Andy Wilkinson

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INTERVIEWEE: Andy Wilkinson (AW)


DATE:  October 11, 2002

LOCATION:  Lubbock, Texas

TRANSCRIBERS:  Chris Flores and Robin Johnson

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DT:  I’m David Todd and I’m here with the Conservation History Association of Texas.  We’re in Lubbock Texas at the Texas Tech campus, Southwest Collection.  It’s October 11th 2002, and we have the good fortune to be visiting with Andy Wilkinson who is a poet, a play write, a song writer, a singer, performer in—in—in many ways and has—has in much of his work shown a—a—a great knowledge and concern for the Llano Estacado and I wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

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AW:  My pleasure.

DT:  I thought we might start this interview by asking you about your early days and whether there might be a—a particular experience that might have first introduced you to interest and—and the love of the outdoors and this part of the world?

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AW: Well, I don’t know that I could pinpoint a particular occurrence.  But before we moved to town the year I started school we lived on a farm just east of here on the edge of the Yellow House Canyon.  And living on a farm and being outdoors a lot is, of course, keeps a person in intimate contact with—with what we call nature.  And then even after we moved into town I’d spend summers at the farm with my grandparents.  And even beyond that my father worked in agro business.  He worked for Anderson Clayton,

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a big oil mill here in town.  So anything that we did in our family was intimately related to crops and the growing and the harvesting and—and the markets and all that sort of thing.  So it’s hard to grow up out here if you’re paying attention and not be involved in the natural world.  I mean even though you live in town it’s—it’s—it’s so close to you.

DT:  Could you describe your grandparent’s farm and maybe the Yellow Canyon that you mentioned?

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AW:  The Yellow House Canyon?

DT:  Yes

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AW:  Well, the Yellow House Canyon there—there a—a—about a dozen canyons I guess along the rim of the escar—the eastern escarpment of the Llano.  The Yellow House is the next to the last one on the south end.  It’s the eastern portal of what the Spanish call, La Pista de be de agua, the Trail of Living Waters.  It was—a—the western edge is a town that we call Portales, the other portal.   In New Mexico and—and for as long as there have been people here, which is the end of the Pleistocene some 12,000 years ago, there’ve been people coming to this place because of the water in that canyon.

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So it’s—it’s very although it’s a—a non—sort of non-descript canyon it’s not nearly as spectacular as Palo Duro, for instance, one of the canyons to the north end of the Llano or Tule Canyon or Los Lingos Canyon.  Those canyons that are really steep and—and colorful.  Yellow House is sort of rounded and not so steep and what have you, but it’s a place that for 12,000 years has had water.  And so its history has been interesting.  And we lived on a little farm just on the southern rim of that canyon.  And it was a very little

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farm.  It was like, you know, 15 acres or 10 acres something like that, but my granddad carried the star route in the morning for the post office.  In the afternoon he would farm his little farm and he did it all by himself.  He’d have hands in it in the fall when it’s time to pick the cotton, but the rest of the time it was him.  And of course the grandsons who would go out and help chop cotton and pull peanuts and cut candy or whatever it was that he decided to plant that year.  So it was a very small outfit but in that sense it was a lot of fun for me because it was not so big, it was an onerous job, you know, so I had time to play and enjoy it.

DT:  You mentioned that—that the Yellow House Canyon has been inhabited—visited for gosh, 11, 12,000 years.  Can you give us some sort of sense of the—the course of—of human occupation in this part Texas?

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AW:  Well, the—the Yellow House is known—is well known from the archeology.  You know the—the archeology was—was begun in the 20’s.  A lot of it springs from the discovery of—of Folsom man by a black cowpuncher near Folsom, New Mexico in the 20’s.  But about that same time, work was begun at Lubbock Lake Landmark, which is part of the Yellow House Canyon, that same draw, the Yellow House Draw that is that trail that I mentioned before.  So the archeology has been done for a long time.  And—

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and with the analysis tools that they have of looking at pollen grains and camp fire sights and those sorts of things, have a very clear understanding of—of the kinds of occupation that went on here, which was a seasonal occupation, spring and fall, the times of the year that native peoples would—would—would leave where they were—what was more or less their permanent dwelling, which some people think was in Northern New Mexico. Other people think it was to the southeast of here.  In any case, they came up through here

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in migrations in the spring and fall after animals most blackly or most often buffalo.  But over different time periods a lot of different things that they would gather here; turtles, certain kinds of fish, other animals that would come to the water.  It’s particularly important during a period of time in about the middle of that 12,000-year period that was called the Alta Thermal.  It was 2,000 and if you include the—the ramp up and ramp down, you know, from the heredity maybe as much as 4,000 years of—of really true

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desert conditions.  The difference being that the Yellow House this—this draw had water during th—that time where a great deal of the Great Plains didn’t have any.  So this maintained its—its habitation over that time period.  We only—I mean we know of peoples that were here; Clovis, Folsom, First View, Plain View, Archaic, the different groups of Archaic People and the Ceramic People, people that we just know from artifacts and names that the archeologists give them.  The first people that we really know

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about in terms of identifying were what most people would call Plains Apache, which is to differentiate them from the—the various Apache tribes that are now left from the destruction of the Plains Apache by the Comanche.  And we are fairly sure that they came here around the middle of the 15th century because there was another group of peoples up in the Canadian River Valley called the Antelope Creek Peoples who built permanent dwellings up on the Canadian and they were—those dwelling were abandoned

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in the middle of that century.  And most scholars think it was because of the—the movement south of these Apa—Apachian People.  Those are the people that Coronado came in contact with in 1541 when he came through here with his thousand strong people and horses and what have you.  In fact, they came—they came back through La Pista de be de agua when they left the place that they stayed that summer, the Big Troop, which

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was the next canyon north, Blanco Canyon, the place that the natives called Kona.  Any case, these people were—were probably the Apache.  There are also a people that may have come up here, although the book is still open on that, people called the Jumanos.  We know that Jumanos lived south of here—a good deal south of here.  But the very first Europeans who were likely to have seen this area were before Coronado.  That was Cabeza de Vaca and his black companion Estebad who came up after their nine year

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ordeal being ship wrecked on the Florida Coast.  And—and they got as far—some scholars believe at the Southern end of the Llano.  And they were the guest of what we think were the Jumanos.  Any case, middle of the 16th Century Coronado comes across the—these Apacian People.  There were a number of other entradas into the plains by the Spanish over the years.  But it was kind of ignored for a time because the Spaniards as we know—well know bit off a lot more than they could chew burea—bureaucratically and

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financially.  And so they had a tough time trying to maintain their toehold.  The next big change out here was in about 1700 after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, when—which is when most people think that Native Americans on the plains got the horse.  I mean the—it was the time that the Spanish were forced out of Northern New Mexico.  They were gone for a full decade before they w—were—to fight their way back in, but by this time horses and horse technology was being spread across the tribes.  By the end of b—b—by

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20 years later, by about 1700, tribes all the way to the Sabine in Texas had the horse and knew how to use it.  It’s astonishing. By 1750, so within 70 years, mounted natives were seen as far as north of the Canadian Rockies.  It’s an incredible disbursal of technology.  What is important for us out here is that around 1700, a small group of Utes, an offshoot of the Utes called the snake people who live in the southern part of central Wyoming, Northern Colorado, got the horse.  And we—they became known as the

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Comanche from the Ute word Komats, which means those who are always against us.  They were, I guess, were scrappy from the start.  But they unlike most tribes and most people in fact who used the horse up to that time in north America, the horse was a—a way to transport you to a place to do whatever you were going to do.  The Comanche rethought that the horse was what they were, what they lived.  And so they—they were—they were in every sense of the word nomads.  They lived on the horse.  They moved

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south.  They became very wealthy in their own way of thinking of wealth in terms of having horses and having buffalo because now they could hunt buffalo in ways that they never could before.  And their numbers grew and they—they moved onto the Llano in about 1700 and within—by 1750 there were no more Apaches here.  It was an incredible change.  Three hundred years of Apacharia now becomes something else entirely.  It also—the Comanche had a big impact on the history of the west besides our history.  But

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what they mainly did was keep this area isolated because they were so difficult.  They were very war like.  There—there was no such thing as a Comanche raiding party, for instance, all Comanche parties were raiding parties because they lived on their horses.  You know they the—the tr—the—the—the tribal group moved with their horses and so they were always ready to fight, ready to hunt, it didn’t make any difference.  It kept it—it really kept the Spanish from solidifying their hold on the Llano and it drove a wedge into their holdings in the west.  You know New Mexico over here, the south part of Texas

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over here.  Then when English Anglos moved in they faced the same thing.  Although they were a little bit different because they were individuals and not governmental entities moving in they had a more success, but still very difficult thing.  So you had the Llano, which is a place where no one lived year round, you know, for these 12,000 years.  And even the Comanche had various name for it.  Dan Forrest, one of his collections of essays is called the Horizontal Yellow, which is one word that the Comanche had for it

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because of the—course the color of our grass.  I—I for one was about 14 before I realized grass was supposed to be green.  You know that—I thought it was always yellow.  They also called it the place where no one lives, the Llano.  So that you had this essentially untouched—place that was untouched except for little periods in the spring and the fall.  And those hunts tended to be more toward the canyons and off the edge of it then up on top of it.  So it’s—it’s—it’s a very interesting history to me.  A history of—of a place

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where nothing every really happened except this enormous litany of routine daily life until the Comanche were defeated.  And when Ranald Mackenzie—and actually they—they weren’t defeated in the sense of a battle.  Mackenzie never did whip Quanta Parker in a Quahati band of the Comanche who were the ones who lived up here.  But after he took their horses and mules in the battle of Palo Duro Canyon in the winter of 1874, killed all the horses and mules just south of there at Tule Canyon the next day.  This was

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a time when the Buffalo hunters were actually beginning to really step up their killings of the herd.  Here this most warlock of the Comanche tribes was without transportation. Mackenzie also burned a lot of their tee-pees, destroyed much of the food they had their in their camp and killed their horses and mules.  So it was the next summer that they turned themselves into the reservation.  And from that time forward people began to move into the—to the Llano.  The first permanent settlements in the Yellow House

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Canyon, for instance, were settlement by George Causey, the Buffalo hunter in the winter of 1877.  And by a couple of shepherd’s, White Anglo shepherd’s, who built stone corals in the—in the eastern edge of the Llano so that same year.  So it’s—it’s this long, long history of nomadic people but very constant traversing of the area.  So sort of a—a—I—I like to think of it as a—an epic of the ordinary.  You know this ordinary life that goes—has been going on here for such a long time.

DT:  Can you tell me if the Native Americans that occupied this area had any significant kinds of ways of altering the landscape?  I understood in some portions they—they burned…

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AW:  Well I…

DT:  Is that the case here?

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AW:  I think that the—I think the contemporary view of Native Americans and their connection with the great plains, generally, and would include the southern end of the plains here, is that they—they burned fairly often as a way of driving buffalo and antelope and other game in a way that they that could capture them, especially before they had the horse. So that is, I’m sure, that had some impact here, just the—their impact on the buffalo.  Flores, for instance, and several others are convinced that the Comanche

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pressure on Buffalo numbers was such that even without the White hunters, at some point, that increased ability to take the buffalo both because of their—they were now mounted and they also had arrows that were tipped with metal now instead of flint, which were easier to reuse and they were—they were cheaper; a lot of things that made them more useful.  That—and also because of buffalo is—is a unique species and it doesn’t have a self-regulating birth control like a lot of animal groups do.  Bison numbers are

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governed by how many bison there are and—and do they die before they have—have more bison.  You know, what—what’s the—what’s the food like and—and we know that out that out here they—even during that period of time you can say we—we have this trend of dry temperate climate.  But within that trend we have enormous var—variations out here on the—because of the altitude and because of the dryness.  You know that little changes have—have big impact in a place like this.  So buffalo numbers were always sort

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of in a sense sort of critical, you know.  If in a year or a time of four or five year’s worth of drought, which we know is a very difficult circumstance here, and numbers are down and hunters come in and take the best reproductive parts of that group, then you have a group of animals that are always on the edge of not necessarily extinction, but certainly on the edge of having a serious problem in—in keeping their numbers up.  So Comanche—they were such good hunters and—and they were growing in number that

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they had made a huge impact on the buffalo themselves.  As to the Llano itself, because there was so little permanent—well, there were no permanent occupiers of it, I—I think we probably had a better idea of the Llano as it was for the last, oh, at least 10 or 12,000 years that we know people have been since the ice age has probably been very much the same.  You know it hasn’t changed a whole lot.

DT:  Do you have any idea of—of what the impression of this area was when—when western settlers first came?

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AW:  Scared them to death.

DT:  What was it that was so pervading about this area?

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AW:  Well, there are no trees.  There’s nothing but sky and ground and the wind blows and—and gosh, to read Castaneda’s journals and journals of others from Coronado is—is to see men who were—were—is nothing like they’d ever seen before, you know.  Castaneda said we can—we can march through the grass and the grass springs up behind us in our—even our—it even swallows up our footprints.  We can sit down and we look around and all we see is a bowl of earth and sky.  W—w—we have no idea where were

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going how we got there, how we get there.  And so it was—it was—and plus you’re on a place with no water.  I mean you do have if you know where to find it on La Pista de be de agua you can find water.  But the rest of the Llano you don’t find anything.  Seasonal playa lakes, but that water becomes undrinkable very quickly because animals tromp through it.  It evaporates, becomes bracky, sometimes very salty.  So its—its—it’s a dangerous place if you don’t have—if you don’t know where to go to get water.  There

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was a rock I think, yeah, it was a rock that was found near Yellow House Lake, which is up by present day Little Field the Yellow Houses formation there.  And the rock allegedly had written on it nine miles to water, three miles to hell.  That was the—that was the way people thought about it and really there weren’t people who were very interested in this land until after the Comanche.  And then of course cattle went—the first group to actually come through here were the Pastories, from Northern New Mexico.  Without the threat of the Comanche they—they could move their herds of sheep down along here but it—but they were—it was a—they had a system called the Transumante System of—of moving sheep from one pasture to another depending on the season of the year.  So they weren’t permanent settlers here either.  They built stone corals, places to put their sheep, but they—they would also take them back out.  Cattlemen moved in—in the 1870’s like they did all over the western part of Texas.  But on the Llano even the cattlemen saw right

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away that this land was a little bit different because it had much better soil.  There weren’t any trees, there were no stumps to plow, no rocks to pick up and they looked at it and said this is farming country.  And in fact the very first farms out here—among those first farms were ranchers who were beginning to break out the land and experiments.  The—the diff—the ranches in this end of the Llano were among the first to experiment with—with crops in the—in the 1880’s 1870’s.

DT:  What were some of the early crops that they tried?

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AW:  Sorghum, they—they tried cotton early on.  Cotton yo—you could imagine cotton, cotton and tobacco would have been probably the principal cash crops in America then.  Most others crops would have been geared toward consumption in local areas.  But cotton and—and tobacco would be the kinds of crops you could grow and sell for money.  You know because they—there was an international trade in that right from the start.  So they were not slow in picking up the—the potential of a place like this that had you know

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soil that built up over a million years of—of time.  The Llano is geo—geologically unchanged for at least a million years.  You know, it’s not been subject to the same—to the volcanism and the uplifting that say the Rockies and the Sangre de Cristos have.  Once the Pecos River cut off the watershed of the—the Proto Brazos, you know, the Brazos that used to run across this land.  Now it has it has its headwaters here, but it used to run

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across this land.  The Pecos River cut off that source of water and so when it did it left this 150-mile long, 140-mile wide chunk of flat land sticking up by itself.  So what was there to alter it, you know, not much.  So it—but the wind in particular built up soil on top of the Yano.  And so it—it had this great layer of soil unlike a lot of the land out here in—in Texas.  I mean you look at Texas ranch land and it’s mostly marked by things that

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live in places with no soil like greasewood and mesquite and it’s chock full of rocks and it’s dam difficult to grow anything.  Well here, you know, it was this paradise for farmers.  You know, put a plow in it, there’s nothing to stop it.  You know, so it very quickly, the southern end especially of the Llano became—became farming country.

DT:  How did the landscape change as—as farmers came to cultivate the land?

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AW:  Well, gosh you know, the grass disappeared.  And where there was grass because we—once we move into a place we don’t like it to burn, you know.  So the grass winds up being replaced by mesquite and other things because the—the grass of course is—is benefited by fire and not—not harmed by it.  It—the grass really lives below the ground, you know we just see part of it sticking up.  And fire does away with shrubbery, woody

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shrubs and trees, but the grass comes back.  And not only that a lot of what was in the grass st—stays now in the ash and is—comes back in the soil to be used again.  So fire and also we know now from studies of ruminants like buffalo, in particular, a lot of this is—forms a basis for holistic resource management techniques and managing rangeland.  We know that the—the buffalo and other grazing animals did thi—sort of the same thing is they fire by eating the grass to the ground and then moving on and trampling, keeping the ground porous and their…

DT:  Hoof action?

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AW:  Hoof action and then by fertilizing it with they’re own solid waste.  So the grass and—and the buffalo, the ruminants, the grass, and the fire, all those things were symbiotic.  So once we move in here, especially to live in here, you know full time, we plow up the grass then everything changes.  Erosion and soil erosion now where we had hardly any erosion, I mean this place is flat.  What happen when water falls out here?

