On a beautiful Saturday in April I traveled to Old Tascosa to photograph an arrow on the Quanah Parker trail. This was for a group project as part of my West Texas Photography class. My PHOT 4300 class only consisted of seven members. It was an independent studies class that documented the various aspects of West Texas. The class project was to photograph sightings of the giant Quanah Parker arrows located throughout various areas in West Texas. The locations of these arrows are physical reminders of the Native Americans that once roamed the Texas Plains. Following the trail of these arrows symbolize following the trail of Quanah Parker…the last Comanche chief. The arrows are spread throughout a 52 county region of Texas extending through the plains and the panhandle. Each member of my class was asked to choose a single sighting.
I was asked to go to Old Tascosa, which was a ghost town located a few miles Northwest of Amarillo. I did not know what to expect considering it was a ghost town. I imagined it was like something I would see on a movie. I pictured an old, deserted western town in the middle of nowhere with a tumbleweed rolling across a dirt road. Of course, this interpretation was nothing like what I saw when I got there.
I took a long drive north and passed Amarillo. The landscape went from the flat plains to shrubbery hills. I had read online that the Quanah Parker arrow was located inside of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. After searching for the right entrance, I came across Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. When I arrived, I was surprised with that I found. Instead of seeing an old, broken down town, I drove through what appeared to be a school-like campus. However, I was confused with what it actually was. Not only did it have school buildings, but also a church, football field and water tower. It looked like a town that was not completely town. It reminded me of a college campus with the characteristics of a town and a summer camp.
I finally saw the visitors center and went in. I learned that the town Old Tascosa was technically no longer in existence. Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch was Old Tascosa. The town had theoretically been replaced with the settlement of the boys ranch. The only remnants of the town were the Tascosa courthouse and schoolhouse. This explained why the area did not really look like a deserted town. Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch is a supportive community for boys and girls that range from pre-school to high school to be nurtured by functioning families. This explained why the town looked like a school campus.
When I explained my reason for being there, the visitor assistant gave me a map of where the Quanah Parker arrow was located. He also recounted a short history of the area and showed me where the Tascosa courthouse and schoolhouse was. The Tascosa courthouse had been turned into a museum. Although it was locked up at the time, they unlocked it for me so I could go in and take pictures. I found some really interesting pieces of history within that museum that I had not ever seen before.
Among these things was a complete set of the works of Charles Dickens that includes his poems. They were dated back to 1880.
I also came across a collection of brand rods as well as a Thomas Edison trademark record player. There was also a set of playing cards from the original Old Tascosa saloon and an old knit seat.
There were also some worded signs that I found slightly humorous.
The grave of Cal Farley was just outside of the museum as well as a statue of him and a little boy.
There were many parts of the town that I found quaint and worth taking a picture of. Their chapel was among the biggest and most beautiful I had ever seen. They also had a football field and a schoolhouse. The schoolhouse was one of the remaining structures from the original Old Tascosa.
Before heading out of the ranch I of course stopped to take pictures of the Quanah Parker arrow. The arrow was not hard to miss considering it stood 23 feet tall. I was able to take pictures of it from different angles, but also had a friend take a picture of me by it. I traveled too far to not have a picture with the arrow that had I adventured to find. It was also a good representation of the arrow to person height ratio. Granted, I stand around 5’4’’.
Overall my trip to Old Tascosa, now Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, was a pleasant surprise. I discovered a part of Texas I had never been to and learned some interesting historical facts. I also got to see some fascinating museum pieces and structures that hold a lot of history. Visiting this Quanah Parker arrow was a way of me connecting with my classmates. Although each of us traveled to different arrow locations, we each combined our discovery with the same purpose. West Texas has a deep history, but it definitely holds its ground with Quanah Parker and the impact of Native Americans throughout the plains.