HISTORY OF SAN ANGELO

By John Ronan Broderick

ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS AND EARLY SPANISH FORAYS INTO THE AREA

Prior to the arrival of Spanish explorers in the mid-16th century in what is now San Angelo, the region had been inhabited for over 1,000 years by various indigenous people. The latest and most notable of these were the Jumano Indians. Though they ranged far and wide, covering large swaths of territory in northern Mexico, New Mexico, and Texas, their most favored operational base was in Central Texas between the lower Pecos River and the Colorado River, focusing primarily on the Concho Rivers region.

The Jumanos were primarily buffalo hunters and traders and served as intermediaries between the Spanish and various other Indian tribes. They inhabited the area from about 1500 to 1700, when they disappeared from the scene as a separate entity, probably assimilating with other Native American tribes, most likely the more warlike Apaches, who took over their trade routes and supplanted them.

The earliest encounter by the Spanish with the Jumanos may have occurred in 1535, when Cabeza de Vaca visited what he referred to as the “People of the Cows,” though it is uncertain that these Indian groups were one and the same. Much is open to conjecture due to the multiplicity of indigenous tribes in the region, the nomadic nature of the Jumanos in particular, and the less than stellar record-keeping of the Spanish conquistadors.

The Spanish Catholic missionaries, however, seemed to have kept better written records, probably because they were better educated than the typical Spanish explorers and because they had to file periodic reports of their activities with their superiors. For instance, the Franciscans established a short-lived mission in the area in 1632, to bring the Christian Gospel to the Indians. One of the two friars assigned to the mission apparently stayed only six months. The historical record indicates that the Castillo-Martin expedition visited the area in 1650, followed by the Diego de Guadalajara expedition of 1654. The Spanish never established a permanent presence in the area.

1867: FORT CONCHO AND THE COMING OF THE BUFFALO SOLDIERS

In the post-Civil War United States, Americans were once again anxious to move westward in search of land and opportunity–their inherent right, they believed, under the umbrella of “Manifest Destiny.” Unfortunately, there were still many hostile Native American tribes who vehemently opposed the presence of the white man in their ancestral homeland, and they continued to commit atrocities of the most barbaric nature on these early settlers to make their point and to dishearten such colonization.

In an attempt to discourage these depredations by the Indians and protect this new wave of settlers coming into Texas, the United States Army had established, beginning in 1846, a string of 30 outposts of varying sizes across the state. Constructed in 1867 at the confluence of three rivers in West Central Texas—the North Concho, the Middle Concho, and the South Concho–Fort Concho came into existence. The predecessor to San Angelo, Fort Concho was among the later but also among the largest of these 30 outposts, serving as regimental headquarters for some of the most famous frontier units for 22 years. It was deactivated in 1889, when hostilities with the Indians had ceased in the early-to-mid 1870s.

Originally consisting of more than 40 buildings—barracks, officers’ quarters, headquarters, hospital, mess hall, stables, blacksmith, wheelwright, and the typical assortment of buildings necessary to support 400 to 500 soldiers, both infantry companies and cavalry troops—Fort Concho initially encompassed some 1,600 acres. It was a behemoth compared to some of the other U.S. Army outposts in Texas.

Constructed for the most part of native limestone, it was built to last. And, indeed it has, for 153 years later 24 of the original buildings have either been restored or rebuilt, causing True West Magazine to name it the “Best Preserved Historic Fort in the West” in its “Best of 2020” awards. Some personal attestation would be in order at this point in my narrative.

A lifelong Texas history buff myself, in the summer of 1988, as my 12-year-old son was preparing to enter the 7th grade, which is the year that kids in those days were required to take an academic course  on Texas History, I decided on a unique vacation: We would visit many of these old Army forts scattered about the state so my son could get a sense of the types of harsh environments these soldiers had to endure, as well as develop a taste for the incredible amount of land area that comprised the state in which he’d been born. No more photographs in books, we were going to see history up close and personal. It would be a great father/son adventure–just me and my boy.

We naturally began our journey with a visit to the most famous fortress, not only in Texas, but probably in America, if not the world—the hallowed ground of The Alamo, “the mission that became a fortress, the fortress that became a shrine,” according to the ads for the 1960 film. Our next stop was Fort Clark in Brackettville, where we were put up overnight in a barracks that had been converted into tourist lodging. Then, the next morning it was, “Westward ho the wagons!”

A few of these old Army posts, like Fort Davis and Fort McKavett, were wonderfully preserved. Others—too many in my opinion– were deteriorated to the point that they were literally “Gone with the Wind”–blown away by the hot, hostile, arid, West Central Texas climate in which they had been constructed. It is a wonder that men could survive in such a harsh environment.

About the only thing left at some of these sites we visited was a small tourist information center about the size of a mobile home, and a vacant parade ground overgrown with weeds, an American flag wafting in the occasional breeze atop its sentinel-like flagpole. It was a ghost post. You could almost hear a lonely bugler playing “Taps” over the deserted site where men had once toiled in the merciless West Texas sun. They had been the last line of defense for intrepid American pioneers against the depredations of murderous, barbaric Indians. One could almost envision John Wayne as the Army scout, “Hondo,” protecting a lonely widow and her small, feisty son from the war-like Comanches.

The list of forts my son and I visited that summer is too long to enumerate here. Suffice it to say that he saw enough of the wide-open spaces of Texas to last a lifetime. We even made it down to Lajitas, on the Texas/Mexico border, in Big Bend country, where General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing had a cavalry outpost when he was fighting off incursions into Texas by Pancho Villa in 1916-17. The motel where we stayed had been constructed on the site of Pershing’s cavalry barracks, in the same architectural style.

My son also got the rare opportunity to participate in an archaeological dig at Fort Stockton, where the foreman allowed him to keep a handful of primers and a few old, long rusty spikes he had dug up from around the foundation of a long-gone barracks. They were treasures to my son, mementos from a long ago past. We were even instructed in the manufacture of adobe bricks, the primary building material of most of those old forts, which these 20th century workers were going to use to reconstruct this bygone barracks on its original site. It was quite a history lesson for my 12-year-old son. And for Dad, too.

It was not until we arrived in the beautiful oasis of San Angelo, with the cottonwood and pecan trees lining the banks of the river, that we got to tour Fort Concho, the crown jewel, the piece de resistance of all these old forts. A tour guide, attired in the army uniform of the period, escorted us through the various buildings and around the grounds, explaining in incredible detail all the subtle nuances that might otherwise have been overlooked by the casual tourist. And naturally, part of the history this gentleman so proudly extolled was that of the famed, fabled Buffalo Soldiers.

What follows is a citation from the fortconcho.com website, which most succinctly summarizes the history of the Buffalo Soldiers:

“Created by an Act of Congress in 1866, the all-black regiments of infantry and cavalry represented a noted advance by African-Americans in the post-Civil War nation. . . . these new units represented the first service in the nation’s ‘regular’ peacetime military. At Fort Concho they served for most of this site’s active history and over time represented exactly half of the soldiers who were assigned to this post.

“The ‘buffalo soldier’ nickname stems from the [Indian] warriors of the Great Plains who equated the black troops’ courage and dark matted hairstyle to that of their sacred buffalo. Thus, this compliment grew stronger and more prevalent after the Indian Wars era and [was] often used to describe any black troops of the 1866-1951 era when they served in these segregated units. Most of the officers were white, but several notable African American officers [eventually] served in these units.” The Buffalo Soldiers served at Fort Concho for 16 years, from 1869 to 1885.

President Harry Truman, who famously remarked, “The buck stops here!” finally put an end to this segregation policy in the U.S. military shortly after the beginning of the Korean War. An artillery officer himself during World War I, Truman knew all too well that, regardless of the color of a man’s skin, the color of the blood he sheds for his country is ever the same: bright crimson red.

As part of my research for this article, I viewed the excellent 1997 TNT film, Buffalo Soldiers, starring Danny Glover, which I found to be a fairly accurate portrayal of these former slaves who had been given an opportunity, through this post-Civil War Army initiative, to better their lot in life. But in many cases, they still had to contend with and prove themselves to racist white officers, who doubted their ability to serve with valor and honor. Glover served as Executive Producer on this project that was apparently near and dear to his heart. I highly recommend this movie.

Today Fort Concho National Historic Landmark, encompassing most of this former Army post, is now an historic preservation project and museum that is proudly owned and operated by the City of San Angelo. Last night I spoke with my friend of four decades, Bill Ford, who is now one of the county commissioners for Tom Green County, for which San Angelo serves as its county seat. Bill assured me that Fort Concho is eagerly awaiting my return, 32 years later, to see how much more work has been accomplished since my son’s and my visit there in 1988.

Perhaps I’ll get to take my three California grandsons there some day. Those folks in San Angelo, Texas, care deeply about their heritage. Fort Concho has been designated as one of the eight remaining historic frontier forts on the official “Texas Forts Trail” selected by the Texas Historical Commission.

THE TRADING POST THAT BECAME A CITY

Right on the heels of the construction of Fort Concho in 1867, a trading post called Santa Angela sprang into existence across the river from the fort. It was a lawless little town where saloons, gambling halls, and brothels prospered, as was the natural course of events in the vicinity of any large military installation on the American frontier in those days. Nevertheless, as the town grew, it developed into an important trade center for the local ranchers and farmers who had settled in the region.

Cattle ranching had been introduced into the area in 1864, and during the 1870s cattle boom, thousands of longhorn cattle were watered and fed along the three Concho rivers on their way to market. Sheep ranching was introduced into San Angelo in 1877, and despite the way those different types of livestock ranchers were portrayed as mortal enemies in many Hollywood Westerns of the 1950s, the two seem to have gotten along amicably, side-by-side, in the peaceful, civilized community of San Angelo.

Quite a contrast to Glenn Ford’s classic 1958 comic western, The Sheepman, in which he plays the part of a two-fisted sheep rancher invading a local cattle king’s domain. (An aside: That same year, coincidentally, Glenn Ford had been named the number one box office star in the world. Though never even nominated for an Academy Award, Glenn Ford was one of the most popular and versatile actors of his era. He was also a highly decorated U.S. Marine, for his service during World War II.)

But I digress. According to Escal F. Duke’s article, “San Angelo, TX,” published on the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) website: “Wool growers, cattle ranchers, and the railroads combined to make San Angelo one of the leading cattle markets in Texas, the largest sheep market in the United States, and one of the leading inland wool and mohair markets in the nation.”

Founded by a settler named Bartholomew J. DeWitt who purchased 360 acres across the river from Fort Concho for $1 per acre, he named the new town after his recently deceased wife (or possibly his sister-in-law, who may have been a Catholic nun–sources differ), Carolina Angela. The name of the town was changed from Santa Angela to San Angela and then again in 1883, to San Angelo at the insistence of the United States Post Office, after the town had become the county seat of Tom Green County.

Geographically, San Angelo lies in the Concho Valley between the Permian Basin to the northwest, the Chihuahuan Desert to the southwest, the Osage Plains to the northeast, and Central Texas to the southeast. When one gazes at a map of Texas, one imagines that San Angelo is, quite literally, “Deep in the heart of Texas.”

Tom Green County was organized by the Texas State Legislature in 1874 from out of the Bexar District, a vast area which encompassed most of West Texas at the time. Many other counties were eventually created from it over succeeding years as the settlers continued their colonization of West Texas.

General Tom Green was one of many volunteers from the state of Tennessee who came to fight in the Texas Revolution. There is a plaque on one of the interior walls of The Alamo that lists all the combatants who died there. Those from Tennessee far outnumber those from any other U.S. state. Tennessee earned the nickname, “The Volunteer State,” during the War of 1812, when “Old Hickory,” Colonel Andrew Jackson, brought over 1,000 of his fellow Tennesseans to fight at the famed Battle of New Orleans, resulting in the decisive victory of that war. (I can hear that old Johnny Horton ballad, “Battle of New Orleans,” ringing in my ears right now.)

It was only natural, then, that many Tennesseans were also volunteers in the Texas Revolution two decades later, for volunteerism in righteous causes, particularly the cause of “freedom,” was in their DNA. Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, and Ben McCulloch were all friends and/or neighbors from Tennessee who voluntarily came to the aid of Texas at that crucial time in 1835-36.

Tom Green, a lawyer by profession, was awarded a commission after the Battle of San Jacinto for his manning one of the “Twin Sisters” cannon. He went back to Tennessee briefly, but Texas had captured his heart. He returned in 1837 to serve in a variety of capacities: Indian fighter; officer in the Republic of Texas Army to repel the Mexican incursions into Texas during the 1840s; congressman; clerk in the Texas Supreme Court; in the Mexican War of 1846, he recruited a troop pf Texas Rangers from La Grange to serve (with distinction) in that war; and when the Civil War broke out, he joined the Confederate cause and won many battles in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana before being killed in action in 1864, at the age of 50.

By the time of his death, he had been promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Tom Green was a true patriot and hero of Texas in the 19th century. He was the kind of officer who led from the front, charging the enemy—whether Indians, Mexican soldiers, Texas outlaws, or Yankees. He was the kind of leader whose men would follow him into the very jaws of hell.

There are those today who, because of political correctness, would claim that, due to his service to the Confederacy, General Green should be labeled a traitor and his name erased by revisionist historians. Those so minded would do well to remember that were it not for Tom Green and others of his ilk, Texas might still be part of Mexico, not the United States. Naming a county after him was the very least the Texas legislature could do for this man of uncommon valor and patriotism. I conducted a thorough search for any evidence of an extant statue of Tom Green and could find none, at least not in the Texas county bearing his name. As Shakespeare said in “Hamlet”: “‘Tis a pity, and pity ‘tis, ‘tis true.”

My friend Bill Ford did inform me that there had once been a bronze statue of Tom Green but that a tree fell on it, damaging it irreparably. There is, however, a monument to this man in front of the county courthouse. Bill says he often parks his truck in front of it.

The original county seat of Tom Green County was a small town known as Ben Ficklin, but when the entire town was swept away in 1882 by flooding of the Concho River, San Angelo was designated the new county seat and has remained so to this day. Moreover, the 1880s saw San Angelo prosper even more as a trading nexus when the Santa Fe Railroad extended service there in 1888. It was followed in 1909 by the Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Railway.

TURN OF THE (20th) CENTURY SAN ANGELO

From the 1870s until 1910, the only hospital in San Angelo was the one at Fort Concho, which served the general citizenry as well as the military. This was a rather crucial period in America from a health perspective, for a tuberculosis, aka “consumption,” epidemic was plaguing the country in the early 1900s. This was of course prior to the introduction of an effective vaccine for the disease which, by some estimates in the 19th century, was claiming the lives of one out of every seven people.

(Whenever I think of TB, I associate it with Val Kilmer’s excellent portrayal of a tubercular Doc Holliday in that superlative 1993 Western, “Tombstone.” Who among us can forget the scene where the newly- arrived-in-town Wyatt Earp, portrayed so perfectly by Kurt Russell, slaps a surly faro dealer across the face, challenging him for his job?)

The only treatment that doctors could sensibly prescribe to their TB patients in those days was to relocate to a dry, warm, arid climate, a climate not unlike San Angelo’s, which had a healing effect on those with the disease. Word got out about the near-perfect climate in San Angelo, which resulted in an appreciable increase in the population in the first decade of the 20th century for this reason alone.

Help was on the way in the form of two new area hospitals: the 1910 St. John’s Hospital and Health Center, which was founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio; and in 1912, the Texas state legislature established the State Tuberculosis Sanitorium, which was renamed the McKnight State Sanitorium in 1950.

Undoubtedly, the next milestone in the fortunes of San Angelo was the discovery of oil and the opening of the Permian Basin oilfield in 1923. The oil boom had a definite positive impact on the population of San Angelo, which numbered 10,050 in 1920, but which had soared 150%, to 25,308, by 1930.

The local economy got another shot in the arm when hotelier extraordinaire Conrad Hilton decided to erect a luxurious 14-story hotel there in 1928 to capitalize on the region’s oil boom. Of course, no one in those halcyon days of the Roaring Twenties could have predicted the crash of the stock market on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, which resulted in the Great Depression.

What The Great Gatsby novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald had dubbed “The Jazz Age” had come to a screeching halt. Hilton was forced to sell his magnificent hotel at a huge loss, it was renamed the Cactus Hotel, and it still stands to this day, the tallest building in San Angelo, its fate still somewhat in limbo 74 years after its construction. It is a West Texas landmark that can be seen from as far away as 15 miles.

A decade later another boost to the city’s now-diversifying economy came with the establishment of Goodfellow Airfield in 1940, now known as Goodfellow Air Force Base. Its World War II air training function was changed in 1958 to that of U.S. Air Force Security Service, offering intelligence training courses to all branches of the U.S. military. By 1950, San Angelo’s population had grown to 52,093.

San Angelo has 32 different parks with over 375 acres of developed land that have sprung up since 1903, when the San Angelo City Park system was created. Over the years, generous civic-minded individuals, groups, even the railroad have made bequests of land for the specific purpose of establishing a new park. In the 20 previous articles I have written about Texas towns and cities, I cannot recall a single one that has devoted so much time, energy, and land for the establishment of its parks.

HERITAGE TOURISM

Someone on the Tom Green County Historical Commission and/or the San Angelo Genealogical and Historical Society deserves a big pat on the back for securing the listing of so many homes, commercial and government buildings, and other structures onto the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and the Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks (RTHL). Based on the most comprehensive list I could find, there are at least 69 such structures shown on the NRHP, which is an astounding number for a city the age and size of San Angelo. The vast majority of them are houses.

Several of these also show up on the RTHL list, so they are doubly honored. But one site has, besides these two honors, additionally garnered the ultimate distinction of being designated as a State Antiquities Landmark. That is Fort Concho, the first structure ever erected in San Angelo.

It would be a gargantuan task to list all these historic sites, and since I am limited on how much space I can devote to this topic, I have drawn up an admittedly subjective list of those that appealed to me from the descriptions and photographs available. I apologize in advance if I have failed to include anyone’s favorite site. They are listed here in alphabetical order directly from the NRHP; preceding each site will be its approximate date of construction:

1905 Angelo Heights Historic [Residential] District (also RTHL); 1927 Aztec Cleaners & Laundry Building (RTHL); c. 1910s Frederick Beck Farm (RTHL); 1929 J.B. Blakeney House, now a mortuary (RTHL); 1929 Emmanuel Episcopal Church (RTHL); 1906-08 First Presbyterian Church; 1867 Fort Concho Historic District (State Antiquities Landmark and multiple RTHLs); 1927 Greater St. Paul A.M.E. [African Methodist Episcopal] Church; 1928 Hilton Hotel: 1930 Iglesia Santa Maria Catholic Church; 1922 Lone Wolf Crossing Bridge; 1927-30 Masonic Lodge 570; 1939 Municipal Swimming Pool, a WPA works project (RTHL); 1928 San Angelo City Hall; 1927 San Angelo National Bank Building; c. mid-1880s San Angelo National Bank, Johnson & Taylor, and Schwartz & Raas Buildings, all grouped together (RTHL); 1908 Santa Fe Passenger Depot, now home to the Railway and Heritage Museum of San Angelo (RTHL); 1910 Santa Fe Railway Freight Depot (RTHL).

Finally, the 1928 Tom Green County Courthouse, which is actually the fourth courthouse; the first two were in Ben Ficklin, the second of those destroyed by the 1882 flood; it was replaced by the 1885 courthouse in the relocated county seat of San Angelo; the materials from this second courthouse were used to build a school in San Angelo, c. 1883, which was a copy of the second Ben Ficklin courthouse; the 1885 structure was demolished in 1927 to make way for the current 1928 courthouse; some of the stone and the bell from this third courthouse were placed into the 1929 Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

I would be remiss if I did not make mention of other structures not included on either the NRHP or the RTHL that I happened upon in my research: 1952 First Baptist Church; 1929 Texas Theater; the murals that adorn some of the late 19th century buildings in the downtown commercial district; 1881 Naylor Hotel with its Alamo-like parapet; it has a rich history of a murder cover-up and several fires over the years; 1908 Trust Building.

SAN ANGELO VITAL STATISTICS

According to the latest figures available from the World Population Review, San Angelo has a 2020 population of 100, 257, making it the 41st largest city in Texas. The city encompasses over 62 square miles and has a population density of 1,681 people per square mile. The population has increased 7.57% since the 2010 census of 93.200.

Average household income is $69,729 with a poverty rate of 14.46%. Median rental cost in recent years is $864 per month, and median house value is $125,300. Median age is 32.9 years, and for every 100 females there are 98.5 males. In terms of languages spoken, 72.27% of San Angelo residents speak only English; 25.75% speak Spanish as their primary language; and the remaining 1.98% of the population speak other languages.

There is an abundance of veterans living in San Angelo. Based on the U.S. Census 2018 ACS (American Community Survey) 5-year Survey, there were 8,282 total veterans, comprised of 7,371 males and 911 females. Their breakdown by war is as follows:

Vietnam                       2,934    34.2%

Second Gulf War           2,653    30.9%

First Gulf War               1,864    21.7%

Korea                           755      8.8%

World War II                 381      4.6%

At this juncture I would add that San Angelo is an extremely military-friendly city, having received the ALTUS Award for outstanding community support of Goodfellow Air Force Base in 2014 and 2018. This trophy is awarded annually to only one Air Education and Training Command community in America that provides the best support to its local military installation. Moreover, Goodfellow AFB, with 5,333 employees at last count, is THE single largest employer in the city.

