From Rotan it’s a 60-mile journey south-east to Abilene, a city of almost 125,000 people and the seat of Taylor County.
The city was established in 1881 as a shipping point for cattle on the Texas and Pacific Railway and was named after the city of Abilene, Kansas. The existing seat of Taylor County, Buffalo Gap, had been bypassed by the railway line and Abilene soon replaced it as seat.
City leaders heavily promoted the new community to new settlers as the ” Eden of the West” and it developed as an agricultural centre. A lack of water was an initial problem for Abilene and so the city created artificial lakes to help irrigate the land.
Abilene remained a relatively sleepy town until the Second World War, when Camp Barkleley was established close to the city. Around one and a half million soldiers passed through Abilene in the course of the war, giving a great boost to the local economy.
The 1950’s were boom years for Abilene as the economy diversified into oil production, manufacturing and service industries and the population doubled in this decade. A connection with the military was maintained with the opening of the Dyess Air Force Base in 1952. The base is today the largest employer in the area.
Like Amarillo and San Antonio, Abilene is frequently referenced in songs – is it the mellifluousness of the name ? Two examples today, the first from adopted Texan Jason Eady.
“Well I’ve got a feeling you’re feeling it now
I’m headed out for the highway, I ain’t turning around
Across the county line to clear my head
And in the morning, when you wake up alone
You may wonder’ if I’ll ever get back home
Back home, well I’ll get back home
All in good time, but in the meantime
It’s a long ride to the other side of Abilene”
Our second offering, another from Gary P.Nunn, is one I’ve been listening to for many years. As someone who was born and bred in London and who loves Texan music, this song has a particular resonance for me.
“I wanna go home with the armadillo
Good Country Music from Amarillo and Abilene
The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen”