Mackenzie Park: Oasis on the Plains
Mike arrived to pick me up around 10 one sunny Sunday morning in ‘99. We headed out to Mackenzie Park on the east side of Lubbock in Yellow House Canyon. The park was once a beautiful state park, but after many years of neglect, it had become better known for drug deals and prostitution than anything else. Nevertheless, we had heard about a disc golf course in the park. Disc golf was new to us, and we were on a mission to explore this new sport.
Driving down Broadway, we arrived at the edge of the canyon where we immediately smelled the fresh bread of the nearby Mrs. Baird’s Bakery. The aroma was so inviting as though placed to draw us there. As we began our descent into the canyon, we could make out a lake at the bottom and large elm trees throughout the canyon. It was as if we had stumbled upon an oasis. The sky above the canyon was a deep, rich blue and the water was still and reflected the color back to the sky. The grass and the elm trees were heavily overgrown and bursting with a deep dark green. This seemed strangely uncharacteristic of the high plains in July. We could hear the wind blowing through the trees and feel its cooling effect as it came off the lake. The park was mostly deserted except for the mallard ducks and various birds that sang out as though announcing our arrival. It just seemed amazing that all this was here in the middle of the vast open plains, yet only blocks from the tall buildings of downtown. I imagined what it must have felt like when the early settlers came across the campgrounds of the Indians who once called the canyon home.
Placed all throughout the canyon were silver painted steel poles with chains hanging from them. These were our targets, and we began to seek them out as if we were hunting prey. Throwing from dirt tee pads marked by a short red post, we kept count of how many tries it took us before we could finally crash our Frisbees into the dangling chains that would catch the projectile and capture it in a basket half way up the pole.
Around trees, over brush, and occasionally across the water, we would throw and then chase after, eager to throw again. This was fun, and we were feeling confident as if we had discovered and mastered something phenomenal.
After about 11 holes into the course, we came across a fellow in his late 20s playing alone. He approached us and asked if he could join us for a few holes. Eager to show off our new skills, we happily agreed. The number 12 target was marked at 340ft across the river and up a hill from the water. I threw my Frisbee a whopping 60 or 70 ft to lay it near the bank where I thought I might, just might, have a chance of making it all the way across the water without going in and adding a penalty stroke to my score. Mike did almost the same. We felt confident that we were doing well. Then our new found friend pulled a slightly different kind of disc from a whole bag of discs he was carrying and launched a throw that soared across the water and up the hill, clipping the chains that dangled above the basket and landing on the ground right next to it. Our jaws dropped and my feet literally sprang off the ground as we rushed to learn more about these new golf discs he carried in his bag. We had to know everything. We had to know how he threw them so far and how he commanded such control over their flight as though he were piloting them to their destination.
The young player we had stumbled upon was Matt Ryan, the course pro. He knew if he could impress us with one good throw, we would be hooked for life. He was right; from then on the Mackenzie Park Disc Golf Course would become my nearby escape from the everyday world I live in. Even today, I can still smell the bread and feel a sense of awe as I approach my oasis on the plains.
Implied thesis: The beauty of Mackenzie Park provided an escape from everyday life and ignited a passion that thrives within me today.