amarillo texas: strange place
Perhaps it's the vast reserves of helium stored underground. Or maybe it's the 100-degree May temperatures and constant 50 mph winds that send whirling clouds of yellow dust swirling across the empty plains, obscuring the grain elevators and rare trees that punctuate them.
But Amarillo is one of the strangest places I've ever been.
From aloft this plains panhandle region of west Texas looks like a flat empty desert. Its been in a drought for several years so it probably somewhat resembles the '30s dust bowl Steinbeck wrote about. Strangely like Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain, one huge endless tract of flat land has 10 bright yellow '70s Cadillacs imbedded nose down at the same angle as the Great Pyramid. It's the creation of one Stanley Marsh 3, a 70-something billionaire who inherited his gas and oil fortune from his parents. The so-called Cadillac Ranch is "interactive art" in that people who visit are encouraged to spray paint their own graffiti on the cars. The spray paint is supplied. My Nikon almost got painted when I stood downwind from one would-be graffiti artist. "He's eccentric," said our guide. "If he wasn't so rich we'd call him crazy."
The surreality began within the first few hours I was on the ground when I met the Wilsons, who moved here a year and a half ago from Mentor. Collin Wilson, 18, is a Kwahadi Indian dancer as were his father, Marc, and his grandfather before him. The Kwahadi Center & Kiva here is a Boys Scouts owned and operated museum and performance center that interprets the culture of the Plains and the Pueblo Indians. It all started in 1944 and today the 100 dancer group of Boy and Girl Scouts ages 11 to 22 give 50 or more performances a year throughout this country and abroad. Collin's mom, Darla Wilson, told me that when the family moved back to Amarillo, her husband, who works for Swaglok, began doing beading again. Of course the rest of the family was intrigued and he told them about the unusual scouting program in which he spent his youth. The dancers are really incredibly talented and make their own carefully researched and very elaborate costumes, including intricate beading done on looms they make themselves and headdresses made from porcupine quills.
The Wilson family lived on Inland Shores Drive when they were in Mentor and Collin went to Rice Elementary, Shore Junior High and Mentor High, from which he would have graduated if they hadn't moved. His mom has been home schooling him and he'll be off to college next year. His younger brother and little sister are among his biggest fans. They both want to be Kwahadi Indian dancers when they get older.