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Texas ~ The Way I See It

MILE MARKER 1

YOU ARE INVITED

…to travel with me across some of the 268,820 square miles of TX over the next few months. The contrasting topography with its wide-open spaces, mountains, hills and valleys, river boundaries, and shorelines (longer than either SC or NC) defines the State of Texas.  Its unique “shape” marked by jagged edges, curves and straight lines is internationally recognized.

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A BRIEF HISTORY 

Multiple incursions and battles between Native Americans, settlers, frontiersmen, soldiers and conquerors established, refined and changed Texas. Long after half of the United States was settled with stable growth, Texas fought for and won its independence from Mexico in 1836[1].  Known for its “independent” attitude and spirit, Texas cannot help but  be a product of its upbringing.

Texas history doesn’t fit easily into a timeline or narrative because Texas has had many frontiers and a collection of settlers broader than most states. The story of Texas was still in its formation and infancy when missionaries, explorers, ranchers, immigrants, tradesmen and families pushed into the regions of the canyons along the Rio Grande River, the bayous along the Gulf of Mexico, East to the Sabine River and Piney Woods, and North to the Red River ultimately harnessing the vast arid land of the Panhandle Plains.

ONE TEXAS TRAVELER  

Traveling back roads and lesser known towns often provide the untold story or long-forgotten history. These posted segments are NOT intended to be an official Travelogue or History record.  I’m simply a TEXAS TRAVELER who is intrigued by the geography of Texas and compelled to peek in on some of the dusty old corners of Texas courthouses and buildings. Through the Texas Historical Commission’s Courthouse Preservation Program and Main Street Cities[2], travelers have available to the them revitalized downtown areas offering restaurants, businesses, shops, museums, and historic buildings and architecture.

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Left: Chisholm Trail sign, Decatur, TX; Middle: Majestic Theatre, Eastland TX; Right: Main Street, Junction TX

Hopefully you’ll discover something new about Texas or find a place you’d like to visit. Come back soon for new information and photos. I will be posting various sources and references for travel to or within the State of Texas. Some travel tips will direct you to a specific historic site, an Interstate road or multiple paths to get you from here to there.  But just as intriguing are the off-road experiences when you leave the bypass and head to the “historic downtown.” You never know who you’ll meet in the city square with a monument to their memory.

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Maybe you’ll find your own reason to travel~

Perhaps you share the same wandering spirit I possess.

                 Don’t need a map to get there—

                 you  can get there from anywhere

                 when you’re going in your head.[3]

DISCOVERING  THE STORY 

Whose name is on that building? And is the year scripted in stone when it was built?  What exactly is in a name?  Proprietors once had their name proudly displayed on the building’s façade, or in other cases, they had it set in tile at the building’s entrance.  That street has an unusual name.  Why is the street sign in German?  A lot of the names are Hispanic.  Was that an old depot?  There’s always a story.

Here is part of mine.

  • I was born in a small town in West Texas called Eastland (see how that works?)
  • I even grew up in a small town in South Texas – Clute.
  • I recently revisited Abilene (medium-sized town in West Texas where I lived in 60s-70s)
  • After years of living in Ft. Worth, I found another small town in which to retire.

Small towns have a uniqueness that can be either loved or loathed. You know there’s no Starbucks™ and the chain restaurants are limited or nonexistent.  The high school sports and activities bring out the entire community limiting when the town’s businesses close down on Friday nights.  You’ll see monuments to veterans of various wars.  You may arrive just as the parade begins (and you don’t even know why there is a parade!) There is probably more than one festival or celebration each year. In the county seats of government, you’ll find the “old courthouse” either serving as current business for the county or maybe standing only as a museum or historic site now.  It’s not uncommon to see US flags staked and waving in the wind or booths set up around the square.

WP_20150506_15_22_52_Pro  20160227_142106WP_20150506_13_58_40_ProWP_20150506_13_59_58_ProWP_20150506_13_58_21_Pro(Left to Right: Jackson County, Edna; Hood County, Granbury; 3, 4 & 5 Wharton County, Wharton)
Left to Right: Jackson County, Edna; Hood County, Granbury; next 3 Wharton County, Wharton

Don’t be surprised if there are antique cars parked around the courthouse square. If you love small-town living, you’ve found your paradise because those town squares still exist.  If you want to be amid the hustle and bustle of business, trade and entertainment, you’re probably happier in the city.

