The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.
Ft. Worth Stockyards, Texas
My wife and I drove southwest from Crater of Diamonds State Park to Texarkana, where we got back on I-30 and continued west out of Arkansas into Texas. On the drive through northeast Texas we saw some impressive cattle ranches along the Interstate. Then we reached Dallas. The city passed by in a blur of rush-hour Interstate traffic. All I remember is weaving back and forth across six and eight lanes of irritated motorists over and under and around overpasses and underpasses. My Garmin showed spaghetti. You know, when there are so many roads and lanes and on-ramps and off-ramps the screen looks like a heap of stringy pasta. So Dallas was merely one of those bad places I was passing through in order to get to somewhere better. Sort of like going to the dentist.
Our destination was the Ft. Worth Stockyards. It is a living museum, representing a world long gone. This was once the end of the trail for cattle drives. After the steers arrived here they were loaded onto trains and shipped all over the world. At its height one-fifth of all steaks consumed world-wide passed through these stockyards. It was a wild place, where hard-working cowboys could relax after their work was done.
Most of the stockyards now are gone, only a few remain to represent what once was. And a few cattle. And a few cowboys to tend to them.
And faded photographs, and other paraphernalia from that era. Such as saddles.
And other oddities, such as a chair fashioned out of steer horns.
And the people who work in the museums, most likely volunteers, who try to describe what it was like here, once.
There is an arena where rodeos are held.
And a honky-tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas, purporting to be the largest saloon under one roof in the world. Of course it is, because you know how everything is bigger in Texas.
It even has an indoor rodeo, where on the weekend drunken cowboy wannabes can ride a real live bull, not the mechanical kind found elsewhere.
Luckily, I wasn’t there on a weekend. Though I can’t imagine the bulls they allowed people on could be very feisty, for insurance reasons.
If you want to get a sense of what the old west cowboy cattle drive scene was all about, Ft. Worth Stockyards is the place to go. Seeing even this faded hint of what it had once been like is a more real experience than watching an old John Wayne movie.
NEXT LOCATION: LAKE MINERAL WELLS STATE PARK, TEXAS