Category: Spotlight

American history preserved through restoration at Windmill Museum

by Autumn Bippert

The United States was once covered coast to coast by windmills that provided underground water as well as power.

The American Windmill Museum in Lubbock celebrates the history of wind-powered machines and the relationship between windmills and railroads. The museum houses more than 200 restored windmills and wind turbines.

“This is a history museum for the American style windmill,” said Coy Harris, a retired executive director and co-founder. “We’ve added to that by going back to early American history around 1600, and an English post mill that we now have on the grounds. So it covers our history of wind power in America from 1621 to right through today.”

Harris said that an estimated 24,000 people per year visit the museum. Regular hours are year-round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. In June, July, and August, it is also open on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m..

Admission is  $7.50 for adults, $5 for children age 5 to 12, free for children younger than 5, $6 for seniors age 60 and older and veterans, and $20 for a family of four (two adults and two children). 0Q6A7145

The museum has two exhibit halls featuring both water-pumping and electric-producing windmills. All have been restored to original manufacturer specifications.

There is a variety of colorful wooden windmills and practical steel windmills featured inside. There also are windmills with collapsible blades, windmills with directional tails, railroad windmills, industrial windmills, and iron bucket windmills. The museum even exhibits a haunted windmill, the last remaining “twin-wheel” in existence, which had a reputation for killing more than the usual share of windmill workers.

“Back in 1993, when we set this up, there was a lady that worked at Texas Tech that had been photographing windmills for about 30 years,” Harris explained. “And she had noticed that the number of windmills were decreasing.”

In the 1960s, Billie Wolfe, a faculty member in Texas Tech’s College of Home Economics, began traveling throughout the country searching for windmills and interviewing the farmers and ranchers who owned them. In 1992, Wolfe learned of an unusual collection of restored windmills in Nebraska that was for sale. She visited the owner in Mitchell, Nebraska, who had a premier collection of early American windmills.

In the summer of 1993, Wolfe met Coy Harris, a Lubbock native and CEO of Wind Engineering Corporation. Together, they established the American Windmill Museum as a non-profit organization.

“We started to set up this windmill museum to preserve those that were left,” said Harris.

Harris planned, arranged and moved the collection to Lubbock, a collection that included 48 windmills, 171 weights, 56 pumps and models. Then he began the work to raise money for the balance of the purchase.

In early 1997, Wolfe passed away, but the work by her and Harris was rewarded that summer by the City of Lubbock, which offered the windmill group a permanent home in an area of Mackenzie Park.

This 28-acre tract of hills was ideal for the large number of windmills the organization owned at the time. The Scarborough-Linebery Foundation of Midland awarded a grant of more than $1 million to the museum, and a 30,000-square-foot gallery building was built to house the windmills.

As executive director, Harris designed and supervised the construction of the windmill museum, as well as the restoration and continued acquisition of the museum’s collection of rare mills. During the period when the water-pumping windmills were being acquired, Harris collected a number of early electric-generating wind chargers, some dating to the 1920’s.

By 2015, the original building was full of windmills, so a complementary 33,000-square-foot gallery building was built and opened in 2016.

Featured inside the museum is a model train system, which has a 3,000-foot mainline track and a layout of the South Plains region.

“We put in a big train system because the trains and the windmill came out here together,” Harris said. “And they worked very well together.”

The historical model train system can run 10 trains at the same time across the large layout. There are 36 scale windmills and five railroad-style windmills that were printed on a 3-D printer. It also features 12 custom-built houses, 34 buildings and a 1940 vintage downtown Lubbock.


“There’s a lot of things to see here, so there are different things for different people,” Harris said. “All the kids love the train sets. The older people, who had windmills, like to see the windmills that they used to have. The ladies that come out to visit here, if they’re not into windmills, we have miniature houses that are used on our train set. Plus we have certain wind turbines, in fact, we have a big one that runs the whole place. So there’s quite a lot of things to see out here.”

Also inside the museum is the “Legacy of the Wind” windmill mural,which covers 6,000-square-feet of wall space. It also houses one of the largest collections of grinding millstones in the Garrison Millstone room, along with the Alta Reed collection of miniature houses.

Outside the museum is the Linebery Windmill Park, which has a variety of windmills across its 28-acres. The park features both old and new windmills that can be seen and heard pumping water from underground.

Also in the park is the Vestas Wind Turbine, which has a 154-foot diameter wheel and stands on a 165-foot tall tower. The turbine stands out as a giant among the windmills. It is large enough to power the museum complex.

At’l Do Farms provides family friendly fall fun

by Kendall Rainer

One of the many traditions associated with fall is going to a pumpkin patch or corn maze.

At’l Do Farms offers both festive family fun activities to Lubbock residents and those from the surrounding area.

At’l Do Farms opened its gates for their 19th year of having a corn maze for the public on Sept. 14. The maze will remain open through the fall season until Nov. 9. At’l Do Farms is located at 6323 FM 1294 in Lubbock.

Hours of operation are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m, Tuesday through Friday. Their weekend hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. The farm also relies on good weather to stay open. When there’s a lot of rain, the farm has to close because the maze is too muddy for people to walk through. In the event of bad weather, visitors may keep their tickets and return at a later date.IMG_0040

The farm features a main intricate corn maze with eight different “Maize Passports” that help you solve the maze. There also is a very straight forward maze called Fairy Tale Trail for younger children.

Children and adults can take a ride on the cow train in barrels that are pulled by a tractor.

The farm also features a corn cannon, with guests getting three tries to shoot ears of corn at targets in a field to win prizes.0Q6A0417

Two hayrides are offered, including one that will take you to the pumpkin patch, where you can pick pumpkins ranging in price from $1 to $20. The other will take you through Pumpkin Hollow at night, where there are around 150 jack-o-lanterns. Some of the jack-o-lanterns have designs featuring both Marvel and DC comic characters, local university and college logos, patriotic-themed pumpkins and cartoon characters.

“In 2002, we added the cow train and corn cannon, and by 2003 we had added the hay-rides and Pumpkin Hollow,” said Patti Simpson. “After that, we didn’t really add any attractions, but we began working on our grounds. We dug the pond and planted the trees and the grass.”

On Saturdays and Sundays, the farm also has horse rides for $5. A campfire can be rented for $30 for two hours.   

James and Patti Simpson have been making the maze on their land since 2001. The Simpsons said that the farm has been in Patti’s family for generations. The couple began farming cotton, grain, sorghum, and wheat.

As farming is a seasonal business, the Simpsons said they began to look for a way to diversify their business in the offseason.0Q6A0455

“We saw an article in a Progressive Farmer magazine (about corn mazes) in December (2000), and we opened the business in September (2001),” Patti Simpson explained. “So not very long after we saw it we figured it was something we wanted to do. By March or April, we decided we wanted to make a maze.”

Patti Simpson said that they felt the new business would be a great way to work as a family and do something different but still be able to use their agricultural roots and the land they already possessed.

This year’s maze design features the word “Lubbock,” wind turbines, and the Texas Tech University logo, along with clouds with lightning, a tornado, and a chaparral bird, the mascot of Lubbock Christian University.

When you start the maze, you come up to a sign that has multiple mailboxes where you can choose from a variety of “Maize Passports” that provide different ways to get through the maze. Each passport has questions corresponding to numbered posts within the maze. The questions vary in difficulty, and give answer choices that have either left or right in parenthesis next to them indiciating which way to go. If you get the wrong answer, you will most likely end up lost or taking a long way around.  The questions have varying topics, such as Girl and Boy Scouts, Bible verses, farm animals and more.

Some of the more interesting maze designs from previous years featured the Masked Rider mascot, along with the Texas Tech logo, in 2004, a Lubbock-themed maze featuring a horse and a roper in 2006, a Buddy Holly-themed maze featuring a silhouette of the singer in 2011, “The Wizard of OZ” 75th anniversary, featuring the four main characters in 2013, a representation of the American Gothic painting in 2015, and a veteran-themed maze featuring a saluting soldier next to an American flag in 2018.

“A lot of times we try to see what is going on around us and usually something stands out,” Patti Simpson said of how designs are chosen. “We do try to do things that represent our area like Buddy Holly.”    

Patti Simpson said that the process of creating the maze starts with planting the corn on a North and South and East and West axis, creating a grid pattern. The design for the maze is then drawn on grid paper.

“When the corn is about six inches tall, we go through with the design and a back sprayer (to kill the corn plant), and we spray out the design using that pattern,” said Patti Simpson. “We mark the field with numbered and lettered flags to give us a reference point.”

Spraying out the design takes about three days, according to James Simpson, and then they continue to irrigate and water the crops until they are fully grown.

James Simpson said that the farm attracts around 40,000 to 55,000 guests per year. The busiest time of the year is the first three weekends in October, mainly Saturdays.IMG_0032

“People come from a pretty good distance,” said James Simpson. “We’ve had people from Abilene, we’ve had people from Hobbs (New Mexico). So it does attract people from a pretty good distance.” 

James Simpson said that he believes his farm and maze stand out from others because they have stayed true to their farming roots.

“There are others that have ventured out and do a lot of amusement stuff, and it’s more of a carnival atmosphere,” James Simpson said. “We don’t offer as much as other mazes, but we try to be really good at what we do offer and try to keep it farm-oriented.”

At’l Do Farms also is a site for numerous field trips during the weekdays before normal operating hours for local schools. There also is an event offered every year called “Homeschool Days At The Maze,” which they held on Oct. 1 this year.

At’l Do Farms doesn’t only do mazes. During the offseason (December – August), the venue can be rented out for weddings, corporate events, and private parties. The venue has a rustic barn with seating and lighting.

“Once we decided to be open year-round and have a venue for events, that is when we decided to build the barn,” said Patti Simpson.

They also have a windmill decorated with lights in the foreground with a pond and fountain in the background.

Patti Simpson said that one improvement that they will begin to work on in the offseason is re-building the concession stand and build it out of a grain silo.

Axe throwing entertains all ages

by Victoria De Souza

Axe Throwing is a new urban sport that can help you relieve stress and unleash any pent up anger and aggression.

While axes have been around since the Stone Age as a hunting weapon, modern society has found an interesting way to implement axes as an entertainment activity.

The sport became official in North America in 2011, when Matt Wilson opened what is presumed to be the first axe throwing bar in Toronto, Canada.

In 2016, the National Axe Throwing Federation was founded to establish the rules and safety standards to the sport. It also is responsible for the international and inter-league competitions.0Q6A7031

In axe throwing, the competitors throw an axe at a target to attempt to get the closest to the bullseye. The outer ring is worth one point, the middle ring is worth three and the bullseye is worth five points.

The owners of Bad Axe Raider in Lubbock-Säge Gallaway, John Bankston and Brooke Hughes- say they wanted to provide a new form of entertainment to Lubbock.

The idea started from Gallaway, who graduated with an art degree from Texas Tech University and wanted to figure out what to do next. When he saw the sport becoming more popular in the United States, he decided to take the risk.

“I wanted to do something that would facilitate my art and give an outlet but that would also be able to bring in some money,” said Gallaway.

Starting with a few axes found on the internet, Gallaway opened Bad Axe Raider on 134th Street in November of 2018. With growing demands, they soon needed a bigger location.

In February of 2019, they opened a new facility at 1408 Avenue F. Sessions are $30 per person for one hour. The facility also is available to be booked by groups, and there are parties packages.

Not long after the reopening, the growth and uniqueness of the business caught the attention of a local collector, Ram Campos, who helped the new business increase the variety of axes on display.

“He started showing up frequently and bringing his axes,” Gallaway said, “and with time, he let us use them. A vast majority of the axes that are for display come from his personal antique collection.”

