts is a painting by Georgia O’Keefe when she was a teacher at West Texas State Normal College in Canyon, now known as West Texas A&M. It illustrates that this part of Texas, not New Mexico, was where O’Keefe first fell under the influence of bright natural light.
PPM is an easy place for a curious mind to get lost in.
Unfortunately, for being such a great repository, PPM does not have a permanent music exhibit (then again, in Amarillo, just up the Interstate, there is no absolutely no formal recognition of local hero Eck Robertson, who is credited with making the very first country music record with Henry Gilliland when the Victor company released two sides they recorded, “Sallie Goodin” and “Arkansas Traveler,” in 1922).
What the PPM does have is an extensive archive including music artifacts. If a visitor plans ahead to make an appointment with archivist Warren Sticker, you can go into the stacks and see up close and personal one of Bob Wills’ fiddles (the best they’ve got in Turkey is a fiddle that belonged to Bob’s father), as well as the acoustic guitar belonging to Buddy Knox from Happy, the band leader of the Rhythm Orchids, the West Texas rock and roll and rockabilly band second only to Buddy Holly’s Crickets, famous for their big hits “Party Doll” as well as “Hula Love,” “Rock Your Baby to Sleep,” and “Think I’m Gonna Kill Myself.”
PANHANDLE- PLAINS HISTORICAL MUSUEM
CANYON Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, 2503 4th Avenue, Canyon
Admission $10 for adults, 9am – 6pm Mon-Sat during summer months
To see Bob Wills’ fiddle and Buddy Knox’s guitar, contact archivist Warren Sticker to set up an appointment. 806 651-2254, firstname.lastname@example.org There is an additional $5 charge to access the research center