I was born in Abilene on April 27, 1981 when the bluebonnets are in full bloom, raised on the Frying Pan Ranch northwest of Amarillo, the first cattle ranch to be fenced with barbed wire. I’ve lived all over this great state of ours and currently reside in Lubbock, where I attend Texas Tech University, the same school where my mother and her father graduated and my cousin Will Rogers’ statue graces the entrance. My Grandparents, Tom and Wilma Eudy farmed, ran a ceramics shop and still live in Turkey, where my mother was the first San Antonio Rose in the annual Bob Wills day parade and Miss Hall County 1971. At 102 years of age my great grandmother, Ila Slack, is the oldest living graduate of West Texas State University, taught every subject in one room schoolhouses across the panhandle and still resides in the Timber Creek area of the Palo Duro Canyon in the house my Great Grandfather built where my grandmother is currently watching over her in her last few days with us.

My mother claims I was on a horse before I could walk, bareback with no reins, and my earliest memories are of riding with my father and mending that old barbed wire. My cousins at the C Bar C still compete in the chuck wagon cook-off at the Cowboy Symposium every year where you can hear the story of another cousin, Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanche. I think that says a lot about who I am. Cowboy, Indian, artist, musician, rancher and farmer all in one. That’s really why I’m out here, to keep the history alive and dig a little deeper. “What greater gift can we give our children than the sense of identity, the knowledge and strength of our ancestors and the inspiration to live good lives?” I’m learning to speak the language of the Cherokee and Comanche, learning the stories of the Cowboy philosopher poets, studying the pictographs and petroglyphs. There are a lot of things left to be found. This place is a lot older than previously thought.

I can remember riding in a covered wagon at the Texas Sesquicentennial and still have the red bandana commemorating that day. I’m very honored to be able to have a voice in the Texas Biennial. It takes a special person to be a Texan, and Texas is a special place. I hope to keep that tradition going. I leave you with the words of Red Steagall:

“When my ride is over
my final race is run
plant me so I face the morning sky
let my spirit join the red tail hawk
and circle down the wind
that way I know this cowboys soul won’t die
and I saddle up my pony in the light of early dawn
and I ride the lonesome prairie till the daylight is all gone
I roll out my bed to a coyote lullaby
close my eyes and dream
beneath a wide West Texas sky.”

~Till next time, Bristen Lee Phillips