Currently available for throwing are a variety of hatchets, tomahawks of all sorts, modern throwing axes and custom modified. They range in weight from 9 ounces to 3.5 pounds.0Q6A6879

Recommended for anyone age 14 and older, there is no need for previous experience in the sport. But everyone is required to sign a waiver that informs them of safety rules and precautions. Young customers must have parental consent and be accompanied by an adult. Although there are no governmental safety requirements, the owners follow safety guidelines outlined by their insurance, as well as personal safety rules that they came up with themselves.

The instructors are well trained to teach and guarantee safety while you learn the different techniques for each type of axe.

“It is hard to describe in words, but the process is more ‘finess’ and less effort,” explained Bankston. “It is a natural movement, so it is not necessary to overthink the process.”

The axes and tools available for throwing require a different technique.

Most items are either one or two-handed,” Gallaway explained. “There are multiple advanced forms that are not needed to know when starting out.”

Gallaway added that the busiest time is during weekends because of the rising popularity of the sport in the media. Also, word of  mouth from customers who have been there sharing their experiences helps in the promotion of the business.

“A lot of people that walk in come after searching online about axe throwing in town and ended up finding that now there is one here,” said Gallaway.

Bad Axe Raider also has a space for art. Besides having a fun time throwing axes, you also can enjoy the personal art gallery and handicrafts on display.

Bad Axe Raider is a strong supporter of the Lubbock community.

They currently support fundraisers for organizations such as Saving Grace, United Valor and others.0Q6A7298

“We are very big in being part of the community, and more than just our presence as a business,” mentioned Gallaway. “We want to foster Lubbock as a good place to be.”

On October 26, they will be holding a second car show as a fundraiser for the United Valor organization that works to provide support to military veterans in the Lubbock community with financial help and transportation.

To boost their visibility, Bad Axe Raider was a site for The First Friday Art Trail, with small tryout sections. They also host a trivia night, a mini session during lunch time of axe throwing and live music. In the future, they hope to be able to offer art classes.

Sarah Looten recently was at Bad Axe Raider with her friends celebrating a birthday.

“I found this place in ‘Lubbock in the Loop,” Looten said. “It is exciting to see new things coming to Lubbock. It seems to be something out of the ordinary and fun to do.”

Supporting stress relief for the students in Lubbock and surrounding areas, Bad Axe Raider offers a 20-percent discount to students every Thursday night.

Bad Axe Raider is becoming a stress-relieving place for people of all ages and genders where you can compete with your friends while having some fun time.

Buffalo Springs Lake hosts annual balloon round-up

By Autumn Bippert

There’s no need to travel all the way to the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival to witness hot air balloons in flight.

Buffalo Springs Lake hosted its annual South Plains Balloon Round-Up on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8.

Photos by Autumn Bippert, Kendall Rainer, and Victoria De Souza

The balloon lift-off was held at 7 a.m. with the sunrise. Seven hot air balloons took off from in front of the lake on both mornings. A night event was held at 8 p.m. on Saturday, featuring glowing hot air balloons.

Betty Brown, Buffalo Springs Lake crew member, said that the Balloon Round-Up has been around for 15 years, and that the idea to start the Round-Up came from the Albuquerque International Balloon Rally.


Brandon Powell, general manager for Buffalo Springs Lake, said that the Balloon Round-Up has drawn more people to the event each year.

“Anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 roughly (attend), and that’s for each event,” Powell explained.

Powell explained that the Saturday morning event normally draws the biggest number of attendees.

Hundreds of people pulled up before dawn on Saturday to watch the hot air balloons take off. For some, it was the first time seeing a hot air balloon.

Among those is attendance was Angela Jones from Lubbock, who said that her family and her were excited to see the hot air balloons for the first time and it was a great activity to do with her kids.

Others have been attending the Balloon Round-Up for years.


“ My husband and I come here every year to camp, and we stay to see the balloons too,” said Janis Armour of Lubbock. “It is something fun to do around Lubbock. We like to come to watch them blow up the balloons, and they are so pretty. ”

Hot air balloon rides were not open to the public. However, pilot Glen Cambel had his hot air balloon tethered to the ground and took attendees up and down in the balloon.

Brown explained that the hot air balloons at the event were all from Texas, with one pilot from Amarillo, another from Corpus Christi and the rest from Lubbock.

The overall success of the event is highly dependent upon the weather, which means if the conditions weren’t right, the hot air balloons would not take off.

ballon cutout 2

“We need fairly calm winds to launch,” explains Brown. “Otherwise the (hot air balloon) envelope will rock like crazy and it would be unsafe to launch it. Once you’re up in the air, the winds, they’ll carry you. You just go with the winds. But the closer you get to the ground, the more calm you need them.”

The hot air balloon envelope, which is the bag holding in the air, uses heated air that’s created by an open flame caused by burning liquid propane. The heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant, since it has a lower density than the colder air outside the envelope.

The envelope does not have to be sealed at the bottom, since the air inside the envelope there is at about the same pressure as the surrounding air. In modern sport balloons, the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric, while the inlet of the balloon, which is closest to the burner flame, is made from a fire resistant material such as Nomex.

hot aire balloon ride

There was more than just watching hot air balloons to do during the weekend at Buffalo Springs. There were also food trucks and inflatable bounce houses at the Round-Up.

“We’re on a lake,” Powell said. “You can go fishing, or camping out here. We do have a bunch of vendors scattered throughout the lake (for the event). But for the kids there this morning we had a movie playing. We had ‘Up.’ Then we’ve got the jumpers as well, and we do have little playground areas. There’s a lot for them to do. It’s just getting them out here and doing it.”

Powell explained that there were 15 vendors around the lake for the weekend.

“Last year, we had a little less,” Powell continued. “So hopefully with the more balloons we have next year, we’ll have more vendors.”

Silent Wings Museum preserves memory of key role in World War II

Glider planes had an important role in the success of the Normandy Beach Invasion that ended World War II.

The Silent Wings Museum is dedicated to preserving the memory, as well as the history, of these gliders.

0Q6A1985The only museum in the world dedicated to the glider program is located near the Lubbock International Airport, on the edge of the city. In 1971, former pilots of the United States Army Air Force Glider Program formed the National World War II Glider Pilots Association. The main goal of the Glider Pilots Association was to preserve the history of the glider program.

From the inception, the Glider Pilots Association set out to collect artifacts, archival material, and personal accounts of pilots and people working in the program. The main goal the Association wanted to achieve was the procurement of a WACO CG-4A glider.

Pilots from the program in the Dallas area found out about a CG-4A glider sitting on top of a building in Fresno, California. The aircraft was being used as an advertisement for a store. The glider was purchased, and restoration efforts began. It was completed in 1979.

Once the restoration of the glider was complete, efforts began to build a museum to house the CG-4A. The first Silent Wings Museum opened its doors in November of 1984 in Terrell, Texas.

propIn 1997, the pilots who ran the museum as volunteers realized the glider needed a more permanent home. The majority of the pilots of the Glider Pilots Association trained in Lubbock, so the City of Lubbock offered to provide a site for the museum. The Terrell site was closed in 2001, and the new location in Lubbock opened in October 2002 at the former site of the South Plains Army Airfield, where the CG-4A glider sits as the centerpiece of the museum.

Sharon McCullar, curator for the Silent Wings Museum, said, “We have one of only seven fully restored CG-A4 gliders in the world.”

The U.S. Army established a large training facility in Lubbock in 1942, known as the South Plains Army Airfield, for an advanced glider program. The program trained pilots to fly unarmed gliders into enemy territory, land and unload cargo such as anti-tank guns, anti aircraft guns and small vehicles such as jeeps and light tanks.

The South Plains Army Airfield trained 6,000 to 7,000 glider pilots who earned Advanced Training in gliders and the Silver ‘G’ Wing from July 1942 to January 1945.

The glider squadrons played an important role throughout World War II, as they were silent and could fly closer to the front to unload cargo. The gliders also played an important role in the D-Day invasion, landing before dawn and helping to unload Jeeps 0Q6A1928as well as anti-tank guns, Howitzer anti-aircraft guns, and quarter-ton trailers full of ammunition and supplies.   

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain was the main tow plane used for leading the gliders into combat.

The museum is supported by the City of Lubbock for operating costs, according to McCullar. The museum is also supported through memberships. The Silent Wings Museum Foundation helps to obtain grants and get funding for exhibits and projects.

McCullar also said that the busiest time of year is around April, near the end of the school year, when there are a lot of field trips. She added that the annual visitation is around 20,000 people.

Other exhibits at the museum include information about other military training and operations in and around the Lubbock area. One of these programs was the Civilian Pilot 0Q6A1976Training Program, a nationally-sponsored program at select universities. In September 1939, Texas Technological College was accepted into the program with a quota of 40 students.

In July 1940, the Civil Aeronautics Authority designated an advanced flight training course at the college. The course began in October 1940 with an enrollment of 20 students.

In 1942, the college became the screening program for potential military pilot candidates.

The Silent Wings Museum is located at 6202 North  I-27 in Lubbock. It is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. each Sunday.

Admission prices are $8 for general admission, $6 for senior citizens 60 years of age or older, and $5 for children ages 7 to 17, while children under 6 are admitted free. They also offer free admission to museum members and Active Duty Military.

For more information about the Silent Wings Museum, call (806) 775-3049

Researchers work toward preserving natural history at Lubbock Lake Landmark

Lubbock Lake Landmark not only preserves the natural heritage of the land but also provides leadership through stewardship by volunteering, research, and education.

Scott Trevey, historic maintenance supervisor at Lubbock Lake Landmark, works on preserving the prairie and trying to keep the land the way it would have been years ago.

Trevey explained that Texas Tech University took over maintaining all 335 acres and that Dr. Eileen Johnson, director of Lubbock Lake Landmark, had a goal to get the land back to what they felt it looked like before European settlers came to the area.

IMG_1326Dr. Johnson wanted to achieve that goal without affecting or damaging the cultural resources, Trevey said.

“The strategic master plan, I was estimating five-to-seven years,” Trevey said, talking about how long they wanted to take to restore the land.

Trevey says that the prairie is not an exact representation of what the land was because of some non-native invasive species.

“To totally eradicate that, it would take an army of people out here every year, pulling or doing some type of manual control…,” he said. “All we can do today is simply try to manage it.”

He also mentioned that they would really like to know more about controlling brush, “particularly honey mesquite.”

Wild fires was a natural way to keep brush, such as honey mesquite, down, Trevey explained.

He said that the month of May is one of his favorite months at Lubbock Lake Landmark because of all the new blooms which are appearing.

“Some years, with rainfall and the timing of those rainfall events, we have more of an abundance of a certain plant,” said Trevey.

Deborah Bigness, manager of site operations for Lubbock Lake Landmark, said that preserving the prairie encourages wildlife, such as mule deer, raccoons, coyotes, and rabbits, to come and provides them with a home and protection.IMG_1272

“There are not a lot of places around here where you can see what it would have looked like,” Bigness said. “The entire great plains of America would have looked something like this in its natural state.”

Bigness explained that Lubbock Lake Landmark is very educational.

“We have a trail that identifies native trees, grasses, and flowers in the landscape and tells you about them,” she said.

It also is a resource for classroom instruction and research projects, along with informal learning, for area students and residents.

“There are classes from Tech (and other schools) who will come out here and do research projects,” mentioned Bigness.

The archeology that is on Lubbock Lake Landmark was discovered accidentally in 1936.

