Day Fifteen: Hello, Texas, Buddy redux, adorable prairie dogs

As soon as we woke up this morning, we put New Mexico in our rear view mirror. I liked most of New Mexico, but the far southeast corner is drab – flat, sandy scrub brush, and muddy rivers are the only features as far as the eye can see. We were driving Highway 128 east toward Texas and were about half an hour down the road when we noticed that the only other vehicles we were seeing on the road were semis and pickup trucks. The entire length of that highway, we never saw another car. With good reason – anyone driving Hwy 128 risks having their fillings jarred out of their head at several points in the journey. The joys of driving the back roads! In fact, there is so little non-commercial traffic heading into Texas on that road, there isn’t even a sign that notes that you are now in Texas.

Once in Texas, we shot north to Lubbock. Since we are wanting to go to San Antonio as well, (The Alamo awaits) driving north to Lubbock was a bit out of the way. This trip has never been about the strategically optimal route, though, so why start now? We lost an hour of time when we crossed the Texas border (we’re on Central time, now) so it was late afternoon by the time we pulled into Lubbock.

Why go out of our way to view the dozens of miles of flat landscape and cotton fields to get to Lubbock? (By the way, someone on my FB page said that this part of Texas is so flat that you can stand on a sardine can and watch your dog run for three days.) The answer, is the Lubbock Flash himself, Buddy Holly. We got to spend a great visit in the Clovis New Mexico studios where he recorded his greatest music on Saturday, so we wanted to wrap up the Buddy part of our tour with a visit to his hometown.

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To mark the influence of Lubbock’s most famous citizen, they have The Buddy Holly Center. It has a perpetual Buddy Holly exhibit, then also opens the other wings of the museum to other artists. They have an 18 minute film made specially for them, but if you are a Buddy-holic, there’s probably not going to be too much new information there.

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The Buddy display is very well done, and they obviously have access to the Holley (note the different spelling) family and their treasure trove of Buddy items. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to share from inside the Buddy Holly display, because they forbid pictures or video inside the room. There are some cool items that were well worth the drive – several of Buddy’s own guitars, plus one of my favorite items – a leather, hand-tooled guitar strap that Buddy made himself that I had described in some detail in my book Rock ‘n Roll Heaven.

The creepiest item in the display is the pair of Buddy’s trademark black glasses (sans lenses) that he wore in the fatal plane crash. The glasses were thought to be destroyed or lost in the crash, but 21 years afterward, the Cerro Gordo, Iowa, County Sheriff was rooting through a vault when he found an envelope with Buddy’s name on it. Inside, were the glasses. He returned them to the Holley Family, who have allowed the museum to display them. Seeing that physical connection to Buddy and the crash was sad. Did you know his entire professional career lasted only 18 months? Think what he could have done with a full career!

After we finished with the Buddy Holly Center, we walked across the street to see the Buddy Holly statue, which was well done. Here’s a couple of shots. Note the detail  on the close up.

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With the day getting late, and still wanting to put some distance between us and Lubbock, we still made two more stops.

The first was a solemn one – the last stop on the Buddy Holly section of The Lap Around America, unless we decide to visit the plane crash site in Iowa. We drove to the Lubbock Cemetery and paid our respects to Buddy at his grave, where he is buried next to his Mom and Dad. If you are expecting a huge headstone or some other trapping of his fame, you will be disappointed. Here are their graves:

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On his headstone, his family restored the spelling of his name to match the rest of his family. I’m sure he would have wanted it that way, as he was very much a family man.

Here’s one thing I have loved about this trip. Sometimes the very best things just pop up out of nowhere and surprise us. So it was with Prairie Dog Town in Lubbock. Prairie Dog Town was the brainchild of KN Clapp in 1935. He was concerned that the black-tailed prairie dog was in danger of extinction. So, he trapped two pairs of them, built an enclosure, and oversaw the whole operation until his death 34 years later. Forty seven years after his death, his dream of Prairie Dog Town is still thriving.

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Those beginning four prairie dogs have bloomed into hundreds of the cute little buggers. We had no more gotten out of the car though, than the skies opened up and a Texas gully washer dropped on our heads. We took brief cover under a roofed area, but the wind was bringing the rain in sideways, so we sprinted (as much as we are capable) to the car and waited the storm out. We are learning that these downpours don’t last long, and five minutes later, it was done. We spent another half hour watching the prairie dogs, then got in the car to leave.

On the way out of the park, we saw that a family of them had escaped the barricade, and were actually sitting alongside the road looking at us. Dawn grabbed a box of raisins, and a moment later, she had a new best friend.

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There’s Fred, eloquently explaining why he needed her to go back to the car and retrieve another box of raisins. After all the wonders we’ve seen, I think her close encounter with Fred the prairie dog was her favorite thing. I love how the little meaningful moments sneak up on you.

Tomorrow, a lot of driving, and eventually, San Antonio.

Cheers, and safe travels!

Shawn

15 comments

  1. I enjoyed learning about Buddy Holly. I was always a fan, but haven’t done much research on him. I used to live in Oklahoma for 2 short stints, which involved visiting Texas several times. Yes, it’s very hot, dry, brown and flat. We learned quickly to always have plenty of gas and nourishment in the car because you can go for hours and hours without ever seeing civilization. Loved the photo of Dawn and her new furry friend. Continued safe travels.

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  2. Knowing that you actually saw Buddy’s glasses gave me chills. I am so happy you had the Buddy Holly experience. That is a memory you’ll treasure for sure. Love the prairie dogs. Enjoy today’s trip!

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  3. The Prairie dog town sounds amazing. I would love to feed them raisins! Glad you got to pay your respects to Buddy. Thanks for the amazing story that is your trip. Safe journey.

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