Am I Actually Loving on…Lubbock Texas? Yes. I Am.

I couldn’t make it up if I tried.

What had happened was, I was on a tour, recently, of the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, Texas, sitting with a few other visitors in one of those open air trolleys bouncing along at 10 miles per hour across vast northwest Texas parkland. The driver stopped occasionally so the tour guide could point out the different historic exhibits – ranch houses, Reconstruction-era machinery, imposing collections of late 1800s branding irons and barbed wire, and the like. The guide, a rancher herself, talked about the tenacity of the cowboys who, on sprawling plantations, managed to thrive and build whole communities out of sheer determination, vision, and that maverick American spirit.

I assumed all these mavericks she was talking about were White, and I wondered where the newly freed Black people fit into all this.

“Where did the newly freed Black people fit into all this,” I asked with a dash of cynicism.

To which, she replied, “I was JUST about to tell you about Daniel Webster Wallace who lived right here in this next house and he, ‘80 John’ – that’s what they called him – worked for a rancher, and he just fit right in with everyone else.”

Hmmm. Skeptical, was I.

A former slave working on a Texas ranch, fitting in with everyone else so soon after the Civil War? Mmhmm. Yeah, that just didn’t vibe with my presuppositions. I mean, this is America.

But, according to a wealth of reports and accounts (just Google it!), ‘80 John’ was a cattle-driving, horse-breaking legend who actually did fit right in!

And, this is the part I can’t make up.

The Lubbock-area rancher ‘80 John’ worked for and forged a transformational bond with was named Clay Mann.

Clay Mann!

That means ‘80 John’ got his freedom only to find himself STILL working for the Mann.

(Apologies. That’s just how my mind works.)

the home of Daniel “80 John” Webster Wallace

All jesting aside, this is why I travel, to take advantage of every opportunity to learn all the things I didn’t know about the history of Black Americans!

Lubbock did not disappoint in that aspect, nor, surprisingly, did it disappoint as a cool, fascinating, colorful destination. (Which might shock you because, let’s be real, the words “Lubbock” and “cool” rarely meet in the same sentence.) Lubbock summons visions of miles and miles of hot, flat, dry earth with air that (because of all that cattle roaming all those plains) too often offends.

But y’all, we have got to stop judging cities by their cow pies.

Lubbock, a panhandle Texas college town with a young population, is reportedly experiencing a social and developmental post-pandemic come-up. The city I expected to let me down, actually turned me up!

According to EverythingLubbock.com, last year was a good one for restaurants and retail in what’s known as the Hub City. There is no shortage of shopping spots, breweries, or eateries, and there’s a lot for visitors to do.

One morning, at the quaint and bustling Monomyth Coffee, I sipped a sweet hazelnut latte and downed a delicious slice of Bacon Onion quiche. One evening, I dressed up for uber elegance at The Nicolett, a downtown fine dining restaurant that served up perfection on every plate – fry bread with honey butter, pozole with fresh hominy, green chile and roasted peppers, and a perfectly seared hiramasa (Yellowtail Amberjack fish) with wild pea ragout, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and pecans. In Lubbock!

But, the thing that sealed my newfound appreciation for the city is its bonafide art scene.

A second, bright red trolley whisked us all over Texas Tech grounds to view some of the university system’s more than 150 pieces of public art created by American and international artists. It’s like a Lubbockian Le Louvre! (My absolute favorite was Oblique Intersection by Lead Pencil Studio’s Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo.)

Then, it was off to the Charles Adams Studio Project, a privately-owned nonprofit that supports artists of every discipline in the Lubbock Cultural District. The organization even manages several chic short- and long-term residency studios where artists can live and create.

“Lubbock, Texas, is pretty instrumental to my creative journey,” says artist Dexter Woods, a first-generation Black ceramicist from Wylie, Texas. Woods is studio manager at the Helen Devitt Jones Clay studio at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts in the heart of downtown Lubbock. The center’s galleries serve as a stage for artists from all over the world, and it offers a host of public classes in everything from clay sculpting and drawing to dance and activities for children. For Woods, a Texas Tech fine arts graduate, Lubbock is where he plans to make his mark in the world of art.

West Texas is a great scene for all creatives and makers.

“West Texas is a great scene for all creatives and makers,” he says. “One of the best things about this location, I believe, is that it has uncharted territory for the arts. Lubbock is a true hub city in that it connects many regions (New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma) which lends itself to a great mixture of culture and ideas.”

I can’t make this stuff up…that’s two D.W.s, Daniel Webster Wallace and Dexter Woods – messengers from the past and present inspiring us to lean into Lubbock. I leaned with abandon! This traveler saw the Lubbock light and is actually showing Lubbock some love. You should, too.

Eats

The Nicolett
511 Broadway Street, Lubbock, TX 79401

La Diosa Cellars Bistro
901 17th Street, Lubbock, TX 79401

Attractions

National Ranching Heritage Center
3121 4th St, Lubbock, TX 79409

Buddy Holly Center
1801 Crickets Ave, Lubbock, TX 79401

Native Austinite Charlotte Moore is a writer, filmmaker, and world traveler. She is founder of UpsyDaisy Productions which produces multimedia stories that focus on what it can mean to be Black. Follow Charlotte on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.

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