November 8, 2003

After spending a lengthy time on the phone with Michael at the Visitor Centre we decided to take the car (vs train) to Fort Worth to spend some time at the Fort Worth Stockyards.  Driving was easier than expected - Saturday - but through lots of construction.  Once parked at the Stockyards, we walked down Exchange Street (the rain had stopped - temporarily) and could hear an auctioneer's call coming over loud speakers from the Cowtown Coliseum.  

Until 1908, the annual Fort Worth Fat Stock Show was held in a variety of locations. As interest in the event increased and its educational and promotional values were realized, livestock exhibitors sought a permanent home for the show.  

The Coliseum was constructed in 1907-08 to provide such an exhibition hall.  Construction costs were borne by the Swift and Armour packing companies, and the Fort Worth Stock Yards Company, which owned the property. The stock show was held here annually for 34 years.

In we went and found a bull sale in progress.  Making ourselves comfortable in the bleachers amongst black hatted cowboys ~ the real thing ~ we got more entertainment then we bargained for.  The bull's they were selling were rodeo bound.  To show their spirit and bucking ability they were coming out of chutes with riders doing their best to stay aloft.  As an extra bonus, in the ring with these cowboys and buckin' bulls were rodeo clowns.  
Apparently in the stands was at least one "talent scout" looking for the coming year's rodeo clown roster.  Once the bull had done his thing the auctioneer would start his fast calling.  Prices, including the bucking horses ranged from $200 to $13,500.
We continued our walk taking in some of the shops, the Stockman's Hotel where many notable personalities have stayed including Bonnie and Clyde.  

Twice each day they herd Long Horn cattle through the streets of the Stockyard so we were there to take a picture.

On to Billy Bob's Bar which was once a barn but is now billed as the world's largest honky tonk. 

The old barn's auction ring is now used as a bull-riding arena within the bar and a mirrored saddle turns slowly over the dance floor.  Billy Bob's 100,000 sq ft closes down at 5:00 for an hour to prepare for the night's show ~ including a headliner (didn't recognize the name) and the indoor rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum didn't start until 8:00 so rather than sticking around for three hours ~ when we had already seen plenty of buckin' ~ we drove to the east side of Arlington (between Fort Worth and Dallas) to the Lone Star Park horse racing track complex. 
This night they were running quarter horses ~ a first for us.  The big difference between quarter horse and thoroughbred races is distance.  Quarter horse races are much shorter (250-450yds) and most are run in a straight line making pole position not as critical.  While watching, we had a very lovely buffet dinner.  Again our betting was for the most part on note pads ~ Terry's final total down, Sherrie's up.
The darkness, the rain, construction zones, busy traffic, and numerous signs showing many lane options all played a part in leading us to being in the wrong lane in Dallas and we found ourselves entering downtown.  We turned a corner and Terry said in a quiet astonished voice, "There it is."  Before us loomed the Texas School Book Depository Building and the grassy knoll of Dealy Plaza.  The road kept turning.  Making turns to get ourselves back on the freeway, we found ourselves driving over the same route that JFK's motorcade took passed by the Depository Building, down the roadway and over the spot where a bullet took the life of President John F. Kennedy forty years ago (less 14 days).  So many times we have seen that spot in pictures and on tv played over and over and over again.  It was rather unnerving to have it come unexpectedly upon our senses.  We got back on the freeway and into our room without further incident but with quiet reflection.


November 9, 2003

Not having to check out of the hotel, we spent a lazier morning than usual.  In the early afternoon we drove back to Dallas, taking the same exit we accidentally took last night.  Being Sunday, parking was plentiful.  

