Meeting Dr. Walker in Amarillo: March 25 – April 5, 2011

(Editor’s note: All of the pictures are thumbnails. Click on each to view it. Then be sure to click the back button to get back to the text or the next image. Don’t “close” the picture — that will cause the whole travelogue to close!)

Note: It’s best if you first read the Witchita Falls post (below this one) .

We arrived and settled quickly in the Amarillo Best Wonderland RV Resort, not far from either Dr. Solomon’s office or central Amarillo. Dr. John Walker had made all the arrangements for us to bring Teddy to Seth’s office within two hours of our arrival, and he said he’d meet us there.

We were pretty sure we wouldn’t be bringing Teddy home. But Seth was more optimistic. He drew blood for tests and told us to again
increase the small dosage of pheno we were giving him under orders from Waco. John stood with us throughout and, while not interfering, added a few excellent suggestions of his own. We parted with the agreement that we’d let John tour us around his home town (well, he actually grew up in southeastern OK but that was eons ago).

Our miracle dog came slowly back. Not quite all the way, but most of it – enough for us to continue our pampering and watchful waiting. Teddy did get stronger. He managed steps — going up was okay but down was a problem. Eating and drinking were not problems, though his elimination took a turn for the worse again. Further visits to Seth netted some additional or adjusted medications and test results showing his system (liver)
could stand the larger phenol dose. He walked slower, but he trotted too. After a day or two, we took him to a one acre fenced dog run in the city park just across from the campground, and he explored all over it at a sprightly pace. So we decided we should stay there, next to Rte. 66, for ten days to thoroughly check him out and get to see the heart of the Texas Panhandle.

John came by the following morning, and the first part of our outing was a tour. We got to drive down original Rte. 66 (a city street), see the city’s extensive medical facility, and skirt the home of the Textron-Bell-Boeing hybrid aircraft plant, where the extremely versatile Osprey is assembled. John was hoping we’d be able to see avertical takeoff in person, but it didn’t happen. Adjacent to the facility is Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, honoring local hero and commander of two shuttle missions, who died over Texas when the Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry in 2003.

Dot had a strong yen to visit the Cadillac Ranch. I was kinda take-it-or-leave-it until we got there. For those who like me didn’t know what to expect, Cadillac Ranch is a work of art; a collection of 10 Cadillac hulks that are planted in the middle of a pasture alongside Rte. 40 at the same angle as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was originated in 1974 as a testament to the evolution and de-evolution of the luxury car – primarily its fins – during the fifties. On private property but fully accessible to the public, it is altered constantly by visitors with no end of spray paint. From time to time, it’s repainted a solid color, but it never lasts unchallenged for more than a day. Pictures tell a better story than words.

There was another auto extravaganza in town, a company called Autohaus. Autohaus is a classic automobile restorer and trader that allows the public to walk through its large facility and ooh and aah over the hundred or so examples of the past. Some are restored, some are hot-rodded, and others still need tender loving care. Some are for sale; others are there just for protective storage. The queen of the show, in my mind, was a 1932 LaSalle, on sale for $65k.

American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame and Museum

Our favorite learning experience was a visit to the AQHA. We did not realize the breadth of equines that are classified as members of the Quarter Horse family. The visit begins with a series of wonderful statues outside in front of the building, encompassing the variety of roles that this powerful breed has embraced and the humankind that nurture them and put them through their paces. The pictures below are, left to right: Refrigerator ( success in racing); Sacred (success in the show ring), Rugged Lark (champion superhorse twice and sire of two others with breeder and owner Carol Harris of Florida) and an example of the talent of “cutting” one cow from the herd.

This museum was extremely informative, well organized (and well endowed). The main atrium was a dramatic presentation of their image and lineage. There was a comprehensive description of the Quarter Horse along with a graphic presentation of its many challenges. There was a display of the vocations that were required to manage the gallant breed. And there was a dramatic chronology of the horse, its protagonists, and the organization itself.

The Quarter Horse, we learned, was the first true American breed. Bred to create a horse that could work all week and entertain as a short distance (quarter mile) races on weekends, it joined the best of the Galloway and Hobby horses from Scotland and Ireland with the domestic Chickasaw horse, descended from Barb horses brought from Spain in the 16thcentury. It can be dated back to Colonial America in the 18th century, primarily in Virginia and the Carolinas. It has coats of many colors, ranging from black to white and fifteen hues in between. It’s most commonly sorrel, and it’s almost never multicolored. In addition earning their daily bread (oats), Quarter Horses are trained (and judged) in myriad events, including: Halter, Pleasure, Trail, Cutting, Cow Horse, Barrel Racing, Reining, Jumping, Equitation On the Flat and Driving.

The upstairs of the exhibit hall goes on forever to tell the chronology of the QH and its human associates. A series of cases runs the length chronologically along several display rooms. The top of the cases exhibit both posters describing both significant people and horses and artifacts connected to each period. Then separate signage along the front chronicles just what was happening in the Association and what was happening in the world at that time. Examples are below.

Some quick facts. The AQHA was founded in 1940. Though it’s single breed, we heard a lot of terms also used by the AKC. The first president from east of the Mississippi was Bud Ferber of New Jersey, elected in 1972. The first female president was Ginger Hyland in 1997. And Robert Denhardt , last of the founders, died in 1989.

In all, it is an impressive and worthwhile presentation.