THE MID-1950s INTO THE 21st CENTURY

In the 70 years since the 1950 census, the population of San Angelo has nearly doubled. Many other changes have occurred, and accolades and titles have been piling up on top of one another. It has been an amazing period of growth for this literal oasis in West Central Texas. Allow me to provide some of the many examples of what I am referring to:

Producer’s Livestock Auction is the largest in the U.S. for sheep and lambs and is among the top five in America for cattle; two agricultural research centers are located here; the city serves as the regional medical center for West Central Texas; several large institutional employers include Shannon Medical Center, Angelo State University, and Goodfellow AFB; the annual San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo, which began in 1932, is one of the longest-running in the world, also ranking as one of the Top 10 rodeos in America for monetary prizes awarded to contestants.

Angelo State University (ASU) was featured in the “Princeton Review Best 373” in the nation, the only other two from the state of Texas being the much larger University of Texas at Austin and Texas A & M University;  ASU has also been listed by The Princeton Review as one of the country’s best institutions for undergraduate education, an honor that goes to only about 13% of the country’s more than 3,000 four-year colleges; there is a list of honors and “Firsts” in categories as long as your arm (e.g., financial aid, dormitories, top five fastest-growing colleges in Texas, “Best for Vets “) for this wonderful university; do not overlook it when assisting your child or grandchild in his or her selection for their undergraduate education. Oh, to be 18 again with my future and a choice of colleges facing me!

M.L. Leddy’s, the Ft. Worth-based manufacturer and purveyor of boots, belts, and saddlery, has a store in San Angelo that was selected in the Best Places to Buy Western Wear, as well as in the Best of the Best category; in 2020, the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce received a 5-star accreditation rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the city was ranked number one among True West Magazine’s “2020 Top Western Towns,” the only city in Texas to be so honored; in 2018, Shannon Medical Center was named one of the IBM Watson Health Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospitals in America.

R.I.P., JERRY JEFF

Less than two months ago, on October 23rd, 2020, the great “outlaw country” singer-song writer, Jerry Jeff Walker, died of throat cancer in Austin, Texas. I will miss him. I used to go hear him sing “Mr. Bojangles” back in the late sixties at a coffee house called the Sand Mountain, on Richmond Avenue in Houston; this was back in his folkie days, before he’d fully embraced the cowboy culture.

On his 1973 landmark album, Viva, Terlingua!, which he recorded in front of a live audience of 900 at the Luckenbach dance hall (admission was only a dollar a head), utilizing his Lost Gonzo Band for backup, Jerry Jeff, gracious as always, allowed one of his fellow Cosmic Cowboys, Gary P. Nunn, to close out the show. (It is rumored that future Texas Governor, Ann Richards, was in the audience.)

As I began casting about for a suitable closing for my article on this most “western” of Texas towns that I will probably ever have the honor and privilege to write about, my subconscious mind kept thinking about cowboy boots (what “some people call manly footwear”), pick’em-up trucks, longneck bottles of beer, saloons, armadillos, and, naturally, pretty Texas women. It was then only a short hop, skip, and a jump over to Mister Gary P. Nunn singing his signature song, “London Homesick Blues/Home with the Armadillo,” on Jerry Jeff’s album, which was the first time I’d ever heard that song, back in ‘73.

Although San Angelo, Texas, is not specifically mentioned in this song, the images that the song evokes could not be more San Angeloan. I have visited this wonderful town on three occasions, twice to see my old compadre Bill Ford. And I well recall a Jeep trip he and his late brother, “Big Mike,” and I, along with about a dozen other Jeep-driving fools, took in 1983, down to Lajitas-on-the-border. It was a guy thing. Somewhere I’ve still got a stack of photos of about two dozen good ol’ boys from Angelo going skinny-dipping in the Rio Grande. (I wonder how much those pics would be worth today, Tom Green County Commissioner Ford?) Ah, the memories! That was half my life ago. In any event, writing this article “put me back in that place again,” as Gary P. Nunn opens his song with. It made me “wanna go home with the armadillo, good country music from Amarillo and Abilene, the friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen.” I’ll be back to Angelo, Bill. You can bank on it. Vaya con Dios, amigo!