“People from the museum at Tech have been involved on and off since then,” Bigness said. “This summer, when we open up and start excavating, that will be 83 years since archeology was discovered.

Bigness stated that people have been coming to that particular spot for at least 12,000 years because there was always water there. The availability of water attracted the animals, which in turn attracted the people, because they were big game hunters and followed the herds. The water also helped process the meat, which played a part in humans living there.

“We think this was a large hunting ground, basically,” Bigness said. “They would come here, live here periodically at various seasons of the year.”

Lubbock Lake Landmark also offers several educational classes open to both children and adults.

“We do classes during spring break and the first seven weeks of summer in June and July,” said Bigness, “and then we do other programs during the year.”

Bigness mentioned one program offered once a quarter called Sensory Saturday. It is aimed at children who learn differently. They also have a program for 3 and 4 year olds called Growing Up Wild.

Lubbock Lake Landmark also holds night hikes, called Landmark After Dark Night Hike, every month on the fourth Saturday between March and September. The hike starts 30 minutes before sunset, which means the time of the event changes from month to month..

“The wildlife is a lot more active at that time,…” Bigness said.  “By the time you get back, it’s dark. So there’s great star gazing.”

They also offer Digital Literacy for older adults to help them learn how to use smart phones, social media, and photography.

Lubbock Lake Landmark also has indoor exhibits which they change yearly. In the last room, they have an Ice Age exhibit which has been up since before Christmas, and is expected to remain in place through October of 2020.

Part of the reason they are leaving the Ice Age exhibit up longer is because it goes with their four lifesize animal sculptures outside.

“They are all animals that we know lived here at this place during the ice age,” said Bigness, adding that the sculptures were made using measurements of bones that have been excavated on the site.

IMG_1294Lubbock Lake Landmark also has a lot of volunteer opportunities during the summer, such as helping in the lab where they catalog archeological material, helping to clean, weigh and identify material, and more.

“A lot of our excavation work is done by volunteers,” Bigness said, adding that it is a well known archeological site that attracts researchers from all over the world to dig there.

Some volunteers help with the night hike, while others like helping with the programs.

“If someone wants to volunteer out here, it just kind of depends on what we need and also what the person is interested in,” said Bigness.

Lubbock Lake Landmark preserves the wildlife and provides fourandahalf miles of different trails for bikers, hikers, and leashed pets, with several outlook spots for visitors to enjoy.

Lubbock Lake Landmark is free of charge, and their hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for Sundays, which are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at 2401 Landmark Drive, off of Loop 289.

Prairie Dog Town offers refuge, tourist attraction

The prairie dog has been around for thousands of years, although little has been recorded of its lifestyle until recent history. Most Americans have heard of the little animal but have never seen one or known what it does and why.

0Q6A8822Once the most abundant mammals in North America, Prairie dogs have lost 95 percent of their population due to hunting, poisoning and habitat loss. Prairie Dog Town is helping to preserve the population that is still in the Lubbock area.

Prairie Dog Town is located inside Mackenzie Park in Lubbock, overlooking Meadowbrook Golf Course. There is no admission charge, and it is open to the public year round from dawn to dusk daily.

“Prairie Dog Town was started by the original park superintendent for the Lubbock Park Department,” explained Ronny Gallagher, the park operations manager for the City of Lubbock. “As a way to try to preserve that portion of what they thought was a vanishing part of the Lubbock area prairie.”

Prairie Dog Town was established in Mackenzie Park in the early 1930’s by Kennedy Clapp and his wife. When the government’s poisoning program became in effect, they were alarmed at what might happen to the prairie dog population.

When it was first started as the first protected prairie dog colony of its kind, there were only four dogs and two burrows.

“Every year when the pups are born, of course it changes drastically, and then they go IMG_0222out into the rest of the community and the rest of the area,” Gallagher explained about the current population. “And so we never have a clue as far as exactly how many are in there.”

Prairie dogs have a low rate of reproduction compared with other small mammals. They become reproductively viable at age 2, breed only once a year, and the average litter size is three to four pups. Their lifespan is typically four to five years in the wild.

The prairie dog colony was moved to the current location when Mackenzie Park became a state park in 1935.

Within five years at its current location, Prairie Dog Town became a tourist attraction for the city of Lubbock. The 2004 Lubbock Convention and Visitors Bureau tourism study showed Prairie Dog Town as the fifth most visited attraction in Lubbock by visitors from outside the city.

“It’s year round, we have people driving in,” Gallagher said. “People will be running down the interstate from Amarillo. They’ll drive down just to see the prairie dogs. It happens all the time.”

0Q6A8868The City of Lubbock’s website provides a Prairie Dog fact sheet, along with a scanned booklet “Our Comic friend the Prairie Dog and the story of Prairie Dog Town, Texas!”

In 2004, Prairie Dog Town had a major renovation with funding from Premier Golf, the management company for the City of Lubbock’s Meadowbrook Golf Course. The renovation to Prairie Dog Town included a pavilion and viewing area, interpretive signage, sidewalks, a new parking area with a turnaround and bus parking, perimeter fencing, and ADA accessibility.

The prairie dogs dig elaborate systems of burrows in flat prairie lands to create “towns” that are comprised of many different tunnels. The burrows are easily identified because of the large mound of dirt surrounding the entrance, providing a vantage point to spot approaching predators as well as flood protection.

The burrow is dug straight down, or at a slight angle, for 12 to 20 feet, where it then runs horizontally in a ‘T’ or ‘L’ shape for another 10 to 15 feet. Ascending shafts and air vents are dug off this tunnel with one or more terminating in well camouflaged emergency exits that are20 to 20 feet from the main entrance. One shaft usually stops just short of the surface with its terminus enlarged. Various chambers branch off the burrow, one or more bedrooms with wall-to-wall grass carpet, toilet, nursery, dry room, turnaround room and pantry. The conning tower of the burrow is the “listening room” or “barking room,” located about six feet below the entrance.

The prairie dog is a social creature with others of its kind. It lives in colonies, or towns, that consist of dozens or hundreds of individual, adjacent burrows. Each burrow is occupied by single family of two adults and several pups who go about their daily routines. At one time, West Texas contained thousands of prairie dog towns with a total estimated population of just under one billion. One town covered 37,00 acres and housed 400 million prairie dogs.

0Q6A8835Prairie dogs are primarily vegetarian, living on grasses, herbs and weeds. Occasionally, they will supplement their diet with grasshoppers, beetles, spiders and other small insects. Like their cousin, the desert rat, prairie dogs do not drink water but get needed body moisture from their food.

“Like most wild animals, we cannot feed them,” Gallagher said. “They fend for themselves. And the reasoning being when you feed a population like that, you create an artificial food source. So you’ll create an artificial population load, and then when that artificial food source disapears then you have mass starvation.”

The Black-tailed Prairie Dog is a “keystone species,” defined as one whose presence and activities are critical to the entire ecosystem. They create an environment around their colonies that provide homes and shelter for a myriad of creatures.

The Black-tailed Prairie Dog also is a critical food source for a number of animals. Since Black-tailed Prairie Dogs are the only prairie dog species, and one of only a few rodents that do not hibernate in the winter, they are vitally important winter food sources for prairie predators. Biologists have concluded that nine prairie species are dependent on prairie dogs and an additional 20 species opportunistically take advantage of prairie dog colonies. A total of 117 species have some relationship with prairie dog colonies. Those species that are considered dependent on prairie dogs include the Burrowing owl, the Golden eagle, the Ferruginous hawk and the Black-footed ferret.

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies stated in their Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Memorandum of Understanding in 1999 that: “All member affected agencies agree that Black-tailed Prairie Dogs are an important natural component of the short to mid-grass ecosystem. As such, Black-tailed Prairie Dogs serve as an indicator of the overall health of this important habitat type in western North America. Further, the presence and abundance of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs reflects humankind’s commitment to maintaining all natural components of the short to mid-grass ecosystem so that all uses of this type are sustainable over time.”

Families celebrate tradition, community at Lubbock Pancake Festival

A mascot walks around taking pictures with children and families. A giant blue “Lions” banner hangs over the entire venue. Hundreds of balls of cotton candy bagged and ready to be distributed.

But the pancakes are the real star of the Lubbock Lions Club Annual Pancake Festival held on Feb. 16 at the Civic Center.

IMG_0298The Lions Club celebrated 90 years in Lubbock with their 67th Annual Pancake Festival. The Pancake Festival is a local favorite, with many families attending the festival every year for more than 20 years.

The Lubbock Lions Club Annual Pancake Festival is the largest pancake festival in the world. They support local charities, and still hold the world record for most pancakes served in an eight-hour period by a non-profit organization.

Upon entering the venue, thousands of people line up for the all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage links. Additional tickets could be purchased and exchanged for bacon, cotton candy, temporary face tattoos, popcorn and balloons. There also is a drink station with gallons of coffee, orange juice and milk.

Nine serving lines accommodate the throng of people who are ready for as many pancakes as they can consume. Most families and friends were already seated enjoying extra large pancakes and sausage links. The brave were sitting in front of the stage where local country singers, and even child yodelers, were performing.

The Lions Club donates all profits raised by the Pancake Festival to more than 30 charities, with a goal of $130,000 donated this year. Last year, $114,000 was donated to charities, including The Adult Eyeglass Program, Boy Scout Troop 157, LISD Eyeglasses for Children, Children’s Miracle Network, Meals on Wheels, The Salvation Army, Sick Children’s Clinic of Lubbock, YWCA Adaptive Aquatics Program, Catholic Charities, and Texas Lions Camp for children with special needs.

Brad Payne, a Pancake Festival co-chair and Texas Tech alum, said the event helps bring the community together for a good cause.

“We’re aware of how many lives have been touched by our service projects,” Payne explained. “This is a great tradition, and the Pancake Festival is a terrific event that we are proud to present each year. It gives our entire community an opportunity to gather together and support many worthy causes.”

There are many smiling faces, and families sitting across from one another who may DSC_0211have been strangers, but became neighbors sharing an experience and supporting their community at the Pancake Festival.

“We can come together around the table, the breaking of bread, well, pancakes, and people put aside their differences, and I think that’s a good thing,” said the Pancake Festival co-chair.

Even though The Lubbock Lions Club sponsors the event and plans it, Payne likes to think of the Pancake Festival as a Lubbock event. He also mentioned that the Pancake Festival is the only fundraiser that the Lions Club facilitates.

The very first Pancake Festival was held in the Lubbock High School cafeteria. It ran from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and tickets were only 50 cents, more than $1,000 was raised. Since then, the Pancake Festival has grown to serve thousands of hungry participants each year, with the mission of donating to local charities.

The Lions Club ordered a staggering amount of supplies for the festival, including, but not limited to, nearly 6,000 pounds of pancake mix, more than 320 gallons of pancake syrup, 80,000 links of sausage, 23,000 slices of bacon, 240 gallons of hot coffee and 135 gallons of margarine.

The Lubbock community responded with huge numbers attending the event, which also featured live entertainment and activities for children and adults. The Pancake Festival had a silent auction, a raffle with merchandise totaling more than $2,000 in value, and more than 2,000 bags of cotton candy.

Kelly Pinion, president elect of the Lions Club, was seen in the very center of the event handing out balloons and smiles. She has been a member of the Lions Club since 2006.

“One Hundred percent of the money we earn goes to the community and charity,” Pinion explained. “Nothing goes towards admin fees. It just warms your heart, talking to the kids, and getting to talk to people, and getting the word out about all the good things the Lions Club does.”

IMG_0341She added that the Lions Club helped eradicate a disease called “River Blindness” in Africa.

