Pecos, TX – Home of the World’s First Rodeo (and Ol’ Bill, Of Course)


I made one stop in Pecos. On the way into town I saw a sign announcing the presence of the West of the Pecos Museum and, sucker that I am for a bit of local history, I couldn’t help but pull in and check it out. I walked through the front door at 4:30; they close at 5:00. The lady behind the counter made sure I understood the predicament I was in: “You don’t have much time,” she said, “but I think you can just make it.”

The museum is in what used to be the Orient Hotel, and it seems that very little work has been done on the building since it changed hands. It is three stories tall, and it is quite possibly the creakiest structure in which I have ever set foot. It was not just time constraints that kept me from venturing to the top floor; there were at least a couple of spots where I thought for sure I was a goner, that I was about to be unintentionally back downstairs.  The wood floors slanted at all ungodly angles, and the walls and ceilings were so spider-webbed with cracks that I could almost see through them.

Outside of the small issue of structural integrity, though, the museum was quite interesting–at least insofar as my lightning tour indicated. Everything was wired for motion: lights came on when I entered the room and shut off once I’d exited, as did voice-over tracks. The technology stood in stark contrast to the state of the building itself, and being the fan of irony that I am, I quite enjoyed the fact. Most of the displays had to do with the local rodeo–the “World’s First,” beginning in 1883–or with that good old feller, Pecos Bill. There was a really great metal sculpture of Bill riding the twister that I would love a replica of. I’d keep it right in the middle of our living room, and it would drive Tammy crazy!

After quickly scanning the exhibits, I headed back downstairs, and there the ticket lady caught up with me. Anxiously, she trailed me around the first floor, reassuring herself that I was indeed seeing everything, however incompletely. “There’s another little room through there.” “Turn right!” “Did you find the gun room?” (What local history museum in Texas would be complete without the “gun room,” after all?)

Once I had satisfied my shadow that I had observed all, I managed to sneak away into the gift shop. (Tammy and I have a tradition of purchasing a magnet everywhere we visit; it used to be a coffee mug, but that got really bulky, really fast.) As I stood at the counter, the clerk and I engaged in a bit of random conversation about the Dustmobile, which was the same model as her car. For some reason, complete strangers seem able to bond instantly over owning similar vehicles. Here, in the middle of the government shutdown, I wonder: maybe if we gave everyone in Congress the same sort of car–a Prius, just for kicks and giggles–they might have a little less difficulty reaching across the aisle…


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