Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Muleshoe Heritage Center


At the west end of town, on the north side of U.S. Highway 84, also known as  American Boulevard, you will pass a very tall, imposing mule shoe, the world’s largest, in fact. This jenny slipper marks the entrance to a labor of  love, the Muleshoe Heritage Center,  that has been a work in progress since 1982 when the Santa Fe Railroad closed their Muleshoe depot and talked of removing it from that location, one way or another.


Santa Fe officials offered to donate the building to the city of Muleshoe if the city was willing to shoulder the cost of moving it to another location; the city was not, and  word spread around town that the historic old landmark  was to be demolished. Todd Holt, a Muleshoe High School senior at the time, was not willing to let that happen. So Todd, Laura Leal, Ronda Dunham, Joni Sudduth, Abby Kennedy, Belinda Clayton, Annette Crabtree, Mike Foss, Jay Pearson, Lori Stroud, and others who wanted to help, asked Jean Allison, their government teacher, if they could meet in her room to organize a plan of action, and the Save the Depot movement was born.

And born with vigor. The kids held a couple of car washes and some other fund raisers, which no doubt also created some consciousness-raising within the community that historic buildings like the depot should not perish but stand to educate future generations about early life in Bailey County. The depot was eventually saved and moved, thanks to the kids’ hard work, which led to the formation of SCAC, the Student Community Action Club, sponsored by Mrs. Allison at the high school, and the creation of the Muleshoe Heritage Foundation. Both organizations still exist today and work together to move, preserve, and restore other buildings that tell the story of Muleshoe and Bailey County.


The Depot was moved in 1985 and dedicated in 1987. The ticket and passenger waiting room,  decorated with period furniture and historic memorabilia, and the freight room, outfitted with meeting area and full kitchen, can be rented for meetings, parties, and the like.

Once the Depot had been moved and preserved, other historical structures followed. I will give you an overview of the things you will enjoy touring when you visit the center, which is open for tours.


What I consider to be the centerpiece of the Heritage Center is the Janes Ranch House, but then I am a bit biased since we were privileged to live in the house for a year after moving to Muleshoe in 1980. Originally located on the Janes Ranch about seven miles east of town, the wood and stucco structure was a mail-order house purchased by cattleman John Janes for his new wife, ordered from the Aladdin Mail Order House Company, shipped to that aforementioned Santa Fe Depot, and completed in 1915. West Texas is not known for its forests, you know, and lumber would have to be transported in anyway, so it was not uncommon to see mail order houses delivered in remote areas, such as West Texas, complete with the lumber and  everything else needed, including the instructions of how to put it all together. This model was no doubt one of the high-end kits, complete with two stories, a basement, a fireplace on every floor, a laundry chute that ended in the laundry room in the basement,  a ballroom, a coal bin, a walk-in safe, a small wall safe upstairs (which is no longer there), an outside door for ice delivery into the wooden ice box, carbide/electric lighting, and indoor plumbing. I don’t know if the plumbing was added later or was original, but since there was a bathroom on every floor, I choose to think it was original.


The Figure 4 Ranch House came from South Bailey County and served as headquarters for the Figure 4 Ranch, owned by H.M. McCelvey of Temple, Texas, who bought the 42 section ranch in 1906 as an investment and then hired Henry Hanover, also from Temple,  to run the place.  The house was built sometime before 1916, and Hanover’s wife and three girls made a life for themselves there until  Hanover retired and moved to Muleshoe. One of his daughters, Katherine Sanders, was a teacher for many years is the Muleshoe school district.  Later Mr. McCelvey divided and sold sections of the ranch which were turned into farms, and years after, the ranch house became a part of the Heritage Center.


The Virginia City Hotel was built to provide lodging for prospective land buyers, farmers,  who were lured to the area by the break-up of the XIT Ranch and three wet, rainy years. A land baron named Matthew C. Vaughn from Waterloo, Iowa, filed the first town plat in Bailey County on the Fort Sumner Road, named it Virginia City, and hoped it would become the first County Seat. Looking nothing like what we expect of a hotel, the second story was one large room big enough for eight cots. The first floor had two rooms, a kitchen and an office that was also the Post Office. Unfortunately, the good rains stopped, and after three years of extreme drought, Virginia City became a ghost town. Maple Wilson bought the hotel and moved it two miles west of Maple for his ranch headquarters, and later it housed his tenants before it became a part of the Heritage Center.


