I don’t do links often on this website, but this one, the Bracken Webcam, bears linking to: http://batcon.org/index.php/get-involved/visit-a-bat-location/bracken-bat-cave/bracken-webcam.html
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.
A couple weeks ago, it was my privilege to teach a class for the Writers League of Texas (writersleague.org) at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.
Susan Weeks is not pictured. Susan was flooded in the RV Park where she was staying on Friday morning, and didn’t make it to the last class.
I say it was a privilege because I had a great group of students to kick around the whole idea of writing, communicating, what it all means, and why we do what we do.
One student, Light T. Cummins, was in his last week of being the official State Historian of Texas. (Like I said, this was an exceptionally talented group.)
Light was kind enough to share his blog about his experiences, which I am sharing here.
Here’s the link to his blog, An Historian of Texas (historianoftexas.blogspot.com)
And here’s what he wrote:
Is there a difference between being an author and a writer? Until last week, I would have said yes, because it has long been my contention that authors and writers are not the same literary animal. My opinion was that historians (including myself) are authors only. We are not writers. Academic historians research and write synthetic works of historical analysis. What we say is potentially more important to us than how we say it. Writers, in particular those who deal in non-fiction, were to me a different breed of folk. They have the freedom to write from their feelings, observations, and opinions in ways that academic historians do not. The way a writer says something with their words can be the main event of what they write.
My mind has been changed about this and I now contend there is no difference between a good writer and a good author. Historians are writers, or at least they should attempt to be. This revelation came to me because I recently attended the summer writing workshop sponsored by the Writer’s League of Texas. The League holds this annual event at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. I was one of almost a dozen students in a seminar taught by Joe Nick Patoski, who is one of the most wide-published writers in the southwestern United States. “Writing with Sense of Place” served as the title and frame of reference for this seminar.
Joe Nick Patoski
Joe Nick Patoski has written a shelf-full of books that people read everyday. His forthcoming book on the history of the Dallas Cowboys promises to be a true blockbuster. Joe Nick put all of us attending the seminar through our writing paces while he engaged in a constantly fascinating barrage of animated talk that explained literally everything he knew about how to be a writer. His talk is the equal of his writing. Over the course of the week he extemporaneously spoke a book to us verbally. Its title could have been “How To Be a Good Writer.” It was a magnum opus.
Tom Michael and Rachael Osler Lindley visited the seminar to talk about their radio station, KRTS, 93.5 FM. This PBS station, popularly known as Marfa Public Radio, is one of the smaller public broadcasting stations in the nation. It mounts each day a full schedule of national and local programs, many of which highlight writers and their work. It was fun while in Alpine to tune-in KRTS on my radio dial instead of being an internet listener, my usual means of hearing the station. Historian Lonn Taylor also visited our group to read from his latest book, Rambling Boy, and talk about his very popular writing. Taylor writes a regular column for the Big Sentinel in addition to being heard regularly on Marfa Public Radio. Curator Mary Bones took us on a tour of the Museum of the Big Bend, something that regally highlighted our sense of place about the region.
The fine writing and cogent comments manifested by the other participants in the seminar, many of whom are also published writers, served as powerful reinforcements to Joe Nick’s writing exercises, the class visitors, and our group discussions. I was happy with my participation because I was able to shake the archival dust off some of the things that I wrote in the seminar. In fact, a few things I put on paper actually read as if they had been written by a writer.
For Joe Nick Patoski’s website, Click Here.
For the Writer’s League of Texas website, Click Here.
For Marfa Public Radio, Cllick Here.
For Lonn Taylor’s column, Rambling Boy, Click Here.
For the Museum of the Big Bend, Click Here.
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.
Part four of the stories behind the story of my West Texas Music drive, one of 18 drives featured in Texas Monthly magazine’s Drive issue, June 2012.
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 five of the stories behind the story of my West Texas Music drive, one of 18 drives featured in Texas Monthly’s Drive issue, June 2012
Driving highway 84 from Clovis, thoughts turned to the Crickets’ old game of Beat the Clock – pounding the hundred miles of two-lane blacktop from Lubbock to Clovis in less than hour, so they could arrive before they left, courtesy of changing time zones from Central to Mountain. For the life of me, I can’t imagine anyone pulling it off, especially making it through Muleshoe unscathed. In case local teenagers still try this trick, I was glad the highway was four-lane mostly-divided highway now. This stretch is mostly irrigated farmland – cotton and soybeans, mostly – evidenced by the giant sprinkler systems that bring water from the Ogallala Aquifer deep below the ground to feed the crops, with grain elevators, water towers, and stadium lights rising from the flat horizon.
