What Is the Panhandle?

This much is plain: the Texas Panhandle is part of the High Plains. But what, exactly, is the Texas Panhandle? Folks have debated the issue for years. Historian Frederick Rathjen says the Panhandle is the state’s 26 northernmost counties. Others, such as author A. C. Greene, deem it rectangular, the longer shape dictated by the New Mexico state line. To UT geographer Terry Jordan, the Caprock is the eastern border, which makes a sort of reverse Nevada shape. But another geography prof, Robert Bednarz of Texas A&M, sees no point in drawing lines in the sand: “All those geographical labels are what we call ‘perceptual’—people create them for cultural reasons or for convenience’ sake. They aren’t meaningful in any official way.” And Texas Monthly travel guru Joe Nick Patoski, who recently logged more than 1,500 miles cruising Texas’ plains, contends, “When the mesquite fades away, you’re in the Panhandle.” Hmmm. I, being a Pampa girl, agree with Rathjen: The Panhandle is, most definitely, the top square of the state, the chunk that evil cartographers like to lop off and stick in the corner of the map. Now—have we all got a handle on it?

Tags: TRAVEL

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