Beginning in 1867, following the Civil War, the Chisholm Trail became a route to wealth for Texas ranchers who had access to wild Longhorn cattle, but little other means of earning a livelihood. There was a demand for beef in the eastern part of the country, but the problem was how to get the cattle to the consumers.
Cowboys drove a few cattle herds to Missouri River points for steamboat transport to New Orleans. That route, along the old Shawnee Trail, was soon cut off by the closing of Missouri border counties, due to fears of infestation from the “Texas Fever”, caused by a tic carried by Longhorns.
An alternative shipping mode was provided by the first railroads pushing west. The Union Pacific had established a railhead as far west as Abilene. The Chisholm Cattle Trail ran from the Red River on the northern Texas border to Abilene, Kansas. The first half of the Trail followed an earlier trading post route established by Jesse Chisholm.
The three-month trip was hazardous. The dangers of prairie fires, lightning, hail storms, marauding Indians, outlaw gangs, quicksand or high-water river crossings, and frequent cattle stampedes were endured by the cowboys who were often teenagers or young adults. But, while hazardous, the Chisholm Trail also promised adventure and the lure of good times in the cattle towns at the end of the trail drive. Most of the cowboys who trailed the cattle north were likely to make more than one trip.
This introductory post begins a series about my own recent trip along US Highway 81, that now parallels the Chisholm Trail route. These posts will cover my discoveries along the way, a bit of history about some of the present day towns, some current tourist attractions centered on the Trail’s history, and a few musings about the doings of earlier times on the Chisholm Trail.
Check in every week and come with me on a ride up the old Chisholm cattle trail.
“Hot Dogs, Ice Cream, and World Famous Log Rolls”
That’s what Stuckey’s advertised.
Stuckey’s roadside offerings have long been traveler favorites, and Stuckey’s is still in business in many places. The one pictured here, near Adrian TX on I-40 is not one of those. The building and signs visibly demonstrate that folks won’t be stopping here for much more than the Milepost Muse did– to take a photograph.
The stop, though, brought back some Stuckey’s memories of my own from the 1950’s. As a child my parents often stopped at Stuckey’s so all of our big family could use the restrooms. Sometimes, by use of either allowances or persistent agitation, we left with a hot dog, an ice cream cone, or one of those crazy sweet nougat rolls. Seemingly just as often, one or more of us would over-indulge and Dad would have to pull over to let someone empty out a stomach. Yuck! Wo be to the brother or sister who had to take the other siblings’ reactions to that.
My oldest sister and I were from Dad’s first marriage. We frequently made custodial visits to our mother and her second husband in St. Louis while we were still young. I remember one time when my mother and stepfather came to Kansas City to pick us up for a short summer visit. My stepfather had bought a powerful new Pontiac and it confidently took curve after curve on the twisty, two lane Highway 40 that was the main route in those days. My stepfather also used the full power of the car’s roaring V8 engine to pass trucks on rolling hills and the few short straightaways.
We always could count on at least one Stuckey’s stop on those trips; to use the clean restrooms and grab one of the treats we looked forward to at that memorable roadside institution: Stuckey’s.
Hot Dogs, Ice Cream, and World Famous Log Rolls!
Wind Turbines and Cumulous Clouds
When I was a kid, we bought those little colored pinwheel spinners for practically nothing. They were sold in dime stores, and given away as prizes at carnivals that traveled the country. Pinwheels were plastic fans attached to a stick handle. More fancy models are still sold as toys and yard décor.
We used to run to force wind into them, creating the spinning action. The faster the runner, the faster the little pinwheel would go. I even had one attached as a nose cone to a scrap-wood toy plane I had constructed.
Today, giant wind driven turbines use a 3-bladed “pinwheel” to capture wind energy and convert it to electricity. Such “pinwheel” farms now dot the landscape across much of the country where wind is not blocked by geographic features. Most wind turbines seen along our highways are white, but perhaps someone will decide to use different designs or colors in the future. An imaginative future artist will likely use the blades to create some kind of linear picture in the sky.
According to a recent Huffington Post news release, citing a market report by The American Wind Energy Association, “wind power supports a record 88,000 jobs — a 20 percent increase over last year. Today, wind — the fastest-growing energy source — provides nearly 5 percent of the nation’s electricity supply, according to the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Program.”
Those little toy pinwheels have gone big time! Thousands of wind turbines like those in this photograph, taken near Adrian TX, dot our landscape—slowly revolving under wind-driven clouds. Pinwheels in the sky.
Willie Nelson wrote and sang his famous “on the road” song about music tours. I have heard it played many times as I, too, was on the road.
I love driving on the open road, particularly on backroads and the older two-lane state roads. So I shun air flights as much as possible when traveling in the United States to visit my scattered relatives. Interstate highways don’t stimulate my Milepost Muse like the state and county roads do.
On the “I-number” highways, the scenery always appears the same for long stretches. Mile after mile of mostly distant scenery interspersed with repetitive franchise signs at exits. The muse tends to sleep and I fight the same temptation. I use the interstate roads only to make up time after dalliances on slower, more stimulating cut-across routes.
As you can imagine, I take a bit longer to reach my destination than most of my fellow automobile travelers. Still, my Muse gets revved up; stimulated by weirdly painted houses or barns, collections of rusted old cars, out of the way museums and local lore, small town cafes called Mom’s or Jerry’s Place, horses and cows with their necks strung through fencing, where I suppose they believe the grass truly is greener. Locales for stories, names for characters, scenes for a poem, history for an article, passing by in a continuous stimulation stream.
Almost no lengthy trip fails to generate a few ideas for articles, a poem, a short story, or even one of my crude attempts at watercolor painting. So, like Willie Nelson, I love being on the road again.
And so does the Milepost Muse who always takes home some new writing content.
The Range Cafe in Albuquerque, NM
advertises that it serves “Ordinary Food Done Extraordinarily Well.” It does.
During the past two years, I’ve passed through Albuquerque, NM five times and stayed at the LaQuinta Inn Midtown where my daughter had once booked a room for me during her move to Las Vegas. On that first occasion, we arrived late and didn’t eat anywhere in Albuquerque. The second time I passed through Albuquerque, I stayed at the same place, and I was referred to the Range Café a half block up Menaul Street.
What a great place to dine! Tastefully funky, serves terrific food and drinks at diner prices and provides excellent customer service. Save room for dessert! The menu says it all: “we ONLY bake with REAL butter, FRESH cream, REAL vanilla, FRESH fruits and Belgian chocolates.”
Now, I’m certainly not the first to put in a plug for the Range. Just check out their website for others’ rave reviews, and for the menu, hours, and locations. And, though I’ve eaten at only the Range Café location on Menaul NE (four times, at this posting), I have no affiliation with the restaurant or its owners except as a satisfied customer. The restaurant is just one of the mileposts I always stop at when traveling through Albuquerque. I’m hoping readers of this blog will be able to check it out sometime and mark the joys of this milepost with me.
Hyrum, the MilepostMuser