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Giant of a Land

The Desert turns to subdued grays and blacks

The weather radio went off Sunday night which doesn’t happen all that often this time of year –especially this far west. Winter Storm Advisory – maybe as much as 7″ of snow here and to the north.  Monday at 2am it set in to raining and the temp was 58 degrees.  By 10am the wind had backed to the north;  it was 32 degrees and it was sleeting.   Nasty outside checking the vehicles in and out, Wranglers stuffed in the tops of your boots to keep from dragging even more mud inside.  It is what it is out here in this West Texas country.  No other state that shares the same latitudes as West  Texas is as harsh and vast and beautiful.

This piece ran in the Houston Chronicle in 1999 —

From the South Plains to the Big Country and the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, West Texas is about rattlesnakes.

It’s about oil, cotton and cattle. West Texas is a country where cowboys wave to passers-by from mud-splattered pickups, where cloud shadows design a checkerboard on the landscape and telephone poles line up in endless formation.

It’s red soil and emerald fields, windmills and barbed wire, vultures and jackrabbits as big as burros.

It’s a string of towns with skylines dominated by water towers. Rugged little towns with well-servicing companies, pump-supply houses, hail-damage repair shops, drive-in liquor barns, First Baptist churches and invariably old, rustic cafes that are probably not open. They are small towns getting smaller, struggling to adapt to the new world order, interred in a graveyard of vacant buildings and going-out-of-business sales only to be resurrected, apparently, by the coming of corporate America.

West Texas is a shimmering two-lane blacktop full of wide-open allure, stretching toward a panoramic sky; a weathered shack, its windows busted, memories spilling out; farmers poking along back roads in tractors shaded by umbrellas, pulling aside for the blur of modern conveyance.

There is little mystery out here, little to hide. Everything is exposed, standing tall against the horizon and vulnerable to the elements. Water and shade are precious, and the wind blows for free.

Maybe that makes people honest. Maybe it makes them forthright. It’s enough to make them humble, if the land has its say.

Call it West Texas, but it’s a place in-between, a place to pass through, south of the Panhandle, north of the Big Bend, east of El Paso, west of Abilene. Somewhere out there. It is, in all its endearing simplicity, a giant among lands.

“Leaving New Mexico, Hasta la Vista.”

“Don’t Mess With Texas.”

Welcome to Bronco at the state line southwest of Lubbock. Welcome to nowhere. Weeds surround the old filling station and the meat-packing plant. The silence is deafening but for the whoosh of an occasional truck breaking the speed limit on U.S. 380 and a high, lonesome vocal warbling on the car radio: “I’ll go to my grave lovin’ you.”

Read the rest here.

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3 comments to Giant of a Land

  • Ken

    Andy, thanks for this one. It took me home. Every time we left West Texas, we started planning on the return. I didn’t see any town listed in the article that I have missed.

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    • Andrew

      Thanks for your comment Kent.
      I thought the article was well done

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  • Sailbad

    What a wonderful article. That Marty Racine really knows how to write. He took me back to my childhood and many towns in western Oklahoma and Texas. It’s a hard land but I love it.
    Thanks for posting it.

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