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Well, it puddles up and we call them playa lakes.  They’re just big puddles, you know, across this flat expanse.  The few rivers—I mean the—the Colorado, the—Brazos and—and the Red all have headwater sources on the Llano, but they don’t impact the Llano as a whole.  They’re just the canyons along the edge.  So you have this big flat place not likely to have any soil erosion to speak of, unless you take away the cover and now you

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have soil erosion.  So we’ve been changing the Llano by letting the soil disappear.  We’ve been changing it by taking away one of the other great resources, which is something that was discovered early on.  That is that while there may not be any rain or surface water to speak of, there’s a whole lot of water underground because this is the southern end of that huge aquifer called the Ogallala that goes up all the way up into Nebraska.  Ours isn’t as shallow as it is in Nebraska, for instance, particularly in the sand

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hills, you know, where you can stick a shovel in the ground and watch it fill up with water.  You know we have to drill a ways but its still—there’s still a lot of water down there.  And once we began tapping into that and irrigating, of course, then we’ve—we’ve changed not only the surface of the Llano, but we’ve changed what’s underneath as well.  Because we’re using up what essentially is fossil water, you know, water that was—that found its way to that aquifer over a long period of time and beginning a long time ago.

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Surface recharge, we’re now finding is a little faster than people thought in the 50’s, you know.  By now, 2002, we were supposed to have run out of water in the Ogallala.  It hasn’t been as quick as we thought, although, it’s still—it’s inevitable at—at the rates of consumption because were growing things like cotton and milo and corn, things that use enormous amounts of water.  They require incredible amounts of water.  And there’s only one place to get that.  That’s to dig it up, you know.

DT:  You mentioned earlier that—that since cultivation started we’ve had a good deal of soil erosion in this area and—and I suppose that gets aspirated when there’s—when there’s a drought.  I was wondering if you could tell anything about the—the dust bowl days here that you might have heard from your parents or grandparents who…

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AW:  Well…

DT:  lived through it?

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AW:  You know everybody that—who has grandparents of that age hears the stories about it.  There’s some—plus there’s some great books about it.  First hand relations of what happened in Black Sunday, for instance, and what—what these black northers look like when they roll through.  But from first hand experience we had a drought in the early 50’s, about 1952, 51 or 52 through 1956 or 7 depending on where you were when it started.  That was worst than the drought of the 30’s.  It was a dust bowl.  The—the

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big difference was that farmers knew now a lot more about how to take care of the land than they did in the 30’s.  You know we had a real spike in population in the 20’s.  There was this idea that rain followed the plow.  That once people moved in it—it rained more in an area.  People, you know, they—they could file on 40 acres, which in Iowa would support you but out here, you know, four sections may not support you much less 40 acres.  And so we had this enormous influx of people in the 20’s who over planted, over

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grazed, and then when the—the dust bowl—when the drought really came in, the land was completely vulnerable to the action of—of the wind, and—and—and the—and the dry weather.  It wasn’t as bad in the 50’s, but we still had lots of sand.  I remember as a child on this same farm, the dust storms would come in.  You could see them coming.  You’d go—your mom would take you in the house and say lets play cowboys and Indians or cowboys and bank robbers and that was a—a her excuse to wet a cup towel and tie it around your face, you know, in a little bandana sort of thing to keep the—the

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dirt out of your nose and mouth.  And even into the 60’s when I was a sack boy at the Piggly Wiggly Store here in Lubbock, we had a dust storm so bad that dust the blew around the corner and piled up on the automatic door opener and you couldn’t get the door to shut because the dirt was piled up on it.  We had to shovel the dirt off to be able to get the doors to shut.  So it’s a—it’s not been all that long ago that we—we still had a lot of sand, lot of dust storm problem out here.  And we always will have some.  I mean

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there’s plenty of land around here that the dust will kick up.  And if you think about the alta-thermal, you know, some 4,000 years ago when—when you had 2,000 years worth of drought you can’t imagine that over that length of time that—that the land wouldn’t change or at least be affected by that.  We just sped it up a little bit by taking the grass off.

DT:  Maybe you could bring us up to modern day times and—and talk a little bit about what’s happened in the last 20 years ecologically around here.  I understand that—that some of the cotton fields have gone back towards grass.  I’ve…

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AW:  Yeah.

DT:  mentioned earlier changes that you’ve seen.

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AW:  Yeah.

DT:  Can you talk about some of that those…

AW:  Well…

DT:  changes?

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AW:  They have.  I mean people are developing, you know, farmers—farmers and ranchers aren’t interested in debilitating their land, their ranges.  I mean they want to do the right thing.  But you got to remember that ranching, for instance, as an industry is scarcely 130 years.  I mean we’ve had husbandry and the raising of animals for, you know, since we domesticated them thousands of years ago, but the—the notion of ranching as—as we think of it began after the Civil War.  You know there weren’t

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ranches before that.  There were stock farms and there were people who raised animals, but we didn’t have the idea that we have now of ranching and the whole way of managing a ranch.  And how do you deal with getting enough cattle on a place o—o—on a pretty fragile ecosystem especially as—goes to grass and water.  How do you manage that effectively so that you can make a living and you don’t ruin your land?  Well, it took a lot of educating; it took a lot of learning.  So there’s a curve that’s still going on for

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farmers and ranchers so you see some benefits of the—the—the recent years.  The difference is I think or the problems we have are less so much of a lack of science or knowledge as they are of a lack of understanding of political process.  For instance, we have—if you want to think about it corn i—is—is—is grown not for consumers, but for corporations because corn is used as feed for animals that are later sold or it’s used to create sugar.  And we—we live in a country that’s—that runs on sugar, you know.

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It’s—it’s sad but it’s the case and so we’re growing and we’re growing a cotton out here that—that really no one wants.  We’re growing a cotton that’s a short staple cotton.  It’s used in denim and velvet and was used in bomb making during the Vietnam War.  But China who used to be a big customer of cotton from this area now is a net exporter of cotton.  We finish every year cot—every cotton season that we finish wh—whatever we’ve ginned and bailed up we have that much left on the floor as they stay in storage.

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So we always have about a years worth of supply, tough to keep prices up.  And the whole issue of how you manage something like agricultural production where you—you—you know there’s a—especially in a—in a free enterprise society like ours where we expect people to make their own decisions.  Yet you know that if everybody plants cotton this year, price is going to go to hell in a hand basket, you know.  How do you let farmers know that well, maybe you shouldn’t plant quite so much cotton?  So you have different programs.  Programs now govern a lot of what happens—the government

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programs.  The CRP, The Conservation Reserve Program, which put land—less productive land back in the grass, has been a great thing, I think, because its taken marginal land out of production and putting it back to some kind of grass, which is—is least it—it may not fix what’s broken, but it quits breaking it more.  You know, it—it at least puts a halt to—to the kinds of usage.  The other thing is that we’re—we’re we use a lot more chemical today then we’ve ever used.  We use chemicals before we plant, we

00:36:15 – 2237

use chemicals after we plant, we use chemical while the—while the plant is growing to either make it grow better or to kill things that are harming it.  And then we use chemicals to get it ready, especially in the case of cotton, to get it ready to harvest.  You know it’s a—it’s a wonder to me that a farmer even with government help can make any kind of money, you know, when you look at the—the cost of—of doing business.  The seed is expensive.  They—now we have depending among which sabre-rattling is going

00:36:47 – 2237

on where the price of the—the petroleum, which petroleum creates a whole lot of these chemicals.  I mean it’s the base for a lot of the chemicals.  It also drives the tractors and the airplanes that spray the chemicals and so—so you have all these things that are happening that are part of and parcel of our society, generally speaking, but that have a very specific impact on rural areas, on agricultural areas.  So those things are—we don’t know what the affect of those things is yet.  I mean we—we—we expect that it’s not good, we think that it’s not good, but we—we don’t have much experience with it when

00:37:27 – 2237

you get right down to it.  The other thing is water.  We’re using up water and now we have people like Boone Pickens who want to buy the water and sell it.  So—and—and we don’t reuse water.  We have very little water recycling that’s done out here.  There’s great opportunities.  We—w—w—we understand the science for recycling and being able to use that water more and more times than one, but we don’t do it.  You know it’s been

00:37:54 – 2237

cheap and easy up to now.  So that’s—that’s a change.  We’re really seeing a—a difference.  We—where as before I would hear people talk about the potential.  Now I hear farmers say, I’ve lost wells.  I mean I have wells now that aren’t productive.  I can’t use them.  And I’ve never heard that before until the last, you know 3 or 4, 5 years.  So you know we’re making changes.  I mean we’re having an impact on it but exactly what they are it’s—it’s hard to say.

DT:  Well you’ve given us a wonderful history and explanation of—of some of the cultural and ecological history of—of the Llano Estacado.  I—I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about how you came to be a—a creative artist and—and tell us some of these stories not just in pros as you have done so far with us, but as a poet or as a singer or as a play write.  How did you get into this business?

