This is the second in a continuing series about Texas, wherein Texans from across the state introduce us to their city or region of the Lone Star State.
Kimberly Read, Contributing Writer
“I reached some plains so vast, that I did not find their limit anywhere I went, although I travelled over them for more than 300 leagues … with no more land marks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea … there was not a stone, nor bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by.” – Francisco Coronado, 1541.
Picture this: the horizon flat as far as the eye can see except for one tree in the distance; the sky tinged with purple, red, pink, rose, peach, orange, the faintest hint of yellow; the first rays of the sun highlighting the red-orange earth and creating shadows on the canyon walls far below. You have just experienced a sunrise over Palo Duro Canyon – the second largest canyon in the United States – located approximately 20 miles from Amarillo, Texas.
The land surrounding this giant hole in the ground is remarkably flat. Located on the Caprock Escarpment (part of Llano Estacado), Amarillo is surrounded by grasslands that remain a brownish-yellow color most of the year. Hence, the city is often called “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” The area is very arid and prone to wind speeds of 40-60 mph on an almost daily basis, making wildfires a great danger during the hot summer months.
During June and July, heat lightning commonly lights up the vast expanse of sky. As a part of Tornado Alley, Amarillo frequently experiences hail storms during the summer with hail stones as big as baseballs. The region typically receives one big snowfall a year, which can happen anytime between November and June.
The people who live on this barren, windswept plain have a unique character all their own. Ask any Amarilloan, and he will fiercely identify himself as a Texan while in the next breath complaining about “those hippies in Austin.”
The people of the Texas Panhandle are very proud of their history. Every summer, the Pioneer Amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon features the musical TEXAS, which tells the story of a prominent cattle-farming family and other early settlers.
Amarillo has a somewhat bipolar personality: While considered the “big city” by people who live in the surrounding small towns, it is – with a population just under 200,000 people – nothing like Dallas or Houston. Hearkening to its cattle-rancher roots, Amarillo is one of the largest meat-packing areas in America.
The city is also home to the American Quarter Horse Association and Museum. BWXT Pantex, the only nuclear weapons assembly and disarmament facility in the U.S., is also a major employer.
Though Amarillo is world-famous for two things – Cadillac Ranch and the FREE 72-ounce steak – it’s really the personality of the people that makes it a special place. Their friendliness and good cheer have not been surpassed by those of anyone I have met in all of my world travels. So come on up to the Panhandle and meet them for yourself!
In our next issue (which won’t be till March 26), Emily Linz of Temple will take us to Texas’s central plains.