Many local families have made it a longtime tradition to bring their loved ones to the Pancake Festival.

Bennie and Carolyn Jordan said they have been taking their family to the Pancake Festival every year for more than 30 years.

“We make it every year,” Carolyn Jordan said. “It’s a tradition. Even our pastor is here.”

The Pachall family has been attending the festival for more than 28 years to enjoy the good food and music.

“We’ve been taking our kids and their kid’s kids here,“ said Jimmy Pachall. “We love it, and enjoy the good food and being able to spend time with our community.”

About 11,000 people attended the 2019 Lions Club Annual Pancake Festival, and the $130,000 goal to be donated to charity was exceeded by hundreds of dollars, according to Payne. The friendly environment and volunteers made this year’s Festival a success.

Ranching Heritage Center houses 200 years of Americana

The idea of the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock started with a trip to Norway and a group who were prepared to make it happen.

With more than 30 buildings, the National Ranching Heritage Center has them place in a historically correct timeline in order to tell the story of ranching.

The idea for the National Ranching Heritage Center (NHRC) began when Grover Murray, who was president of Texas Tech University in the mid 1960s, came back from Norway where he saw a living history museum.

IMG_0841=Jim Campbell, the executive director at the Ranching Heritage Center, said, “He (Murray) got together with a lot of the ranching community, and they put together a committee. Originally, the idea was that they would just build a ranch headquarters and it would have a couple of different examples of ranch houses, some pens, and a couple of barns. But they quickly realized it was much bigger than that.” Campbell went on to explain that once the word got out, people started contacting the committee with stories on dug outs, houses, etcetera. It evolved from there, opening as The Ranching Heritage Center in 1976.

“To preserve and interpret the history of ranching in North America and address contemporary ranching issues” is the NRHC’s mission statement. Campbell said they tell the story of how the ranching industry, traditions, and culture developed and started more than 200 years ago, predominantly west of the Mississippi in North America.

“So when you go through our historical park,” Campbell said, “all the structures are set there in the historical timeline.”

Most structures at the NRHC are donated, along with the money that is needed for the structure to be relocated and rebuilt. Campbell said that the time it takes to move the structure from tear down to build up just depends on the structure itself.

“The most famous move that we ever did was the Barton House,” he recalled. “The Barton House moved in the early to mid ‘70s, and it took three days… That was just getting it on trailers and trailering it into Lubbock.”

The NRHC moved the Barton House mostly whole, so they had to coordinate with the electric and telephone companies to lift wires along the route because the Victorian mansion is three stories tall. Another project from the ‘70s was the Joel House from Palo Pinto County, which is near Mineral Wells. This house has 2,000 tons of rock, which had to be numbered before being dismantled.

Campbell says that the last structure moved was a barn which was located in Snyder.

“That took us almost a year by the time we went down there, dismantled it, hauled it back up here, then rebuilt it,” said Campbell.

He explained it took so long because he only has five men who handle historical preservation, along with other things such as fixing the heating and air conditioning when it breaks in the building.

The NRHC is currently looking into adding a church.

“That one actually has been in service, so we wouldn’t have to do a whole lot to the inside of it,” Campbell said, adding that he guesses it would take about six months if they were to bring it to NRHC. He mentioned that the only structures that the NRHC is really looking to add at the moment are a church and a saloon.

Campbell also mentioned a partnership they have with John Erickson, the author of “Hank the Cowdog.” He says that Erickson wrote his books based off his own ranch, dog, and life, which Erickson and his wife still manage outside of Perryton, Texas.

“He (Erickson) got to talk to Julie Hodges, who’s our education director, and said ‘I have IMG_0854=these three books I don’t know what do with them,” Campbell said.  “They tell all about ranching through the voice of Hank…would you be interested in them?’ Julie immediately said absolutely.”

Campbell added that some local residents donated money to help publish the books. The first one is about ranching, the second is on cowboys and horses, and the third Is about the wildlife on ranches.

“Julie actually worked to develop a school curriculum so that they match up to the Texas requirements for TEEX (Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service),” said Campbell. “There’s probably more than 100 schools that are using the curriculum”

The NRHC’s next big project is going to be building a ranch life center at the NRHC that brings those three books to life.

“It will be a center dedicated to telling all about the story of ranching through Hank’s voice,” Campbell explained.

The NRHC is working on the design now and will eventually start a fundraising campaign later this year with hopes of breaking ground sometime during 2020.

“It really will be the only place in the world where you’ll be able to actually go and physically see Hank,” said Campbell.

“I think the amazing thing about this facility is we’re able to tell the story of ranching in so many different ways,” Campbell said.

The story is told with a historical timeline, which moves from the Spanish land grants to the Republic of Texas, through the German immigration and then the expansion.

“We also tell it in those individual stories, brands, and names…,” said Campbell. “We’re able to tell it from a generic sense, or from an architectural sense, because we have a structure where people came out and they dug it.”

Campbell added that they strive on a daily basis to tell the story of the real West and about the stories of real, everyday men and women who ventured out to build new lives.

“This is not Hollywood,” he said.

“There has been no other facility, or museum, like this anywhere in the world,” Campbell said proudly. “We have international visitors.”

Some international visitors come to Lubbock to mainly go through the museum and historical park to see the history of ranching in this area, according to Campbell.

IMG_1557The National Ranching Heritage Center has 50 structures including 30 that are between 100 and 200 years old. The NRHC features a self-guided walk through the museum and historical park, which can take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the age and the interest of the visitor(s).

However, the NRHC does offer a 30minute trolley tour, when the weather is nice, of their historical park every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. for $5 per person.

The NRHC also provides a living history of ranching, from May through October, with the help of 150 volunteers. The volunteers are dressed in the correct clothing for that time period and will tell the story of ranching to the guests who visit.

“That’s when it really comes alive,” Campbell said.

The volunteers will also dress up and come out to help the NHRC for special events during year, such as 49th Annual Ranch day on April 13, the Sixth Annual Summer Stampede Western Art and Gear Show and Sale on June 1, Summer Youth Classes from June 10 – June 15, 42nd Annual National Golden Spur Award on September 21, and Candlelight at the Ranch, Dec. 14 and 15.

NRHC is open daily, unless posted otherwise. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the historical park is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

New yoga technique incorporates cute distractions

Goat yoga is a new trend that will have you “kiding” around during class.

Goat yoga is like a typical yoga class session, only with miniature or baby (kid) goats. This is called caprine vinyasa, which consists of various asanas (poses) primarily at the  beginner level.

IMG_0213The outdoor patio at The Garden in Lubbock recently served as a venue for goat yoga sessions. Rachel Henson, owner of Goat Yoga Houston, brought her miniature goats and crew to Lubbock on Nov. 17. She provided five sessions to give people plenty of opportunity to come join the fun.

Henson said she has been instructing goat yoga classes for almost two and a half years, but it was the first time she has brought a class to Lubbock. The college tour also includes stops in College Station and Huntsville. Henson explained that it is hard to travel with her goats, but “it’s something I enjoy, bringing it to different people who haven’t done it before.”

Henson grew up in the country, hanging out in the pasture with her cow and dog. Later, she got on a rodeo lamb and goat committee and stayed for nine years, helping kids and animals. She said it was not that much of a stretch for her to decide to pick up goat yoga in Texas after she saw it being done in Oregon.

“We were the first ones in Texas,” she said.

The people who came to the classes loved it, and so did the goats. While yoga is supposed to be a focused practice to grow the body and mind, goat yoga is the complete opposite. The goats climb, jump, stomp, and cuddle, on the attendees. During the session, participants also are more than welcome to pet, hold, and cuddle the goats.

“This is your time spent with the goats,” Henson said. “It won’t hurt my feelings if you ignore the yoga in the class.”

Many other instructors feel the same way. Even if you try to focus on the yoga, at some point a goat will get you to laugh.

Although goat yoga is meant to be a relaxed form of yoga, it can also be challenging IMG_0164because while you are holding a pose, a goat might just climb on top of you. The goats with a tremendous amount of calming energy will also try to break your attention by trying to cuddle up next to you on the mat, trying to suckle your fingers, or simply trying to get a good scratch. Although the goats can make it slightly more challenging when they climb on you, their hooves can provide a little bit of a massage as they stand, jump, and balance on you.

Goat yoga is a great way to take a break from all the stress in life. Classes usually start around $35, but can be higher depending on where you are.

Goat yoga began in Corvallis, Oregon, as the idea of Lainey Morse. Morse had gotten two goats in 2014, naming them Ansel and Adams. Later, she was going through a divorce and was diagnosed with a disease.

“My life was a mess,” she said. “The goats were my happy distraction.”

Morse started seeing how therapeutic goats could be and that people would leave happy after spending time with her goats. In 2015, she opened up her place to the community, letting people come and spend time with the goats during “Goat Happy Hour.

“I had donated a kids birthday party to charity,” Morse recalls. “At that event, one of the parents was a yoga instructor. She saw how beautiful it was in my field and asked if she could have a yoga class.”

Morse says that she told her she could, but that the goats will be all over the attendees.

“She thought that sounded cool,” Morse said, “so I had her over to do a photo/video shoot with the goats and her doing yoga poses in my field.”

Seeing how big of a hit the one class was, Morse decided to host more.

“When I started Goat Yoga, it was about the therapy that it can provide,” Morse said.

She also explained that she feels that she was put on Earth to make sure that goat therapy becomes just as used as equine therapy.

“Goats are better suited for therapy animals,” said Morse, “because they are not as big and intimidating.”

Morse also said that goats do not need a bond to a human to love them.

“They are social and loving animals and don’t need a bond with a human to just walk up to you and cuddle you,” Morse said.

She thinks that is a very important and appealing part of it, because some people do not get love from humans or animals. Morse said goats are funny animals and make you laugh. They are present in the moment, and can be very relaxing to watch.

“All of those characteristics make for the perfect marriage with yoga,” Morse said.

She also pointed out that dogs and puppies like to bite and play, and cats and kittens have sharp claws and usually like to spend time by themselves unless they have a bond with a human.

Morse says that her journey with Goat Yoga was difficult at first. People copied her idea, making it hard to compete with so many different businesses because their prices were lower.

“We were in a real business, paying employees, taxes, insurance, etcetera,” she said.

She also had a lot of medical debt after she had gotten sick. Having full size and grown goats, she said, “most competitors are also dairy farms that have babies constantly. It’s hard to compete with that, since most people want babies in the class.”

IMG_0231She adds that most of her goats are in their forever homes and are never sold for meet or over-bred for dairy. Morse left her marketing job in 2017 and later changed her company’s name to Original Goat Yoga in order to still be able to set her company apart from others.

“It was really fulfilling to have founded something that went viral,” Morse said.

But she was not prepared for how cut throat it could be with competitors. On top of that, Morse has animal activists attacking her frequently who judge her because they see how other businesses treat their goats.

“If they could only see what a great life these goats have (out in her field),” she said. “They’ve went so far as to make fake Facebook profiles to give me onestar reviews or comment on articles about what a horrible business woman I was.”

The best part of her journey is watching how happy it makes the participants, Morse said.

“When people come to the classes, they are smiling so hard and they leave so happy,” said Morse.

She said it is really fulfilling to know that goat yoga has spread all over the world, from South Africa, Australia, and all over the USA.

Starting from a small interest and growing to be the newest yoga trend, you can find these fun classes almost everywhere.

Dia de los Muertos celebration of life after death

Creating an altar for deceased ancestors in order to keep their memory alive, families celebrate the long practiced rituals of Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos was celebrated in the exhibit hall of the Civic Center in Lubbock on Nov. 4.

