Well, we're off on a family trip and it just so happens that both sides of the family live in the Texas Panhandle. So.......... from Missouri, we crossed Oklahoma, where we did just a little bit of Route 66 before making our way to our first family stop in Pampa, Texas. From there, we traveled to Amarillo, made a stop at the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas, and spent more time with family. Next morning we made our way to Palo Duro Canyon.
On the way back, we journeyed to Canadian, Texas -- beautiful scenery and a stop at the old wagon bridge over the Canadian River. We then crossed northern Oklahoma making a stop at Pawnee Bill's Ranch in Pawnee, Oklahoma. A few more photo ops on Route 66 in eastern Oklahoma before we hit Missouri and anticipated Home Sweet Home.
The first photo opportunity we took advantage of was in Eastern Oklahoma with a small slice of Route 66.
Though all of the eight states along historic Route 66 display pride in ownership of their piece of the pavement, Oklahoma seems to do it the best. Perhaps that is as it should be, given that the Mother Road was born in Oklahoma when Cyrus Avery of Tulsa conceived of the idea to link Chicago all the way to Los Angeles. Moreover, Oklahoma has more miles of the original highway than any other state, they were the first to install historic markers along the old route, the first to have a state-sponsored Route 66 museum, and ironically, the first to lose part of the original road when I-44 barreled through, dealing a deathblow to many service businesses between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Afterwards, we made our way to Old Mobeetie, Texas which has a great history as an frontier town with such characters as Bat Masterson, buffalo hunters, and soldiers. This ghost town of today started as a buffalo camp in about 1874 and was called Hidetown. The next year, a fort was built nearby which brought in numerous people to the area and the settlement was renamed Sweetwater. By 1886, the town was in its heyday and included several merchandise stores, blacksmith shops, livery stables, law and real estate offices, nine saloons, a substantial rock school building and several church organizations.
That same year, a gunfight occurred at the Lady Gay Saloon, when a soldier from Fort Elliot was disgruntled with Bat Masterson. A black-haired beauty by the name of Mollie Brennan who jumped in front of Masterson was killed, saving Bat's life. But Masterson was still wounded in the leg, leading him to utilize his famous cane for the rest of his life. The soldier was left dead.
After visiting Old Mobeetie, we hunted down the cemetery where Mollie Brennan was one of the first to be buried. It is the oldest known grave yard in the Texas Panhandle with the oldest gravestone remaining dated 1882. Other burials include outlaws, accused horse thieves, those killed by an 1898 tornado, ladies of the evening, and famed Texas Ranger, Captain G.W. Arrington.
While we were there, we met two new friends - a couple of very large fearless jack rabbits. We could approach within just about 8 feet before they would hop away to another spot. Pictured here, Dave caught them resting in the little bit of shade cast by two tombstones.
The next day we visited the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas. All in all, it was a decent museum, featuring a bunches of oil, a few cars, and a lot of frontier. But, for us, it was a little pricey at $10.00 per person, for which we would expect something like Frontier Texas at Abilene, or the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City. They also don't allow any photography in the galleries, so we didn't see them. So, we give them a B-.
Our next historic stop was Palo Duro Canyon located less than a half hour drive south of Amarillo, Texas. Here is the mysterious terra cotta badlands, dubbed the "Grand Canyon of Texas". Coming off the staked plains of the Texas Panhandle, this 60-mile-long and 800-foot-deep canyon is a surprise among these treeless plains. Surrounded by miles of open land and endless skies, visitors are amazed at the towering cliffs, banded by a myriad of colors, and the amazing rock formations carved over millions of years by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.
The second largest canyon in the United States, the term "Palo Duro” means "hard wood” in Spanish, and was named by those first explorers for the canyon's abundant mesquite and juniper trees from which the Indians made their "hardwood" bows.
The canyon was first surveyed by a military team under the guidance of Captain Randolph B. Marcy in 1852. Though white settlers were beginning to migrate to the area, the canyon remained the lands of the Indians until a military expedition led by Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie was sent in 1874 to remove them to reservations in Oklahoma. This resulted in the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon, the major skirmish of the Red River War. On September 28, 1874, Mackenzie led his Fourth United States Cavalry on an attack of the of Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne encamped in the canyon. Though the tribes had forewarning of the attack, their camps were scattered over a large area on the canyon floor and they were unable to assemble a united defense. The remaining Indians continued to fight in smaller skirmishes that autumn and winter, but in the end, the Indians were defeated and forced onto reservations in Indian Territory in 1875.
On our way home we made a stop at the old wagon bridge in Canadian, Texas. This bridge, completed in 1916 was originally 2,635 feet long and was said to be the largest steel structure west of the Mississippi River at the time. In 1923 it fell victim to the raging waters of the Canadian River which cut a new channel around the north end of the bridge necessitating an extension on the north end, making it 3,255 feet in length. Many years later, it was closed and abandoned. However, it was renovated by interested citizens and reopened in 2,000. Today it is part of a new scenic hiking and biking trail over the Canadian River Valley.
After staying the night at one of the worst campgrounds ever in central Oklahoma, we rose early to make our last stop at Pawnee Bill's Ranch in Pawnee, Oklahoma. The Pawnee Bill Ranch was once the showplace of the world-renowned Wild West Show entertainer Gordon W. "Pawnee Bill" Lillie. Visitors can tour Pawnee Bill and his wife May's fourteen-room mansion, fully furnished with their original belongings. Their dream home, completed in 1910, is filled with Lillie family memorabilia, photographs, original art work, and much more.
The Ranch property also houses a museum with exhibits related to Pawnee Bill, the Wild West Shows, and the Pawnee tribe. The 500-acre grounds include the original Ranch blacksmith shop, a 1903 log cabin, a large barn built in 1926, and an Indian Flower Shrine—all available for the public to tour. A herd of bison, longhorn, and several draft horses call the Pawnee Bill Ranch home and can often be found grazing in the drive through exhibit pasture.
And then, our whirl wind trip to Texas has come to an end and we are Home Sweet Home.
Keywords: canadian, canyon, mobeetie, museum, oklahoma, old, palo duro canyon, panhandle, panhandle-plains, pawnee, pawnee bill, texas, wagon bridge
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