A man in a long-sleeve shirt and blue jeans stands in a cotton field
Lee Jackson farms cotton and other crops on land that’s been in his family for nearly 100 years.

Abernathy came to life in 1909 when the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway sliced a path across the wide-open High Plains between Lubbock and Plainview. Today, Interstate 27 follows the same route, giving motorists expansive views of the region’s agricultural base. Lee Jackson grew up here on his family’s cotton farm, 4 miles east of Abernathy, before enlisting in the Air Force in 1974. He spent three years as a military aviation mechanic and then returned to his hometown, where he earned an airplane mechanic license and taught classes at a community college operating at Lubbock’s now-closed Reese Air Force Base. Eventually, Jackson’s technical expertise and teaching career took him to Houston and Atlanta. He got his pilot’s license along the way and finally landed back in Abernathy, where he finished his career at a cotton mill and then as president of Wolf Pump, an irrigation pump company. Now retired, Jackson is a hobbyist beekeeper and still farms cotton, milo, wheat, and sunflowers on the family land. “I’ve enjoyed a lot of things but I’ve always kept my roots here,” Jackson says. “We kept our home place.”

Sheep to Cotton

“Ninety-something years ago, my granddad had a sheep ranch between Tatum and Lovington, New Mexico. There were no schools out there, so when my dad and his sister got old enough for school, they traded the ranch for a cotton farm near Abernathy. We bought it from my aunt and uncle 40 years ago and maintained it even though we lived in Houston and Atlanta for a while.”

Big vs. Small

“Growing up, you can’t wait to get out [of a small town]—and then you can’t wait to get back. As we moved to the bigger cities, we were just kind of lost. How do you know what church to go to, what grocery store to shop in, who’s honest and who’s not? There was so much anonymity.”

Extra Place Settings

“When my kids went to school in Abernathy, you’d know all the children in their class. Our farm was the last stop east of town, so you’d see the school bus roll up and count the little heads in the windows. That’s how many extra kids we’d have for supper. If the roads were muddy or their parents were working at the dairy, we’d set an extra plate or two or three. We’d help them with homework. They’d help our kids with chores.”

Home Cooking

“A Little Slice of Heaven Cafe is a great little restaurant. It’s just like you sat down at your family’s dinner table, with fresh pies and cakes every day. They have real hamburgers and chicken-fried steak, and of course, fried catfish on Fridays.”

Small-Town Service

“I had a pipe break in the kitchen at 10 o’clock one night. I called the store to rent a wet vac and a rug cleaner. It was closed, but the owner went and opened it for me, then came out and helped me clean up until 2 a.m. That’s probably not going to happen at Home Depot in a big city.”

Gateway to Lubbock

“We’re kind of a bedroom community for Lubbock. There’s not a lot of employment in Abernathy, so a lot of the younger people go to Lubbock for school or to learn a trade or get a job. But it’s amazing how many, when an opportunity comes up, move back here to raise a family.”

Vintage Abernathy

“We don’t really have any museums. The town itself is kind of a museum. But just north of us [in the town of Hale Center] is the Hale County Farm and Ranch Museum. It has a lot of antique farm equipment and other history.”

Old Glory

“We’re a big flag town, especially around holidays. The Fourth of July parade is probably our biggest event every year. There’ll be antique tractors, people on horseback, a bunch of kids on bicycles. About five years ago, when I was at Wolf Pump, we put in a giant, 60-foot flag there on the interstate. It was dedicated to the community, something significant the community stood for. People make comments up and down the interstate about that flag.”

Town Trivia:

Population:
3,074

Number of Stoplights:
0

Year founded:
1909

Nearest City:
Lubbock, 19 miles south

Marquee Event:
Abernathy Fourth of July Parade and Street Fair

Map it:

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Depot, 709 Ave. C

From the February 2021 issue
The February 2021 cover of Texas Highways Magazine, The Return of Car Culture


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