Inhabitants of the Panhandle, the northernmost part of the state, call it “the real Texas”. On a map, it appears as a rectangular appendix bordering Oklahoma and New Mexico. A starkly romantic agricultural landscape strewn with tumbleweeds and mesquite trees, it fulfils the fantasy of what Texas should look like. When Coronado’s expedition passed this way in the sixteenth century, the gold-seekers drove stakes into the ground across the vast and unchanging vista, despairing of otherwise finding their way home – hence the name Llano Estacado, or staked plains, which persists today (the Panhandle is the southernmost portion of the Great Plains).
Once the buffalo – and the natives – had been driven away from what was seen as uninhabitable frontier country, the Panhandle in the 1870s began to yield great natural resources. Helium, especially in Amarillo, as well as oil and agriculture, have brought wealth to the region, which is also home to large ranches.
The Panhandle holds few actual tourist attractions – its real appeal is its barren, rural beauty. But music has deep roots in the area, too. Songwriters such as Bob Wills, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Terry Allen, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks all grew up here.Read More
Lubbock’s claim to world fame is as the birthplace of Buddy Holly. Inspired by the blues and country music of his childhood – and a seminal encounter with the young Elvis Presley, gigging in Lubbock at the Cotton Club – Buddy Holly was one of rock’n’roll’s first singer-songwriters. The Holly sound, characterized by steady strumming guitar, rapid drumming and his trademark hiccupping vocals, was made famous by hits such as Peggy Sue, Not Fade Away and That’ll Be the Day. Buddy was killed at 22 in the Iowa plane crash of February 3, 1959 (“The Day the Music Died”), that also claimed the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. Don’t leave town without visiting the Buddy Holly Center, 1801 Crickets Ave (Tues–Sat 10am–5pm, Sun 1–5pm; $5; w www.buddyhollycenter.org), an impressive space that holds a collection of Holly memorabilia, including the black glasses he wore on the day he died.
Other sites include the Buddy Holly Statue at 8th Street and Avenue Q; it’s scheduled to move to a new location in Lubbock by 2011. This 8ft bronze figure currently towers over a Walk of Fame, with plaques to local performers like Waylon Jennings, who played bass at Buddy’s final concert. Buddy’s grave is in Lubbock’s cemetery at the end of 34th Street; take the right fork inside the gate, and the grave, decorated with flowers and guitar picks, is on the left.
Wind energy in Texas
Wind energy in Texas
Texas knows economic booms, most famously due to oil following the gusher at Spindletop in 1901. Now the energy industry is supporting another classic American boom cycle, this one in wind. Since white settlement in the 1800s, the parched Texas Panhandle-Plains region has relied on windmills to tap the massive subterranean Ogallala Aquifer and pump up to the surface fresh water for livestock, crops and farm families. In fact, though they may seem dated, many of the simple wooden and aluminium windmill structures that dot the landscape are still spinning, albeit a bit creakily. So it seems only natural that with the recent national focus on renewable energy, Texas would once again turn to the wind.
There are more than 5000 modern wind turbines in Texas, more than any other state in the US. The largest collection is found in the Panhandle-Plains region, near Sweetwater. Here motels can’t be built fast enough to house workers hired to install the turbines. Convoys of oversized trucks cart the elongated turbine blades, one at a time, down I-10. At West Texas A&M University in Canyon, professors at the Alternative Energy Institute will inform you that Texas wind produces energy for almost 2.5 million homes, but inefficiencies in the grid system create energy bottlenecks. Nevertheless, businessmen like billionaire T. Boone Pickens – who despite struggling US credit markets hopes to build the largest wind farm in the world near Pampa – flock to the region for wind that blows at an average annual speed of 15mph.