Lubbock travelblog: Hydro journalism class & Muleshoe Mexican
A few weeks ago, Hydro-Eakly journalism teacher Lia Hillman emailed me and said a few of her students always were talking about stuff I wrote. Hillman knew I couldn’t visit Hydro, but she wondered if I’d be willing to answer some emailed questions from her class?
I was flattered by her request, I love western Oklahoma and I responded by saying what the heck, I’ll come to Hydro. We set a date, October 2, then I realized that was just two days before I’d be headed to the Texas Panhandle for the OSU-Texas Tech game. So I wrote back to Hillman and asked if October 4 would work instead?
So Friday a little after noon, Scotty Wright and I headed west on I-40, bound for Amarillo, but with a stop in Hydro, the small town seven miles east of Weatherford, just off Interstate 40.
I’d never been to Hydro, but turns out, Scotty was all about Hydro. His mother lived there until she was 14, he often visited grandparents and great-grandparents in Hydro, and his mother is buried in the Hydro cemetery.
Hydro is a town that sits right on the Caddo/Blaine county line. In fact, the school is bisected by the county line; part of the campus sits in Caddo, part in Blaine.
Hydro is a town with a population estimated at 960, down from a high of 1,060 in 2000 and from 969 in the 2010 census.
Scotty told me about the Hydro Quick Shop, which as a kid he called the “Store at the Bottom of the Hill.” It sits down the road from the main street, which has a decent amount of businesses for a small town. Scotty went in there awhile back, found they were selling T-shirts and bought one as a souvenir.
We drove over to the high school and went in. The woman at the desk was friendly and a Hydro graduate. She knew a bunch of Scotty’s family. Via text, she was keeping up with Hydro’s regional softball game – the Bobcats were playing over in Binger – and gave us updates.
When the 1:25 p.m. bell sounded, Hillman came and escorted us to her classroom. The high school appears quite new and modern. And we had a delightful time.
I gave the students my 10-minute spiel on how I got into journalism and how the profession has changed, then we opened it to questions and had a great discussion. Lots of good questions – not “who’s going to win the NBA title?” – and the vast majority came from the females, which always is cool. All in all, a great experience. Glad we came.
On the way out of town, we stopped at the Store at the Bottom of the Hill for a snack, and Scotty ran into his aunt, the last family member still left in Hydro. Small world.
The rest of our trip was uneventful. We stopped in Weatherford for a Sonic drink; I love Sonic and I love Weatherford. Great college town.
I drove to Texola on the border while Scotty worked. On the way, we both did radio interviews, almost at the same time. He was on with someone in Texas, and a Topeka station called me at almost the same time. I asked them to give me three minutes so Scotty could get clear. That would have been wild, both of us holding broadcast conversations at the same time.
By Texola, Scotty was finished with his work, so he started driving our rented Equinox, and I wrote my column. Finished just as we pulled up to the Fairfield Inn in Amarillo.
We stay in Amarillo because of the gouged hotel prices in Lubbock; earlier in the week, I found a Courtyard in Lubbock for $449 and a couple of Fairfields in the $300s. That’s just nuts, of course, but that’s what hotels can do in college towns far removed from metros. On a lark, I checked for a Stillwater hotel the weekend of October 18-19, when the Cowboys host Baylor, and I found a Fairfield for $339. So it’s an epidemic.
For dinner, Channel 4’s Nate Feken joined us at Leal’s, a long-time Mexican joint that started in 1957 – in Muleshoe, Lincoln Riley’s hometown. From Muleshoe to Amarillo and now to a few places in New Mexico, too.
It was very good and quite popular. We’ll go back.
We hit the hotel early. Back by about 8:30 p.m., because we’ve got an early wakeup call Saturday. Leaving Amarillo at 7 a.m. for the two-hour ride to Lubbock. But it was a good day. From Hydro to Muleshoe, we experienced Western Oklahoma and West Texas.