Hartley County was founded by cattlemen. They were drawn to the Texas Panhandle in the years after the Civil War by the abundant grazing land and a booming market for beef cattle in the United States. They created ranches, some of which exist to this day. Some, like the XIT and Matador, became famous. On August 20, 21, and 22, the people of Hartley county will come together in Channing to celebrate the legacy of probably the most famous ranch to include Hartley County land: the XIT.
The three-day event is called the 1st Annual Legacy of the XIT Roundup. According to Barbara Carey of the Hartley County Historical Commission, the event has its origin in another event that was held in Channing for many years: the Matador Cowboys Reunion. When the famed Matador Ranch, which also touched Hartley County, began to be broken up and sold off in the 1950s, the cowboys from the ranch decided to hold annual reunions in Channing on the third Saturday in August. The first one took place in 1961. Eventually, the reunions evolved into community events with a parade, barbecue, music, games, and a queen. Even as the Matador cowboys died off, Hartley County continued to hold the "reunions" every year until 2000, when they finally came to an end.
In 2018 and 2019, events commemorating the cowboy way of life began again in Channing when the Hartley County Historical Commission put on "Cowboy Christmas in July." Organized by Rebecca Bonine, the two events were designed to raise money to help with the preservation of the XIT Ranch General Office building that still stands in its original location in Channing. Built in the 1890s, it was from the general office building that ranch manager AG Boyce and others conducted the day-to-day administrative affairs of the sprawling ranch. Restored to its original appearance in the 1980s by Bill and Patricia Kirkeminde, the building is one of the last physical reminders of the XIT. Having survived an effort by the building's former owner in 2005 to dismantle it and ship it to the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, the building holds a central place in the ranching heritage of Hartley County and the entire Texas Panhandle. Efforts have been ongoing to preserve it and find an appropriate use for it as a museum or educational center.
COVID forced the cancellation of 2020's Cowboy Christmas in July. According to Carey, the new event this summer replaces the Cowboy Christmas in July. It will kick off on Friday, August 20 at 5:00 pm with an all-school reunion of students of Channing Public Schools.
On Saturday, festivities begin at the site of the general office, where Bob Cates, for many years the caretaker of the building and leader of the effort to keep it in Channing, will be honored along with the Kirkemindes and others who have been instrumental in the building's preservation. Like the old Matador Cowboys Reunion, there will be a parade on Main Street, followed by a farmer's market, vendors, food trucks, and other activities at the Hartley County Court House, another historic building with a rich history. In the afternoon, an iron man roping competition takes place at the rodeo arena south of Channing. In the evening, visitors will be able to enjoy a barbecue meal hosted by the Channing Fire Department and dance to the music of the Bakersfield Twang Band. According to Carey, the events are "BYOC -- bring your own chair."
Finally, on Sunday, a community-wide church service will take place in the Channing School Auditorium beginning at 10:30 am.
For more information, call Barbara Carey of the Hartley County Historical Commission at 806-930-4629.