Amarillo

State approves Boca Chica State Park land swap with SpaceX

A Texas electricity company acknowledges its role in the largest wildfire in state history, a Panhandle blaze still only partially contained. We’ll hear more from the Texas A&M Forest Service.
Despite objections from Brownsville and Rio Grande Valley residents, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department voted to move forward with a plan to swap land within Boca Chica State Park to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Tech expert Omar Gallaga has an update on the Facebook/Meta outages shutting down services for many on Super Tuesday.
And: Actor Thomas Haden Church on his latest film, “Accidental Texan,” a title that also describes his journey to the state.

Texas Standard: February 4, 2021

Beto for senate, Beto for President…now Beto for governor? What may be shaping into a high profile challenge to governor Greg Abbott. Evan smith, CEO of the Texas Tribune on the possibility of an Abbott vs Beto battle for the top office in Texas. Also not all vaccine rollouts in Texas are created equal. Just ask the folks in Amarillo where there’s no online signup, and people from other states are coming to get vaccinated. We’ll have a revealing picture from the panhandle. And amid jokes about coping with the isolation of pandemic, no laughing matter for people struggling with substance use. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

El Llano Estacado

By W. F. Strong

The Llano Estacado is an enormous mesa. It covers more than 37-thousand square miles of Texas and New Mexico. On this side of the state border it starts north of Amarillo and ends south of Odessa. But how did it get its name and what exactly does it mean? Turns out, there are about five different theories about that.

Today, the Llano Estacado has been immortalized in art. Just think of this song from Gary P. Nunn: “It’s the Llano Estacado, It’s the Brazos and the Colorado; Spirit of the people down here who share this land!”

One thing all the theories about its origin story agree on is that there’s a reason the name is Spanish. It’s credited at least in part to conquistador Francisco Coronado who called the area “Los Llanos” — the plains. And that’s where the stories begin to diverge.

The most common one is that Llano Estacado means “staked plains” because “estacado” is the past participle of “estacar,” a verb meaning “to stake” or “to stake out.” The belief was that the vast spaces of the mesa were so disorienting that early explorers and settlers needed to leave stakes in the ground to navigate in a straight line, and to have a direct line of retreat should they need it. Even Coronado’s Native American guides would shoot an arrow straight ahead and then walk to the arrow, and repeat the process over and over to keep from going in a circle. 

But others say that in the time of Coronado, the term “estacar” had a different meaning. It meant “palisaded plains,” or “stockaded plains,” looking like a fort. If you approach the caprock as Coronado did, and as I have done myself, west of Amarillo along the Canadian breaks, from a distance of 20 miles, the rise onto the caprock does indeed look like a fortress stretching as far as one can see. 

But here’s another bit of the puzzle — the great geographer and historian John Miller Morris tells us that Coronado never wrote the words “Llano Estacado.” But Coronado did leave us a detailed description of Lo Llano in a letter to the King of Spain: “…there is not a stone, nor bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by.” This brings us to Morris’s most compelling theory about the name. With no trees and shrubs available, explorers and hunters needed to “stake out” or hobble their horses at night or they’d be gone in the morning. 

All of the theories have their appeals.  But I doubt the origin of the name will ever be settled. Just like its name, the infinite flat land, the ocean of grass that once supported millions of buffalo, remains a romanticized landscape of mystery to this day.   

There’s a sublime book by Shelley Armitage called Walking the Llano. Ms. Armitage has lived on the Llano off and on most of her life and her book reminds me of magical works like Desert Solitaire and Goodbye to a River. She writes, “There’s been no poet of these plains . . . but there is a poetry of the plains. This part of the Llano exists . . . as a shape of time, requiring the rhythm of a habit of landscape, of the repetition of experiencing.” She quotes Mary Austin, “It’s the land that wants to be said.”

Ms. Armitage also ran on the Llano. She writes, “The running taught me something. I began to learn that the land is lyric. I could feel the rhythm of the land come into my legs, up into my chest and heart, and out my mouth as breath. Later it came out as writing.” Perhaps Shelley Armitage is the very poet of the plains she claims does not exist.  

Armitage also tells of the advice of an elder of the White Mountain Apaches, who said, 

“Wisdom sits in places. It’s like water that never dries up. . .  You must remember everything about [places]. You must learn their names. You must remember what happened at them long ago. You must think about it and keep on thinking about it. 

Then your mind will become smoother and smoother. You will walk a long way and live a long time. You will be wise.”

We must do this for the Llano Estacado, in poetry and prose and song.

Texas Standard: November 14, 2018

Fighting fire with…Texans. Crews from the Lone Star State travel west to help Californians battling historic blazes on several fronts. Also, some believe it could be both a watershed moment in the so-called drug war and a cultural moment – as the drug kingpin known as El Chapo heads to trial. Plus, are citizen militias really headed to the border to meet a migrant caravan? Politifact checks it out. And spoiler alert: it won’t be the Amarillo Jerky after all. The Panhandle city picks a name for its minor league ball club… and not everyone’s a fan. All that and more, today on the Texas Standard.

Texas Standard: April 24, 2018

Flattery will get you how far, exactly? How the French Prime Minister’s trying to cultivate a special relationship with the US President, and what it really means. Also, after the Cold War what happened to all those nuclear-tipped missiles? A lot of them wound up in Amarillo, and now, the stockpiles are adding up to a potential crisis. Rick Perry’s Plutonium problem. Plus in the US, the word Socialist used to be a political slur. But now, it’s becoming a campaign platform even in traditionally conservative states, including you know where. And a New York Times reporter tells us about the tea party movement on the left, and its rise in Texas. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: April 23, 2018

The state’s political maps: will they need to be re-drawn? The stakes are high in a case to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, we’ll have the latest. Also in Texas there’s a lot of love for Southwest. But today, lots of frustrated travelers as the Dallas based airline grounds nearly a hundred planes for engine inspections. We’ll hear what inspectors are looking for. And the nation’s biggest psychiatric ward also happens to be a county jail. How did the criminal justice system become the biggest provider of services to the mentally ill? We’ll explore. And a new wave of National Guard troops arrive at the border. How’s this playing out down in the Valley? We’ll take you there. Those stories and so much more on today’s Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: April 20, 2018

Look! In the skies over Galveston. It’s a bird, it’s a plane… No, it’s a plane. And it just might be the next Concorde. NASA’s mission- today on the Standard.

There’s a new policy for meetings at city hall in Amarillo. If you’re caught clapping you might get thrown out. An unusual policy to be sure—but is it constitutional? An SMU legal scholar raises a red flag.

Remember the Alamo? Sure you do. But never like this. Virtual reality comes to the cradle of Texas liberty.

Also why a Texas city ranks #1 for black homeownership. You might be surprised which city it is. Plus the week in Texas politics and more.

Texas Standard: February 20, 2018

86 cents of every dollar donated to state-level campaigns in Texas went to Republicans. We’ll do the numbers. And it’s here: early voting is underway for the Texas primaries. We’ll explore the rules behind where you can cast a ballot and why. And a city on the Texas coast is making plans to become the first new cruise ship port-of-call in about half a century. We’ll talk with the mayor leading the effort. Plus, a big U-S company is changing the way they do healthcare and it’s turning some heads. It may surprise you which company it is. And we’ll also hear from the filmmakers behind a new movie about an event that thrust one Texas city into the national spotlight a few decades ago. Those stories and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: August 10, 2017

North Korea’s threat to fire as many as four missiles at a U-S territory, has many Americans on edge. We put Kim Jong Un’s words in perspective, today on the Standard. Also state lawmakers vote to undo a law they just passed in the spring. Why Republicans are calling a law to crackdown on mail-in ballot fraud a “well-intentioned mistake.” And self-driving cars sound like a dream for many commuters. How the new technology would change several aspects of life in Texas cities. Plus summer’s over for most Texas school children, but imagine going to school year-round? It’s a reality for kids at one elementary in San Antonio. And finding the perfect boots and barbecue – We tap into a little Texas culture to give you some guidance. Turn up your dial, it’s Texas Standard time:

Texas Standard: March 16, 2017

A tweak to a plan to ban sanctuary cities statewide: one that could make a big difference at the side of the road, we’ll explore. Also jammed 911 lines blamed for two deaths in Dallas: is a cellphone glitch gumming up the whole emergency system? And a regulation aimed at preventing another west, suddenly headed south. What this means for efforts to safeguard chemical plants and the people who live near them. Also a crime problem so bad the city’s police chief says you can’t arrest your way out of this one. We’ll hear the backstory. And the latest effort to curb fake news: is that a robot editing your Facebook feed? All of that and lots more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Weather is Never Normal

When Admiral Perry arrived at the North Pole, according to legend, he said, “Must be a cold day in Amarillo!” He was referring of course to the old Texas saying that there is nothing between Amarillo and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence.

Amarillo and the Panhandle are not just famous for arctic fronts and blue northers. They are well known for wind in general. Chicago is not really the king of windy cities; Amarillo is. The Weather Channel says that Amarillo is the windiest city in America. In fact four of the top ten windiest cities in America are in Texas – Amarillo, Lubbock, Abilene and Corpus Christi. It’s tempting to add Austin for other reasons. Windy weather is why Texas is by far number one in wind energy, producing more than twice as much as number two, Iowa.

Another common saying in Texas is this: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.” We are a region that can have the heater on in the morning and the air conditioner on at noon, only to turn the heater back on at night. In weather, we are bi-polar. I like the post floating around the net these days that goes like this: “Mother Nature says: You can’t squeeze all the weather in the world into one week. Texas says: Hold my beer and watch this.”

And then, it’s not uncommon to see signs in Texas during the summer that say: “Satan called. He wants his weather back.”

Here’s another Texas expression I love: “It’s hotter than a fur coat in Marfa.” See if you can’t work that one into conversation someday soon.

Despite the persistence of the claim that you can fry an egg on the sidewalk, it is never actually hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. It does get hot enough to bake cookies on the dash. I’d much rather have dashboard cookies than sidewalk eggs, anyway.

My brother Redneck Dave used to be annoyed that Freer often reported the highest summertime temperature in the state. He said “I know for a fact that they keep their town thermometer in an oil field pipe yard. That ain’t right.” He seemed to think they were unfairly winning a weather Emmy of some sort – best performance in heat.

Much of Texas is known for being dry. Dry as a bone, they often say. A West Texas rancher once told me, “God ain’t much of a rainer out here, but he was mighty generous with the stars.”

And they have sandstorms in West Texas so intense that they leave sand drifts behind. In some years they have to shovel snow in the winter and sand in the summer. I bet sometimes they get to do this on the same day.

Farmers I knew as a kid would say that south Texas was so hot and dry that the “trees were whistling for the dogs.” Gotta love farmers. Humor as dry as the land.

Eventually droughts are broken and the rain comes. Then we have “gully washers and toad stranglers.” Or old timers say, “It’s raining so hard the animals are startin’ to pair up.”  The great meteorologist Isaac Cline got it right when he said: “Texas is a land of eternal drought interrupted occasionally by Biblical floods.”

Houston is not known so much for rain or drought, but for humidity. It is a giant sauna much of the year. I doubt Houston would be the economic powerhouse it is if it weren’t for air-conditioning. In 1900, there were less than 50,000 Houstonians. Won’t be too long before there will be 7 million people in the greater Houston area. What happened in the last century? The invention and perfection of air-conditioning. Coincidence? I think not.

Somewhere in Houston they should have a big statue of Willis Carrier, 100 feet tall, right off the Gulf Freeway. Willis would reside comfortably inside a huge glass display case, which would be air-conditioned, of course.

In Texas we define ideal weather as Chamber of Commerce weather. It may not be unique to Texas, but it is a common expression here. But honestly that weather is rare. Most of the time I visit a Texas town for the first time people tell me, “the weather isn’t usually like this.” But from my experience it is. Texas weather is never actually normal.

Texas Standard: March 6, 2017

Mr. Obama told his successor it would be the most urgent problem he would confront. Hint: it doesn’t involve wiretaps. Should the Trump administration take out North Korea’s weapons capability, and if so how? In the wake of a new wave of rocket launches, UT’s Jeremy Suri joins us to consider the options. Also winter wildfires in the panhandle…what west Texans need to do now to stay on top of a critical situation. Plus remember the Alamo? Remember what they were planning to do with it? As the bottom line for a massive restoration project grows, so does a question: how to pay for it. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard: