Texas, Our Texas
Elizabeth Lynch & Carol Lynch, Contributing Writers
This is the fifth in a continuing series about Texas, wherein Texans from across the state introduce us to their city or region of the Lone Star State.
I grew up in New Orleans, but my mom is from a small West Texas town called Pecos. I remember visiting my grandparents there twice a year; these trips to Texas were a big part of my childhood. I asked my mom to describe what it was like to grow up in Pecos, and she told me the following:
Pecos is a small town in West Texas, and it is a pretty good place to be from. The town is named for the Pecos River that runs nearby. “Pecos” is an American Indian word meaning “friendly.”
In Pecos, everybody knows everybody else, which can be good or bad. It can be good, because you can send your dad to the coffee shop to visit with his friends to find out about the boy you might be interested in dating. But it can also be bad, because you can’t get away with anything (especially dating the bad boy whom your dad doesn’t approve of) without the news spreading all over town.
It can be boring for kids to grow up there, but parents like that they can let their kids ride their bikes to school and let them go out to play and explore without worry. In fact, Mom used to kick us out of the house and tell us not to come home until dinner!
If you’ve ever seen American Graffiti, you might remember the scene with the kids driving up and down the strip, because that was just what they did at night to have fun. The same thing happened in Pecos. You went out to “get a Coke” and got back home three hours later. We would circle around Al’s Drive-In, where the cool kids parked and watched the lesser vassals drive by.
You could raise horses just outside of town, and ride them into town and all around the area, because there was open land everywhere. When you got thirsty, you rode your horse through the drive-thru window at the Dairy Queen.
Pecos is famous for cantaloupes and sweet onions. My dad was always friends with farmers who gave us field privileges, so we would go out and gather cantaloupe, onions, peppers and okra. Dad and his friend would also go out and pick out a cow to butcher for our beef. We had a freezer, so we would buy a half a cow at a time.
Pecos is in a desert area and very hot in the summer. Yes, you can cook an egg on the sidewalk, but you shouldn’t eat it afterwards. When you walk out the door, it feels like you have just opened the oven to take out the turkey.
But Pecos can be very beautiful, too. You can see the Davis Mountains out on the horizon, and you feel very free standing out in the middle of nowhere. You can see things 100 to 150 miles away. When you are driving home from a way’s away and you see the water tower of Pecos, you might think that you’ll be home shortly; but no, you still have 20 to 30 miles to go. It’s just that flat! But the sunsets and sunrises are spectacular, and they last forever. You can feel like you are the only person in the world witnessing their beauty. Similarly, at night just outside of town, there are few lights, so you can see the stars like nowhere else.
Pecos is the home of the world’s first rodeo, and thousands of people flock into town every July for the sanctioned rodeo. It all begins with the rodeo parade that goes down the main highway, featuring a lot of people riding horses, as well as floats by local organizations and businesses. The rodeo lasts for four full days and nights, and, after the rodeo, there is a posse barn dance never to be missed. Dancing, flirting and drinking beer out under the stars is a lot of fun.
Next week, Michael Unterberger of Fort Worth will give us a native’s look at the Panther City, the town “Where the West begins.”