The World’s Largest Muleshoe was first installed here by the Depot parking lot  in 1994, an Eagle Scout project conceived and completed by Kermit Price, with a little family help. Made of I-beam steel and big enough to drive a semi tractor-trailer through, the monument was moved in 2008 to its present location beside the highway as a more prominent marker to the entrance of the center. Kermit financed his project by selling sets of mule shoes to be embedded in two intertwined concrete mule shoes that were placed in the ground near the monument. Those shoes are engraved with the donors’ names, which gives them a place in the history of the center.



From 1903 to 1907 Edward K. Warren and his son Charles, Michigan manufacturers  of buggy whips and corset stays, bought 80,000 acres of land in this area for what would become their ranch, named the Muleshoe Ranch. Stories differ as to why the owners named it the Muleshoe Ranch, but I am told that the town of Muleshoe was named after the ranch since the town grew up on the ranch’s land as the railroad came through.This Muleshoe Ranch’s Cookhouse/Bunkhouse fed and sheltered many a cowboy In its day and was a fitting addition when it was moved to the Heritage Center in 1986.


A recent addition to the Center is the dugout home donated by the Bundrant family. The dugout came from Goodland in southern Bailey County and was reportedly lived in during the 30s by the Gentry family and later some of  the Bundrants during the 40s. After a real house was built and the Bundrant family moved, the dugout was sometimes used by the kids as a playhouse.


The Log Cabin is the only structure in the center that is not typical of this area. How could it be without native trees to become the logs? But even so, many early settlers and pioneers lived in log cabins, so its historical significance earned it a place in the Center.  The cabin was found in the North Canadian River bottom near Shawnee, Oklahoma, and donated and moved to Muleshoe by John Fried. Much work and repair had to be done to the cabin to restore its original form, a one-room structure with a sleeping loft for the children.

As I mentioned earlier, the Heritage Center is a work in progress. Next week’s blog will spotlight more buildings that have been added and a few that are currently being restored and readied for viewing.


Thanks to Shelia Stevenson, Dolores Harvey, Jean Allison, Toll Holt, Laura Leal, Kelly Robinson, and Arnold Price for helping me gather information for this article.

Much of the historical background of the buildings that I included came from the brochure “Experience Our Heritage,” written by Jean Allison and available at the Santa Fe Depot in the Heritage Center.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Please Stand By…Technical Difficulties

Man, don’t you just love computers. When they work. Perhaps you have noticed a slight change in format of the blog. And perhaps you have had trouble writing comments, because I have had trouble responding to comments for about the last week or so. My tech support person, former student Brant, and I just spent a very long, frustrating afternoon trying to rectify whatever devious glitch was causing me grief when trying to add a comment. I feel like I am single-handedly financing his next new car purchase or trip to the Caribbean with all my distress calls when the computer misbehaves or I just have a computer question in general.  And I have no problem with that; I’ll  pay him whatever it takes rather than be faced with fixing it myself, which of course means it would never get fixed. All I contribute is much  gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands, all to no avail, while he patiently tries to explain the problem to me as he moves the cursor and types with nanosecond speed, and talks even faster. About all I really do is keep Peaches out of his way as she paces back and forth  between him and the monitor as he works to sort out the problem.

I couldn’t begin to explain what’s going on, but it has something to do with the Blogger site making an update which creates havoc with my blog as we used to know it. Google is on my bad list right now since it is their glorious idea to change things that were fine just the way they were. We tried and were finally successful at sending them one of those error messages about the problem and discovered that others were in fact having some of the same trouble. But does Google care? I think not. Google is supposed to be the best place to work right now, according to an article I saw in the Sunday paper (“Google named best place to work in America.” Mike Swift, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, January 22, 2012; E4), so maybe they are so caught up in having fun with their perks on the job that they can’t be bothered with minor complaints from someone from an obscure little town in Texas with an equally unimportant little blog, and may get around to correcting the problem one of these days.

So, here’s the deal. The new format may stay or go back to the original look in the future; either way it is still The Bright Lights of Muleshoe. You will now have to click on the word comments if you want to say something. And I should be able to add my own comments about your comments. Assuming of course, the computer gods agree to let it happen.

And let me call to your attention something I just discovered that might be helpful when searching for particular blog posts. Look in the first line right above the blog and at the top left of the line you will see a white search box that has a little magnifying glass in the right hand corner. Type in a topic or key word, hit enter, and stories will appear that match the key words.  You may have to scroll down through the stories shown to find the one you might want to read, but I thought it might narrow your search a little. 

If I could find it, I would risk copyright laws to share with you an old Non Sequitur by  Wiley comic strip that pretty much sums up my feelings about the Internet and modern technology. The cartoon went something like this: the setting is Hell; the main character, looking  suspiciously like the Devil, is sitting in front of what looks like a giant computer terminal with wires running everywhere and screens lined up across the board; a new occupant is watching from a short distance, and the caption reads, “That explains a lot,” or something to that effect.

As I have lamented before, the Devil is in the details.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bare Legs and Bad Choices

Well, I made the mistake of clicking on one of those MSN teasers about what the movie stars wore to the People’s Choice Awards and saw that the so-called well-dressed are still undressed with bare legs. Britain’s  new royal princess may have had brief success in making hosiery acceptable again, but America’s fake royalty are still showing up with ugly legs. What is it with current trends in fashion these days?

Yeah, I know. For the same reason that I don’t know who half of the young movie stars are, and the fact that bare legs look unsightly to me, I am showing my age. I do realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is relative and subjective, that styles do change, and all that, but come on, some things are just not attractive.

I’m not sure why or when, exactly, bare legs became acceptable. According to an article by Greg Morago in the Los Angeles Times in 1999, much of the bare legs movement can be attributed to the bare legs of the four stars of Sex and the City, those paragons  of proper and acceptable behavior. That explains a lot.

That article also talked about bare legs being this generation’s answer to going braless in the 60s. Both are supposed to be liberating and empowering for the individuals who embrace the style. Really? Freed you up to have ugly legs and sloppy shirt fronts?  If you are younger than 30, are tan and/or have olive skin, you might be able to get away with no hose. That and an endless supply of self-tanner or that stuff Joan Rivers sells to cover up the fact that you don’t have on hose. So what exactly is it that you are liberated from? If the legs have to be camouflaged to look good, and in the process probably  get make-up all over your skirt hem, why not just wear hose and have your feet feel more comfortable in your shoes besides?

I suppose bare legs  also go along with the trend of dressing down in general that has been going on the last several years. Kind of like the frayed, holey jeans which I haven’t seen as much of lately, thank goodness. I read an article in the paper last August that said hosiery was making a come-back, at least for fall, but what I see doesn’t support that.  I can remember the last three awards ceremonies we have attended at the high school auditorium and the bare-legged female teachers who presented awards apparently didn’t own or didn’t bother to check their image in a full-length mirror to see how gross those legs were going to look up on that stage in the bright lights for all to see.

I also read an article  last January that talked about the demise of the necktie for businessmen. Then today I read an article in Vogue magazine (full of beautiful, expensive, impractical clothing that the average woman will never wear-but some of their articles are equally beautifully written) about  hair that was all about looking unfixed, what they called the “deliberately disheveled-couldn’t- care-less-but-doesn’t-it-look-chic look.” They are right about one thing-it does look like they couldn’t care less. The hair looked stringy and dirty to me, but definitely not chic.

And apparently the next  hot fashion statement is wearing pajamas to school and shopping. That one is so lacking in class I don’t think I will even waste the time and space commenting on it.

It used to be you could walk into just about any type of business and the employees looked clean, neat, proud to be there, and  like they knew what they were doing. Not as reassuring today when flip-flops, hoodies, tattered jeans, talking T-shirts, and grungy hair is what greets you. Well, that is, what greets you when you can finally take an employee’s  attention away from the blasted cell phone or just get them to get up out of the chair to begrudgingly wait on you.

I like to wear flip-flops, too, where appropriate;  I don’t want to go back to the days of corsets, girdles, layers of petticoats,  and raised disapproving eyebrows  either,  but  I would like to go back to an attitude of pride in one’s appearance and appropriate dress that shows respect for the occasion, whatever that occasion might be. We tend to act commensurately with how we look, and some of society’s actions could use a dress-up day, too.


Critchell, Samantha. “Fashion says hosiery is making a comeback, but is it pure torture or polish?” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, August 24, 2011.

Harris, Sarah.”She’s Come Undone,” Vogue magazine, October 2011; p. 268-69.

Morago, Greg. “Fashion’s New Trend Appears to Have (Bare)Legs.”  http://articles.latimes.com/1999/nov/19/news

Wolf, Alan M. “Neckties begin to lose corner-office following.” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, January 30, 2011.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Friends Accuse Me of Being A. R.

A. R. referring to anal retentive, of course. I figured I’d better not use the word anal in the title so the blog wouldn’t show up in some pornography website list, since questionable material appeared when I tried to Google the difference between being anal and obsessive-compulsive, just to be sure I knew what I was talking about.

But then, of course I know what I’m talking about, having been identified as the local poster child for the condition by my so-called friends. Sure, I have areas where I strive  for perfection, like driving my students crazy when it came to covering their textbooks. I mean, come on, how hard is it to fold and fit a paper book cover over a literature book and then tape the corners for a nice, snug, secure fit? Hard, apparently, since I would have to devote a whole class period at the beginning of the year  to helping them get it done right. They didn’t seem to appreciate all that instruction at all. Maybe that’s why Glen Scott asked me one day what anal retentive meant-trying to tell me something, perhaps?

And what about making scrapbooks? I can’t just stick pictures on the page willy-nilly, with no regard for chronological order, no consideration for paper design, color, font type and size. The devil’s in the details, you know. I make a huge paper scrap mess getting all those details just right, but that doesn't matter, as long as the spread in the book comes out right.

Gathering rocks also requires attention to detail. All rocks are not created equal, despite what my husband thinks, and great care must be taken when collecting just the right rock for just the right spot in the cactus garden. Well, what happens there is that to make sure I have just the right rock for just the right spot, I have to fill the trailer with a ton of rocks to make sure that when I get them home I have plenty of rocks  from which to choose; inventory,  if you will.  And then there is the arranging that perfect rock, which doesn’t just happen, you know. That requires trying several rocks before choosing the right one and then turning it every which way but loose to make sure it fits the space just so. Rocks aren’t just tossed down and lined up; they must be planned and planted.

And I could probably go on, but I think you get the idea. And if not, Google Phil Hartman doing his bit, “The Anal Retentive Chef,” back when Saturday Night Live was clever and not just vulgar. Well, assuming you don’t think the term anal retentive is vulgar. In this case, I don’t think it is.  Obsessive-compulsive sounds so clinical; anal retentive just sort of hits the nail on the head, don’t you think?

Well, you have to realize that I have also been accused of having a slightly warped sense of humor. But that’s another story…

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Enchanted Rock

I was looking for something to brighten your drought-stricken, brown, cold, windy winter day and came across pictures from one of our visits to Enchanted Rock, between Llano and Fredericksburg, Texas.  Just the thing to take one’s mind, ever so briefly, off the dreariness outside.

Enchanted Rock, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife, is a pink granite batholith, an exposed underground rock formation, one of the largest in the U.S., the rock itself covering 640 acres and 425 feet tall, the peak being 1825 feet above sea level. The Tonkawa Indians named the chunk of granite Enchanted Rock because, to them, it was. Enchanted, I mean. They believed ghost fires flickered at the top and thought that a Spanish conquistador had cast a spell on it. Hearing creaks and groans, most likely from cool night air causing  contractions in the rock after the heat of  the sun during the day, didn’t help dispel that myth.

Time may have run out on the Spaniard’s spell, but the big rock can certainly charm visitors with the beauty of its unusual  rock formations, flowers, wildlife, and hiking trails around it and to the top of it. The climb is certainly doable but  don’t get in any hurry to make it to the top for the panoramic view. Enchanted Rock may not be Kilimanjaro, but the Swahili advice to travel poley poley (slowly slowly) is how you should approach your trek  to the top. It is steeper than it looks. And flip-flops are not suitable climbing shoes…

So, here for your enjoyment, and perhaps incentive to visit in the Spring when things will surely green up, is a look at Enchanted Rock:

IMG_4148This is the start of the trail up the batholith. Alas, for some reasons I didn’t take a picture of the whole thing  from the bottom because, quite frankly, I don’t’ think a picture does it justice.  I didn’t take a picture of the  view from the top, either, for the same reason.   You’ll just have to go and see for yourself.

IMG_0465_1This is not Enchanted Rock, but one of the many odd rock formations in the park area.

IMG_0490_1Black-eyed Susans and Gaillardias.

IMG_0474_1I don’t know what the flowers are; I just like the look of the piece of wood.

IMG_0485_1Water runs through it-at least when we aren’t in drought conditions.

IMG_4161On top of the rock you will find pools of water here and there-when a drought isn’t going on.

IMG_0477_1Wine cups and black-eyed Susans.

IMG_0495A thistle may not look like much, but the color is beautiful.

IMG_0461_1Just a pretty scene with yellow flowers.

IMG_0468Many other kinds of cactus grow there, but prickly pear was the only kind blooming on this visit to the park.

These scenes are only a small sampling of what you will encounter at the park. I hope when the weather is right you will make the drive and spend the day discovering what Enchanted Rock as to offer.  Maybe you’ll even see a ghost or hear a groan.