Lubbock, Texas is built on the Llano Estacado, an escarpment, or mesa, that is slightly larger than the state of Indiana. The landscape, described in song by James McMurtry as being “flatter than a table top”, was once covered by prairie grasses as far as the eye could see in every direction. Those who saw it and left a written record said the absence of landmarks was strangely disorienting. Most of them compared it to being at sea. Two centuries ago the only inhabitants on the land were buffalo and the Comanche Indians, who took it away from the Apaches, thus achieving the distinction of being the baddest of the bad-ass American Indians. Today most of the land that does not rest underneath towns and cities is parceled up in sections for agriculture.
In fact, one of the nice things about Lubbock today is that nobody seems to be in any kind of a rush at all. It’s a slow and easy place, prosperous and friendly. It’s a place that bleeds red and black for Texas Tech University. It’s blinding sunshine and unceasing wind. It’s a place where the horizon is black with storm clouds one minute, and the next minute it’s not. It’s a place where women you have never met before will call you sweetheart.
Something special that Lubbock did have once was a fellow named Charles Hardin Holley. The world knew him as Buddy, and he is without equal as Lubbock’s most famous citizen. In the Depot District there is a Buddy Holly Memorial and a Wall of Fame honoring him and other famous West Texans, most of them musicians. I was only five years old when The Music died, and I have no memory of him other than what I’ve seen in old film clips. I always wondered if he would have achieved the same immortality had he never boarded that plane in 1959. His music seems a bit one-dimensional to me, but then again, what do I know. His influence on people who would follow him, including Bob Dylan and the Beatles, was, by their own testimony, enormous.
Holly is buried in the city cemetery with other family members. His headstone bears the actual spelling of his family name.
On Wednesday I took a drive to Levelland. I don’t know if the town was the inspiration for the McMurtry song of the same name, but the lyrics fit well all the same. There truly is nothing but level land, far as you can point your hand.
Not ones to let all that wind go to waste, Lubbock is at the forefront of wind power research and usage. It is also home to the American Wind Power Center and Museum.
Lubbock has an abundance of pick-up trucks with cowboys behind their steering wheels; some of them real, and some of them pretending. The other night at Texas Roadhouse a man sat down at the bar next to me wearing a white Stetson and a plaid shirt with pearl-snaps and for a split second I could have sworn it was George Strait.
In 1980, Lubbock native Mac Davis wrote a song that contained the lyrics, “Happiness is Lubbock, Texas in the rearview mirror.” People who didn’t listen to the whole song assumed it was being critical of Lubbock, and it caused a bit of a dust-up. Eventually everybody came around and the city honored Mr. Davis with a place on the Wall of Fame, and also with a street bearing his name.
I was neither happy nor sad when I left Lubbock early on Friday morning. It was just time for me to go. Besides, there are no rearview mirrors on Southwest jets anyway.