Saturday, November 19, 2011

Following The River

Sometimes my travels are done with very short notice.  If you had asked me early in the week if I would be traveling my answer would have been, "Not likely!"  However, plans change.  Wednesday evening it became a possibility.  Thursday morning it was a certainty.  A quick trip to East Texas was in order.

It was a good trip.  The Fall weather was cool and large stretches of my route have been blessed with recent rains.  I saw more cattle grazing than I have for a long time in any part of Texas.  The Fall rains have finally provided a measure of relief to some areas.  Hopefully there will be adequate winter moisture to bring a good Spring to cattle country.

My route lay primarily along the Red River.  Canyon, Texas, where I live, sits on the headwaters of the Red River.  Less than a mile from my house is the confluence of Rita Blanca Creek and Palo Duro Creek.  The two flow together and tumble into Palo Duro Canyon before continuing eastward where, joined by several other streams of no consequence, become the Red River which borders Texas and Oklahoma.

From Canyon, I traveled by Farm-to-Market Road to the thriving Panhandle metropolis of Claude where I entered onto U.S. 287 which took me to Clarendon, Memphis, Quanah, Vernon and Wichita Falls.  (My pardon to the smaller burgs along the way -- such as Hedley and Chillicothe, Goodnight and Goodlett and many others.)  East of Wichita Falls I left U.S. 287 at the town of Henrietta and then proceeded along U.S. Highway 82 until exiting at Bells where I left my river route and entered into the wilds of East Texas.

I can't help but think of historical events that occurred along the routes I travel.  I guess it is the way that I am wired.  The rolling plains of the eastern Texas Panhandle were once covered with buffalo (or, American Bison if you prefer) that were slaughtered for hides, for meat and ultimately as a way to tame the Comanche and Kiowa Indians of the Southern Plains.  The town of Goodnight was named for Charles Goodnight who drove the first herd of cattle into the Texas Panhandle after the Indians had been mostly moved to the reservations in Oklahoma.  The town of Quanah was named for a half-breed Kiowa chief, the son of kidnapped Texas frontier daughter, Cynthia Anne Parker and Nocona, one of the most renowned chiefs of the Kiowa nation.  All three are commemorated by place names.  The towns of Quanah and Nocona and the Parker county are tokens to their memory.

To the east of Nocona is the little town of Saint Jo.  It is also known as Trail Town, one of the infamous stops along the great Chisholm Cattle Trail which stretched from the wilderness of the South Texas Brush Country to the frontier towns of Newton and Abilene in Kansas.  Later, when Oklahoma closed its borders to Texas cattle due to the Texas Fever Tick, the trail branched in that vicinity and angled westward before crossing the river near Doane's store and heading north along the western border of Oklahoma and eventually to the new trail town of Dodge City, Kansas, which was formerly a hide shipping point for the buffalo that were slaughtered in the Panhandle.

Just to the north of my route is the location of Spanish Fort which wasn't really Spanish at all.  It dates from the 1700's and is the site of an infamous battle long before Texas declared independence from Mexico.  You can read about it if you follow the above link.

What can I say.  I could go on and on but, that's enough for now......


No comments: