Monday, August 1, 2011

"I Saw Miles and Miles of Texas." Bob Wills

Two pretty fillies greeted us at the gates of the Palo Duro Canyon amphitheater.

We sometimes forget just how big Texas really is until we get in the car and set out on vacation.  Saturday morning we packed up the van, cranked up the air conditioning, loaded up Carmen the Garman for West Texas, and set off for vacation in Colorado.  We left Fort Worth at nine o'clock all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, singing songs, and chattering excitedly.  A little after midnight, still in Texas, we limped into Dumas, sleepy, but happy.  That's a lot of driving! 

Somewhere on the road, since we were headed for Amarillo, we started talking about Cadillac Ranch.  The idea that some rancher would buy ten old 1960's Cadillacs and bury them nose down in the middle of a field is preposterous and never fails to capture people's imaginations.  I still remember the first time I saw them as a kid driving through West Texas.  The land was mesmerizingly flat and hypnotically boring.  Suddenly ten tail fins appeared, literally out of nowhere, pointing towards the sky like a Salvador Dali mirage on the plains.  If you don't know about them, it's easy to think you are suffering from some sort of delusion perhaps brought on by the heat.

Well the kids had never seen Cadillac Ranch, so how could we NOT not stop.  After supper at Rosa's,  (Mmm!  Mexican food!!!)   we drove west a few minutes and there they were, ten iconic cars half buried in the dirt like automotive dinosaurs.  When we got there, about twenty people had already trekked out through the blazing hot field with paint cans in hand to add their artistic touch to these behemoths.   We wandered around for a while admiring the bones of the cars, some of the more creative embellishments, and the endless blue sky.  There is absolutely nothing in this part of West Texas to stop your gaze - just vast blue sky and little white clouds.  No wonder West Texans are so much taller than average.  There's nothing to stop 'em.

Pop Art on the Prairie  

Cadillac Ranch is truly in the middle of nowhere!  Just earth, sky, and Cadillacs.

A little later, we drove out to Palo Duro Canyon. It was about 7:30 so the sun was hanging low in the sky and the worst of the heat was slowly dissipating.  We had reservations to see the play Texas which is performed every summer in the Palo Duro Canyon amphitheater.  The three adults had all seen the play when we were kids on family vacations.  Now it was time to initiate the next generation. 

The drive into the Palo Duro Canyon was beautiful.  The sun reflected off the canyon walls in front of us creating a beautiful dance of light and shadow.    A slight breeze started to cool us down and ruffle our hair.  Just a perfect Texas summer night.  My sister-in-law spotted a pull off and we got out to take pictures. To our delight we found a trail that went along the rim of the canyon. We followed it for a while snapping picture after picture.  The kids scurried down the boulders like prairie dogs, and their mom had to grab their attention quick before they climbed out of sight.

We almost forgot about the play, but remembered in time to join the line of cars entering the amphitheater. An authentic cowgirl and her horse greeted us at the gate with a friendly Texas smile. It was very idealic - until her horse sneezed and shot horse-snot into my ear!

From the parking lot we rode a tractor trolley to the entrance where the band was playing the "Cotton Eye Joe." We stood under the misters for a while and watched a brave group of volunteers flapping their wings and promenading in a circle to the "Chicken Dance."

Texas, the play, has changed a little over the years, but it has retained it's essential Texas-ness! Horses, cowboys, pretty girls, boy-meets-girl, pull-yourself-up-by your own-bootstrap, rugged individualism.  Who can ask for more!?!  Like thousands before us, we walked away with a deep respect for our pioneer ancestors who were made of pretty stern stuff.  How they braved the heat and the wind, had babies without doctors, fended off rattlesnakes, scorpions, and bears, and farmed and ranched with almost no water is an amazing picture of determination.

But the play was fun, too.  The best line from the play was, "West Texas, where you can look further and see less than anywhere else in the world." The audience erupted into huge  belly laughs at that line. It's sooooo true.

The play finished around 10:30 and we joined the happy pack of SUV's and ranch trucks in the winding line out of the canyon. There were no street lights and Amarillo was far enough away that we could truly see the stars.  We saw The Milky Way! Impressive.


Standing on the edge of Palo Duro Canyon framed by Mesquites and limestone.

Apaches, mountain lions, and settlers used the canyon to escape the heat and find a little water.
Just imagine what the thunderstorms were like!

The best Caddie on the Ranch!

Here we are being ferried by the Tractor Trolley from the parking lot to the entrance to the amphitheater.

Here's the crowd enjoying the band and the pre-show.  Look!  Even the birds get
 a little western architecture.

Come on girls!  Let's see you do the Cotton Eye Joe.  No?  How about the Chicken Dance.

Friendly greeters pointed us down the mesquite lined path into the ampitheater.

P.S. If you want to hear Bob Wills' "Miles and Miles of Texas" here's a link to a rendition by Asleep At The Wheel.


Anonymous said...

We saw the play "Texas" many years ago. It's good to see the tradition has continued with many fun additions and updates! C

Anonymous said...

Love Caddie Ranch. It's crazy weird!