Kwahadi Museum

When we mentioned to John that we wanted this to be one of our stops, it was clear from his reaction that we shouldn’t expect much. We went anyway (without him!) and found an institution dedicated to training young people the dances of their forebears and giving recitals. But while it was less a museum, its primary collection was a gift of Thomas E. Mails. Mails, a Californian, served in WW II and then went to the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. He taught design and worked as an architect until 1955, when he entered the Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul, MN, where he was ordained in 1958. A painter of southwest Indians as well as a pastor, he also began writing in 1962 and produced 18 books about religion and 5 about Indians, many overlapping. He declared that “everything about the Native American centers on religion.” His works focused on their ceremonies in both words and pictures. Upon his death in 2001, he bequeathed his collection to the Kwahadi Museum. Much of the collection is loaned to other museums.

The visit was educational and important.

Panhandle Plains Historical Museum

Canyon, Texas is about 20 miles south of Amarillo. It’s the home of WTAMU (what a mouthful!) – that’s West Texas A&M University. Enrollment in 2010 was 7,800, 80% undergraduate. It offers 61 bachelors, 45 masters and one doctorate curricula. Its nickname is The Buffs, which I had trouble with since Go Buffs means CU in Boulder, Colorado to me. (I worked for a company for 15 years whose home office was in Boulder.)

WTAMU is the home of the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. We went up there on our own and enjoyed every minute of it. We didn’t realize that John would bring us back to the same town for a later treat.

The museum does an excellent job of chronicling the history of the Panhandle, and, while it acknowledges occupation as long as 14,000 years ago and exhibits skeletons therefrom, its emphasis begins with the 16th century. Westward migration of the Euros began late in the 19th
century, and Native American are covered in great detail, dating back as far back as Coronado’s influence on them.

Irrigation was a critical factor. While the region was arid (and still is as of now), there was a generous aquifer that could be tapped, and examples of windmills for both water and electricity use are present.

The oil industry also takes center stage, with a comprehensive exhibit of all of the workers involved and their roles.

Transportation is also featured, exhibiting the railroad, stagecoach and auto. Even cowboy and cowgirl duds get their rightful due. And who can forget the Burma Shave signs along Rte. 66.

And before I review our final adventure, permit me to introduce you to the home of the 72 ounce steak. It’s called the Big Texan, and it’s as rococo as you might imagine. You can’t miss it from outside; the décor is appropriate. Inside befits the inner cowboy in you, from appearance to layout to server outfits. A strolling band of musicians plays your favorite song, but you better ask for Red River Valley rather than Hey Jude. If you’re intent on trying the monster, they’ll serve it to you on a stage where everyone focuses on your attempt to down it in 60 minutes. If you succeed, it’s free. If you fail, you’re out a c-note. Meanwhile, we settled on a smaller cut and found the whole experience to be tasty and fun. We could have been taxied in one of their Caddy limos but opted for our own wheels so we could leave when we wanted to.

Palo Duro Canyon

John took a day to squire us back to Canyon for our deepest experience in Amarillo. The Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest in North America – over 100 miles long.. It is legendary as a function of cattle ranching in the area. It was occupied by Native Americans for centuries; Apaches gave way to Comanche and Kiowa after the Spanish provided them with horses. The Indians were influenced to abandon it and move to Oklahoma when Colonel Ranald Mackenzie captured and destroyed their horses in 1874. Charles Goodnight established his relationship with longhorn cattle when he and partner Oliver Loving drove their first herd to market in 1866. During that time, Goodnight invented the chuckwagon. After Loving’s death, he developed and managed what became the largest spread in the Panhandle for John Adair, an Irishman who financed the enterprise, the JA Ranch. Holding a one third share in the enterprise, Goodnight started with 12,000 acres and the JA Ranch held over 93,000 by 1882, much of it the most fertile sections of the Canyon. It grew to well over a million by the time JA passed away in 1885. His wife continued the venture until her death in 1921—without Goodnight, who bought out in 1888. (It still exists today!)

The Canyon is a state park. It has fertile, sheltered grazing land and is naturally irrigated by the Prairie Dog Town Branch of the Red River. A herd of Longhorns are grazed and sheltered at the rim entrance. One drives through on an improved road and stops from time to time to gaze, hike and/or snap pictures. There are multiple opportunities to ride horses, of course.

At the low point stands the Pioneer Theater, home of the “Official Play of the State of Texas.” It’s performed six nights a week from early June through mid-August in a theatre reminiscent of Red Rocks but open to the Canyon behind the stage. In fact, the show opens with a team of cowboys rising in from the hills carrying the six flags of Texas. Prior to the show, one can partake of a barbeque dinner served on a covered patio by none other than The Big Texan! This is therefore more reminiscent of similar extravaganzas like The Medora Musical in Medora, ND and The Lost Colony on Roanoke Island, NC.

The gift shop and adjacent center have a nice historical display as well as souvenirs ranging from trinkets to (pricy) authentic garb. We stopped and explored both the shop and the theater as well as the principal named rock formations. We also visited a memorial to Mackenzie vs. Original
and the dugout hovel which Charles Goodnight built and used on numerous occasions.

Having stayed long enough to get comfortable with Teddy’s latest rebound and to see what we wanted to see, we bid Amarillo adieu after treating John and Wynn Walker to a barbecue dinner at Rudy’s Country Store on our final night in town. Rudy’s, a combination gas station/restaurant
where you buy everything deli style by the pound, has about two dozen outlets in Texas as well as two in NM and one each in OK and CO. Get there if you can – it’s outstanding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *