Sunday, July 29, was my last day in the Permian Basin. I checked out of my hotel and drove north on US Highway 385, leaving Ector County and entering Andrews County. The landscape, typical of the Permian Basin, was dotted with "pump-jacks" and laced with electical lines, powering the pumps that bring the oil to the surface.
I photographed the Andrews County courthouse in the square and then headed north on 385 again. Along the way I passed a tank manufacturing facility and this wonderful tankscape. North of Andrews County I entered Gaines County. Approaching the county seat, Seminole, I encountered a feature familar to anyone who has driven the roads of Texas: the reststop. This particular design must date from the 1960's. I've seen it everywhere.
As a child in the 1950's and early 60's I ate many meals with my family in road side shelters like these in Seminole. Travel by car in those days was slower and places to eat were not as plentiful in this pre-fast food era. We'd pack a meal and stop along the road to eat and rest before continuing our drive across Texas, with the windows down. Automobile air-conditioning was still a rare luxury. The Gaines County courthouse was soon photographed and I turned east on US Highway 180 for Lamesa, seat of Dawson County.
The northern edge of the Permian Basin is in the Llano Estacado, or Staked Plain, also known as the Caprock. The land is flat and highly cultivated. The trees flanking the highway were a nice touch; a break in the monotony.
The Dawson County courthouse is very sad. It's been altered beyond recognition and begs for restoration. At least it's hidden in a grove of mature trees. The area surrounding the courthouse square in Lamesa contains a number of interesting historic buildings, including this former Chevrolet dealership which now houses classic cars.
There's also this wonderful example of reusing the shell of a building: the Courtyard in downtown Lamesa.
Lamesa, seat of Dawson County, was the 15th and last of my Permian Basin counties. In addition, this was the 11th and last of the county seats I've visited that are connected by US Highway 180 as it crosses Texas, from Fort Worth to Seminole. With plenty of time left before my flight to Houston, I continued east on 180 and returned to the first county courthouse I'd photographed: Borden County. The landscape changes dramatically in the drive between Lamesa and Gail. Leaving Lamesa it's typical Caprock farming scenes.
Suddenly, the Llano Estacado ends and the road descends into a very different landscape.
In a few minutes I entered Borden County and a world of cattle ranches, mesquite trees and mesas as far as the eye could see. In the center of the county I stopped in Gail and photographed the courthouse I'd first shot in May 2007.
Not much had changed in Gail in the 5 years since my first visit. Leaving Gail, I turned south on FR 669 and headed for Big Spring. The road was empty of traffic. I stopped several times to photograph the landscape, especially Mushaway Peak, an erosional remnant of the Llano Estacado that forms a conspicuous butte that stands on high ground between tributaries of the upper Brazos and Colorado rivers.
Further south I crossed a bridge over what the sign claims is the Colorado River. You be the judge of whether this is the same "river" that crosses Texas and past eight county seats, from Colorado City to Wharton.
I soon left Borden County and entered Howard County where I picked up I-20 and headed west. Arriving in Midland with an hour to spare I stopped to visit the Petroleum Museum. It's worth a trip. Here's part of their amazing collection of various pump-jacks.
With the temperature at a more seasonal 100 degrees, I dropped off my Chevy Malibu and entered the Midland International Airport terminal. My flight to Houston was on time. Climbing out of Midland, we crossed the Permian Basin with its distinctive pattern of oil wells and connecting roads. What a rich landscape!
Leonard G. Lane, Jr., AIA
- Chronological Order (of my visits)
- County List (alphabetical)
- Texas Courthouse Blog
- James Riely Gordon, Architect
- Eugene T. Heiner, Architect
- Henry T. Phelps, Architect
- Alfred Giles, Architect
- Corneil G. Curtis, Architect
- Wesley Clark Dodson, Architect
- Lang & Witchell Architects
- Voelcker & Dixon, Architects
- Wyatt C. Hedrick, Architect
- David S. Castle, Architect
- Page Brothers, Architects
- James Edward Flanders, Architect
- Pierce, Norris, Pace & Associates, Architects & Engineers