Welcome to The Dirt. In every issue, our anonymous writer will give you the dirt on your burning questions about the Amarillo area. Got something you’re just dying to know? Drop us a line at info@brickandelm.com, and our intrepid writer will dig up the answer. 

I’m new to the area, and the mix of indigenous and Mexican names is confusing to my Yankee ears. Can you tell me how to pronounce certain Panhandle words?

This columnist will never forget how a newbie weatherman once pronounced “Quitaque,” the tiny Southeast Panhandle town on the edge of Caprock Canyon. No, dear forecaster, it’s not “Quit-AHH-kway.” It’s “KITTY-kway.” While we’re at it, try “My-AM-muh,” not “My-AM-mee.” And heaven forfend you confuse author Alexandre Dumas (that’s “dew-MAH”) with the dogie-filled town of Dumas (DEW-muss). 

But be careful: Texanization (believe it or not, we didn’t make that word up) is a fickle beast. For example, it’s the “YAWN-o” Estacado, but “LAWN-o” Cemetery. A linguist could probably tell you why things work this way, though we suspect there’s a mix of privilege and incuriosity and stubbornness at work (which … explains a lot of stuff). 

So how do you keep track? Well, for one thing, don’t listen to newbie weatherfolks. But you should listen to anyone who’s been around this area for a while, and follow their example. (No, Zoomer, this isn’t gatekeeping; it’s how language has been passed down since time immemorial.) And don’t be afraid to ask! It’s more polite for us to giggle in your face than laugh behind your back. One last tip: Unless you’re a native Spanish speaker, you should probably avoid “ah-mah-REE-o” when referring to your new hometown. It’s “am-uh-RILL-oh.” Or “am-uh-RILLA” if you’re feeling particularly cowpokey.

Why aren’t there more concerts at Pioneer Amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon State Park?

Have you been down there? Do you like the feeling of sitting on molten tar for three hours? We kid, we kid. Yet, in the hottest months of the year in the statistically proven hottest location in the region, folks do head down to the canyon to see the outdoor musical “TEXAS.” With it showing six nights a week, plus nightly rehearsals for a few weeks before that, other folks have dibs on the spot for a solid three months. (Sure, “TEXAS” doesn’t run on Mondays, but this summer, at least, the producers are doing a month of Mondays’ worth of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”) 

What about the nine other months of empty stage? Ah yes, but that’s nine months of unpredictable, though largely still dispiritingly hot, weather. In an outdoor venue that can be beset by thunderstorms and hail and giant bugs and rain and sometimes even snow. And even if you luck into a night of temperate weather, you still have to sell tickets. That’s a challenge when: 1) the weather is insanely unpredictable; 2) folks around here love to wait until the last minute to decide; and 3) Amarillo people are notoriously less than willing to drive across town to see a show, much less 30-some miles out to the canyon. That’s a rough combination for most promoters to overcome. 

Now, there has been a history of great concerts in that gorgeous hole in the ground, like Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, or Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel. (Legend has it Benson once flipped his gourd when a fireworks show started at the end of his set; to be fair, there was a drought going on.) These days, the amphitheater falls under the umbrella of the Cultural Foundation of the Texas Panhandle, which also oversees Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. CFTP officials let us know that plans are under discussion to bring “exceptional entertainment opportunities” to the amphitheater in the future. So … get ready. 

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    The anonymous writer behind ‘The Dirt’ is a sharp observer of the Amarillo-Canyon metropolitan area. If they don’t know the answer, they know where to get it and who to ask.

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