Call for Music Critics and Essayists: If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by our quality readership.
Call for Music Critics and Essayists: If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by our quality readership.

The Flatlanders: Now It’s Now Again

The tale of the musical journey of the Flatlanders—Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock—from a house in Lubbock, Texas to a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall.

Excerpted from The Flatlanders: Now It’s Now Again (Copyright © 2014 by John T. Davis) is used by permission of the University of Texas Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reprinted, reproduced, posted on another website or distributed by any means without the written permission of the publisher. For more information visit University of Texas

Chapter 2

The City

I would describe Lubbock as a great place to live. But I wouldn’t want to visit there.

— Tommy X. Hancock

In Lubbock,” Butch Hancock likes to say, “you can see fifty miles in any direction. And if you stand on a tuna fish can, you can see a hundred miles.”

Lubbock — home of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, white bread, and blue northers. The “Hub City” as boosters like to call it, alluding to the roads and railroad tracks that radiate out from the city like so many wagon wheel spokes.

It’s such an ordinary little sand-scrubbed city, in the midst of so many miles of inelegant country, to be at the heart of so much mystery and lore.

Like a lot of towns on the plains, Lubbock feels arbitrary. You get the feeling that some westward-faring settlers were making their way to California when a wheel abruptly fell off the wagon.

“To hell with it,” they seem to have said, and set up shop on the spot.

They weren’t the first. The Lubbock Lake Landmark archaeological site on the north side of town documents a unique and unbroken eleven-thousand-year history of human settlement.

There are no obvious natural advantages to the location except for the thin stream of a branch of the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River. Atop the Caprock, on the edge of the Llano Estacado, exposed to the elements under a vast bowl of sky, Lubbock’s earliest pioneers must have felt like they were becalmed at sea.

Ranchers and farmers who at last felt safe to venture out with their families into the former Comancheria founded the city in 1890.

Within a year, a newspaper was publishing, and Quakers, Baptists, and Methodists vied for the souls of the pious (including, one presumes, Catholic Tejano vaqueros and farmers). In the fall of 1909 the Santa Fe Railway reached town, the same year Lubbock incorporated as a city. The census next year counted 1,938 hardy denizens.

In 1923, the state legislature established Texas Technological College — Texas Tech, in modern parlance — and the town began to take on the trappings of a city. Dryland farming of cotton and sorghum boosted the fortunes of the isolated metropolis — it was the only handy mercantile center for banking, marketing, and wholesaling for hundreds of miles.