Then there’s the billboard, bigger than life. The next town may look like all the other towns from the road, but the large sign suggests different – Littlefield is hometown of Waylon Jennings, Buddy Holly protege, Nashville Rebel, Willie Nelson partner, Country music outlaw, the baddest of the badasses.
How can one not turn and follow directions to Waylon Jennings Boulevard, leading to one of the coolest, most unusual music museums in the world?
Waymore’s was James Jennings’ Exxon service station for “30 some odd years” before he switched from gas to booze in 2008 and started adding display cases of Waylon memorabilia. W’s first guitar, letters to his family, and the handwritten backstage pass for his mother and father would have been the highlights if James hadn’t shown up. The engaging, self-deprecating “ol’ redneck” is without a doubt one of his big brother’s most entertaining boosters and a joy to hang around. He fills in the blanks when there’s questions about young Waylon and tells pretty good stories about all the folks who’ve dropped by.
Donations accepted and recommended.
E. Waylon Jennings Blvd (FM 54) @ Hall Ave., 806 385 5561, 385 0054
Open 10-9 Mon-Sat. Donations accepted
Farther south on Hall Street is the municipal Waylon Jennings RV Park. Parking and camping are complimentary.
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
Part two of the story behind the story of my West Texas Music drive for the June issue of Texas Monthly magazine
Woody Guthrie, America’s greatest folksinger may have come from Okemah, Oklahoma, but he came of age in Pampa. Here’s what I found, starting with the Woody in Pampa website :
THE WOODY GUTHRIE FOLK MUSIC CENTER is the old Hall Drug Store on Pampa’s red brick old main street, where Woody worked from 1930-1935 and learned to play guitar, combined with the barber shop next door. Woody’s father ran a “cot house” across the street for oil field workers who flooded the town in the early 30s, which may or may not have included a bordello in the back.
The folk center is the vision of local historian and author Thelma Bray, whose two biographies of Guthrie are on sale at the center; the second, revised edition was published after Pete Seeger consulted Bray.
While the center is packed with photographs, newspaper articles, and copies of letters Woody and others wrote (did you know his song “Up from Boston” is the Boston Red Sox theme?), the center’s greatest artifact is “the building itself,” says Mike Sinks, one of the center’s supporters, who showed me around. “It’s where Woody Guthrie learned to play music.”
He also formed his first ensemble, the Corn Cob Trio, in 1934.
Sinks tells good stories about Woody, how he was known around town for spending so much time in the library reading books, and how his political leanings still divide the town – an attempt to name a street after him failed in the mid 90s when a Pampa official protested that Guthrie was a “communist” and naming a street after him would give the town a bad reputation. [Pampa officials today could do worse than talk to their peers in Okemah and find out what they’re missing.
Taking cues from Woody, live music is the main feature of the center: acoustic jams on the first Friday night of every month, electric jams on the third Friday, and informal pickings any old time.
The tracks where Guthrie first started hopping freights to California are a block north.
320 South Cuyler, www.woodyguthriepampatx.com The office is open 1-4 Fridays, but if you’d like to look around the folk center any other time, call or email Mike Sinks (806-664-0824; email@example.com), or one of the other center board members found on the website and open the building for you and show you around. Donations appreciated.
Arlo Guthrie played Pampa on behalf of the folk music center back in March, a few weeks after Jimmy LaFave stopped in coming back from a Colorado gig, which was front page news in Pampa.
Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday will be celebrated at the center on July 25 and nationally on July 14, his actual birthdate.
All pickers are welcome, in the spirit of Woody.
THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND MUSIC NOTE FENCE in East Coronado Park on the south side of the AmericInn motel, 1101 North Hobart, (US 70 North), was created by welder Rusty Neef. Pampa city fathers balked at naming a street after Guthrie in 1995. “They didn’t want to name a street after a communist,” Mike Sink said. Nothing was said of Guthrie’s three tours of duty for the US military.
For general Pampa information go here cityofpampa.org
Good listening: The Saturday morning Western Swing and Other Things radio show hosted by Dodge City, KS Marshal Allen Bailey and his sidekick Cowgirl Jane, heard on High Plains Radio public radio affiliates throughout the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, and Kansas every Saturday