Sunday, September 8, 2013

Day 2 - Blanco Canyon

Abilene, TX to Lamar, CO - 511 miles
September, 7 2013

As usual on my rides I wake up the rooster and lay in bed waiting for the sun to make its appearance.  On the road with a light motel breakfast by 7:15am motoring almost due north.  Couple of hours later I'm approaching Crosbyton, TX just east of Lubbock.  When you say Lubbock to me I think of cotton fields...immediately after flashing on Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, and Lloyd Maines...and flat land.  But it's not.  Like the grand canyon it gets "hilly" downward.
About twenty miles from Crosbyton I see my first "down."  It's called "Putoff Canyon" after an early settler.  It was known for its abundant fresh water "strong enough to swim a horse."

Further on you start to see where the water runoff that created Putoff Canyon has joined with a larger stream to form yet a larger canyon.  This is Blanco Canyon.

Dry now due to pumping, the fame of the canyon comes from the White River water and considerable timber, scarce in the area, which grew here into the 20th century.

In the 1990s it was confirmed that Spanish Conquistador Francisco Coronado camped here twice in the spring of 1541.  He was, I supposed, busy losing horses,  It's amazing to me how quickly the horses multiplied after the early Spanish reintroduced them to this continent.  It certainly changed the lives of the Plains Indians tribes.

It's the Plains Indians we're interested in...specifically at this stop, the Comanches.  It was here in 1871 that Col. Ranald Mackenzie led his San Angelo-based troops.  The battle fought here barely deserves the name "battle."  Mackenzie lost one trooper and reports indicate a couple of Comanches were killed.  But the significance of the encounter is it was the first real move against the Comanches after the Civil War.  Setting up a supply camp at the mouth of the canyon Mackenzie essentially served notice that the war was on.  Three years later he caught the Comanche, Kiowa, and some Cheyenne north of here in Palo Duro Canyon.  He captured their entire herd of horses (some 1100) and destroyed their tents and September, just before winter set it.  It forced them into reservations to survive.

An interesting note, at least to me, is Mackenzie seems to be able to get a lot accomplished with  few casualties.  He lost one man at Blanco Canyon and one at Palo Duro.

It's just open farm country now, only pretty when you are in it and can see the fertility and richness of the land, and the wide open spaces.  But, at one time, it was where cultures clashed.  For any looking for some great sympathetic treatment of the "noble" Redman you'll have to look somewhere else.  The white man came here and took the land from the Comanche and Kiowa.  They'd taken it from the Apache.  I can determine no fine distinction in the result.

But, time's a-wasting so I head north with the intention of revisiting Palo Duro Canyon.  I made a trip there back in 2009 because it always intrigued me.  But it got so hot by the time I was fairly near I decided to move on north looking for relief.  Didn't get it, though.  But I ate miles of road until  reaching Lamar, Colorado about 5:30pm (our time...they're "behind" us you know).

Took one of those "road showers" I harp about so much.  Seriously, one day I will write the definitive "Ode to the Road Shower."  It will be in iambic pentameter and explain, as only poetry can, how absolutely wonderful a long, drenching shower can feel after 8-10 on the road on the back of a motorcycle.


  1. Finally out of Texas... That is always the longest leg of the trip!

  2. Mackienzie totally rewrote the book on how to fight the Commanchies. Prior to him they used plug farm horses..single shot rifles and poorly trained immigrant Calvry draftees. He did three things. He got fast well trained horses (the Commanchies would raid by the moonlight and be 100 miles away by dawn). He recruited the best soldiers. The biggest thing he did though was meet with Mr Colt and he started field testing (beta) his 45's and recommending changes and improvements. He was the first to have the Colt six shot revolver. From there..well the Commanchies were history

  3. Mackenzie brought to bear the repeating Spencer rifle in his battles with the Comanches. The Texas hero who worked with Samuel Colt on the 6 shooter revolver was John Coffee Hayes in the 1840's. Separated by two decades, both men owed part of their success in the Indian wars to advances in technology.