00:38:57 – 2237

AW:  Well, it’s an odd journey.  But I’ve wanted to write and write music in particular since I can remember, you know, four or five years old.  And it would have seemed that someone going to high school in the 60’s, you know, would have been the ideal time with all that was happening culturally in America and really in the world at that—in those years with regard to music especially.  But it was—it was never a thing that people advanced as a way to make a living, you know.  Sure you can play the guitar or sure you

00:39:36 – 2237

can write that’s nice.  Now what are you going to do for a day job?  And I happen to just by accident fall into police work.  I was dating a girl that I later married and still my wife.  Her father was police chief.  I was working at the grocery store and going to Texas Tech   and I think I was making a $1.15 an hour.  And these jobs opened up on the police department where I could be—work in the jail or operate the radio, some things like that and I would be making like almost $4.00 an hour and I could work at night and still go to

00:40:15 – 2237

school.  It was like, oh, this is cool.  So I took the job.  And remember distinctly telling my wife on a date, I hope your dad didn’t expect me to be a cop, you know.  Remember this is the 60’s.  But white boy from the middle class part of town gets plunged into the world of whores and pimps and burglars and murders and armed robbers and wife beaters and winos and—and all this incredibly interesting flotsam and jetsam of—of—of the

00:40:50 – 2237

culture and it was—it was—it was—it just took you over with the excitement of learning something new.  And before I knew it I’d quit majoring in English Literature and I was now a Sociology Major and I became a policeman.  And I—I did that for 12 years.  I left here after I got my degree and went to Lakewood, Colorado, which had this wonderfully

00:41:13 – 2237

progressive police department.  I moved up through the ranks so when I got out of it I was a lieutenant, which wa—in that department was an upper level management position.  It was real interesting work it a—a—and I think very much related to art in the sense that the artist is always this schizophrenic combination of insider and outsider.  You have to be an insider to understand that about what you’re doing your art.  But you have to be an outsider in that you’re willing to step up and say what you think and what you see.  It’s 00:41:51 – 2237

the same issue in police work, which is why people, generally speaking, don’t really like policemen very much and they don’t really like artists very much.  They admire artists, they admire policemen, but people are always a bit nervous about you as an artist.  You know if—if I’d talk to you and tell you what I think you’re likely to write a story or a song about that.  Or I’ll see my words pop up in some dialogue somewhere.  So I think it was sort of a—a good—a good training when you look at it.  Plus living on the street

00:42:22 – 2237

learning to listen to people if—if you’re any good at—at a job like that you develop a very good ear.  And that—that has been a lot of help to me.  And you also learn to listen.  The way that you get people to talk to you if you’re a policemen if you want them to tell you whether they did something or not; how they did it; where to find the other people, all that sort of stuff.  The way you are successful is by being a sympathetic listener because human—human beings want to talk.  No one wants to keep a secret.  People hate secrets, you know, it kills them.  Crooks are the same way.  They want to tell you what they did.  Most of the time they’re proud of it or they’re ashamed of it.  They want to get

00:43:06 – 2237

it off their system.  But if you’re a good listener then you’re a good cop.  If you’re a good listener you’re a good writer.  You know, when I write in a women’s voice or write in the voice of a Comanche or the voice of a soldier or cavalryman or the voice of a rancher or cowpuncher or somebody, I have to be able to—to listen to what those people are saying or were saying at some time and be able to use that.  It’s—it’s the same sort of technique.

00:43:36 – 2237

So I don’t think they were so far apart.  Now the problem was that I got out of police work because I wanted to write.  And—but I didn’t have the guts to just quit and do it.  So I went to work with my father brokering agricultural commodities and then I moved from that into financial instruments.  I wound up being a Regional Vice President for a big investment banking firm out of Manhattan.  And after the Stock Market crash of ‘87 they fired our whole division.  Then I—I on my resume it says I was a consultant that

00:44:10 – 2237

Means of course you’re out of work, you’re looking for something to do.  But I wound up being—going to work in the telecommunications industry.  And—and when I finally quit and said to hell with it and got rid of the three piece suits and decided that I—if I was ever going to do art for a living I had to do it now.  I’d just turned 42 about to turn 43

00:44:29 – 2237

I guess and I was a Chief Financial Officer of this small company in the telecommunications business, a job that I hated.  An industry that was where all the tin siding salesmen had moved, you know, after deregulation.  It was a—it was awful.  It was the kind of thing you didn’t want to admit to as a job at a cocktail party.  You know, and I got tired of—for my whole working life saying, well, I’m a policeman, but I write, I’m—I’m a—work for an investment bank, but I write, you know.  So it was high time to do that and fortunately I was in such a desperate position that—that I was able to.  It wasn’t courage, you know, it was desperation that led me to it.

DT:  Did you have any teachers or mentors that helped the segue happen?

00:45:22 – 2237

AW:  I wish to hell I had of.  I sure wish I had.  It’s—it’s not a—you can have role models and you can have people that you admire and those are the things that are really important, but there—there ain’t no yellow brick road for the arts.  You know you—every person, every artist has a unique story.  And you start learning all these unique stories and you realize I, you know, I can’t follow any one of those.  My story is going to have to unfold on its own, but by focusing on people who had thought about their art and

00:46:02 – 2237

about their progress in the arts.  I mean, for instance, every artist should read Rilke’s, Letters to a Young Poet.  Every artist should read Louis Hides book, The Gift.  There are a number of things like that that let you understand the ethic and the—the general function of creativity. Jacque Maritain book, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, wonderful description of how cre—creativity works.  And if you—if you—if you do pay attention to those things, at least gives you a little bit of ability to see what’s happening with you and then it gives you the courage to let your art find its own way.  I mean when

00:46:46 – 2237

I started doing this I was singing the songs that I’d written, making records, trying to sell records of the music and hoping to get a big hit, you know, somebody to cut a record and so you could live—live on easy street.  But I wind up writing a play by accident and I liked it.  I liked seeing my words come alive on stage with somebody else doing them.  And I especially liked writing it and someone else having to remember it.  That was a really good thing, but what—what a great medium, what a great way to tell a story.  A

00:47:23 – 2237

play is a whole other thing.  So I started doing that and then I wound up writing a musical about this same Yellow House Canyon.  I’m getting ready to sign an agreement to write another musical for our new amphitheater in Mineral Wells.  I—who would of thunk it, you know, especially plays.  I had never in my wildest imagination thought of writing a play.  I was never in—I mean I love watching them, but I was never wanting to be an actor.  I don’t have any interest in that.  Why would I write a play?  Well, because that’s 00:47:54 – 2237

the way my yellow brick road wound up going.  So you have to, you know, just have to be able to be open to that and know what it is that you want to do, which in my case is I want to say something about the world.  I want to talk about the history of this place and this people and let people see the lessons that they can get from that from what’s happened to us.

DT:  I’d like to hear.

00:48:19 – 2237

AW:  Okay.

DT:  Is—is there…

00:48:21 – 2237

AW:  After all this talk?

DT:  …poetry that you would like to read or would you like to read us…

AW:  Well uh…

DT:   …playscript?

00:48:26 – 2237

AW:  Let me do a song and then I’ll read a poem.  This is a song about—about the Llano and about the farming and about how it came it be that, so.

(He is playing his guitar)

El Llano Estacado stands a mountain high and dry.

It turns away the lesser man who fears the open sky and all who thrive on greenery.

It drives the best insane.

El Llano is a certainty of promises of rain.

Storms they build up over us.

They clatter all around.

But the rain falls east of us when crops are in the ground.

There is no balm in Gilead,

But on the staked plains God anoints the farmers head with promises of rain.

My granddad saw a Goshen land.

No tress, no rocks to clear.

He bent his back and scraped his hands and

00:50:14 – 2237

got by year by year until the dustbowl broke his heart

but stubborn he remained practicing the farmer’s art of promises of rain.

Storms they built up over him.

They clattered all around.

But the rain fell east of him when crops were in the ground.

There is no balm in Gilead,

but on the staked plains God anointed granddads head with promises of rain.

So daddy did it differently.

He modernized his yields with chemicals and subsidies and irrigated fields.

Politics drove up the cost,

drove prices down the drain

00:51:36 – 2237

till mired in debt my daddy lost his promises of rain.

Storms they built up over him.

They clattered all around.

But the rain fell east of him when crops were in the ground.

There is no balm in Gilead,

but on the staked plains God anointed daddy’s head with promises of rain.

This land was made for buffalo, for cactus and blue stem.

It was not made for planted rows or banks or governments.

But I’m a farmer by my lot

next year runs in my veins

born to plow the prairie side with promises of rain.

Storms they build up over me.

00:52:56 – 2237

They clatter all around.

But the rain falls east of me when crops are in the ground.

There is no balm in Gilead,

but on the staked plains God anoints the farmers head with promises of rain.

God anoints the farmers head with promises of rain.

DT:  Thank you.

00:53:45 – 2237

AW:  So there’s a song about how odd it is to be a farmer out here.  It’s sort of natural and sort of not.  But any case it’s the—it’s the water that makes the difference, the water and the soil.  So this is a piece that I wrote—I think I told you earlier when we were talking ahead of the—before we got started that—that was—it’s actually—was published as a magazine article about the crisis of water here on the Llano.  It’s called, Mining the Mother Lode.

00:54:27 – 2237

We are the tribe of the mother lode aquifer.

Twelve hundred centuries, nomads have traveled here

making their camps in the spring and the fall

seeking shelter in canyons and washes and swales,

building hearths of caliche and hunting and gathering

life that collected where water empowered it.

Even when drought plagued the prairie atop of it,

water welled up from the sweet Ogallala Lake

all along Yellow House Draw to the Canyon land

nourishing passers-by, nomad and animal

nourishing all who tread lightly and carefully.

00:55:01 – 2237

Here in the land of the mother lode aquifer

rains unpredictable even in good seasons.

Never enough but for grasses and buffalo

never enough but for seasonal wonderers.

Never enough for the dwellings of permanence

needed for farming and ranching and industry.

Never enough for the chambers of commerce.

Rain can’t be entrusted to God and the elements

not by the tribe of the mother load aquifer.

00:55:32 – 2237

Deep in the earth

through the rocks that encumbers it,

down to the water sand,

down to the water peg,

dig down with drilling rigs,

lay in the well casing,

thrust in the sucker rod,

pull it out, let it come

drawing the water up,

drive it with wind power,

drive it with gasoline,

drive it electrically,

pumping and pumping and pumping

till water runs shining in furrows

and sparkling on summer lawns,

spewing through towers for cooling

the gas flaring coal smoking power plants.

00:56:00 – 2237

Making more energy, pumping more water,

more water all over the land of the mother lode aquifer.

Here are no headwaters.

Little replenishing what we are draining.

So little restraining how much we are using and how we are using it.

Here the great lake of the plains subterranean dwindles each season,

each turn of the faucet, each flick of the switch

starting up the submersibles, dwindling down ditches through siphon tubes,

dwindling down side rolls and pivots and gated pipe,

dwindling down water gaps, water mains, water taps,

00:56:36 – 2237

water drains dwindling down every new housing development.

Dwindling until there are farms metamorphosing

once irrigated to dry land and grass pasture.

Letting their silos stand empty as metaphor

testament future shock here in the present tense

frail to either fragile the mother lode aquifer.

Ample enough is this waste of our own making.

Here where we once believed rain followed plow,

believed boosters, promoters and huckster developers.

hitched up our wagons, to forty small acres

00:57:11 – 2237

plowed fence row to fence row with cash crops on bank notes.

Built churches, raised children and sent them to colleges.

Sent them to wars, sent them out of the hinterlands,

sent them to places that never relinquished them.

Here from the land of the mother lode aquifer

people are leaving for jobs in the popular cities

or leaving as victims of bottom line corporate discounters

driving off businesses started by yours and my mom and pop grand parents.

Corporate farmers replacing the family’s,

swashbucklers slashing and cutting

efficiency chanted as mantra while nobody is answering,

00:57:50 – 2237

who will take care of the mother lode aquifer?

Fear lines our pocketbooks.

Fear comes in quarter inch 4×8 plywood sheets nailed over windowpanes.

Fear grows in weeds in the sidewalks of vacancies.

Fear breeds a desperate bargaining.

Jobs.  Bring us jobs. Bring us jobs.

Bring us jobs.  Bring us anything.

Bring us the worst of your waste

and your prisoner radioactive and toxic,

the detritus social and otherwise flushed from the gutter pipes

laid from the centers of power and influence.

Aimed at the weak, at the people of choicelessness.

00:58:28 – 2237

Stumbling around in the waste not their own making,

waste that will poison the mother lode aquifer.

Ample enough is this come-hither beggaring

pleading abasing ourselves with our appetites.

Worse still, the mother lode aquifers guardians shockingly favoring

selling our water rights, falling to pitches from old fashioned renegades.

Now a days using computers for running errands.

Now a days using their lawyers for wire cutters.

Now a days throwing out sound bites for lariats.

Bullying water boards into considering

00:59:01 – 2237

selling our life blood, low bid, not worrying

selling tomorrow to pay for today.

Selling every last drop of the mother lode aquifer.

What will become of us when we are waterless,

we of the tribe of the mother lode aquifer,

nomads and wanderers rooted by water wells.

Cities and homesteads and farmlands and cattle spreads,

everything other than short grass and buffalo

wholly dependent on mining the mother lode.

Far away, far away where rain is plentiful

year end and year out and always predictable.

Learned professors have studied the exodus made by our people,

00:59:40 – 2237

our water, our resources, calling our depopulation a certainty

saying, why fight it?

Lets recognize lost causes when they are lost causes.

Let’s give the prairie back, back to the ruminants, back to the grasses.

Let’s give us a home where the buffalo roam.

Where the skies are not cloudy all day,

after day, after day, after day

where the antelope seldom are heard

for there’s no one to hear the discouraging word

when the commons belong to the buffalo.

01:01:08 – 2237

Crazy, say chambers of commerce,

but who’s crazy now as we drink up our mother lode aquifer,

now as we poison our mother lode aquifer,

now as we sell off our mother lode aquifer.

Poets and dreamers, the only true realists, live in the future.

They do not imagine it.

Seeing tomorrow with yesterday sorrowings,

seeing tomorrow was here and now is borrowings.

Seeing the present as futures own history.

Poets and dreamers, the only true realists,

know that the gift is the ultimate mystery.

Knowing a gift not in motion is powerless.

01:00:44 – 2237

Knowing no gift can be taken for profiting.

Knowing no gift can be subject to ownership.

Poets and dreamers who live on El Llano

know what is the gift but the mother lode aquifer.

What will we do with this gift of the mother lode?

Pray that the poets and dreamers remember it.

Pray that its guardians hold it in stewardship.

Pray that we honor it.

Pray that we husband it.

Pray for the tribe of the mother lode aquifer.

Pray for the water,

the sweet Ogallala Lake

nourishing all who tread lightly and carefully,

lightly and carefully, lightly and carefully.

DT:  Thank you.

01:01:26 – 2237

AW:  You’re welcome.

DT:  That’s very nice.

[End of Reel 2237]

Reel 2238


INTERVIEWEE: Andy Wilkinson (AW)


DATE:  October 11, 2002

LOCATION:  Lubbock, Texas

TRANSCRIBERS:  Chris Flores and Robin Johnson

REEL: 2238



[Beginning of Reel 2238]

DT:  Andy. could you please continue with some of your—your songs…

00:01:15 – 2238

AW:  Sure.

DT:   Share with us.

00:01:18 – 2238

AW:  You’d—you’d mentioned wanting to hear one about the Palo Duro.  This is a—I wrote a piece of poetry music—an album called Charlie Goodnight, His Life and Poetry and Song.  And this is a song from that,

(He is playing his guitar)

which I haven’t done in a long time so we—we’re allowed retakes, I hope, overs, I guess.  And there’s one.

00:01:56 – 2238

I’ve sold out and it’s time for leaving.

I’ve cleaned out my desk and it’s all packed away.

No man is ever too old to start over,

but I feel like an old man today.

I’ve said good-bye to my partner.

Good-bye to the cowhands who worked the JA.

Molly you’re ready, but give me a moment;

I’ve just one good-bye left to say.

Good-bye to my Palo Duro.

Good-bye to your ranges that I love so true.

Good-bye to your river,

your bright painted canyon.

I’ll never do better than you.

I’ll never do better than you.

In the labor and the love of a lifetime,

00:03:32 – 2238

what’s right, what’s wrong they’re confusing to me.

If I take the credit for the things that she is

I’ll take blame for the things she could be.

Good-bye to my Palo Duro.

Good-bye to your ranges that I love so true.

Good-bye to your river

, your bright painted canyon,

I’ll never do better than you.

I’ll never do better than you.

Like the buffalo and the Comanche

my farewell is neither fair nor complete.

When leaving is dying the nature of parting,

a dim sight more sorrow than sweet.

Good-bye to my Palo Duro.

Good-bye to your ranges that I love so true.

Good-bye to your river,

your bright painted canyon.

00:05:23 – 2238

I’ll never do better than you.

I’ll never do better than you.

I’ll never do better than you.

So there’s one about the Palo Duro.  What else?

DT:  Anything about the prairies, perhaps?

DT:  Any fun songs about Prairie Dogs?

00:06:04 – 2238

AW:   No.  No one out here likes Prairie Dogs.

DT:  (Inaudible)

00:06:08 – 2238

AW:  (He is playing his guitar)

On the highway when I’m driving

sometimes I dream about the grass and the prairie long ago.

I dream I am horseback riding

while the whole world seems to be an empty sea of buffalo.

Only in your dreams you’ll know the world we should have saved.

For the prairie without buffalo is the ocean without waves.

They were shot down for the merchants,

grass plowed for greed,

the prairie paved until no green could grow.

Now it’s only dreamers searching

while the whole world needs the grass the prairie and the buffalo.

Only in your dreams you’ll know the world we should have saved.

For the prairie without buffalo is the ocean without waves.

