Matador, Texas

My young wife cried when we moved to Motley County, Texas in 2004. It was a seventy-mile drive through canyons, ranch land, and farmland from our home in Clarendon to our new home in Matador.

Even in Texas, people ask, “Where’s Matador?” I like to answer with, “North of Spur, east of Floydada, south of Turkey, and west of Paducah.” Until I say sixty-five miles northeast of Lubbock, they have no idea where I’m talking about.

Matador is the county seat of Motley County. The population is around 800, which is most of the population of the entire county, but it is steadily declining. Motley County is listed as the 10th least populated county in the state (out of 254), which is really saying something considering how large it is—990 square miles. The one school in the county—Motley County ISD—has less than 200 students K-12.

There are few businesses in Matador. A café. A small grocery store which is okay for emergencies, but you better check those dates. A hardware store. A general store. Moore Maker knives. If I remember correctly, the sheriff was the lone ranger when it came to county law-enforcement.

A Roy Rogers movie, Mackentosh and T.J., was filmed in Matador in 1975. Aside from there being more open businesses in the movie, nothing had changed in Matador during the 30 years from the filming until I moved there.

When both of my daughters were born, we drove to Amarillo, which was two hours away, for a decent hospital. When we needed groceries, my wife made the sixty-five-mile trip to Lubbock. If I wanted a haircut from a real barber, I drove forty-five miles south to Spur. But, other than the tumbleweeds, jackrabbits, mule-deer, and coyotes, there was never much traffic.

We bought a little rock home on nearly an acre with seven pecan trees for the price of a new car. It was on Main Street, so I could walk to work, the hardware store, the post office, or bank, or anywhere else in Matador. Our main form of entertainment was to take walks and push the stroller around town or pick up pecans in the fall.

When you drive north out of Matador, you will see cotton fields, and some that are over 1,000 acres. Driving west is a thirty-mile climb until you are on top of the cap rock, which is what most people imagine when they think of the Texas Panhandle—hundreds of miles of flat nothingness. You may remember it from Lonesome Dove.

Laurie: “Where are we, Gus?”

Gus: “Adobe Walls, Darlin.”

Laurie: “They shouldn’t a took me, Gus.”

Gus: “I know, Darlin, but they did. They did.”

When you drive east or south, you are heading for serious ranch country. The Matador Ranch. The 6666. The Pitchfork Ranch. And many others.

If you stop in for gas or a chicken fried steak, you are likely to see real ranch cowboys with their jeans in their boots, spurs still on, with still saddled horses in tow in the parking lot.

Here are some of the characters we knew in Motley County:

Ronald Clay was an old cowboy who enjoyed cracking rattlesnakes like a whip to pop their heads off. He once sewed a rattlesnake’s mouth shut and threw it into the crowded Flomot cotton gin office.

Mary Maeson was my 92 year-old-neighbor. She was a school teacher in the county during the Dust Bowl, and her father had been friends with the Comanche war chief, Quanah Parker.

Harold Campbell lived by himself on a large ranch in the county. He was a direct descendant from the first white family in Motley County, and he still hated farmers, just like the ranchers in the old westerns.

Dude Barton also lived by herself on a large ranch in the county. Not only was she one of the toughest and best ranchers in the county, but she was also inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame for her rodeo accomplishments.

Life in Motley County is slow and peaceful. Just like she did when we moved there, my wife cried when we left, and on the rare occasions when I drive through, I wonder why we ever did.


About Nowhere Tribune

A husband and daddy, striving to love his neighbors and be kind to his pets. I love good food, good beer, and a few good friends. My other interests are hiking, taking walks, lifting weights, reading books by manly authors like Hemingway and Twain, and splitting fire wood with my bare hands.


26 thoughts on “Matador, Texas

  1. I have to ask… what drew you there in the first place?

    Posted by rivergirl1211 | April 3, 2019, 6:59 am
  2. I love it. Nothing wrong with quiet and a bit of free range parenting. But it’s tough at the same time when you want a few more opportunities for the kids. That’s where we are right now in the mountains. Everything like piano, karate, and swim lessons is a long drive we make often.

    Posted by jim- | April 3, 2019, 7:57 am
    • You are right. It was a great place in lots of ways, but not much for the kids. We’d be driving a long way, like you are, to even get them to any kind of practice. And it’s nice to have a good grocery store close to home.

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | April 3, 2019, 10:18 am
  3. My kind of town. I’d love to move to a place like that, but unfortunately, my wife likes people better than I do. I also love your post on the rattlesnake-popping cowboy. My brother and I used to catch rattlers when we were kids, but we took their heads off with a shovel, rather than popping them off. The poor critters are pathetically easy to catch and kill, but one must be careful to avoid making mistakes.

    Posted by Tippy Gnu | April 3, 2019, 8:18 am
  4. What a great visual you shared!

    Sounds a lot like the Cariboo region of BC, where I live. There are small communities here and there in varying sizes, with ranch land galore – but forest, too – real cowboys, and a long drive to anywhere.

    I love it.

    The only crying involving my relationship with the land was after my first weekend visit to look for property. I cried as we drove out of the small town of 100 Mile House.

    That was 20 years ago.

    We did buy land and relocated here. I hope I never have to leave till my last breath.

    Posted by Steeny Lou | April 3, 2019, 10:23 am
    • Oh, wow. That sounds like fantastic place to live. I don’t think I could handle the cold, though. The panhandle of Texas is almost too cold for me. Thanks for reading!

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | April 3, 2019, 10:46 am
  5. Being Canadian sucks sometimes. We have no year-round warm locations to which we can move if we so desire.

    The cold is troubling at times. Having friends and family suffering along with me makes it tolerable as we creatively complain. Then spring shows up and we rejoice in the mud!

    If not for the snow, would mud be as sweet?

    Enjoy and embrace your Texas panhandle! I’m sure it beats the Alaskan panhandle hands-down. I shivered through most of the 1990s up there.

    Posted by Steeny Lou | April 3, 2019, 11:03 am
  6. It sounds a tiny bit different to life in London!

    Posted by Michelle Le G | April 3, 2019, 11:25 am
  7. My husband keeps talking about finding a place like that, but then I keep reminding him that we need to be within 20 minutes of a good hospital because we both have health issues. So we settled on just buying a larger-than normal suburban lot with a basic house on it. Seems to be working out ok so far.

    Posted by cordeliasmom2012 | April 3, 2019, 12:40 pm
  8. Sounds very quiet! I’ve never had experience living in an area like that. Would be different.

    Posted by Diandra Francesca | April 4, 2019, 2:31 am
  9. I like middle of nowhere places. I often tell people that’s where I’m from, but it looks like you have me beat.

    Using a shovel to chop off a snake’s head now sounds like the coward’s way of doing things.

    Posted by Shayne | April 4, 2019, 9:18 am
    • I’m not sure what it’s like where you live, but I’m sure I had you beat when I lived in Matador.

      And please don’t take that as a recommendation on how to deal with rattlesnakes. I knew a very cute young college girl who tried to pick up a rattlesnake, and it didn’t turn out well. Cowardly or not, I’d recommend a weapon! Not that you go around messing with snakes.

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | April 4, 2019, 10:55 am
  10. Great post 😁

    Posted by the #1 Itinerary | April 4, 2019, 10:33 am
  11. No wonder you took up blogging. You’re making me want to visit west Texas, btw.

    Posted by Clever Girl | April 4, 2019, 2:49 pm
    • I took up blogging so that I could write without bugging the hell out of people I know in real life. And there are things you’d like, and things you wouldn’t. It would be a long drive to find a place to do stand-up comedy. You’d end up dating a rancher or cotton farmer, and going “out” would mean a burger at the Dixie Dog. Or driving around on county roads in the evenings looking for rattlesnakes to throw rocks at.

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | April 4, 2019, 2:58 pm
  12. Yes definitely want to go there now! What a lovely post.

    Posted by Julie | April 6, 2019, 5:01 am

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