Charles Smith never set out to create what would become, some argue, the largest art installation in the world. Charles Smith did not create his first twenty-two-foot tall arrow to commemorate the last Comanche Chief Quanah Parker.
Charles was a welder who built metal palm trees, at his home, an hour south of Lubbock, Texas, in the heart of the Texas Plains. Charles did not intend to be honored and adopted into Quanah Parker’s family and given the name Paaka-Hani-Eti, meaning “Arrow Maker”.
Charles Smith stumbled into this honor by doing a favor for a friend.
Community is easy to define in New Home, Texas. With a population of around four-hundred Texas Tech Red Raiders alumni, family, and fans that know each other by name and neighbors who still look to help each other out – a New Home visitor feels a longing to be embraced by such a community.
This sense of community would ultimately create what is known as the Quanah Parker Trail Arrows. Over eighty-eight arrows pierce the Texas Plains. Each denotes a particular site of Comanche and Quanah Parker’s history. It all began in The Spot Cafe in New Home.
Gid Moore, New Home’s local insurance agent, was looking to create an area for local school children to learn more about literature. He imagined a yard full of art that allowed the children to experience words through a large three-dimensional permanent art display. He shared with Charles his idea to materialize Longfellow’s, The Arrow and The Song and Inspired 88 with a large arrow. Charles, a welder and metal worker, loved the idea and got to work. This was 2003.
Charles Smith’s one-off piece would stand in New Home, Texas, for many years before being discovered by a group of individuals looking for that particular piece that would become the monuments on the Quanah Parker Trail. Little did Charles know that a random wind storm would divert Holle Humphries into the town of New Home and change his life forever. This was 2010.
New Home is not normally a town that one would stumble into. Located south of Lubbock in the Texas Plains surrounded by cotton fields, located at a two-lane crossroad absent of a stoplight, a town that is hard to get to let alone pass through. New Home is a town where families dedicate their lives to sustainable farming, family and community. The chances of Holle happening upon the arrow was truly one-in-a-million.
Holle found herself in a lonely town mesmerized by an arrow stuck into the flat earth. No explanation or marker presented itself with the focus of attraction. Holle found herself in a difficult position. Who created this and where is he or she – Holle knew she found what would become the image to celebrate Quanah Parker now she only had to find the artist.
Tai Kreidlet describes Charles as not” saying much but good at listening.” One can imagine how he listens, and what he thought when first offered the opportunity to help create what would become the Quanah Parker Trail Arrows.
Charles did not accept any money for the arrows creation or installation. Each arrow was built by Charles at his home in New Home, Texas. He customized a trailer to deliver each arrow to its planned location. Holle states that Charles was “very particular on how he wanted the arrow set”. Therefore all installation was supervised and lead by Charles. Charles’ grandson remembers how particular his granddad was about the arrow’s position.
Prior to Charles’ passing, he created and placed over eighty arrows in more than fifty counties in the Panhandle-Plains Region of Texas. These arrows became The Quanah Parker Trail. A trip down the Quanah Parker Trail will be an adventure. One will discover Texas history, Commanche Culture and the work of an incredible West Texas artist.