Partially funded by a foundation created by early oil pioneers, the museum features a section on the oil industry and the part it played in shaping Texas. This is an early cable-driven oil derrick, 83 feet tall, 20 feet square at the base.
Automobiles were also prominent in the museum, as part of the growing up of this area, including The Mother Road, old Highway 66. This original "horseless carriage" is a 1910 Zimmerman touring car with a two-cylinder air cooled engine.
This 1903 Ford Model A Runabout sits behind a sod plow, the first tool any new
would have to use on his homestead.
Model A Ford, year unknown (to us, at least).
This is a Ford Model T, one of the most popular cars of its time. We didn't pick up on the model year, however.
This one is a Pierce Arrow, again the year not noted.
And the piece de resistance, a V-16 Cadillac, vintage 1930. Joe Bowers, a rancher and oilman, paid as much as $8,750 for the car, which in today's money would be roughly $96,000. Life was good for those who struck oil.
Geology and fossils had their own sections.
Here we have, right to left, a Giant Bison, a Sabre-toothed Cat, and a Dire Wolf.
But what could be more "dire" than this Allosaurus, one of the most abundant and dangerous of the meat-eating dinosaurs of the late Jurassic period? They were here some 140 to 200 million years ago.
Care to meet this some dark and stormy night?
This Sailfin Lizard's "sail" is presumed to have been used to help moderate body temperature.
The People of the Plains included the early Indians whose lives depended on the bison; the buffalo hunters who slaughtered the bison (and consequently defeated the Indians more surely than bullets could have); then the pioneer settlers, the cattlemen, and the farmers. In this diorama, an Indian hunter and his wife are skinning and butchering a bison. They left no part unused, with the possible exception of the heart which they left for an offering to insure continued good hunting.
Charles Goodnight was an early cattleman in the southwest. We learned while we were in Clovis that it was he who in large part rescued the nearly extinct bison by adopting their calves, many of which he later donated to various Indian tribes to rebuild what they could of their lives. Goodnight was a leader in forwarding the cattle ranching business. In fact, it is said that Goodnight invented the first chuckwagon by adapting an army munitions carrier into a rolling kitchen and pantry. This particular chuckwagon is one that was used on one of Goodnight's ranches.
Before the introduction of windmills to the prairie, early settlers had to locate near rivers or lakes. The windmill opened the prairies and plains to much wider settelement.
The museum invited anyone tall enough to pretend to be the wind and operate this windmill. I was tall enough, so I pretended.
This was called the
"Original Star Windmill."
The Panhandle Plains Museum has so much more than we could see in one visit. The top floor has more on the oil industry as well as galleries of western art, with both native and white artists represented, and the basement is said to house ancient artifacts unearthed throughout the region. Next time we’re in the Amarillo area, we’ll have to see that.
Have you heard of the Cadillac Ranch?
About seven miles west of Amarillo along Interstate 40 stand the rusting hulks of ten Cadillacs, nose down in the earth, their upended tail fins tracing design changes from 1949 to 1964.
Vandals, unfortunately, have seemingly spent thousands of cans of spray paint “tagging” these old cars. Well, maybe the heavy layers of paint will preserve the relics from future decay.
We had read in Road Trip USA about the Cowboy Café and “Tex,” a 47-foot tall, 7-ton cowboy standing just off US 60. Tex was built in 1959, and “restored” in 1989. The Cowboy Café is out of business, and Tex has fallen again into serious disrepair, but there he stands for all to see.
Our neighbors at the park we’re staying in told us about a restaurant with what they called the best barbecue they’d ever had, so we tried Dyers Bar-B-Que in Amarillo. Their rib plate was excellent: three pork ribs, beans, applesauce, cole slaw, potato salad, onion rings, garlic toast and pickle chips, all for $8.95. Was it the best barbecue we’ve ever eaten? That would be hard to say, but it was certainly good. We have lots of barbecue ahead of us in Oklahoma and Arkansas as we follow the culinary trail in … Our Life in Wheels.