Parmer County Historical Commission put together one of those 30-pound volumes
of county history that we're so fond of here at Texas Escapes. This is where the
real Texas resides - not in state history textbooks, not in the movies, and certainly
not in chamber of commerce brochures. The real Texas is found in county histories.
In Parmer County it's easy to visit New Mexico without being
fully aware of it.
If you happened to be graduating from high school
in 1936, you faced a bleak and uncertain future. If you were graduating from Parmer
County, Texas the future was still bleak, but at least it was certain. Oklahoma
Lane was a community roughly defined as 10 miles square and about nine miles East
of Farwell. The unlikely name comes from the former residence of the founding
One of the most entertaining entries in the Parmer County
history was written by Harold Carpenter - a young man with an extraordinary eye
for detail and a fully developed sense of humor. Harold took mental notes of the
adventure and recalled the most minute details 50 years later.
lasted five days and four nights with the students, bus driver, and teacher /
chaperones journeying west to New Mexico, soaking up enough 'foreign" culture
to last them a lifetime. One of the places visited was the University of New Mexico
where Harold and his group saw "professors with foreign accents and accommodating
manners." Another item seen at the "modernistic university" was an anthropological
souvenir from Brazil - a shrunken human head described as being "the size of a
Being at the halfway point of the Great Depression meant
making some economic adjustments.
Camping was one. Sleeping just off
the highway and eating pineapple out of the can were experiences the students
could have enjoyed at home, but it was much more exotic to experience them in
New Mexico. Breakfasts of scrambled eggs and canned salmon was another.
There were other unforgetable experiences like washing dishes in the Rio Grande
(downstream from Indian ponies) and seeing one's teacher burn the front of her
dress off on the campfire. On one occasion - they stayed at "a place owned and
operated by a person with the astounding name of Valentine."
was made more exciting by the actual bus ride itself. The driver - a man named
Lester - "piloted" the bus downhill "with the switch off" for 11 ˝ miles on one
occasion and swerved sharply to avoid a load of hay on another. The sudden redistribution
of students in the bus frame left Harold with three "lacerated" ribs. Another
student suffered a cracked bone in his neck. In West Texas in the 1930s - the
average elementary school recess was good for cracked vertebrae and lacerated
ribs, so since no one was paralyzed, the trip continued.
lunch one day, they surprised a café owner who hadn't been expecting a busload
of hungry students. He apologized, saying that the only thing available was ice
cream in cones. The students reluctantly resigned themselves to eating every cone
in stock - even getting down to the stale stock where one female student discovered
a spider web in the bottom of her cone.
Since there wasn't enough live
local entertainment in the evenings, they saw several movies on their trip. One
night they "dressed up in their cleanest clothes" and went to a movie where "the
talking apparatus stayed only fairly close to the film." The big surprise was
running into a real Hollywood film in-the-making a few days later. Jack Oakie
and Fred McMurray were on location filming The Texas Rangers.
Like most Texas epics, it was filmed in another state. Harold observed that the
film crew was feeding the Indians soup three times a day in order to "use their
help as extras." Soup was a pretty popular dish in 1936.
A second surprise
(not quite as exciting) was running into other Palmer Countians. The senior class
from neighboring Farwell were taking more or less the same route.
students visited Indian and Mexican villages where the teacher expressed awe at
the native handicrafts, and hand-made furniture. Her appreciation came to an abrupt
end when she asked one Indian man if he had made the wrought iron bedstead in
his house. "Did you make this, sir?" "Hell, No!" the man replied - "we ordered
it from Montgomery Ward."
Harold's narrative of the trip ended too soon.
They headed back to Texas passing through Clovis, New Mexico at 4:30 p.m. and
crossed the state line at 5:55 - a time that stuck in Harold Carpenter's memory.
They were no doubt happy to get back to familiar territory and it would be safe
to assume that they all went to see The Texas Rangers when it was released.
From A Parmer County History, The Parmer County Historical Commission,
© John Troesser