Panhandle Mystery Monument
following is a rather interesting story as told through an exchange of email in
early September, 2006. Admittedly it is short on sex, untimely death, and drama.
Within, no one eats worms to win a house and there are no photos of celebrity
babies. There's no DNA to examine, no bodies to exhume - and it didn't involve
satellite imagery. What makes it rare is that it is a story of people helping
people - cutting through red tape and dismissing state boundaries. Ladies and
Gentlemen (and those undergoing a change of gender), we submit to you (with apologies
to E. Stanley Gardner): |
Case of the Texas Mystery Monument.
was a chalk-dry morning with no fewer than three tornadoes on the horizon. Curley
and his crew were akle-deep in the dusty hailstones that had just fallen minutes
before. Curley was about to brand some truant schoolchildren that had been trespassing
on the Bigger-than-Your Ranch when his eye caught the red flashing light on the
bunkhouse roof. Email! He mounted his horse, rode up to the bunkhouse, tip-toed
so as not to disturb the sleeping coyotes, kicked open the door and lunged for
his mouse. But no one was replying to his personal ad on eharmony and no one wanted
to buy the Indian artifacts he had listed on e-bay. It was only a letter sent
to him by mistake. He forwarded it to us to claim the $1 bounty that TE pays for
lost or misdirected email - and it was this lost letter (printed below) that started
the whole thing:
Texas Mystery Monument
Dear Texas Escapes,
Attached [is a photo] showing
my father (now 92 but with very limited memory) standing in front of a monument.
I've been in touch [with] the Texas Historical Commission, but [I was told that]
that agency only came into existence in 1953, while this photo would have been
taken some time in the 30s.
Have you ever seen anything like it in your
studies? I'm interested in anything I can learn about it--where it was, is it
still there, what did it signify, etc. I know you don't [can't] get into genealogical
stuff, but I will admit I'm interested - since knowing about it would help me
to know when Dad came to Texas.
- Richard Benton, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Letter from Editor to Richard Benton:
photo. We'll be happy to add it to the forum and see what our readers say. It's
a shame the silverfish ate your father's face.
Our reluctance with geneaology
is only due to people who get deep into extended family and timelines - but we
often "get involved" with forgotten cemeteries and family stories. That's really
what gets us out of bed in the morning. Since it doesn't appear to be a specific
marker - it may be a forerunner to the familar Texas silhouette markers at the
state line(s). It might even be a prototype that was never used. The streamlined
shape would match your father's natty 30's suit. We're glad to hear your father
is still with us - reaching 92 is quite an accomplishment - no matter what the
We will ask for help from Anne Cook, the photo librarian
at TxDoT. She has albums of old photos going back to the 30s - and she's been
a great help over the years. If you would want people to contact you directly,
we can include your email address - but we always ask first. Sometimes we get
immediate responses - and sometimes we don't hear a thing. Our demographics are
on our side - since many readers are in their 70s and 80s. It's a wonderful photo.
Let us know if you want your email address published.
- John Troesser
Letter to Editor from Richard Benton:
Thanks for the quick response. Yes, you may share my e-mail address, and the original
e-mail itself, with anyone you think might help. As far as TxDoT goes, by coincidence,
it was also suggested by Teri at "email@example.com", I just sent an e-mail
to the general mailbox there--however, if you have an address for Anne, I'd love
to contact her directly.
- Dick Benton
Silverfish ate my father's face! |
TE to Anne Cook at TxDoT's Photo Library
Any comments on the attached photo would be appreciated. It almost
looks like a photographer's backdrop. Since it doesn't seem to be incident or
disaster specific - could it have been a forerunner to the present markers at
state lines? A prototype? I wish the silverfish hadn't eaten the face of the subject
- but it's an interesting photo just the same.
Thanks for your time. Hope
you are doing well.
Anne to TE:
I know this photo. I'm thinking it was tied in to the Centennial
of 1936. Let me poke around and I'll get back to you soon.
Thank you. That would be wonderful if you had it.
Silverfish ate my father's face!|
Anne to TE
Okay, I found a
photo of the monument without the gentleman. There is no identifying information
attached to the photo, catalog number H-312. And the images filed on either side
of it are from VERY different locations H-311 is Pecos County and H-313 is Woodville;
so I hesitate to draw any geographic conclusions.
I'm asking John Anderson
at the Texas State Library and Archives if he has any ideas.
Silverfish ate my father's face!|
TE to Richard Benton:
struck out with Anne - but she's checking with _______________at the Texas State
Library and Archives. You've got some of the best people in the state working
on this. - but don't worry - we still have a chance with our readers when it is
TE to Richard Benton:
(Corrected from Silverfish ate my father's face!)
I apologize for the previous subject line - I forgot it was up there.
Anne and I sometimes exchange tabloid-style subject lines. I have many old photos
that the damn things have eaten. When she said she had seen the photo - at first
I thought she meant the same exact photo - and was hoping your father's face would
be shown - but now I know she just meant the monument itself. (After thinking
about it - why in the world would TxDoT have a photo of your father?)
Anne has proven herself more than once and ________________ is certainly no slouch.
However, since the subject is a monument, Anne has files that the Texas State
Library wouldn't have - but on the other hand - the Centennial
was a VERY big event. The state erected hundreds of distinctive gray, granite
markers if not thousands - and most are still standing. This one, however, is
new to me. Although somewhat rare in Texas - Art Deco did make it here. I was
thinking it might've been the State Fair - since Fair
Park in Dallas has Art-Deco sculptures.
Our fingers are crossed.
Richard Benton to TE:
Subject: Re: Fw: Silverfish ate my
Actually, I wish I could blame silverfish for the degradation
to my father's face, but that occurred as I tried to (gingerly, but obviously
not well enough) remove some dirt from that area of the snapshot. No worries about
the title, though--I got a laugh out of it!
back at an undisclosed location in Capitol City:|
Letter from Anne Cooke to Jim Steele
I've attached two
photos of a mystery monument. The Photo Library shot, H-312 has no identifying
information attached. And the images filed on either side of it are from VERY
different locations H-311 is Pecos County H-313 is Woodville, so I hesitate to
draw any geographic conclusions.
I'm asking John Anderson (photo curator
at the Texas State Library and Archives) if he has any ideas.
photo (along with the query as to details) came from Texas Escapes and was submitted
by a www.texasescapes.com reader.
- Anne L. Cook
from Jim Steely to Anne Cook:
Anne -- I'm pretty sure that's the 1936
Centennial state entry sign on Route
66 entering the Panhandle
from the east/Oklahoma. I've seen photos of it before, and I'll think about it
awhile to remember where. Perhaps in one of the THD District Centennial
photo albums that you have a few of. I would say the gentleman in the second photo
by the sign is Lyndon Johnson, but the hat's too crumpled. That's certainly a
natty suit, anyway.
- Jim Steely
Benton to TE (after receiving photos from Anne Cook):|
WOW! I score
that as at least a triple, not a homerun --that's certainly the monument, much
clearer than in my photo (although here, the star seems light colored, whereas
in my snapshot it's definitely dark, like a bronze plaque or something). By the
way, the original is just a snapshot, so it was probably actually taken on site
rather than in a studio. Now if we had any idea of when or / why it was erected...
Thank you so much!
from TxDoT to TE:|
Bingo to Jim Steely who rocks Depression-era Texas
structures! I'd looked at thumbnails of the Centennial photo albums but Jim's
reply sent me looking at the larger image for the Amarillo District. And there
Although captioned as Highway #75, it is better known as Route
66 which has been supplanted by Interstate 40. I'm forwarding this to TxDOT Wheeler
County maintenance to see if anyone knows the fate of the marker.
been a pleasure tracking this one down. Thanks for asking.
to Richard Benton:|
Richard, Good news! What follows is Anne's letter.
I had a feeling it was a state line marker. On Route
66! I hope it prompts your father's memory. The base of it might still
be there. I know there's an old jail on the Oklahoma side we've been trying to
get - so we might try to get an "epilog" photo should we find ourselves near there.
Let me know what you think - we'll still feature it - even though the mystery
is now solved.
Richard Benton to TE
are awesome! This info will definitely help me in tracking my father's movements
in his younger years. Interesting, though, I don't see the dark star on the base--just
the bare concrete one.
Regardless, this is terrific! Thank you so much!