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.