Literary Pursuits and Historical Routes

Monday, January 16, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

To Big Bend and Back, Day 12 

ABILENE, Texas— Before departing Wichita Falls this morning, we found the final couple of letterboxes there and by 9:45 we were on the way to Archer City, listening to Pat Conroy read his tribute to a lifelong love of reading and books entitled My Reading Life

Half an hour south of Wichita Falls, we located the Archer City letterbox commemorating the classic 1971 Peter Bogdanovich film, The Last Picture Show. The film was adapted from a book by Pulitzer-winning Texas author Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, Comanche Moon), which he based on memories of his hometown of Archer City.  With a stellar cast including Cloris Leachman, Eileen Brennan, Jeff Bridges, and Ellen Burstyn, the film featured Cybill Shepard in her first leading role.

Cybill Shepard as Jacy Farrow
Shot in black and white, The Last Picture Show was nominated for nine Academy Awards and has frequently been cited as one of the greatest American films. The Royal Theater which inspired the writing and served as a filming location still sits on the Archer City square.


Nearby we discovered the Archer County Museum, a kitschy collection of memorabilia housed in and around the old Archer County Jail.  Completed in 1910, the sandstone structure was designed with living quarters for the sheriff and his family on the ground floor.  The second and third floors housed cells and a hanging gallows, which was never used.

Former Archer County Jail
Examining the wooden slats across the second floor windows, one might surmise that these cells were used for minimum security prisoners while the metal bars on the third floor insured maximum security risks would remain locked in.

McMurtry returned to Archer City in the late 1980s and bought the clubhouse of the Archer City Country Club for his home.  In addition to his writing, the author pursues his passion for literature in his four bookstores around the town square featuring one of the country’s largest collection of antique and out-of-print books— more than 300,000 volumes at last count.

One of four McMurtry-owned bookstores in Archer City
Later in the day, we arrived at the historical site of Fort Griffin, where we found two letterboxes.  One commemorated Catumseh, a Comanche chief, and the other told the story of Katie Elder, a pioneer woman who was both the consort of "Doc" Holliday and a fearsome pioneer in her own right.

Fort Griffin Scenic Lookout
The day ended with a late arrival into Abilene for an overnight stay before leaving to continue our trek southward toward Big Bend National Park.

DAILY STATS:

  • Started in Wichita Falls, TX; ended in Abilene, TX
  • Weather:  Partly Cloudy, 54° to 77°
  • Miles driven: 194          (Trip total:  1,996)
  • States: 1 (TX)          (Trip total:  6)
  • Letterboxes found:  7         (Trip total:  56)
  • Longhorn cattle inside Fort Griffin historic site:  37
  • Windmills:  419
  • Cacti:  823,710
  • Mesquite trees:  215,083
  • Times we wished we were back in Texarkana:  0 
More Photos from Today
Shackelford County Courthouse, Albany, TX
Texas Pavers
Wind Power near Archer City
How small can a pumpjack get?
Sanders Drug Store, Albany, TX
Found the letterbox at Fort Griffin overlook
Challenging terrain near Fort Griffin
Site of Comanche Indian Reserve near Fort Griffin
In case you need computer repair
Don't eat that cactus!
Texas Longhorn