IMG_1088The event featured the work of Latino artists, offered cultural experiences through both traditional and modern performers, a Dia de Los Muertos cake decorating contest, a few children’s activities that offered cultural understandings, a classic car showcase, and offered some products from participating vendors.

Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican tradition that originated in the pre-Hispanic era and is mostly associated with Mexico. The holiday, which is usually celebrated Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, combines ancient Aztec customs and a celebration that the Spanish invaders brought to Mexico in the early 1500s. This holiday, which brings family and friends together, honors and remembers the dead, celebrating their memory with festivals, lively celebrations, food, and activities the deceased enjoyed in life.

The Spaniards, who saw death as the end of life, tried to abolish the holiday. However, the holiday refused to die. Since the Spaniards could not get rid of the holiday, they decided to make it more Christian by moving the date it was celebrated on so it coincided with All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. It has been celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2 ever since.

Families set up La Ofrenda (the altar), which is one of the most distinctive ways Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated. The altars pay respect to the Catholic and indigenous beliefs of the afterlife and is dedicated to family and friends. Once La Ofrenda has been made, it will either be displayed at the grave site of deceased family members or in the home. La Ofrenda has three levels: a top level that symbolizes Heaven; a middle level that represents earth; and the bottom level that symbolizes Mictlan, which is the Aztec underworld of the dead.  Food, beverages, marigolds, prized possessions significant of a loved one, pictures of the deceased, Christian iconography, Calacus (skulls), sugar skulls, candles, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), Las mariposas (monarch butterflies), and paper banners are placed on La Ofrenda for different reasons.

The candles, paper banners, beverages, and food represent the four main elements of IMG_1112.jpgnature: fire, wind, water, and earth. However, the items do more than just represent the elements of nature. Candles (fire) attract the spirits to the altar by lighting the way to it. Paper banners represent the wind, beverages (water) are placed to quench the thirst of the spirits who are believed to travel to earth, and food (earth) represents the deceased’s favorite foods.

Pictures of deceased family members are placed on La Ofrenda in order to remember the loved ones who have passed away. Calacus are placed on La Ofrenda as a reminder of the inevitability of death. However, the sugar skulls are sugar candy, which is a reminder of life’s sweetness. Marigolds, also known as cempasuchitl (flower of the dead), represent the fragility of life, and the aroma helps lure the heavenly souls to earth. The petals are sprinkled on the floor leading to the altar to help guide souls to it.

Pan de Muerto is made with a skull and cross bones design on top as a sweet treat for the spirits. Las mariposas are believed to be the spirits of loved ones migrating to Mexico.

The deceased are celebrated because it is thought that the dead would be insulted by their family being sad and mourning their deaths. Families might also bring a huge feast to the graveyard when they visit so they can eat while they clean their loved one’s gravestones.

There are a lot of skeleton decorations during Dia de Los Muertos, including life-size paper skeletons, miniature skeletons, parade skull masks, dolls, and even the skulls of skeletons. Skeletons are posed in many different positions in order to portray the dead enjoying life. They might be positioned playing a guitar, dancing, making tortillas, and more. This helps remind family members of their ancestors, but also reminds themselves that death is a natural part of life, and one day they will be skeletons too. Dia de los Muertos awakens the dead from their eternal sleep so they can share the celebrations with their loved ones as well.

Joey Martinez was among the vendors at the Dia de los Muertos event. Martinez attended SPC in 2012 as a Design Communications major and in 2015 as a General Studies major. He is currently attending Texas Tech University, majoring in Fine Arts – Painting, with plans to graduate in December. Martinez said that he celebrates Dia de los Muertos by “participating in art events by displaying my art work.” He added that “the one thing that stood out were the people who were paying their respects to the Ofrendas.” He shared that his favorite part about the holiday, in general, is “spending time with family and friends to celebrate deceased family and friends.”

Angel Segura, recruitment officer for Lambda Theta Phi (a Latin Fraternity) at Texas Tech University, said they set up a table this year because they participated in the event the year before.

“It’s a great way to show the community that students on campus care about their culture,” said Segura, who added that seeing the large number of people at the event was his favorite part. However, the culture of Dia de los Muertos is what he enjoys most about the holiday.

Mariachi Gema, a mariachi band, has performed at the event the past three years.

“We like to play for this event because we get to celebrate this holiday with the community,” said Jessica Rodriguez, a member of Mariachi Gema. “She also said that their favorite part about the event and the holiday is when they get to perform.

“It’s fun,” Rodriguez added, “and we got a great response from the audience. But also, music is a big part of our culture, and we use it every day and at all life events.”

Rodriguez explained that the music they play is heard through many generations “and we are connected to it.”

“For this particular day, we can play a song that helps remind somebody of their loved one that had passed on , and we get to help celebrate their life,” she added.

Dia de los Muertos is a very sacred day for many families. It is a day when they join together to remember the memories and souls of those people who were – and still are- an important part of the family, even though they have passed on from the earth to continue life elsewhere.

Haunting tales plague Woodrow house

The Woodrow Manor has a short, tragic history that, some believe, makes it worthy to stand among other haunted houses.

Woodrow Manor is located just south of Lubbock, between a few fields, with very few neighbors in direct sight. The house was built around 2003. But the youthfulness of the house does not take away from the looming ambiance.

The house did not last very long without its first death. Rumor has it that within the first few years, an unarmed man was shot dead in the driveway. A few years later, the front door was kicked in, and a young girl was found, reportedly stabbed to death on top of the stairs, falling dead on the cat walk. It is also said that every person who has ever lived in the house has gone insane.


Perhaps the most disturbing legend the house holds is that a veterinarian who lived there supposedly performed experiments on dead and live animals in the shed. One story recounts a time when a pregnant pit-bull mix was given a caesarean section birth by the veterinarian. The vet allegedly inserted the newborn puppies back into the mother and sewed her shut. The kennels and “experiment” room still stand to testify to the accounts with some dark, depressing vibe that visitors would be able to feel in their


The current owners had the house investigated by the Lubbock Ghost Investigation Society in 2018. From the very beginning, the house began to speak to those present for the investigation. Immediately after entering the house, a report of a ghostly man was spotted crossing paths with the investigators.

Additionally, a panel of glass located at the front of the house was unexplainably broken. The remains of the window took the shape of a dragonfly, which is a symbol held close to one of the investigators.
Anita, one of the investigators, said, “I feel like there’s kids playing all the time in here, and it’s like Christmas year ‘round.”

The Lubbock Ghost Investigation Society has written a report on the house, which describes many dark and disturbing scenes and feelings throughout many rooms. The report is posted on Lubbock Ghost Investigation Society’s Facebook page. This report is the start of a series of investigations that the owners plan to conduct, but it does confirm, yes, “(Woodrow Manor) is one of the most haunted of any place we have been,” says Billy Fisher, at the end of the LGIS report.

Woodrow Manor has been used as a venue for a haunted theme park operated by owners Marc Coley and Denver Blanscett. I have been through this side of the haunted house, which was dark, confusing, scary, and hilarious, all wrapped in black tarps and face-paint. The actors were very committed to their roles. Not once can I recall the actors breaking character, even when I got lost within the strobe lights and smoke.


Woodrow Haunted Manor is open to the public from now through Halloween. Tickets go on sale by 7:30 p.m. Portions of t-shirt and ticket profits are donated to Contact Lubbock.

The owners of the house want to try to preserve the house. They plan to not use it as a venue after 2018.
“We want to preserve the house, and maintain the attraction without having it be such a spectacle,” said Matt Miley, one of the managers.

Kaitlyn Hyde, Photo Editor for the Plainsman Press, and I both volunteered to stay one night in Woodrow Manor. The owners were very friendly, accommodating, and fast to respond when we asked permission. They offered us a free walkthrough of the theme park portion and arranged dates and times for our stay.

Matt Miley, a manager of the house who built most of the props, gave us a brief tour of the house, as well as a long explanation of past events and quirks about the house.

“The house WILL speak to you,” Miley told us.

Within the first 20 minutes of the front door closing us in for the night, the house already began to give us the chills.

A strange hissing noise emanated from the direction of the fireplace. Kate and I both decided it could be a prop, maybe a smoke machine. Upon further investigation, the only machine we could find on that side of the house was a strobe light that was not plugged in. So we felt that we were already off to a good start.

We agreed to try and get some homework finished during our stay, so we brought our laptop computers and attempted to get some work done. Unfortunately, neither one of us could concentrate on our writing very well.

Noises, sometimes it was thumping, other times it was croaking, kept interrupting our concentration. We decided to do our own investigation the only way we knew how, with cameras and recorders.

We walked through the house to try to decide where we would set up our cameras. During this process, we both felt the same feeling in certain rooms and areas of the house. It was a sinking feeling in our chests. It was as if light was not allowed to touch these rooms, nor the people in them.

After a few hours of video and audio recordings in certain rooms, neither one of us captured anything particularly noteworthy. Off camera, though, a door had opened on its own. It had not opened completely; it was already propped open, slightly, with a black tarp holding it in place.

Where I had set up my second recording, I stood in between the door that opened, and the tripod. I estimated that I could have bumped the door accidently, but after imitating our set-up process, I was not nearly as close as I had previously thought. Neither one of us touched the bedroom door, which is directly left of the top of the stairs, where a woman had died years before.

Most of the night was quiet. Kate and I walked on a trail behind the house a few times, and revisited some of the spookier locations, such as the shed, the kennels, and a few of the bedrooms. Around 3 a.m., Kate and I both decided that we had enough.

Is Woodrow Manor haunted? I do not think I am qualified and quantified enough to answer that question. But I do know that Woodrow Manor is one of the creepiest places I have ever been in.

Food trucks offer variety, unique aesthetics

Barbecue. Street tacos. Sweet treats.

Among other options, food trucks offer a variety of choices that encourage individuals to try new foods that cannot be found anywhere else.

Food trucks are growing in popularity across the United States, creating a local and authentic vibe that people of all ages can enjoy. The mobile food industry is rapidly becoming a popular sensation that almost everyone is taking part in, especially in Lubbock.

Hungry college students and residents within the community are beginning to see that some of the best food in Lubbock lies in the up-and-coming food trucks.

Hundreds of people brought their appetites to the first West Texas Food Truck Championship on Oct. 7 in south Lubbock.

The event was hosted by Hub City Food Trucks at Cook’s Garage, with all proceeds going to the Boots and Badges non-profit organization to help benefit first responders and their families who experience traumatic events.

Early in the morning, despite the windy weather, long lines quickly began to form in front of the variety of trucks available to choose from. According to many attending the event, the favorite was of course, Barbeque.

Chopped and Sliced, a food truck that has been around for almost 10 years, has become even more popular during the past three years.


“Lubbock is finally catching on to all the good food that these trucks have to offer,” says Shawn Stevens, owner of Chopped and Sliced.

“You know, I think the people of Lubbock are getting more into food trucks because there is such a wide variety of choices, and it’s something to go out and do with your friends and family,” Stevens added. “Just walk around and enjoy all there is to be offered.”

According to Stevens, the best seller on their menu is the pulled pork grilled cheese sandwiches and frito pies.

From brisket sandwiches, smoked ribs, and a variety of sausage, the employees of Chopped and Sliced all agreed that the biggest complement they have been given would be attributed to their homemade barbeque sauce.

“We try to go to as many events like this as we can,” said Rachel Wills, who attended the event. “My favorite truck so far definitely has to be the street tacos. It’s convenient that they are super cheap, but the tacos are so good.”


Josh Gutierrez, owner of Now We Taco’N, ran one of the more popular street trucks at the event.

While attending a music festival in Michigan, Gutierrez waited in line for more than 30 minutes for a $9 taco. He knew that he could make a better street taco for half the price.

After returning to Lubbock, he and his brother, Albert Gutierrez, began their business in 2014. For him, the taco business is a fulfilling way to positively impact people’s daily lives.

“I’m a person who enjoys cooking,” Gutierrez said. “Making people happy and seeing how much they enjoy your food is the best part.”

Gutierrez explains that they mostly sell their food at music festivals or food truck festivals. They have plans to expand all the way to Colorado in 2019 and bring their truck to ski resorts for the summer.

“We mainly serve tacos, burritos, and quesadillas,” Gutierrez said. “Although, we are trying to expand our menu and serve full plates with sides like beans and rice, or fajitas.”

Another food truck at the event had an interesting menu, as a crowd of people waited patiently in line to buy waffles that were mounted with sweets.


The truck was started by Texas Tech student Brandon Bell, who started experimenting with breakfast items one day with his sisters.

“I started the truck myself, and for the past three years, I have been trying to perfect my recipes for different waffles,” Bell said. “What I sent to the judges is one of my most popular items on the menu, the Mama Mia.”

It featured a waffle with a Nutella spread, layered with strawberries, bananas, a scoop of ice cream, a sprinkle of crushed Frosted Flakes, and finally a drizzle of caramel and chocolate syrup.

Bell says that he normally caters to smaller events. However, this was his first competition and is excited to have the opportunity to share his creations with others.

His mother and sisters also drove out from San Antonio to support Bell during the event.

After a full day of food, live music, fun games and more, the judges announced this year’s winners at the first West Texas Food Truck Championship. They are: Best Drink, The Coffee Can; Best Dessert, Kurbside Sweets; Best Mexican / Street Taco, Dos Hermanas Restaurant & Food Truck; Best Barbeque, Lubbock Pacific Grub; and Best Main Dish, Angel Star Food Truck.

Lubbock coffee shops provide study atmosphere for students


Coffee shops mean more to people than just the coffee. It’s about a place to hang out, relax or study, and enjoy a warm beverage.

Fall is finally here, and along with it comes a drop in temperature and an increase in the need for coffee. Many college students regularly go to coffee shops, many of which change their food or drink menus to celebrate the season. Sugar Browns, Yellow House, and Golden


 Stripe are among the local coffee shops in Lubbock giving people a taste of fall.

Sugar Browns Coffee, located at 1947 19th St. in Lubbock, caters to local college students. Sugar Browns has many offerings to celebrate the fall season, besides the infamous pumpkin spice latte, including pumpkin spice chocolate chip muffins and maple pecan scones.

On any given day, Sugar Browns has “ a selection of different coffee varieties and brew methods, such as the French Press, Chemex, or the Stagg XF,” according to the manager Taylor McAlpine. Try out their expresso if you are looking for an extra boost. Their cappuccino and americano do the trick to get through the late night study session.

The Sugar Browns famous latte is described as “a rich caramelized sugar” by McAlpine, who recommends this to new customers to try on their first visit. However, they do have other lattes. If the sugar brown isn’t for you, try a delicious mocha or plain vanilla latte. Sugar Browns even has a non-coffee menu which includes chia tea, london frog, and a fan favorite this time of year, hot chocolate.

These drinks are made with what McAlpine calls, “private label roast from award-winning, nationally recognized, Texas-based roasters,” which allows the freshest coffee to be served. Sugar Browns is known for serving great coffee, having the best kolaches in town, and being an avid supporter of creativity.”

“It’s this sense of collaboration and community that I love about the coffee industry,” he adds. Sugar Browns also hosts a special Pumpkin Painting event during the First Friday Art Trail.

The atmosphere at Sugar Browns is unique. Like other coffee shops, it has the fresh smell and the low lights for comfort. However, at Sugar Browns the seats are comfortable, the area is open, and there’s a place for everyone. There are booths for couples, chairs and long tables for study groups, bar stools, and even a patio, which is a big hit with students, as a place to relax and read.

“Sugar Browns is known for its warm and welcoming environment,” according to McAlpine.


“We have a young customer base that loves to spend time hanging out on our patio, spending time with friends, or studying for their next time in our shop,” McAlpine added. “We frequently receive compliments about the different Spotify playlists we have playing.”

Sugar Browns is a must to visit while in Lubbock. The staff cares about the customer and the coffee they make for each person. Each person who walks through the door is instantly engaged, and the extra effort is apparent.

“The most significant difference is our heart,” says McAlpine. “You can see it in our logo, the ‘Heart and Spro’. We engage with customers in a more personal way, and we try to get to know them and make them feel as part of the Sugar Browns family.”

Yellow House Coffee, located at 3017 34th St. in Lubbock, serves many college students on their homemade furniture. The seating is recycled, meaning it’s made out of pipes and refurbished material which is very intriguing to new customers. The low lighting allows customers to relax as they buy a cup of coffee.

“It’s a meeting place for college students, a good place to regroup after a long week,” says manager Collin Elas.

Yellow House caters to student clientele very well by offering community tables for studying and free Wifi for customers.

“For newer people, I would say try a latte or one of our house-made flavors,” Elas says.

Traditional coffees such as the latte, cappuccino, and cold brew are only a few drinks recommended for new customers. There are other non-coffee items, including cookies, scones, bagels, and muffins. On Saturdays, Yellow House offers a full hot breakfast menu. There is even a variety of different drinks for non-coffee drinkers such as hot chocolate, mineral water, hot apple cider, lemonade, and italian cream sodas. All are offered year round, though the menu changes throughout the year.

Yellow House also offers a seasonal menu which includes both drinks and pastries available upon request. At this time of year, the seasonal menu includes the infamous Pumpkin Spice latte and even seasonal homemade syrups that are definitely worth trying.

“We also buy directly from Oakland coffee,” said Elas. “Through direct trade and meticulously roasting, we follow quality control which we have developed over time. In the coffee industry, we use direct trade, which means we have direct relationships with farmers.”

Students are a big part of their clientele, because of what makes Yellow House Coffee memorable.

“It’s our culture,” Elas explained. “Our product is constant. That makes us stick out here.”

Golden Stripe coffee shop has unique qualities that make their coffee one of a kind. The owners are graduates of South Plains College. Zach and Zane Montandon own the coffee shop located at 2610 Salem Ave., Suite 5, in Cactus Alley in Lubbock.


The brothers, who grew up loving coffee, started with a mobile espresso and expanded to what became Gold Stripe Coffee. Both Zach and Zane yearned to make their coffee exceptional, so before they opened their store, they did taste testing and made sure the quality of their coffee was the closest to perfection.

“We get coffee from countries like Brazil, Guatemala, and Mexico, which come in as green coffee beans, unroasted seeds of coffee fruit,” said Zach Montandon.

They credit the farmers who are growing the crops and the hard work they put in so that the brothers have the ability to do what they want to do in the coffee industry.

Both owners said they love the challenges that come with importing raw coffee beans and roasting them in house, the craftsmanship of an espresso or latte art, and bringing smiles to their customers. Each menu item is made with love, including the filtered coffee that varies depending on the beans that are used. The expressos and lattes are some of the most ordered and best to try out for a new customer. There is decaf and even sugar-free vanilla for customers, or you can add an extra shot in your expresso. Either way, add a waffle, which is a must try item, and you can even add toppings such as mocha, lechera, or caramel.

“We believe we are created to create,” said Zach Montandon.

Gold Stripe even offers classes on the second Saturday of the month. This month is latte art to teach others to create.

With a welcoming, modern, and friendly vibe, Golden Stripe is open to anyone who walks in and wants a cup of coffee.

Contemporary fitness classes feature aerial aerobics

Aerial hoops, silks, and poles are more than just a new way to work out. It is an art form, dancing in the air.

Aerial Atmosphere, which opened on Feb. 5 in Lubbock, offers several classes, including: Aerial Hoop, Silks, Pole, Flexibility, Strength and Conditioning. For those who may be afraid they may not be as good as others who have been attending longer, no worries. Aerial Atmosphere also has different levels for each class. Aerial Atmosphere uses an easy app to help book classes. Simply download the Mindbody app, create an account, search for Aerial Atmosphere, and look through the schedule to book a first class.IMG_7344

Aerial hoop is a ring, sized to fit a person in the middle of it. This ring is hung from the ceiling and spins when being performed on, giving the allusion of floating and flying.  Silks are two long pieces of smooth cloth, which also hang from the ceiling. Wrapping the material around a body limb makes it possible to climb, slide, twirl, and hang from it.

Pole dancing is taught more as an art form, a dance, a performance.

“I do not teach you how to twerk around a pole,” said Sarah Baker, an instructor at Aerial Atmosphere.

Aerialist students have several different reasons as to why they start going to Aerial Atmosphere. Most people start because they want a physical activity that is fun but also a work out. For others, they already knew one of the instructors (Sarah Baker), and some come just out of interest.

Baker is Aerial Atmosphere’s main instructor. Summer Branch and Brittany Laub are two of the silk instructors who teach a class every other week on Sundays because they live in Amarillo. Branch has been working with silks for three years now.

All the instructors are very experienced and encouraging, according to Jessica Luna, who participates in classes.IMG_7172

“Sarah is very patient and understanding,” said Luna.  “We could go over something a million times, and not once does she make you feel discouraged.”

Every instructor has the class participants stretch out their muscles extremely well to insure they are warmed up to help prevent injury.

Belem Patton explained, “It was love at first class.  Not only was it a great workout, it incorporated my love of dance and provided a creative outlet for me, which is much more difficult to do as a mom.”

All the fun, exercise, and encouragement is not all you get out of a class, according to Bianca Anabtawi, another one of the 320 class participants since the facility opened in February.

“Aerial Atmosphere has helped me get out of my shell,” said Anabtawi. “I’m a natural introvert, but after spending a few classes with Sarah and the other girls, I completely opened up. It was like I had known them for years! I have tried pole classes at a different studio in town, and my experience was completely different.”

Luna said it has helped her build strength, confidence, and meet new friends.

“These classes really take you out of your comfort zone the first few times you attend,” Luna added, “but everyone starts as a beginner. We all learn, grow, and influence one another each class!”

Patton says that the unique way to work out has become her new favorite hobby.img_6963.jpg

“My kids love seeing the videos of what I learned in class that day,” Patton said. “I feel like I’m modeling, being fearless to them, and showing them the value in trying new things, no matter what stage of life you are in, and that’s the best thing I’ve been able to take away from my aerial classes.”

Baker started her training two years ago in Dallas at Extend Fitness Studio.

“I learned so incredibly much from all the brilliant instructors out there,” she explained. “That is also where I got certified to teach.”

Baker said she decided to open an Aerial studio in Lubbock because she says she thought the community was ready for a new, fun, and alternative way to get fit. Having grown up in Lubbock, Baker says that she had always wished there was more to do.

“Lubbock has grown so much in the past few years,” Baker explained. “It was time to open up a new form of fitness for the population here!”

But Aerial Atmosphere is not just for fitness, according to Baker.IMG_7480

“The best gift I have been given as an instructor is watching people meet their goals, whether that is physically or mentally,” said Baker. “Everyone comes to our classes for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because they need a hobby, or a new mom wanting to lose the baby weight, or someone who has been through some rough times and needs an outlet. No matter what that reason is, we all support one another. Watching everyone grow as aerialists and as people is just down right inspiring.”

Aerial hoops, silks, and poles do not only have to be for fitness, though.

