Saturday, October 29, 2016

See The World and Never Leave Texas. Part 4: Turkey

Ah Turkey.  The country that conjures up images of East meeting West, the silk road, haggling with traders in old world bazaars, quality hash, late night arrests, stolen passports, dark prisons with slop buckets and daily beatings, forgotten for years in a solitary pit...

Ah Turkey.  The tiny little Texas town (pop. 494) in the panhandle, where the prairie meets the plains giving new meaning to flat.  Stand on a phone book and you can see Kansas, maybe even Canada on a clear day.

Our drive to Turkey in July was uneventful.  It was hot of course and the A/C in the Mercury was not at its best unless we kept the speed over 75, so I duly obliged.  Our actual destination was Caprock Canyons State Park, a jewel in the high plains that is not as well known as its cousin Palo Duro, but no less impressive, albeit on a smaller scale.

The nearest town to Caprock Canyon is the lovely named Quitaque ("Kitty Kay") but the nearest accommodations is the Hotel Turkey in... you guessed it.  The Hotel Turkey is wonderful.  It has about 15 rooms and has not changed its decor since 1920.  We were the only guests and when we arrived the place was deserted save for the cook who could not check us in.  He called the owner (a local rancher) who advised us to pick any room we wanted and would settle up later.  So we basically did the Goldilocks thing until we found a bed we liked.  Clearly Turkey still believes in the honor system and a mans word is his bond.
"I remember you well, in the Turkey Hotel"
We dumped our bags and toured the town on foot which took all of five minutes.  The dust storm that had greeted us on the way in had dissipated and the day was giving way from blast furnace heat to regular old stifling oven heat.  We enjoyed an excellent Tex-Mex dinner at Galvan's (was there even another choice of venue?) and walked it off with a stroll about the quiet streets.

View from our room.  The wagon clearly was abandoned in 1894 and has not moved since.

Another view of the Hotel Turkey

Turkey's main claim to fame is that it where Bob Wills spent his formative years and learned to sing and play the fiddle.  Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys popularized a genre of country music called Western Swing in the 1940's and has proved to be hugely influential (not that you would know it based on the crap that comes out of Nashville these days).  His music survives today, primarily through Asleep at the Wheel and it is the type of sound that gets you foot tapping and puts you in a good mood.

Mr. Wills old tour bus is parked in downtown Turkey, unprotected from the elements.  Every April the town has weekend celebrating its favorite son and thousands descend for the music and festivities.
Bob Wills tour bus

Not much else to say about Turkey, TX.  It is tiny, quaint and unchanged since the 1950's.  It is right out of the pages of a Larry McMurtry novel.  We stayed one night and thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast at the hotel.  Caprock Canyon was terrific.  I am still a bit uncertain about why there is a canyon in the middle of the prairie but it something to do with the Llano Estacado (staked plains) meeting the high plains, wind erosion, torrential spring rains, etc.  I will have another entry dedicated to the park.

So as expected Turkey, TX has nothing in common with the country thousands of miles to the east. There was not even a street named after Istanbul (or Constantinople).  And here is a little secret, Turkey, TX is named after the bird.  But it is fun to tell people you have been to Turkey and see their quizzical expression when you tell them you drove... and it was hot and desolate and there wasn't any spices or traders.  But the Tex-Mex was great...

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