Hysterical Journey to Historic Places

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September 8th 2019
Published: September 8th 2019
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If you ever find yourself at loose ends in Vernon, Texas on a sleepy Saturday afternoon you might find it amusing to visit the Red River Museum. The museum has a couple of old ladies who volunteer as docents. One of them is 75 and the other is 80, and both of them are full of stories. The elder of the two gave me a personally guided tour through the entire facility, since no other tourists were there. She was quick to point out that both Roy Orbison and Jack Teagarden were born in Vernon. Roy had a fine singing voice, and was seldom off key with it. He was born in the hospital, but it is no longer the hospital. The town of Vernon has a Roy Orbison Park that they are quite proud of and have Roy Orbison celebrations in every year. Jack was a trombone player from back in the big band era. Neither of us was entirely sure if a trombone player would actually count as a musician though. Mostly what he did was make a lot of racket that people were glad enough to kick up their heels to. One exhibit featured an array of mastodon and wooly mammoth fossils and a nicely done collection of arrowheads and tools used by local tribesmen. Another exhibit told the story of Doan’s Crossing on the Red River. Doan’s was the first white settlement in Wilbarger County and the point where the trail herds crossed the Red on their merry way up to the railroads in Kansas and on to the slaughter houses in Chicago. Not much, if anything, remains of Doan’s anymore but the locals still whoop it up at an annual celebration there. It gives them a chance to get all dolled up in fancy clothes and tawdry jewelry. One whole room is dedicated to an assortment of a hundred, or so, animal heads from all over the world. Apparently taxidermy is a popular hobby in Vernon. The rest of the museum shows the sculptures done by a local artist named Electra Berry. She did a fine job on Harry Truman, and on Ike, and on Victor McLaughlin, who was a pal of hers, and on a few other notables that I never heard of. The Bob Hope bust she did had his nose and eyes and his smirk all wrong though. The docent claims that the Buick Electra and the Lockheed Electra were named in honor of Electra Berry. I hope it is true.


As I was leaving I mentioned that I was on my way down to visit Thalia, Texas. Larry had written a series of books about a fellow named Duane Moore who lived in Thalia. The first book was called The Last Picture Show, then he wrote a sequel called Texasville, and finally a book called Duane’s Depressed. A visit to Thalia has been on my bucket list for years. The younger docent, the one that was just 75, told me her brother was married to Larry’s sister, and that she had been an extra for an hour and a half on the set of The Last Picture Show as it was being filmed over in Archer City, Texas. As it turns out, everything that Larry wrote about Thalia was a damn lie. There is no movie house there, there is no high school, there is no Dairy Queen, there is no rhinoceros farm, and there is no oil being drilled there; at least not that you can see from the road. It is little wonder that Duane was depressed. His whole life was a lie. The old ladies advised me to be on the lookout for feral hogs as I drove into the sunset.


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