Small towns sometimes have biggest stories

By Grant McGee: CNJ Columnist

I recently came across a book filled with the writings of the late Paul Crume, humor columnist for The Dallas Morning News.

What a surprise to find this big city journalist writing about where he grew up, in Lariat over in Parmer County, Texas.

You know Lariat. It’s on the north side of highway 70/84 on the way to Lubbock. There’s a grain elevator, a church, some homes and a cotton gin.

From Crume’s writings it sounds like Lariat has always been the same size. In a February 1966 column titled “An Official Whistle,” Crume wrote, “…Lariat was not any whistle-stop, by dog. It was just a whistle.”

The Santa Fe train barreled on through Lariat every day. The outgoing mail sack was snatched up, a fresh sack was thrown out, no stopping.

Lariat and other tiny places dot the High Plains, like Elida. I know a few things about this Roosevelt County town because my good buddy Kent, Bard of the Pecos, grew up there in the 1940s and ’50s.

Kent’s momma ran the restaurant in Elida when it was a bustling burg.

Kent had a lot to say about Elida during the peak of the cowboy poetry movement a few years ago. “I knew two old cowboys in Elida named Mutt and Shorty,” he wrote in an e-mail.

“I never heard either one of those guys read poetry, wax eloquent about poetry or even know what poetry was. So cowboy poetry for me kind of rings untrue. I just can’t see Mutt sitting around writing or reading poetry about the last roundup, Old Blue or the family spread. More believable would be his spicy stories about his dalliances with the town’s ‘woman of easy virtue.’”

Kent used another term for the woman but I can’t print it here.

Then there’s Sudan over in Texas, off toward Lubbock, about 45 minutes from Clovis. It’s one of my favorite High Plains towns. Every time I zip by Main Street Sudan I see possibilities.

I kid around with folks saying if I win at Powerball I’d buy up Main Street Sudan and the Sudan Hotel. I’d import hippie artists and help them set up pottery workshops, art studios and galleries. I’d turn the hotel into a bed and breakfast, string Christmas lights through downtown and leave them up all year long, a New Mexican tradition I’d like to see exported everywhere.

Of course I don’t know what my new neighbors, the citizens of Sudan, would say about all of this.

There are other places, like “downtown” Lazbuddie with its flock of guineas. I was warned about these screeching birds by some folks in Farwell. Tongue firmly in-cheek, I asked about traffic jams in Lazbuddie and was warned of the grey birds. Once we got there, there they were, crowding around our car.

Is Lazbuddie the guinea capital of west Texas?

Then there’s Earth and its murals depicting days gone by, the native stone schoolhouse and gymnasium of Wheatland or the crumbling remains of Yeso. Once busy places, now the High Plains wind blows through their remnants. A board falls here, a shingle flies off there, bit by bit they’re being worn down.

So next time you’re barreling through these places like an old Santa Fe mail train, think about how things were long ago. Let your imagination run free.

Something tells me the folks who lived in these towns had some interesting stories to share.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: