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Dallas: In a Class by Itself
updated: May 29, 2010, 9:30 AM
First you are flown over parts of Southern California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado, and then you walk and trot for a mile or two through the Denver airport, and then you are flown on down through Texas and Oklahoma panhandles (right over my birthplace of Tipton, Oklahoma), and suddenly you're there, in Dallas, Dad-gum-Texas.
Or you can drive it, but you probably don't want to do that. Driving, you are immediately aware of how big Texas is. Driving across Texas, east and west isn't quite as far as driving the length of California, north and south, but it's almost as far, and there's a lot less to look at.
Or you can just "go east till you smell it and south till you step in it".
TV's Charles Kuralt, a good ol' boy if there ever was one, interviewed a West Texas rancher who said, "Everthang out here sticks, stings or stinks, but it's home to me and Ah lak it."
My earliest memory of the West Texas plains was my parents stopping in Amarillo for, as Lyndon Johnson called it, a "bowl o' red", usually called chili. Chili is a staple food in much of Texas. This tells us something, although I'm not sure what.
More important, the LBJ Library in Austin, the state capital, is not to be missed. The Kennedy assassination material, and LBJ's transition into the White House is a tearjerker. The place is a marvelous history lesson. Nor should the LBJ ranch be missed. It's near Johnson City, not far from Austin. I got a chicken-fried steak as big as the average doormat in Johnson City one time. I recovered later and went on to dine again.
A sign atop the restaurant said, "More than 35 served." A little TX humor.
Back in the highly civilized environs of Dallas (there's an excellent art museum downtown) and its many sprawling suburbs, an Ethiopian cowboy drove our airport shuttle bus and a Persian clerk made us happy to be in the over-priced Holiday Inn Express for an auspicious beginning to our short journey.
But the air-conditioning was not working upstairs at my daughter's house, and as the sun set on an 88-degree April day, I was reminded that this place would be HOT soon! (It's edging over 90 degrees in the afternoon at this writing.) No problem -- yet. How natural, how healthy, to have a fan over the bed gently turning, keeping the sweat under my chin to a minimum.
Mustn't forget that Dallas is a splendid reminder of the Old West. A magnificent, life-sized sculptured herd of wild mustang horses crash through running water in an outdoor sculpture at Las Colinas, a new development between Fort Worth and Dallas. There are major developments in all directions. Splendid to look at, even if some are almost empty, due to the recent business downturn. Good times will return.
And huge (you need various synonyms for "big" around here) longhorn steers in a small herd welcome folks to The Stockyards in Fort Worth, 20 miles from Dallas. Cowboy stuff and steakhouses all over the place in old downtown Fort Worth, the starting point of many a cattle drive north. The Chisholm Trail started here, I was told. Cowboy and cow-herding lore abounds. Tough, colorful guys, those cowpokes. A museum placard reads,
"Grandma, do cowboys eat grass?"
"No, dear, they're part human."
The average age of the American cowboy was 19 - old enough to be strong, young enough not to have any sense.
There's the dark side to the gun slinging Wild West. What other city would paint a huge black X on the spot in the road where President John F. Kennedy was slain? The assassination museum in an adjacent building is a good stop too. Very interesting, and it brings back the stunning shock of that November day in 1963. There's the "grassy knoll" over yonder…
Speaking of animals and tough guys, there are more football players in Texas than there are people in the Dakotas. Watch the movie, "Friday Night Lights" for an enjoyable introduction to this strange -- to some of us at least -- western land, where perhaps the highest-level of high school football in the country is played. It's probably even more sophisticated than that of Southern California and Pennsylvania.
(To be continued…)
Confirmed: Longhorn steers have very long horns
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