Where Ranchers Meet Astronomers!

Trip Start May 14, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
2013 Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Flag of United States  , Texas
Thursday, February 28, 2013

Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Alpine Texas.  We had plans to stay in the historic town of Ft Davis (described the Ft Davis National Historical Site in one of our Summer 2012 entries) en route to Big Bend National Park, Texas.  But when the motor home starter began showing signs that it was going out (the motor home is ten years old), we determined not to risk it.  Big Bend is definitely off the beaten path and we figured there wouldn't be much in the way of RV services, so decided to order the part to be shipped here and have the local mechanic install it. Services and shopping are limited in Ft Davis and the closest Walmart, for example, is about 90 miles away in Ft Stockton. We ventured out one day to do some shopping in Ft Stockton.  On the return trip to Ft Davis, we happened to see a banner hanging across the main street in Alpine, TX (about 24 miles from our campsite) which read "The 27th Annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering", and it happened to be taking place that weekend! We thought this would be a wonderful way to spend a stranded weekend. The Gathering took place at Sul Ross State University (Lawrence Sullivan Ross was a Confederate General and former Governor of Texas). The Gathering included cowboy poets and musicians, with several small performances taking place concurrently in classrooms throughout the campus.  What struck us was the talent and authenticity of the "cowboy spirit", in that they were, for the most part, true ranchers and cowhands--wearing worn hats, boots and jeans--and displaying genuine talent and creativity, while preserving their cultural heritage. They weren't "posing" as cowboys and cowgirls, they were the real thing!  And not all performers were over the age of 50; it was heart-warming to see young people carrying on the tradition. Even saw our first wash tub played like a bass fiddle! Americana at its best!  Oh, almost forgot ... the highlighted guest artist happened to be cowboy poet/humorist/commentator and former large animal veterinarian, Baxter Black.  Those of you who listen to National Public Radio may have heard some of his hilarious commentaries.  The title of his show was "Bust a Gut with Baxter Black", and we certainly did!!!  For those of you who'd like to view a terrific example of his humor, check out his YouTube video entitled "Vegetarian Cowboy Cookbook".  Just Google "Baxter Black" and it should come right up.  Enjoy!

McDonald Observatory, Ft Davis, Texas lies in the Davis Mountains, surrounded by acres and acres of ranch land.  The site was donated to the University of Texas at Austin, in order to develop astronomical research.  The first telescope was dedicated in 1939.  It was agreed by many experts that this would be the ideal location for an observatory; not only was the climate ideal (arid), the longitude and latitude provided a greater viewing spectrum but, most importantly, it happened to be the darkest place in the Continental United States (and still is!), because the area has the least amount of artificial light pollution. The observatory has several telescopes, and at this point houses the fifth largest telescope in the world.  We were able to go on a nearly three-hour guided tour of the facility, which included a lecture and informational video.  Three nights during the week the observatory schedules "Star Parties".  We are sorry to have missed this opportunity, but think it would be a real thrill.  The observatory also produces the syndicated radio short entitled "StarDate", which is heard on many National Public Radio stations, and features many interesting and up to date astronomical news items and sightings.  When asked if their telescopes were able to pick up the meteor that slammed into Russia recently, our guide informed us that this meteor came completely "out of the blue"!

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Barbara on

sounds like an interesting time and a good way to pass the time while you are waiting for the part for your RV.

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