Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Freeway Free in Texas: The Home of Texas Swing

Turkey, Texas, has a population of 374 people, per the City Limits sign. However, it is conveniently located for access to both Cap Rock and Palo Duro Canyon State Parks , so we have reservations at the Hotel Turkey. In Turkey we find no reception whatsoever for internet, and W has no address for the Hotel. There is a boarded-up brick building that says “Hotel Turkey” on the front, and only after a circuit up and down the main (and only) street do we realize that the arrow intends us to go left behind the Main Street.  There is the Hotel Turkey, which despite its antique furnishings, eccentric lighting and plumbing, and dearth of welcoming committee, seems to have carved a niche in the area as custodian of the legacy of “Bob Wills, King of Texas Swing”.

If you are not familiar with the name, as I was not, check out the link above.

Perhaps there is something about the wide open spaces in North Central Texas that is conducive to ambitious dreaming. How could this run-down circa 1920’s hotel on a side street in a town of less than 400 people possibly make sense?

But it’s working.

Behind the building itself are the three magic ingredients: an open air bar, a broad sheltered patio, plenty of open dirt space, and a simple wooden stage.

There are maybe 20 people gathered around the open air bar and patio in the back, and we are served a couple of Texas beers and some hot wings (sweet chili sauce and garlic-Parmesan sauce) with carrots and celery sticks and a caprese salad made with fresh mozzarella, variegated cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and LOTS of fresh basil as if it were lettuce.  Yum.  We could not finish more than half the wings and veggies. A friendly man comes over to talk to us about the local sights, the Hotel (that converted silo is the restrooms) and to welcome us to the area. Not sure if he was related to the owner, or just friendly, but it was pleasant.

The hotel has just one other room being used on a Monday night, and we are upgraded to a room with its own bath. (Fortunate, as when I checked out the hallway bathroom which our bargain room would have had us use, a sign on the toilet lid ordered DO NOT FLUSH ANYTHING DOWN THIS TOILET – PUT PAPER IN BASKET! .)

The rooms are furnished eclectically with furniture appropriate to the 1920’s and probably scavenged from prairie estate sales. Bare walls are decorated with a collection of Stetson hats, or, in the dining room, a collection of rainbow-painted old violins and vinyl LPs. The old-fashioned iron beds are so high that W has to call and ask for a step stool so she can get into hers.  But the fan, lamp (once the defective one is replaced) and heat/cooling work well, and W luxuriates in the deep old-fashioned iron bathtub.

In the morning, we have the standard Texas “Hotel Breakfast” with eggs, bacon, sausage, buttered toast, and hash browns – all deliciously greasy.  The cook doubles as host and entertainment. He tells us that the hotel is usually fully booked for the weekend, with live music on the outdoor stage which brings in 200 attendees on average. The previous weekend they had 400 people here for a concert with a well-regarded local Texas Swing band. It must have been a hoppin’ time for the bartender! He tells us that the owner/lady in charge has been working on the hotel for 7 years. I wish I had been able to talk with her to find out what dream drove her.

Returning from Palo Duro Canyoun, we had the Hotel Special dinner: a Chile Relleno Platter, with chips and salsa. This turned out to be a meat-stuffed chili, served with a beef enchilada, beans, and rice – all excellent and distinctively Tex-Mex. 

After dinner the sky seemed to be clearing so I went out to see if the Milky Way was evident.  It was not, though there was a lovely crescent moon, a glowing circle like a jeweled ring just below Venus. The town was quiet Quiet QUIET, as if there was nothing in the world to hear, until my footsteps set off a lone guardian dog.


My debut novel, Fox Spirit, is appearing episode by episode on my sister blog, New episodes arrive every Monday and Thursday. They’re short, so you’re not too late to check them out, and sign up for future happenings. Here’s a link to the first episode:

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2 thoughts on “Freeway Free in Texas: The Home of Texas Swing

  1. KPFA had, may still have, a program on Sundays that feature Texas Swing and Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, among other swing bands.


  2. Pingback: Freeway Free in Texas: The Home of Texas Swing | Allyson Johnson

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