The sixth floor of the seven storey Texas School Book Depository Building now holds a Museum to the memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  Very well presented.  Exceptional.  An audio-tape tour takes one and a half hours but a self tour reading information boards, viewing over 400 pictures, artifacts, charts, four films (totaling 45 minutes) as well as two preserved areas of the building, most notably the sniper's perch at the sixth floor window, can take whatever time one is prepared to give.  We were there for over two hours ~ remembering an era, a week, a day, a moment in time. 
The presentation follows JFK from his election campaign through his 1000 day presidency, through that fateful day and its aftermath, with the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby's shooting of Oswald while millions watched on television and touching on the many conspiracy theories - some of which are still alive today.
The time left us exhausted.  We left the building and walked for a bit and took pictures of the controversial grassy knoll where some believe a fourth gunshot was fired; of the police building and the big gray doors that Oswald never did exit; and the Depository building itself with the sixth floor corner window left a little open.  
We walked to a little log cabin which stands apart against the modern glass skyscrapers.  The log cabin is like many that were in the area of early Dallas.  In 1839 Tennessee Lawyer John Neely Bryan chose a high bluff and shallow ford on the Trinity River as a site for a trading post.  Finding Indians scarce when he returned in 1841, he began a town, installed a ferry and called the place Dallas.
In the 1840s, the Republic of Texas opened its Central National Road which drew settlers to the Dallas area with liberal land grants.  Margaret Beeman came with her family from Illinois and her already prosperous  father staked his claim about eight miles from Bryan's town.  At age fifteen she met Bryan and they married in 1843 and became parents of six children.  Bryan tried his luck in the California Gold Fields but came home without increasing his fortune.  He donated ninety-eight city lots for a courthouse and county seat, sold his ferry and remaining interest in the town.  

The little log cabin was on the land that would become the site of the new courthouse which is now known as the "Old Red Courthouse" built in 1890-92 in the Romanesque Revival Architecture style from Arkansas gray granite and Pecos red sandstone. 

Finally we walked over to the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Monument - which has to be one of the ugliest and least meaningful structures we have ever laid eyes on.  

Tired and desiring some "down-time" we returned to our accommodations, had a bit to eat and did some journaling.


November 10, 2003

The breakfast room is just off the lobby of the hotel.  As we ate we watched as police, uniformed and plain clothes, plus a police dog came and went through the lobby.  Most of the officers were leaving the hotel as we made our way up to our room.  Looking down the hallway on our floor, we saw a police officer escorting a woman - with hands handcuffed behind her back - to the elevator.

Going north from Dallas, we crossed into Oklahoma at Gainesville and burst into a rendition of "OOOOOklahoma ..."

First stop, as usual was at the Welcome Centre where we picked up a map and brochures on both Oklahoma and Oklahoma City.  A few miles down the road we pulled into a rest stop to have a picnic and play a hand of cards, but, the wind was picking up and getting chilly, so we had a quick picnic and forgot about the cards.

Checked into accommodations on the outskirts of Oklahoma City near the State Fair Grounds.  The hotel offered a "happy hour" which we attended along with other guests.  It was about 6:45 when we drove over to the State Fair Grounds to see some of the World Quarter Horse Championships.   

Most people who have watched a rodeo know of barrel racing, where a rider has to 
keeping the barrels race around three separate barrels placed in the arena in a triangle formation ... standing and getting the best time is the aim of the competition.  Top place finishers share in $10,000 prize money plus receive ribbons, trophies and embossed leather jackets.  
We had not previously seen Team Penning which is most exciting to watch.  The object of the competition is to have three horse mounted riders cut three similarly marked calves from a herd of thirty, drive them, and only them,  to the other end of the arena and into a pen ~ all within ninety seconds.  The fastest team to pen three wins the championship and shares in $56,000 prize money and takes home fancy trophies, gifts and embossed leather jackets.  A most enjoyable evening.
As we walked back to the car, we saw that the sky was clearing and although there was a breeze, it felt warmer.


November 11, 2003  -  Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the US)

We left the car at the motel and took the tourist trolley over to the Oklahoma Stock Yards. 


Unlike the one in Texas, these yards do not cater to tourists and are more representative of the every day cattle industry.  Working our way over to the auction ring, we climbed up the stairs to the catwalk which allows potential buyers an opportunity to preview the cattle being auctioned.  

Dotted through the pens are little shacks in which cattle brokers do their paperwork.  At the appropriate time, cowboys on foot and horseback herd the cattle down a maze of alleys to the auction holding pen. 
Just before entering the ring they are weighed and then they enter the ring on the left side.  The auctioneer sits on a podium along with two record clerks.
The broker stands in the centre below the podium and behind a chest high guard wall while two handlers (each with their own guard wall) open the entry/exit doors and with flagged whips move the sale cattle around the ring and then out.  A very good experience.
After crossing back over the cat walk, we asked a couple of fellows about the process.  The older of the two, a 70-something gentleman, told us that the brokers represent numerous ranchers (sellers) and once the cattle are sold the lighter ones, usually stay around Oklahoma and Texas to be grown out to about 600-800 pounds at which time they might show back up at the auction again.  The heavier cattle, he said, were usually transported to the corn states - Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska "where they are finished off (grown to full weight), processed and put on the meat counters of the grocery store where the little misses buys it and takes it home to cook."  With amusement at such a sexist statement we listened as he talked about how he liked Canada (above North Dakota), but doesn't like North Dakota or Kansas. "I'm on my fifth wife and she's ailin'", he said.  "One of these days I'll get around to retirin' and maybe get up there to Canada again." 

We had a chance to take a quick look through one of the western wear shops (too quick to buy although prices were attractive) before catching the next trolley into the heart of the city. 

Transferring to another trolley, we viewed part of the city which was quiet on this Remembrance Day and disembarked at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Before April 19, 1995, this two-block area was a workplace for hundreds of people.  The Memorial honors the victims, survivors, rescuers and all those affected by the April 19, 1995 bombing.
A reflective pool has replaced what was once NW Fifth Street.  At both ends of the pool stand massive "gates of time". 
The east gate represents 9:01 on April 19 marking the innocence of the city before the attack.  The west gate represents 9:03, the moment all was changed.   Across the pool a field of 168 empty chairs (in two sizes - the smaller ones representing 19 children), a poignant reminder of each life lost that day.  The chairs are placed in nine rows, representing the nine floors of the building.  The chairs are place according to the floor on which those killed worked or were visiting.  By night the translucent bases are illuminated.  
An 80 year old American Elm, once surrounded by a public, asphalt parking lot, survived the impact of the explosion and a lot full of burning vehicles.  It is now known as the "Survivor Tree" and acts as a symbol of resilience .  Photographs of this tree date back to the 1920s when it stood in the backyard of a family's home.

Below the Survivor Tree and the circular terrace that surrounds it, is the rescuers' orchard.  An inscription reads: To the courageous and caring who responded from near and far, we offer our eternal gratitude, as a thank you to the thousands of rescuers and volunteers who helped."

The south wall of the Journal Record Building (pictured below right) directly faced the blast's impact and was heavily damaged.  The building was a functioning office building when the bomb exploded across the street.  Parts of the south wall were separated from the floor beams and the arched section of the building's roof was lifted up by the blast and fell to the ground, ceilings collapsed, walls fell in and glass shards flew throughout the building.  Hundred of people were injured, many critically - fortunately, no one was killed inside this building.
The jagged brick edge across the top of the wall still shows where the roof broke away from the building.  Structural repairs were made and a new roof installed, however, the south side with its broken bricks and mangled fire escapes has been left much as it looked following the bombing.  Still left upon the wall are the word's originally painted by a rescue worker during recovery efforts:
"Team 5 / 4-19-95 / We Search For the truth / We Seek Justice. / the Courts Require it. / The Victims Cry for it. / And GOD Demands it !"

There is a children's area.  During the rescue and recovery efforts, children - "countless numbers of children" - sent expressions of sorrow, encouragement and hope.  A wall of hand painted tiles sent to Oklahoma City in 1995 make up a wall to represent all who shared their feelings.  Part of this area  is a courtyard with inset black slate and available sidewalk chalk so that children that come to this memorial may continue to express themselves.  
As soon as fences were erected to protect the site, people began to attach tokens of their love, sympathy and hope.  It was at the request of the families, survivors and rescue workers that a fence be part of the memorial site, and so it is that more than 200 feet of the original fence stands today.  Already more than 50,000 mementos have been removed from the fence and preserved.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at no charge, is a CLASS A expression of the physical and emotional impact from the events of April 19, 1995 and allows the continuation of that expression.  The designer and the people of Oklahoma City are to be congratulated.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial did not, to us, feel like a sad place.  It is a place of quiet, peaceful reflection  ... a place of greater understanding, not just of the events that took place on this soil or of the lives that were lost, but understanding that we are, by the grace and help of God, resilient ... and can survive ... and through survival understand how precious each moment of breath is and understand how important to make each moment worthy. 
A Memorial Centre occupies a portion of the Journal Record Building.  The Centre is an interactive learning museum that allows a self guided  chronological of April 19, 1995 and the aftermath using pictures, artifacts, information boards, sound and film, and ends with a message for hope. 

The bomb's physical damage extended well beyond this two block area.  Hundreds of buildings in a 20 block radius were damaged.  In all, fourteen structures in the surrounding blocks had to be torn down and removed.  In most cases, new buildings have gone up and others have been refurbished.  One building that was not replaced was the Saint Joseph Old Cathedral's parish house across Harvey Avenue.  Where the rectory once stood is now a statue of Jesus, his back to the Monument, facing 168 squares (representing the 168 lives lost), his head hung and a hand over his face.  On the base it simply says "and Jesus wept".

By trolley we went to Bricktown, a part of Oklahoma City, aptly named as all the buildings are made of brick ~ 

even the streets are paved with brick - the area is home to the Bricktown Ballpark which sports a statue of Mickey Mantel .... an Oklahoma boy.  

We had planned to take a boat ride along the canal but with the inclement weather today and more predicted for the balance of the week, it wasn't running other than for pre-booked charters.  A "to-do" experience for our next time in Oklahoma City.

November 12, 2003

Left Oklahoma City and headed east on I-40 which is part of the old Route 66 from Chicago to LA (okay - we are starting to get musical again!)  We crossed over the North Canadian River (which never touches Canadian soil) and over the Chisholm Trail which was the original cattle drive trail from Texas to the railhead at Kansas City, where they would be loaded on boxcars and shipped to eastern markets.

The first part of the drive across the Texas Panhandle was rather uninspiring.- similar to crossing the Canadian prairies where one can see for miles and miles except this land was more rolling and marked with shallow meandering gulches.  However, not all people have viewed this vast, mostly empty land this way.  The Apaches controlled the Panhandle until after 1700 when Comanche, having tamed horses, were able to drive them from the region. After 1865 buffalo-hide hunters entered the Panhandle, then soldiers and settlers and ranchers and railroads.  With the slaughter of the buffalo, the Indian's power and traditional way of life was gone forever.  Where the buffalo once ranged free the Texas Longhorn now grazed.  What fences there were, at the time, were made of thorny hedges that some claimed to be pig-tight, horse-high and bull strong.  But the huge Panhandle ranches needed to fence hundreds of square miles and farmers needed better protection for there crops.   The problem was attacked by Joseph Glidden from Illinois who in 1874 invented and patented a fencing material consisting of short, sharp barbs of wire twisted around a single strand of wire.  It became known as barbed wire, a fence that was "light as air, strong as whiskey and cheap as dirt".  Never again would the open range be open. 

The first settlers to come to the Panhandle after 1875 made their homes on streams or rivers ... not the vast areas of waterless plains.   With the introduction of the windmill around 1880 water could be pumped from underground to the surface and turn the rich topsoil into flourishing farms and ranches almost anywhere on the plains. Popular crops were wheat, alfalfa, oats, corn, sugar beets and millet and, with the absence of the boll weevil, cotton became a major crop.  The prosperity of Panhandle farmers was based on what seemed a never-ending river of water below the surface. 

Today, in the Panhandle, there is a different crop being harnessed and sent to market.  On a nine-square mile site, just west of White Deer the major crop is clean, renewable electricity.  It is there, in one of the windiest locations in Texas, that eighty huge wind turbines product 80 megawatts of electricity, enough to fill the electrical needs of about 26,600 homes.  But it is not just there that you can see these 226 foot height towers with their 180 foot rotors.  Close by the visitor information centre we took this picture.  They take up so little land space that crops can still be grown or livestock still grazed and not be bothered by the soft whishing of three whirling blades ... and bonus ... they are kind to the environment and produce no pollution.  

We made two pit stops ~ one at the Visitor Centre and the other in Amarillo to refuel and buy an ice cream cone which was rather silly because today is windy (a normal phenomenon in the panhandle) and cold .... chilling cold. 

The rolling prairies turned into flat prairie country.

We stayed in Tucumcari (pronounced "two-come-kerry") ~ a popular spot for those taking Route 66.  We had dinner at Dean's, an institution in Tucumcari for around fifty years. 

Later in the evening, we wanted to get something from the car and went out to find it snowing.  Through the night and early morning the area experienced high winds, sleet, snow and thunderstorms.