“It’s very possible to use these skills for a future career,” said Branch. “I didn’t start learning until my mid-late 20’s and have come a long way in a few years. I know many different people who have started at different ages and levels (including a close friend who started in her 40’s from ground zero) who have gone on to teach and perform. This would be a great starting point to build on any career in performing, whether in aerials or dance or otherwise. It can also be a fun hobby and fitness addiction that will enrich your life. It just depends on how much you want to commit to it.”



College shows growth in enrollment, campus size during six decades

Throughout the past 60 years, dreams have preceded realities at South Plains College. 

In 1957, Dr. Thomas Spencer set out to establish a new two-year college in Texas, the first one in the state in more than a decade.

“The first vote for it was in 1957, and it was defeated,” recalled Nathan Tubb, the college’s first registar who later served as  the academic dean from 1965 to 1981. “So they formed a committee and tried a different way. They put posters in town for it.”

 As president of Blinn College, Dr. Spencer was up to the challenge of starting up a new college in the South Plains region. 

DanceOne of the first faculty to be hired was Earl Gerstenberger, a former Blinn College agriculture and science instructor. Gerstenberger taught agriculture at SPC from 1958 to 1969, then served as Dean of Men from 1967 to 1973. In 1973, he was became Dean of Students, a position he held until 1982 when he became vice president of academic affairs before retiring in 1993.

“I was an assistant football coach, baseball coach and taught physical education at Blinn,” recalled Gerstenberger. “I had a degree in agriculture education, and our president there came up here and started this college, Dr. Spencer.”

Dr. Spencer came to the area before the college started to speak to groups that would be interested in building a college.buildings 1960031

“So he came a year before the college opened and he supervised the forming of the junior college district,” Gerstenberger said, “establishing a tax base for paying for the college, building the campus and hiring the faculty.” 

When Dr. Spencer arrived in Levelland, there was nothing but a field to build a brand new college on. With instructions from the South Plains College Board of Regents, he had $1,086,920.01 to open a college for the fall semester of 1958.

“We were accredited by the Texas Association, but you had to be 5 years old to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools,” Tubb explained. “They sent out a group and they liked what they saw. So they went back and recommended that we get fully accredited by the Southern Association of College and Schools. That accreditation was the highlight of my career.”IMG_6892

 The land for SPC was acquired from the Post-Montgomery estate. The first five campus buildings were built on 44 acres of land that cost $29,566.85. Contractor Harry E. Miller agreed to complete the construction of the college’s first five buildings, which were the Administration Building, Gym-Student Center, Library-Fine Arts Building, Agricultural Shop Building and Auditorium, by Sept. 10, 1958. 

“Almost all of the faculty, there was 19 faculty and three administrators, nearly all of the faculty were young,” said Gerstenberger. “Even the president at that time was in his 40s. The rest of the faculty was young, in their 20s to 30s. It was a new experience for all of us. Everybody did whatever it took to make it go.”

Gerstenberger arrived in mid-summer in 1958, finding the college uncompleted as the first registration neared and classes were scheduled to begin on Sept. 15. The first faculty helped prepare the college to open for the first registration. 

“We had to go in and nail the windows into the library shelving to keep the window from falling in,” Gerstenberger recalled. “All of the faculty and their spouses, in meeting the deadline for opening up the college, went in and helped clean. I went in and helped put in blackboards. It was a closeknit bunch of people, old friends, and we had classes to teach. But we also did other things, whatever it took. Every faculty member had a club or two that they sponsored. It was just a new experience for all of us. It was fun really, but we worked hard too.”

registrationDespite some naysayers in the community, the first registration was a success with 576 enrolling in both day and night classes.

“It started out pretty small,” said Tubb. “There were 202 or so in the day program, and 258 or so in the evening college. We didn’t have computers. We did it all with pencils. There were people in town that didn’t think we would have eight or more students.”

  Faculty worked all night to process the registration for the 60 classes that would begin the very next day. 

“There was a lot of optimism in the Levelland district that we would grow,” Gerstenberger explained. “But there were some negative feelings that we were over-building, and what would happen if students didn’t show up. We had anxiety about having students show up. We had built the school for 500 or so students. A lot of people said that we would never meet that. We had almost 500 students that first semester. We’ve had so much support from the community over the years. To ever be this size, none of us ever thought that would happen. But it did.”

First commencement at SPC was held on May 25,1959, with two graduates from Levelland, Betty Moore Rowell and Billie G. Alexander. One year later, during spring graduation in 1960, 43 students walked the stage. Forty years later, the number of graduates rose to 707, in 1998.

“The first two or three years were pretty small,” said Tubb. “It wasn’t till the fourth year the enrollment started to grow.”

In 1960, the first three dormitories were constructed. Frazier, Stroud and Sue Spencer halls joined the original five buildings. Later, South Sue Spencer, Gillespie and Magee halls were added in 1962, Lamar hall was added in 1995, and the Smallwood Complex was added in 1981. The construction of residence halls allowed the college to enter a period of growth. 

IMG_6902“I like to think of South Plains as a community college,” explained Tubb. “Most junior colleges then just offered the first two academic years and then it would transfer to a university. We started out as having welding, and machine shop. We had a technical building, so we offered a wide variety of things, and that appealed to students in the area. We had an extension course at Reese Air Force Base, and that attracted a large number of students.”

By 1968, SPC’s enrollment had grown from 574 students to 1,641 students in more than 42 programs. 

“It’s an entirely different institution,” Tubb said proudly. “I retired in 1981. Well, it has changed a good deal.”

As the college entered the 1970s, residents of Levelland, Hockley County, the South Plains and Eastern New Mexico realized that SPC was on the educational map.

“After we got up and running in 10 years, there were several community colleges opening in the state, after they had seen how successful we were,” Tubb added.

Dr. Robin Satterwhite, the fifth president in the history of SPC, said the most significant changes to SPC since he attended in 1988 are to the buildings on campus, including the entire Student Services mall, which was just a grassy area. Tubb and Southwest Halls didn’t exist, and other buildings such as the current Math Building and the PE Complex had not been built.

graduation 1960008“I am very proud of how the college has grown over the years,” said Dr. Satterwhite, the first alum to serve as president. “The size of the college sets it apart from many others in that it rivals many universities. In a way, I believe that speaks to the demand for our educational experience and allows SPC to command a greater respect in the delivery of higher education.”

Additionally, Dr. Satterwhite said that the growth of the college has allowed SPC to meet a greater number of educational needs of students in both technical and transfer education areas. The growth of the physical plant has also allowed SPC to be a larger part of the Levelland community.

Today, the enrollment has grown to more than 9,000 students across four campuses, with 42 buildings on the Levelland campus. The faculty number nearly 400. 

“South Plains College must focus most on maintaining the culture of student-centerdness and the quality of education that has always been a cornerstone of our success,” Dr. Satterwhite explained. “However, we also need to look at ways to grow our student numbers and continue to identify programs that meet student and industry demand. Also, while having a 60-year-old campus allows for a great amount of maturity across the campus landscape, it also presents some issues for many of the original buildings.”

Dr. Satterwhite added that the college will need to identify opportunities to make improvements to facilities so SPC can continue to provide the best educational experience to our students.Class room

“South Plains College remains a very special place for so many students, employees, and community members,” Dr Satterwhite explained. “The thing that impressed me most about my time at SPC was the faculty that took a genuine interest in my success. After all of my educational experiences, I was able to point back to faculty members such as Ann Gregory, David Etheredge, Larry Norris, and others who have left since I was here, and reflect on the outstanding impact that each of them had on my educational and personal life. That is what makes SPC a great college.”

Fire Academy offers education, hands-on training.

From teaching the basics of saving lives to putting out fires, the South Plains College Fire Academy provides everything needed to become a certified firefighter.

The SPC Fire Academy program started after Lubbock Fire and Rescue stopped holding their own academy around 2001 and started requiring firefighter certification for new job applicants.

“We work very closely with LFR, and they are a big part of our advisory committee for fire technology,” said Matthew Hixon, coordinator and instructor in fire technology for SPC and firefighter for the Lubbock Fire Department. “We have to be sure we’re providing the department with students who have the correct job skills to be successful in the career field.”IMG_2724

The Fire Academy is held at the Lubbock Fire Department Training and Administration Complex on Monday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Hixon explained that the requirements for the academy include filling out a fire academy application and getting a medical physical.  Applicants also have to submit TSI scores and documentation of any medical training or prior military service they may have.

In June, everyone who has submitted a completed application also takes a timed physical fitness evaluation.  Scores from the written TSI test and the time from the physical test are combined, and the top 25 are selected for the class.shirt2

Steve Haily,  a retired Fire Chief from Lubbock, serves as an instructor for the academy.

“There’s a tremendous number of hours and subjects that they go through,” explained Haily, who served as a fireman in Lubbock for 30 years.

The Fire Academy is a 25 credit-hour program for two semesters, with more than 672 contact hours.

“We’re learning to become firefighters,” said James Clerk, a fire academy student from Whitney. “We have good instructors that teach us how to fight fire, save victims, and everything we need to know for when we get on a department.”

Students gain the knowledge and hands-on skills needed to pass the Texas Commission on Fire Protection (TCFP) basic structural firefighter examination. Once students pass the TCFP, they are certified firefighters.

“They start with the very basics with basically how to put on their PPE, their personal protective equipment,” Haily said.

From there, students move on to becoming familiar with their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).teaching

“We do numerous exercises with them putting that air pack on and going through a lot of drills in our smoke house,” said Haily. “They’re in a disorienting atmosphere, and they have to find their way out. And they have to find another firefighter and get them out. We do a tremendous amount of drills on that.”

Students enrolled in the Fire Academy also learn about forcible entry. They learn how to cut holes in roofs and force entry into doors. They learn about ventilation as well, which teaches them how to read the smoke to determine where or how they need to ventilate, and what kind of ventilation they need to use.

“They do salvage and overhaul,” explained Haily. “Which is what we get into on every fire scene once the fire is kind of over. Overhaul is when we go in and make sure we’ve got all the fire out and it’s not going to start back. Salvage is going in and seeing what we can save from a house or a car or whatever it may be.”

During the second semester, they start a hazardous materials curriculum, which includes the live fire portions of the training.

“It’s pretty tough curriculum to go through,” Haily explains. “We’ll start with the liquefied petroleum gas fire. And then we’ll start the house fire, then we actually go out to our airport training pit. They’ll actually put diesel and jet fuel in and the guys will light it, and that will be their Class B flammable pit fire to put out.”

IMG_2892There’s currently 22 students enrolled in the program for this year.

“We’ve got 22 that we’re hoping to graduate in May,” Haily said.

The instructors for the academy are either retired firefighters or work for the Lubbock Fire Department. There are 15 instructors who teach in their off time from being on duty and work for SPC part time.

“Most of my friends are firefighters, and they just kept talking about how great of a job it was and everything,” said Levi Sherrill, a fire academy student from Lubbock. “So they kind of just lead me on this path. I think it’s something I really enjoy doing, learning how to fight fires and save people. Just learning how to be a part of a family.”

The extra costs incurred during the academy for both equipment and consumables such as propane for the live fires are covered by the students’ lab fees. Tuition for the entire year, with lab fees, is about $5,000.this one

“For me, personally, I enjoy seeing the students progress from having no knowledge of the fire service to the point where we are putting them in gear and taking them in to put out actual fires in LFR’s training building,” Hixson said. “I also love getting emails or texts from students, sometimes years after graduation, to tell me that they got a job with a fire department.  It’s very rewarding.”



Palo Duro Canyon offers fun activies, beautiful sights

Palo Duro Canyon offers a variety of sights, history, geology, and exciting family-friendly activities.

The state park is located in the panhandle of Texas around, 20 miles from Canyon, Texas. It is 120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and has a depth of 800 feet, with amazing scenery and plenty of activities.

Activities available include RV camping, tent camping, hiking trails, bike trails, horseback riding, and zip lining.

“Palo Duro Canyon is the second most visited place for camping in Texas and the most visited state park,” said Maire Cox, a seasonal clerk for Palo Duro Canyon.

There are buildings and cabins people can rent out. Some people even rent out a building to throw a wedding in.

Many people come to the state park to hike and enjoy nature. It is not unusual to see families, couples or a group of friends hiking on the trails with backpacks and water. People are also seen gearing up to ride the bike trails.

“Our busy time of year is usually from spring break until August,” explained Cox. “We usually don’t slow down during the colder months either.”

The state park also has stables with horses for people interested in going horseback riding to see the sights.

For adrenaline seekers, there is also a zipline. The zipline is almost a fourth of a mile across. They also offer two 800-foot ziplines to prepare for the longer one. Repelling is offered for those who are interested as well.IMG_3382

Bike trails also are offered along with the hiking trails. The bike trails range from easy to difficult, just like the hiking trails. If you are planning to bike, it is advised to pack the right protective gear, such as helmets and knee pads, along with plenty of water.

This canyon has beautiful views, from the depths and curves of the canyon, to the unique vegetation, to longhorns. The state park provides plenty of geological education. There are plenty of features about the state park that explain some geology about the canyon.

“My favorite part about the park is the trails and wildlife,” said Cox. “I’ve also met many people from all around.”

A lot of these sights are seen on the hiking trail. One of the most famous sights is found on the longest hiking trail. This trail is six miles long and warns hikers to bring one gallon of water per person. This trail is called “The Lighthouse Trail,” which leads hikers to a rock formation that looks like a lighthouse.

“The most famous attraction is the Lighthouse Trail,” said Cox. “You’ll find a lot of pictures of this trail advertising for the park.”

Preparing for these trails ahead of time is important. Make sure to bring lots of water and a hiking partner, since some of the trails are difficult to hike.

“Keep an eye on the weather when you plan to visit,” said Cox. “It is 10 degrees hotter on the floor of the park, and the rocks are like ovens and trap heat. Bring plenty of water.”

The Palo Duro Canyon also showcases a variety of events. There is a musical play called “Texas” hosted throughout the summer months. Performances begin in June and end in August. It is staged in the Palo Duro Canyon, with a meal offered prior to each nightly performance for those who are interested. The play ends with fireworks. It is the perfect way to cool down after hiking the trails while enjoying the talent and the scenery.

“This is the 53rd year for this play,” Cox said. “It represents what life was like in the area early on.”

This state park is family-friendly, with activities offered for all ages. It is also a learning experience for everyone. The park provides an interactive, fun way to get exercise surrounded by beautiful scenery.

A day pass is $5 for adults. Children age 12 and younger are admitted free. Reservations and late-night arrivals are also available for people looking to camp.

“The park is beautiful,” said Cox. “You don’t expect to drive up on a big hole in the ground in this area. And unlike The Grand Canyon, you can drive down onto the floor of the park.”

Colorful mosaics visually represent Hockley County

Speckled around the quiet streets of Levelland are various works of art that collectively come together to paint a visual history of Hockley County and the people who worked to make it what it is today.

Levelland is known as the “City of Mosaics.”  A mosaic is an ancient form of art that is comprised of small fragments of glass, stone, or a number of other materials that come together to form a large mural.

Each mural holds its own importance to the city that surrounds it.   There are about a dozen pieces scattered throughout Levelland, and the South Plains College campus is home to five of these finely pieced installations.  Ever since Don Stroud, then an art professor at South Plains College, installed the first mosaic in Levelland, “Wild Mustangs” in 1968, the city has steadily continued to add to their collection of public montages.

Two very meticulous local artists have worked diligently to ensure that the mosaics are in pristine condition.  John Hope and his wife, Bette, not only make sure the pieces are well taken care of, they also have installed their own work for the city of Levelland.

The Hopes see the value in preserving the city’s installations.  They know how to make and take care of mosaics, which as it turns out, is quite tedious.

The Hopes have been involved in the city’s art since John Hope attended South Plains College.

The couple installed two smaller murals at the Hockley County Courthouse.   The courthouse’s sign that sits on Avenue H holds a two-part piece called “Hockley County: Past and Present.”  These two pieces are highly intricate, even though they are smaller in size compared to some of the bigger pieces around the city.

“They still took over 2000-man hours to construct and install,” according to John Hope.

The painstakingly precise placement of such small pieces of glass is truly mesmerizing.  Each piece is carefully selected to ensure the right color matches its surrounding shards.IMG_6594

“A half-inch by half-inch square around the bison’s eye alone contains 35 individual pieces of glass,” says Bette Hope.

  Seeing the amount of detail put into these two small displays is captivating.  An eagle-eyed passerby may notice a number of subtle nods to Levelland’s past, with each hint representing something important to the region’s past and future.

In addition to the two pieces the Hopes were commissioned to install, there are a number of other installations, all of which they watch with a close eye.

“Throughout all the years, none of the pieces have been vandalized,” said Bette Hope.  “They might mark on the wall next to a piece, but never on the actual mosaic.”

Bette Hope says that she feels a special connection between the collection of art and the city of Levelland itself, as it is something the town can be proud of.

Near the intersection of MLK Jr. Street and Jackson Avenue is the “Chain of Life” mosaic. The 60-year-old piece was constructed to show the unity between all the races. The piece sadly sits on a “cinderblock wall that is beginning to deteriorate,” according to Bette Hope. Since the 1960s, the piece has been a symbol of togetherness and love.

One of the pieces that many students have seen while traversing between classes is located on the west end of the Administrative Building on the Levelland campus, called “New Morning.”  The montage is a depiction of a field with a windmill and a grouping of trees.  While art is a subjective media, and the viewer is complety in control of what he or she takes away from it, John Hope describes “New Morning” as “trees representing professors and students, to the windmill representing South Plains College itself, and the open field representing the future.”

The mosaic “New Beginning-New Life,” is located on the northern wall of the Science Building. This piece is visually striking as well as one of the bigger mosaics in Levelland. The piece was originally a painting by Ford Ruthling, but converted to a mosaic by Burl Cole.  The piece displays a wide variety of colors and patterns that collectively form a story.  The egg on the mural represents the start of life, in its simplest form.  Inside the egg are multiple forms of life, from basic plants to what appears to be a velociraptor.  Outside the egg is a somber dark blue background speckled with golden tiles, to “represent firmament,” also known as “the heavens,” or the sky.

Levelland houses a total of 12 mosaics, and for this it is know as “The City of Mosaics.”  Other mosaics are:

  “Hockley County Schools & Your Children’s Children,” a second pair of large mosaics, at the corner of Avenue H and Austin Street. It is a sincere tribute to the educators and teachings of Hockley County’s forefathers; “Land of Soil, Oil, & Education,” sits at 1101 Avenue H, and as the name suggests, honors the fruits of the surrounding lands that helped Levelland grow into the town it is today; “Through the Ages,” located near 1101 Avenue H, while not a true mosaic, is a stoneware clay collage that takes a different approach to telling a history of Levelland.

Also, “Tree of Life” stands at the Levelland Clinic and expresses the importance of the all the professionals in the medical field that provide their services to the public; “Arms of Care,” situated at the Levelland Hospital on College Avenue, displays the connection between doctors, nurses, and the families they look after.

“Wild Mustangs,” inside the Fine Arts Building on the South Plains College, is the forefather of all of Levelland’s mosaics. The mural is a callback to the once wild and untamed mustangs that drew settlers from miles around to call this area their home.

Mosaics can be traced back to the dawn of humanity.  They first appeared in Mesopotamia and have been improved upon ever since.  The techniques are being constantly fine-tuned to ensure that these works of art will continue to captivate our minds.  With proper care and public support, these magnificent collections will stand the test of time and be around long past the artists who assembled them.

Carlsbad Caverns educates with impressive scenery

ALL PHOTOS BY Autumn Bippert 

CARLSBAD, N.M.– The air is humid, and the underground trail is dimly lit.

The atmosphere may be gloomy and damp, but it is full of opportunities to learn and witness amazing monuments.

Carlsbad Caverns is a cave attraction, consisting of 119 caves, in the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico, located about 30 minutes away from the town of Carlsbad. Guided tours are provided, or visitors are allowed to tour the caves on their own.IMG_1806

“The busiest time of the year is July, during the summer,” said Don McCombs, who works in the Offices of Resource Management at Carlsbad Caverns.

After either riding the elevator down to the caves or going through the natural entrance, the first attraction is called the “Big Room.”

“The Big Room is probably the most popular attraction because it is the largest cave of the Western Hemisphere,” said McCombs.

The size of the cave is equivalent to 14 football fields, making “Big Room” the largest natural limestone chamber in the Western Hemisphere that has been discovered.

The cave is filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites rising from the ground and hanging from the ceiling.

222Carlsbad Caverns was formed around 250 million years ago, when marine wildlife built a limestone reef. A few million years later, about 60 million years ago, hydrogen sulfide gas and water created sulfuric acid, which ate away and created the caverns. Around 3 million years ago, the water drained and formed the caverns, along with the enormous stalagmites and stalactites.

“The caves were probably discovered a long time ago by the Native Americans,” said McCombs. “But sometime in the 1900’s, Jim White discovered it and began telling people about it. National Geographic did a story over the park, and in the 1930’s, the president signed for it to become a National Park.”

batsThe caverns contain little “pools” of water which can be found all around the caves. These pools remain from when the caves used to be filled with water, considering that there is no water flowing in or out. Longfellow’s Bathtub is the largest pool in the caverns.

The Bottomless Pit is one of the main attractions of the caves. When the cave was first discovered, the explorers could not see all the way to the bottom. The hole is actually not bottomless, but is 140 feet deep.

The Crystal Spring Dome is one of the largest and still growing stalagmites. It glistens with water and the minerals that make it continue to grow.

The Chinese Theatre is a sight where stalagmites and stalactites meet and connect.

The Doll’s Theatre is an opening, or little hole, in the cave that is full of stalagmites and stalactites. The speleothems, stalagmites and stalactites are very thin and are otherwise known as “soda straws.”

The Hall of Giants is a part the cave with towering domes, such as the Crystal Spring Dome, though it is inactive. The giant domes are interesting to walk beside because of how big they are. The Twin Domes, which are two identical domes, are also found in the Hall of Giants, along with the Totem Pole, a speleothem that is connected top to bottom.

Another feature of the caverns is a bat viewing area. During the evening, visitors gather at the entrance to watch bats take flight. Although the bats have migrated for the winter, the best time to view the bats take flight is toward the end of the summer, after mating season.IMG_1769

“The bats fly out every night to the middle of October,” said McCombs.

Touring Carlsbad Caverns is informative and interesting. Be sure to pack a pair of tennis shoes, due to steep and slippery trails. There are parts of the tour that are not wheelchair friendly. This tour is best suited for people who are into hiking and ready to learn about Earth’s mysterious creations.

IMG_1821“The self-guided tour usually lasts around two to two and a half hours,” McCombs said. “The tour with a tour guide lasts around an hour and a half.”

The experience is a fun way to hike and learn about caves and the history surrounding the area.

The caves are filled with beautiful and interesting sights, along with the history of the incredible formations.

“People should visit the park because it is an amazing cave,” McCombs said. “It’s one of the most famous caves in the world, and it has a lot of geological information.”IMG_1798