Panhandle Round 2, Day 3

The alarm we set became unnecessary…fast. A series of storm clouds had moved in to the Canadian area some time in the night and the noise of raindrops pounding on the window did the trick, waking us up. It wasn’t long before I realized what this meant for returning to the courthouse. I had visited courthouses in the rain before, but the results had been disastrous. Being this far north, I was upset that my pictures would be ruined. I could not easily return. Thankfully, we had had the inclination to do some photography last night.

We had breakfast at a small donut shop just off the Canadian square called Ma Beasley’s. It’s a true “everybody knows everybody” environment.

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I was lucky. By the time we had finished breakfast, the rain had stopped. I was given the chance I needed to finish taking the necessary pictures around the courthouse even if the ground was a bit damp. Turns out, these photos came out better than those from the night before.

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I was sad to leave Canadian, but it was time to get moving. The journey before us was going to be long a for the most part, tedious. I wanted to get slightly ahead of the clock rather than slightly behind it as had been the case the past two days.

A few miles outside of town, I looked over to my left and spotted a large iron sculpture resting above a bluff that loomed out above the highway. It was a dinosaur! We pulled over to get a couple pictures of it.

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After a little research I concluded that it was nicknamed “Aud” after Audrey, the wife of the creator. Many years ago, this local man placed  it here to act like a landmark for local children. This way, they’d know when they were getting close to home. The statue is painted black and yellow, after Canadian ISD’s colors.

Farther down the highway we entered the small town of Miami (pronounced locally as my-am-uh). The Elmer G. Withers design there is vaguely similar to the Lipscomb County Courthouse I’d seen the day before.

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I was getting tired of these Withers courthouses, not because of the way they look, but because of their tendency to place the cornerstone far above eye level. This cornerstone was no exception.

By now, every county bordering Roberts County (Miami) had been completed, so we made a quick zig-zag to the southeast and Wheeler County (#158). The county seat of Wheeler is another cattle-minded place. We passed two massive (and pungent) cattle operations on the way in.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 10.36.24 PM The courthouse in Wheeler was restored in 2004/2005 and looks very nice.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 10.36.42 PMA popular roadside stop along I-40 is the town of Shamrock in southern Wheeler County. It’s a fairly large city that plays off of its Irish name with a multitude of green buildings, etc. We passed through here next, stopping only to get a picture of the “U-Stop Inn,” a historic service station.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 10.37.31 PMI understand that a piece of the famous Blarney Stone in Ireland is forever contained within a monument at Elmer Park in Shamrock. We didn’t stop to see it.

One more county and we’d be out of the Panhandle according to its official boundaries. That county was Collingsworth, where the seat of Wellington boasts a depressing square and a Moderne courthouse. Nothing new here.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 10.38.07 PMWe headed south towards Childress, meaning that we were coming full circle. We hadn’t tackled the whole Panhandle, but we were close to completing it. In total, since July, we’d been to 20/26 Panhandle counties. Six left…

Rather than head back into Childress, we turned and took off to the southwest, Hall County bound. For the second time in three days, we were soon in Memphis. With no need to visit the courthouse, our only stop was at Love’s Travel Station to refuel. When we were ready, we left Memphis behind to pursue Turkey, Texas in the southwest corner of the county. From there, we’d head south to Matador, seat of Motley County (#160). But before reaching Matador, we made a stop in Turkey to explore the hometown of the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills.

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He was born in the town of Kosse, in southern Limestone County but raised here on a farm north of town. There were several good opportunities for pictures of Bob Wills-related sites including the Bob Wills Memorial, his tour bus (located on the side of the road downtown), and the Bob Wills Museum. A woman inside Lacey Dry Goods informed us that the museum was closed on Saturdays. Bummer. She also told us that we’d have to come back to Turkey the last week in April next year. That’s the week of Turkey’s Bob Wills Festival and she said the town of little over four hundred people swells to ten thousand. I plan on returning.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 10.39.32 PMMy stomach started acting up as we pulled into Motley County. I decided we had better eat before photographing the courthouse. Just off the Matador square was Main Street Cafe where we stopped for lunch. It looked to be fairly popular among the Matador crowd, most likely because it’s one of only three restaurants we spied in the whole town.

The pitiful Wyatt C. Hedrick design that provides justice for Motley County has been one of my least favorites to date. The design appears to be similar to the Yoakum County Courthouse in Plains, Texas not extremely far from Matador. Structurally, the building looks to be sound; I use the word “pitiful” to imply its aesthetic appeal, or in fact, its lack thereof.

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It was my turn for the wheel between Matador and the seat of Cottle County, Paducah. I drove us into downtown where a massive Art-Deco/Moderne building of brick and terra cotta greets the Paducah passerby. This is a work of Voeckler & Dixon, but you wouldn’t know by just looking at it. It doesn’t look like the rest of their Texas courthouse work.

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I took us south once more for our final courthouse of the trip: King County. This county has the second-smallest population of any county in the state (bested only by Loving County, out west). Its population is the third-smallest in the nation. This area is dominated by ranchland, specifically the Four Sixes Ranch, whose headquarters are stationed in the King County seat, Guthrie. I understand that most of the sparse citizens of the town are employed by the ranch.

In Guthrie, both the current and historic courthouses stand…right next to one another. The historic building is a simple, two-story square structure. The county converted it into a library when the modern structure was built in the eighties.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 11.03.24 PMThe current courthouse is less impressive, a single-story modern creation similar to the Baylor County Courthouse in Seymour I saw on the first day of this trip.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 11.03.04 PMWhen we finished photographing Guthrie, we took off south to get back into “familiar” territory, or at least an area we had been “courthousing” before. Stonewall County (#92) lies to the south of King County. I had been to the courthouse in Aspermont, the county seat, twice already. I remembered as I drove into Aspermont that the cornerstone of the 1911 courthouse had been preserved and placed on the current courthouse grounds. I had missed it the first two times, and now was my chance to see it.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 11.03.37 PMI have now visited and revisited the Stonewall County Courthouse more than any other during this project, and somehow all three times I have been to it, it has been closed. Once again, I didn’t get to see the interior. Maybe a fourth trip…

With no more stops, we headed south for Anson and further on to Abilene where we merged on I-20 and exited near Hood County to head home. It was a long, productive, and fun trip despite having to traverse the vast prairie of monotonic flatland that is the Texas Panhandle. At the end, I was glad to have this region of Texas behind me.


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