Sometimes it’s a long time between dances, and sometimes even longer.

Ray and Rita Hendryx on the last frontier of Texas.
Ray and Rita Hendryx on the last frontier of Texas.


DISSECTION OF NOTES found in the pocket of an old suit isn’t easy. Maybe they were scrawled during the lull in a wedding ceremony, or to jog my memory of a joke for later use.

Anyway, it reminded me of a couple who “got hitched” many moons ago—back when gasoline prices were in single digits. She remembers ALL the details; he, almost none.

His foggy summation is brief: “She said ‘I will,’ then I said ‘I will’, and now we’ve spent nearly seventy years together ‘wilting’.”


   A current story is set out in West Texas–specifically, Alpine, the Big Bend country’s crown jewel.

The area’s grandeur is beyond the imagination of the many Texans who’ve never visited, or taken deep breaths of the mountain air.

Yet, bigger than the expanses of the Big Bend are stories of its people, strong of handshake and steeped in the bedrock of things good.


   Forty years ago, when Ray and Rita Hendryx were married, they danced to the fiddle and band of the late Hoyle Nix and his West Texas Cowboys, a highlight of Alpine’s July 4 observance in ‘74.

How could Ray forget? His late father, Gene Hendryx (a Marine at 15 and survivor of both World War II and malaria) initially moved to Alpine for his health and was previous owner of Radio Station KVLF. “Everything Alpine,” he served three terms in the state legislature and was a part-time announcer as a Sul Ross college student when the station began operation 67 years ago. Gene seemed always to be “mike side” promoting Alpine and the Big Bend area. He talked up the Independence Day celebration forty years ago “big time.”  And the Nix band booking was big news.

Jody Nix
Jody Nix

Little wonder, then, that memories flooded– forty years later–when Ray learned this year’s July 4th holiday plans. There’d be a street dance led by another Nix band—this time Hoyle’s son Jody, with his Texas Cowboys, playing a street dance at nearby Fort Davis. Wow, thought Ray and Rita, after celebrating in Alpine, they’d top it off dancing to Nix band up the road.


   It was déjà vu. Like his dad, Ray was in promotion mode for weeks—his “leather-lung” promotions of upcoming events ever evident, as one listener put it, “’til the world looks level.”

Ray and Rita could hardly wait. Their extended family would all be in town for the holiday and anniversary folderol.

Having worked at KVLF since his teen years, he contacted Jody to make sure Silver Dew on the Blue Grass Tonight still is in the band’s repertoire. “Of course,” Jody responded, “It’s still a favorite.”


   The Hendryx clan, almost all of ‘em, were “all in” for multiple events in both towns.(Ray believes the fireworks embroidering skies above the Davis Mountains each year are the best in West Texas.)

Luckily, there was beautiful weather, grand food, parades, high school reunions and more. The Hendryx family partook of it with gusto. As reporters have stated across the years, “a good time was had by all.” However, Ray and Rita “tuckered out” before the dance, as he put it, “plumb out of time and energy.” They stayed home.

Maybe they can drop by The Stampede—The Nix’s home venue for sixty years–one of these days in Big Spring for a “rain check” dance to Silver Dew. Shucks, it’s less than two hunred miles away, not a “fer” piece in West Texas.


   Ray has worked many seven-day weeks, holidays and all, since he first went on the air during the 1967 Middle East War. His idea of retirement was to “back off” to forty hours a week by the time he hit sixty-five.

Health issues are taking precedence now, and now Ray is in the process of selling the radio station holdings. The couple will re-locate to Kansas, where their two sons and their families live.

Ray and Rita are “public service” people who’ve earned transition to “live like the Waltons.” Soon, no more early morning news casts, trading posts, local government meetings and athletic broadcasts. Instead, story time for four grandchildren, many about KVLF—the “Voice of the Last Frontier–” an Alpine street dance, and another one almost attended forty years later in Fort Davis.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Twitter: @donnewbury


Please click the book cover image to read more about the humorous and inspirational stories in Don Newbury’s When the Porch Light’s On.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    In the far reaches of West Texas, Don, it’s not only a long time between dances, it’s usually a long distance as well. When Ernest Tubb sang, “I’ll Waltz Across Texas With You,” he forgot to measure the miles. He wore out between Eastland and Cisco.

  • Don Newbury

    One woulda thought I could have come up with the “long time between dances,” but it was not to be. Glad you did, Caleb!

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