00:08:38 – 2238

So that’s grass and buffalo.  Do I have anything else about just grass in particular?  Not one that I could sing.  There’s one in a play that I wrote called, My Cowboys Gift, where it’s called, A Prairie Mother’s Prayer, where a mother prays that her son grow up like the grass.  You know and make’s a comparison to how the grass bends and doesn’t break and so forth.  It’s in a women voice not good for me to sing, so.

DT:  What about some of the people that have lived in the prairie or passed through it?  You told us about the Native Americans or about cotton farmers that come through or ranchers that have been here.

00:09:22 – 2238

AW:  Well, there’s—we could do a song about Quanah Parker and Charlie Goodnight meeting for the first time, which was in the Palo Duro Canyon.

(He is playing his guitar)

They probably actually met at the battle of the Pease River when Quanta’s mother was recaptured in 1860, but—cause Charlie Goodnight was a ranger scout then.  But Quanta

00:09:56 – 2238

and his father Nocona—Chief Nocona had—were too far away to get to the battle before it was over with, so, there’s really no evidence.  And Quanta and Goodnight talked about it later, but we do know that they met in the Palo Duro Canyon just after Goodnight had moved his ranch from Colorado to Palo Duro to start the JA and not long after Quanah had turned himself into the reservation.  Where, of course, the first thing he found out was that the government wasn’t going to come through with any promises about

00:10:32 – 2238

providing them with food.  So they left the reservation with permission, but they left the reservation periodically to go out and try to hunt more buffalo for food.  And these ranchers thought that they were hunting cattle instead of buffalo.

(He is playing his guitar)

It was cold in the Palo—excuse me.

00:11:04 – 2238

It was cold in the Palo Duro in the winter of ’78.

From the reservation in the territories come rumors of an escape.

Cowhands grew uneasy because we was losing beef.

It was feared it was Comanche. Quanah Parker it was believed.

We remembered Blanco Canyon and the Battle of Adobe Walls

and the young Comanche warriors who could not be killed at all.

So I promised her…

Let see I need to stop this—start this… let me sing another song that I’m thinking about right now.  That’s why I don’t rap.  I can’t even get through

00:12:06 – 2238

a regular song.  This is a song that is about a true story or I wrote it from a true story.  And I actually found the story here at the Southwest Collection when I’d made the foolish promise to write a song for the Centennial of the City of Hale Center Texas, which is just up the highway here.  After I made that promise—their Centennial incidentally was July the 4th.  That’s the day they celebrate as the founding of their city.  I made the promise and realized I didn’t know really much about Hale Center beyond the—the Dairy Queen where I stopped to get coffee on my way to Amarillo.  So I came to the Southwest

00:12:49- 2238

Collection and found, to my great joy, ten years worth of the quarterly journals of the Hale County Historical Association.  And in it were a couple of stories about July the 4th in Hale County and one of them in particular about July the 4th at Hale Center and it’s the story I used for the research material to write this song.

(He is playing his guitar)

00:13:19 – 2238

Johnny was a Cherokee cowboy,

long braids hanging from his hat.

He wrangled up on the Little Less Ranch

and he rode with my Uncle Jack.

He sat like a shadow in the saddle.

He wrote poetry with his rope.

He had a light hand for the horses

and a smile for us little folk.

Johnny and Jack come a calling,

took my brothers, my sisters and I

to the Hale County picnic all set for the 4th of July.

They had a big tent and little brass band,

box lunches on the lawn.

When they raised old glory to the top of the pole

we all sang the freedom song.

00:14:16 – 2238

Oh say can you see,

Johnny why aren’t you singing?

Say you can see

Johnny is there something wrong?

Say can you see, Johnny where are you going?

Johnny why don’t you stay and help us sing the freedom song.

The other men whipped their hats off.

They hollered and they hooped it up,

but Johnny just stood there silent with a hurt angry look.

Then his face grew soft and he kneeled right down

and he sounded plum wore out

when he said, little partner it’s not my freedom that they’re singing about.

Oh say can you see,

Johnny why aren’t you singing?

Say can you see Johnny is there something wrong?

Say can you see,

Johnny where are you going?

00:15:41 – 2238

Johnny why don’t you stay and help us sing the freedom song?

He mounted his horse in a couple of strides

and I watched as he rode away

across the plains of the land of the free

till he vanished in the home of the brave.

Since then I’ve sung the freedom song a thousand times or more

and every time I wonder just whose freedom it is that we’re singing for.

Oh say can you see,

Johnny why aren’t you singing?

So, a true story.

DT:  Sweet Story.

00:16:39 – 2238

AW:  And a cool story to come by.  I always use that in talking to my students about creativity.  Everybody thinks that you need to sit around on your but until, you know, some bolt of inspiration hits you.  I would never have found that story had not—had I not essentially volunteered for an assignment, you know.  And having to dig around to find it, there was the inspiration, you know, just waiting to be dug up.  So this is pretty interesting.  Another one?  You want me to try to get through the Quanah and… Oh, I tell

00:17:17 – 2238

you—it’s a little bit off the area, but Cynthia Ann Parker—this is a—this is a good story.  Cynthia Ann—and this is also a good story about songs and song writing.  Cynthia Ann Parker, it’s one of the saddest stories in—in Western History—Western American History.  She was—the Parkers settled in Eastern—Northeastern Texas in the 1830’s.  And in 1836 when Cynthia Ann was eight years old the Kwahadi Comanche, the very tribe we were talking about, attacked this little four to five settlement called Fort Parker.

00:18:01 – 2238

And they killed all the men, women and children that they could find with the exception of two women and about three children that they carried off.  The two women were later ransomed or escaped and one of the children—but Cynthia Ann and her brother were never recovered.  Cynthia Ann we know was raised as a Comanche.  Her brother we don’t know much about, but she was raised as a Comanche.  She went on marrying Chief Nocona and she had Quanah, was her first son, Quanah Parker.  And she had another son

00:18:36 – 2238

that—it’s amusing that the history—some of the histories say that his name was Peanuts, which I find hard to imagine but—and she—by 1860 she had a brand new daughter named Prairie Flower.   Eighteen sixty was a terrible year for settlers on the Brazos Frontier.  The Comanche were especially active that fall raiding, killing, raping, looting, murdering, carrying off cattle and horses.  And it was a very difficult time because Texas was gearing up for the inevitable war about to happen in the South.  Texas was poor

00:19:16 – 2238

anyway and so the—the call went out for some help, you know, some army troops.  And the governor didn’t have anybody to send except some Texas rangers to lead a volunteer cavalry and he—he put a commander in charge, Sul Ross.  One of the cavalry—or the—the ranger scouts was Charlie Goodnight, which is my interest in this story.  Well, they came—the rangers came upon the Comanche settlement or the camp at Mule Creek where it strikes the Pease River, early of a morning in December of 1860, just a few days before Christmas Eve, rode into the camp and the warriors, as was their tactic, rode off like they were retreating because they didn’t want to have the fight there in their—their

00:20:06 – 2238

camp.  And this allowed the—the women and children to pack up the teepee’s and—and leave.  So they—the battle essentially moved a mile away from the—the camp with the rangers and the—and the warriors fighting in this pitched battle.  Well, the—the cavalry rides up about this time, but these—now they’re volunteers.  First of all, they’ve never really been in a serious Indian fight and secondly, they are the husbands, and the fathers and the brothers and the sons and the neighbors and the cousins of the victims of that fall.

00:20:38 – 2238

And so what they did was, instead of going out to the battle, they rode back and forth through the camp killing the women, the children, the old people, the dogs, the horses until they came to Cynthia Ann and they could see that she was once White.  So they—they had to run her down, capture her, drug her back against her will.  It was later determined that’s who she was, Cynthia Ann Parker.  They returned her to the family back east.  Although the rangers, interestingly enough, including my Uncle Charlie

00:21:09 – 2238

Goodnight said, don’t take her back.  She’s not—she not white anymore she’s a Comanche.  She was never happy and within a couple of years died as the story goes just from heartbreak.  Having been returned away from her—her family now.  Before she died though she—she was interviewed by a newspaper writer who asked a number of questions and what did she miss most about being a Comanche and she—she said she missed the plains and she missed the teepee.  She hated living in a—in a log cabin because they were cold in the winter and hot in the summer and the teepee was the opposite, you know, it was a very good way to live, you know, out in that countryside.

00:21:55 – 2238

But the thing that was really interesting to me in the interview is—is they asked her what—what do you hate most or what do you dislike most about being back with your people, the Whites and she said, I hate the White women’s clothes.  And I thought, boy, that is really interesting until I started thinking about it and did some more research and realized that what White women were wearing in the 1860’s was wool, you know, and if you can imagine east Texas in the summer time.  Wool, it’s a no wonder she hated it, so.

00:22:25 – 2238

I wrote this song about White women clothes in the voice of Cynthia Ann Parker. And when we were recording it in 1994 my producer, Lloyd Maines, I asked him who should we get to sing this, a woman that could sing about being her family being killed when she was eight years old, raised a Comanche, her family being—all of her family being killed again when she was in the 30’s, you know, her child dies.  It’s an incredible story.  What kind, you know, who can sing this?  And Lloyd said my daughter can sing it.  Well, I

00:22:57 – 2238

knew his daughter.  I’d known her since she was a little bitty kid and she’s a terrific singer, but she 19 years old.  And I said, Lloyd you know this is a women who’s had children, whose you know had a life and watched her family murdered and he said, no she—trust me she can sing it.  So she sang it on a recording and sure enough she did a great job.  Now his—Lloyd’s daughter is Natalie Maines who’s the lead singer now of the Dixie Chicks.  So, indeed, she could sing it.  So imagine I’m Natalie Maines.

(He is playing his guitar)

00:23:38 – 2238

In the moon you call December

on the river you call a peace.

It was cold and I remember

we had just packed up to leave

when a mounted line of soldiers

a sparkle in the sun

rode down upon our warriors

shot them one by one.

But the ponies of our women

they were loaded down and slow

with our lodge poles and equipment and the meat of our buffalo.

So the cowards of your cavalry went

all the fight was over killed the women and their babies

except for me and Prairie Flower.

The White man’s liberation took me from my home

00:24:52 – 2238

for the prison of his houses and his White women’s clothes.

You could see my hair was flaxen.

You could see my eyes were blue,

see my skin was white and ashen

or you would’ve shot me too.  But you could not see the baby

that I cradled in my robes,

a small red skinned Comanche the color of my soul.

The white man’s liberation took me from my home

for the prison of his houses and his White women’s clothes.

Dressed up for your amusement in your used and second hands,

you parade me through your settlements

00:26:09 – 2238

and you call me Cynthia Ann.

In your walls I’m suffocating where the wind never blows

and my heart is strangulating in your White women’s clothes.

White man’s liberation took me from my home

for the prison of his houses and his White women’s clothes.

The White man’s liberation took me from my home

for the prison of his houses and his White women’s clothes.

So there’s another true story.

DT:  It’s a moving story.

00:27:18 – 2238

AW:  Yeah, it’s a—gosh it’s a sad story.  I mean it’s just hard to even think about it, you know.

DT:  You mentioned that—that—that Cynthia Ann loved the prairies.  Is there any sort of song that you might have about what it is that she loved or that you love about this place?

00:27:39 – 2238

AW:  Oh well, I have tons of songs.  I mean it’s—it’s like you can’t—a place this big you can’t just have one song about it, you know, there’s—see if I can remember.  Its been a long time since I’ve sung it, but this a song from that play, My Cowboys Gift.

(He is playing his guitar)

You have to imagine some really nice fiddle going on here.

(He is playing his guitar)

00:28:24 – 2238

When the springtime is done

and you can’t stir the days with a spoon,

our works done in the heat of the sun

our love by the wild flower moon.

Nights on the prairie come summer.

Breeze blows a beautiful tune.

Bright are the eyes of my lover

in the light of the wild flower moon.

Lie with me in the grass.

Stars all above us are strewn.

Let time pass for diamonds are glass

alongside the wild flower moon.

Nights on the prairie come summer.

Breeze blows a beautiful tune.

Bright are the eyes of my lover

in the light of the wild flower moon,

in the light of the wild flower moon.

Well, there’s one song about

00:30:23 – 2238

the prairie.  Here’s another one about the prairie.  We have—we don’t have many trees out here.  They’re native, you know.  Along the canyons you’ll find cottonwoods, you know, by the creeks.  And there—of course, there are some mesquite.  Mesquite and cedar have been here forever.  There’s, you know, everybody says well, the mesquite didn’t come here until the cattle brought the mesquite in their droppings, you know, but these archeologists find mesquite seeds from thousands of years ago.  So they have been

00:30:59 – 2238

here.  It’s just that fire and buffalo kept the mesquite down and let the grass come up.  But—and nobody likes mesquite either because they use up water from the grass and they’re hell to get out once you get them in, but they have a cousin called prairie—called the Desert Willow that is—this is about as far north as the Desert Willow is grown. They’re—they’re this incredibly—they’re all over the campus here, in fact, you’ll see them.  Like the mesquite they don’t leaf out until after the first frost so when the Desert

00:31:30 – 2238

Willow and the mesquite leafs out you know that you’re not going to have a frost again. And—but unlike the mesquite they’re not so quite veracious in their appetite for water and they have these little blossoms that come on them and stay on the whole growing season.  They’re real delicate.  They’re sort of a lavender purple color and they fall—the wind comes along and they just fall off on the ground and there are desert willows littered with these blossoms and new ones come on and the next morning there’s a whole new crop of these flowers.  It’s just a beautiful tree, so, I—I kind of think of it as emblematic of—of this area.

00:32:10 – 2238

(He is playing his guitar)

You’re going to get bored to death before this is all over with.

Twilight is the sweetest tower summers on the Llano.

Desert Willows full in flower the breeze a soft cantando.

Lightning flickering in the clouds move

—no let me start this over.

00:32:45 – 2238

Twilight is the sweetest tower summers on the Llano.

Desert Willows full in flower

the breeze a soft cantando.

When the sky turns lavender and smells of distant rain,

I recall romancing her, my lover of the plains.

Yellow slicker on the ground spread beneath the willows,

purple blossoms drifting down a saddle for our pillow.

Lightening flickering in the clouds,

moving over the range as I wrapped my arms around my lover of the plains.

00:34:09 – 2238

Love that’s born in open spaces cannot be confined.

Arms and promises and fences still love left behind,

but when it thunders on the Llano I still hear her moan.

(inaudible Spanish) When the storm its fury spent its lightening and its thunder,

how our colors came and went as nighttime drug them under.

After glow turns discontent when promises turn change,

boundaries do not complement my lover of the plains.

Love that’s born in open spaces cannot be confined.

Arms and promises and fences still love left behind,

but when it thunders on the Llano I still hear her moan

.  (inaudible Spanish) Twilight is the sweetest tower summers on the Llano.

So there’s song about liking the plains.

DT:  Nice. Thanks.  You know one thing I’ve—I’ve often heard people say about the plains is that its three quarters sky…

00:36:40 – 2238

AW:  Yeah.

DT:  And—and I know there’s very dramatic weather up here, as well.  The northers come through or tornados blow through, anything about the sky or the weather?

00:36:57 – 2238

AW:  Well, the—of course weather is—it’s always in—you know, if you write songs about here there—there’s always something about the weather.  We had, you know, we had the big tornado in May of 1970 up here.  I was a policeman then.  But we—you grow up (he is tuning his guitar) you grow up with tornados.  And so—in fact, I saw in the—one of these, you may be a redneck if, sort of things—you maybe a red neck if you’ve

00:37:36 – 2238

ever watched a tornado from a folding chair, you know, a lawn chair.  And it’s—it’s true.  I mean we use to sit out and watch tornados, especially out in the country because you could see them a long way off and as little kids you wanted to prove your bravado.  You didn’t want to be the first one down in the cellar, you know, so you’d stand up there till the last possible minute and watch these things, but a lot of people don’t like them.

(He is playing his guitar)

DT:  (inaudible)

00:38:07 – 2238

AW:  Well, they’re a—I tell you they’re nasty things.  If you’re—fortunately, unlike a hurricane, which covers, you know, hundreds of miles and tornados a s—small thing and so I guess if you’re a gambling person you know that you have some chan—likelihood of maybe being missed by it, but to see the damage that they can do is—is astonishing.  But, so here’s a…

(He is playing his guitar)

00:38:48 -238

When a cloud would come up we’d all—all go…Yeah, I can’t remember this.  Its been too many years go.  This is a song about going down in the storm cellar.  It turns out that some people are more scared of the storms cellars than they are of the tornados, so they—they would stay up.  Here’s a weather song.  This happens to be several true stories put into one, but this is also a farming weather song.

(He is playing his guitar)

00:39:27 – 2238

Because in a thunderstorm the worst thing is not always the tornado.

(He is playing his guitar)

Well the clouds they look like mountains building in the distance

and the afternoon was heavy with the smell of something mean.

Lord the stillness was deceiving because it could change in an instant.

And the sun was painting pictures with the colors from a dream.

Across the way a popping Johnny droned a summertime siesta

and the traffic on the highway and the horse flies harmonized.

But the clouds were changing faces now it was dragons they suggested.

00:40:34 – 2238

In the southwest there was lightning and blackness in the skies

and it was cotton high in late July dollars for December.

Crop was made and we had made it well.

Oh, there ain’t no way in telling why,

but I’ll tell you I remember the afternoon

that we got hailed to hell.

Oh, the afternoon that we got hailed to hell.

We hadn’t had no (?) no signs of (?), mostly blooms (inaudible) was strong and tall,

but the wind whipped up raw and cold like the breath of something evil.

And the clouds above began to roll and the rain began to fall.

00:41:54 – 2238

We stood under the tractor shed when the hail began to splatter.

The helplessness of watching took the life out of our blood.

In minutes of destruction a season’s work was shattered

and the life of disappointments lay beat down in the mud.

And it was cotton high in late July dollars for December.

Crop was made and we had made it well.

There ain’t no way in telling why,

but I’ll tell you I remember the afternoon that we got hailed to hell,

the afternoon that we got hailed to hell.

00:43:01 – 2238

December came and went without a single bale of cotton.

Come spring there was an auction that paid a little on the debt.

The worst things are the things in life that most quickly should be forgotten,

but I can’t forget the only time that my daddy ever wept.

Daddy died next season riding someone else’s tractor.

I moved to the city and my momma moved to town.

The hailstorm didn’t kill him, but it surely was a factor

because old farmers never will admit when the farming gets them down.

When it’s cotton high in late July dollars for December.

Crop was made and we had made it well.

There ain’t no way in telling why.

but I’ll tell you I remember the afternoon that we got hailed to hell,

00:44:26 – 2238

on the afternoon that we got hailed to hell.

We’ll there’s money in the cotton bowl

and there’s angels up in heaven

where Jesus sits upon his throne to make the sinners whole,

but the hail stone ain’t the hand of God

it’s just the cursing of the devil,

calling in the farmers note on the mortgage of his soul

and there was cotton high in late July dollars for December.

There’s a weather song.

DT:  You’ve been kind to do a number of requests.  Thanks for doing that.  I was wondering if—if you might have one more song of your own choice that you could sing for us?

00:45:30 – 2238

AW:  Let’s see.

DT:  About this Llano Estacado?

00:45:36 – 2238

AW:  What else would I do?

DT:  Do you have any songs about your police career?

00:45:55 – 2238

AW:  Yeah.  Yeah.  No.  No.  It’s not quite that—quite that interesting.  It’s just very different from working at the Piggly Wiggly Store.  And you know it’s quite a different thing.  I think if I was to—and you know it’s curious.  I’ve never written a poem about my time in police work or written a song about it.  I’ve never and not quite sure why.  I’m sure a shrink would come up with a—a good reason.  But—well here—here’s a song that’s—that’s maybe appropriate to what you’re doing.  It’s a…

00:46:35 – 2238

(He is singing and playing his guitar)

It started with windmills, Aermotors and Eclipses

and then it was engines of gas and electric

the flick of a switch spewing water through ditches along the aluminum vein.

Popping the cork on the sandstone champagne.

It bubbled up cool, clean and wet

sparkling like diamonds on a young girl’s neck.

With a taste so sweet we were quick to

00:47:17 – 2238

forget the sweat, the toil, and the pain.

We’re just part of the price of the sandstone champagne.

So we nursed the cattle, the cotton and wheat,

the corn and the sorghum, the soy beans and beets,

the cities and the highways of steel and concrete.

Well, everything’s been fed and sustained by a pull on the bottle of the sandstone champagne.

And we’re all getting drunk on sandstone champagne.

Three bales to an acre and four if it rains, if it rains.

Just keep drilling deeper, no one will complain till the cellar is empty of sandstone champagne.

00:48:18 – 2238

But every year it gets deeper and deeper to drill

and the stock tank gets harder and harder to fill

and the blue weeds get thicker and tougher to kill

and nobody’s watching for rain because it’s gone to our heads this sandstone champagne.

We’re all getting drunk on sandstone champagne.

Three bales to an acre and four if it rains,

will it rain?

Just keep drilling deeper no one will complain till the cellar is empty of sandstone champagne.

Well, it’s a dam foolish part there’s a hangover due for our sons and our daughters

00:49:27 – 2238

when all the drinking is through

because hungry and thirsty they’re going to curse me and you.

We’ll only have this to explain.

We drank it like water, the sandstone champagne.

And we’re all getting drunk on sandstone champagne.

Three bales to an acre and four if it rains, well it rains.

Just keep drilling deeper no one will complain till the cellar is empty of sandstone champagne.

DT:  Thank you.

00:50:23 – 2238

AW:  You’re welcome.

DT:  You’ve read us poetry and sang us songs about the history of this place and—and the dilemma we find ourselves in now and I was curious if you could maybe look into the future a little bit and comment on where you think this is all taking us, if you might. What the challenges and opportunities are that you see for conservation or for…

00:50:56 – 2238

AW:  Well…

DT:  …this place…

00:50:57 – 2238

AW:  You know I think if you’re an artist you have to have a at—at your core you have to have an optimism for the human animal, you know, that we can do better and will at some point.  I think the—our problems in conservation are wrapped up in a larger problem we have, which is that we have fallen prey to an idea that is not a good one and that is the idea of—of the corporate way of organizing our lives.  The idea that you can form a thing that has a life of his own, that has power and authority, but no obligation.

00:51:47 – 2238

And because at its heart conservation is—is an understanding and acceptance of obligation, a sense to leave things better to—to be the steward, the shepherd of the resources.  And the whole way of looking at the world from a corporate notion is antithetical to the idea of stewardship and obligation because the whole notion of a corporation is to shirk responsibility and to pawn it off, to get rid of it.  You know I’m

00:52:21 – 2238

firmly convinced that a 1000 years from now when historians study us, assuming there are historians around to do that, that this will not be the atomic age and the information age and the nuclear age.  It will be the corporate age because this blasted animal pervades every aspect of our lives.  We’re all members of one, we work for one and we put our money in them.  They warp our politics.  They warp our sensibility about things and the only good thing about all that is we’re now in sort of a spot about like we were 100 years ago—120 years ago when people were first recognizing the excesses of the Robber Barons at the end of the 19th Century.  And now we have the good fortune to have Ken

00:53:03- 2238

Lay and the—all the other list of miscreants that we could—we could talk about forever that are really pointing up.  Because we, you know we—if things are going good and your football team wins a few in the fall, you know, you don’t get too worried about things until there’s no water coming out of the tap or until you read the paper that somebody at Enron made your gas bills go up last winter and your electrical bills go up this summer.  And not only that, the guys sticks not a

00:53:35 – 2238

million dollars not a—a 10 million dollars but a billion dollars in his pocket or whatever those huge numbers are.  That gets peoples attention and I think maybe we’re all in a cusp of a change with that.  And if we change that we can do m—a lot more with conservation.  We know so much about the science of conservation.  What we lack is the political ability and the—the political will to do it, that’s what we lack.

DT:  Well, given that—that insight what—what sort of advice would you give to younger people that are coming along, some of the students you have here at Texas Tech or—or other people you might run across?

00:54:22 – 2238

AW:  Don’t be part of the system.  Don’t be part of the machine.  If you have to get out in the streets and stick up a sign, do it.  If you have to look at an alternative, don’t buy, you know, don’t buy Microsoft.  It’s a mistake to do that.  Don’t support those things.  I mean we really need to get back to some things that we—we thought of in the 60’s and

00:54:47 – 2238

people, you know, Mahatma Gandhi thought of it.  People have been doing it for a long time.  But we really need to have a—a grass roots level of—of interesting change.  That’s what it takes, you know, you—you can’t do it from the top down.  Its got to come from the bottom up.  That’s what people need to do.  Think about their—the—the decisions they make in everyday life.  It’s—and it’s hard to do.  You know, when you drive a car and you fill it with gas and you put on clothes that are made from petroleum products,

00:55:23 – 2238

you know.  I live on a computer just like everybody else does, you know, you can’t grow one of those in your garden.  It’s a—there are a lot of things that make it difficult, but you can still have an impact and—and that’s the kind of impact that’ll make a difference.  You know, not only go out in the street, vote and to make sure that you are active.  We’re—we’re awful in this country about our involvement in politics from the community level right on through.  And if we would be a lot more active in that, we would have candidates who would listen instead of having to pick the least of the worst, you know, which is kind of our usual anymore.

DT:  One last question.  We often ask people to pick their favorite spot that gives them some sort of recourse to things that they truly care about, some kind of serenity?  And you’ve sung a lot about the Llano Estacado.  Maybe it’s a place there maybe some other location that could you describe a…

00:56:26 – 2238

AW:  Well…

DT:  …special spot?

00:56:28 – 2238

AW:  I get ser—where I get serenity is—is coming in on highway 87 just before you get to Post.  You can look up and—and you get your first real good solid glimpse of the Cap Rock of the Llano, a big wall that rises up, which is the occasion for the name El Llano Estacado, which is not the staked plains, but it’s the stockaded plains.  You know its—its appearance from the ground level looking up and you see it and when I look and I see that I know that I’m almost home.  That is a—is a good feeling for me.

DT:  It’s been a nice feeling listening to you play

00:56:06 – 2238

AW:  Oh, well thanks.

DT:  Thank you very much.

00:57:08 – 2238

AW:  I’m anxious to see what you do with this project.  This is a great idea.

DT:  Thanks for participating in it.

00:57:15 – 2238

AW:  My pleasure.

[End of Reel 2238]

[End of interview with Andy Wilkinson]