November 13, 2003

Cold and raining.  No snow at the motel but as we drove westward and climbed to higher elevations (a slow climb which has the look of Cache Creek flattened by a giant's rolling pin) there were skims of snow on the roofs of old barns and against the red banks of the shallow gulches.  Shortly after we turned north on Hwy 84 towards Santa Fe, we saw a herd of Pronghorned Antelope with their distinctive buckskin and white markings.  In the distance coliseum shaped buttes were silhouetted against the far reaching steel gray sky.  By the time we reached Dilia - about the size of Spuzzum, BC, the temperature had reached 0c. 

Ground and shrubs and round shaped evergreens (the tallest reaching approximately eighteen feet) were frosted in an icing sugar coating of snow. 
Snow continued to get deeper and the branches of the round trees drooped with their new white mittens of snow and the wet road took on the appearance of a black satin ribbon tying up an early Christmas gift.  

We turned west on Hwy 25 to Santa Fe - the temperature now down to -2.5c.  The road was icy and bumpy with packed snow ~ and since this was the first time in these conditions with our new BMW, we were pleased with it's handling.  Closer to Santa Fe, the hillsides were dotted with homes - some adobe styled homes and others built with wood and some mobile homes.  As we approached Santa Fe the road crews were out and the road relatively clear. 

As we dropped in altitude down to the city, the temperature warmed a bit and the snow cover was again only a dusting.  Adobe style homes became plentiful and most seemed to be one storey (at least above ground).  As we glance in the direction of the city, we were struck by the absence of skyscrapers.  

We had dinner at Maria's, a restaurant set in a great old Santa Fe adobe landmark, which was recommended to us by the gentlemen on the front desk and indeed it was a good one.  Our waitress, Margaret, was most helpful in keeping our choices within our minuscule hot-spice tolerance. Maria's is famous for it's 100+ Margaritas (why, they even .. literally .. wrote the book on Margaritas) - how could we not.  One was enough, however, as the high altitude of Santa Fe (about 7200 feet) made one seem like three.

November 14, 2003

By midday the gray clouds had moved away leaving only a few white fluffy bits to contrast against the stunning blue sky ~ a perfect backdrop to the light terra cotta adobe style buildings of downtown Santa Fe. 

We parked near the plaza, walked past a marker for the Santa Fe trail then into the plaza itself.

In the centre is a obelisk monument.

A plaque states "Monument texts reflect the character of the times in which they are written and the temper of those who wrote them. This monument was dedicated in 1868 near the close of a period of intense strife which pitted Northerner against Southerner, Indian against white, Indian against Indian. Thus, we see on this monument, as in other records, the use of such terms as "savage" and "rebel". Attitudes change and prejudices hopefully dissolve."
Surrounding the Plaza were restaurants, shops and forming one side of the Plaza was the Palace of the Governors - the nations oldest government building still in continuous use. Under it’s wide covered walkway Indian merchants show and sell their silver and turquoise jewellery and delicately decorated pottery to a steady parade of tourists.

Santa Fe boasts the third largest collection of art galleries in the country. We strolled through many of them admiring the artistic talents of painters and sculptors and in a few cases wondered who might consider certain things art.

 Santa Fe is also home to the only museum in the world exclusively dedicated to the artist, Georgia O’Keeffe and the museum also houses a collection of 24 photographs by her husband, and artist in his own right, Alfred Stieglitz. After Alfred’s death in 1946, Georgia O’Keeffe spent more and more time in New Mexico continuing to produce her freeform paintings.
As evening came on, we were attracted to a lovely sight at the end of the street ~ the Cathedral Church of St. Francis of Assisi bathed in sunlight.   Franciscan Friars first entered New Mexico in 1598. Santa Fe was founded in 1610 and that same year the first church was built on this site. The Damiano Crucifix hanging above the Sanctuary area is an exact replica of the crucifix in Assisi, Italy that we viewed in January 2001. 
In a chapel just off the Sanctuary , there is a statue of the Virgin Mary brought to Santa Fe in 1626 by a Franciscan priest. The bronze doors are a recent addition to the Cathedral which were installed in 1986. They contain sixteen panels depicting various scenes or events in the history of Christianity in Santa Fe.

We were impressed with the beauty of Santa Fe.

The buildings, for the most part are adobe style of earthen colours. The tallest building we found was six stories - at the back because of the slope of the land - but even it did not seem large and out of place.
We finished off the evening with dinner at Zia Diner located in the historical Guadalupe District in a beautifully restored rail yard warehouse that is now on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Continue to November 15, 2003 ...