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Amarillo by Morning Takes on New Meaning During TOWA Convention

It was a long waltz across Texas to Amarillo last week to attend the annual convention of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association.

Every time I take one of my long treks across the state, I always marvel at the wide variety of terrain and lifestyles Texas has to offer. From the long stretches of sand dunes and saltwater bays along the coast to the flat, endless stretches of prairies of the High Plains region in the Panhandles hundreds of miles to the north, Texas offers a constant change of scenery. In between, I traveled through the rolling hills and blackland farms of Central Texas and the rugged, mountainous areas in North Texas covered with scrub oak and cedar thickets.

On the way, I purposely skirted the big metropolitan areas to be able to enjoy the flavor of the Texas countryside. This allowed me to see the small towns, each with a prominent cattle auction barn, several pastures with herds of longhorns, a field of oil well pumping rigs with their heads bobbing in unison, I was even privileged to see a free roaming herd of buffalo.
The farther north I drove towards the Panhandle, the more desolate the landscape becomes with the small towns becoming farther apart with only an occasional ranch house in between. Regardless of the terrain, all of the regions across the state have their own brand of beauty.

I finally arrived at the Radisson Hotel, the grand gathering place for the outdoor writers, photographers, and wildlife artists across the state. For many years, the organization has moved its conference around the state with different cities playing host to the TOWA gatherings. Besides being a good excuse for old writer friends and hunting and fishing buddies to get together, the conference is also a great chance to attend various seminars to help hone our skills.

Expert speakers were on hand to give advice and to answer questions on a variety of skills such as improving one’s writing style, mastering photography, and tips on getting a manuscript published and into bookstores.

During our visit, the gracious and congenial staff of the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce went all out to show us the best that their city has to offer and to make sure we were well fed and entertained.

One of the highlights of our trip was the dinner and tour of the American Quarter Horse Association Headquarters and Museum. As a former owner of quarter horses, I was awed by the portraits and sculptures of famous bloodlines and the history of the quarter horse in our western heritage. A trip to Amarillo would be incomplete without a visit to the AQHA Headquarters and Museum.

Another must-see destination on any trip to the Amarillo area is the Palo Duro Canyon. Traveling about 20 miles across the flat plains, the canyon seems to materialize out of nowhere. It is a deep and rugged gorge carved out of the landscape by centuries of wind and weather. As we toured the bowels of the canyon, deer scampered out of our way and flocks of wild turkey shuffled across the road.

Our last afternoon was spent at the local gun club and shooting range. There we were able to view displays and have hands-on access to the latest in lures, fishing tackle, and hunting gear. We were also able to shoot the latest models of shotguns and ammo furnished by Winchester and Browning on the trap and skeet range.

Some of the writers were paired up with a few members of the local Boy Scout troop for a round of trap and skeet. Some of the young members had little or no shotgunning experience. However, lack of experience did not diminish their enthusiasm for trying the sport of shotgunning. My shooting partner, Clint Caldwell, was quick to learn and experienced beyond his 12 years. He had a natural ability for shattering a big percentage of the clay targets shooting different styles of shotguns.

The awards banquet was held that evening. Early the next morning, I nosed my truck into a brilliant Panhandle sunrise as I watched Amarillo disappear in my rear view mirror. Occasional tumbleweeds bounced across the road in the gusting wind as I headed south.

Aside from the great hospitality of the fine folks in Amarillo, I looked forward to planting my boots back on the Gulf Coast ground. Although the morning sunrises are spectacular, Amarillo is a little too far to get the salty Gulf spray in my face, and it is too far removed from the saltwater flats where speckled trout and redfish roam.