Diary Queen is a staple of the first order in towns all across the Texas Panhandle.
The fast-food drive-in serves as a community gathering place. Its standing rivals that of local high schools on Friday night during fall football season … if you get my drift.
The company has announced, though, plans to close a large number of its restaurants. I heard today that nine possible closures include those that are scattered in small towns across the Panhandle.
I’m actually wondering if the corporate moguls who run the DQ chain understand what they’re about to do to many of these communities. They’re going to cut the heart and guts out of many of them.
Dairy Queen has made such a huge imprint in these towns that the Amarillo Globe-News sports department — when compiling information for its seasonal football supplement — would conduct what it called its annual “DQ Tour” across the Panhandle. Reporters and photographers would fan out across the region to interview coaches and student-athletes for the publication.
I’ll concede that I actually never lived in communities such as Clarendon, Perryton, Dumas or Dalhart — towns that are included on the potential DQ hit list. However, 22 years living in the Panhandle has given me a pretty good understanding of life outside of Amarillo.
In many towns across our sprawling landscape, that life includes gathering at Dairy Queen.
I now want to share a brief anecdote I heard from a former Amarillo resident; it involves the DQ in Tulia. I don’t think the person who told this story to me will mind my sharing it here.
George and Judy Sell used to reside in Amarillo; they moved away some years ago. George Sell once told me that he and his wife were married on the same day as their good friends, Pete and the late Nelda Laney of Hale Center; Pete Laney, you might recall is the former speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.
The Sells and the Laneys, George Sell told me, would meet annually on their shared wedding anniversary at the Dairy Queen in Tulia, which is roughly equidistant between Amarillo and Hale Center.
Right there is how you measure DQ’s importance to a community.
I saw the list of potential Panhandle sites to close. I didn’t see Tulia on it. Still, I see potential emotional crises on the horizon in many other Texas Panhandle communities.
Be strong, y’all.