I enjoy trading the comforts of a city for the local café with its mismatched dishes. I feel comfortable in small towns so that is where I began and continue my story of adventure. More than a year ago, I set out on a mission of traveling old roads as part of my conceptualized blog –

 NEW JOURNEYS ON OLD ROADS

Those words described the revolution within myself. I was moving from some health issues to a more normal and peaceful place. Blessed beyond my expectations, I was able to retire, and found I could return to traveling and discovering.  I became much more confident so I set out to mark my new journeys.  I didn’t know how many miles that idea would include.  If you’ve traveled here with me before, you know Music is my Second Language; therefore many of my travels are woven into and scheduled around concerts, live performances, bands and oprys.

Many of the towns I put on my list to visit were remembered from my Daddy’s stories—he had traveled EVERYWHERE! My mother gave me insight into some of the little farm towns or the oilfield towns of the 30s, 40s, 50s.  My grandparents were travelers, too. They often traveled to CA. How far was that? I wondered.

COUNTY COURTHOUSES

As a second thought – but maybe because I’m a lover of history – I started looking at courthouses.  Those old buildings, with both new and innovative architectural designs, seem to be standing not so much as a beacon of activity and business but more as a starting point to see how the Texas residents, settlers, landowners and government representatives designed the past to shape its future.

Texas was settled with immigrants from Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, South American countries and Baltic States as well as the African-Americans here as slaves and the Native Americans (estimated around 50 tribes in the region.

These original immigrant founders constructed what they had seen in the Classical Revival, the Romanesque or imagined other architectural styles. I find all architecture design intriguing (even if some of these historic sites are a bit ugly). The blending of many cultures is evident in the architecture, town names, or artwork in Texas.

WP_20150523_13_40_03_ProHood County, Granbury Texas, Second Empire with Romanesque.
WP_20151125_14_02_31_ProBurleson County Courthouse, Caldwell, Classical Revival

 

THE TRAIL’S ENDth[8] (2)

The State found itself looking for methods to rebuild war-torn Texas after the Civil War. Other than crops (impossible to grow in some regions of Texas), stock trade became the primary means of trade and livelihood bringing about the well-known history of the “cowboy” life style. Brahman cattle were imported from India, and the Longhorn breed was specific to Spanish settlement.  Early cattle drives were initiated by Nelson Story and Charles Goodnight.  Cattle were driven across the Chisholm and other trails to railheads (i.e., Abilene KS/Dodge City KS/Ft. Worth TX).

Life on the open range changed forever with the invention of barbed wire. Fences, combined with the back to back killer winters of 1886 and 1887, changed the cattle industry.

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The need for water for stock and way stations for people/goods traveling the stagecoach and pony express routes created stopovers and towns simply for the need of water. I’ll introduce you to some of these towns in later segments. Many of the original routes are preserved today as a testament to the harshness of Texas and the strength of those who shaped it.  Once Texas roads served to provide wealth and distribution of product.  Now some roads lead you through towns in major decline.  These roads have witnessed the new highways and interstates and re-routed railroads all whispering the cycles of boom and bust telling the story through generations of the land and its people.

Not only the geography and climate of TX reflects the differences, but the ways in which towns grew to cities and rural turned to urban.

TEXANS

thOW6YB2LFA traveler to Texas should never make an assumption that all of Texas has oil wells, cattle, gun-toting citizens or cowboy hats. Yes, you will absolutely find those, but you’ll find the folks in business suits handling the business of oil/gas production, real estate and financial services.  You will definitely see the workers in the oil/gas fields wearing flame resistant coveralls and covered in dirt and mud. But you’ll also witness advanced technology utilized by oilfield crews.

You’ll see many Texans devoted to the fine arts with world-class music, art and design displayed in the performance halls and museums, community theatres and town centers across the state. Hundreds of universities and colleges with various concentration (i.e., Technical, Liberal Arts, Science & Health, Agricultural & Energy) are preparing tomorrow’s workers, owners and educators for an ever-growing Texas which should be able to rise & develop future energy systems as well as advancements in science health and product development.

Left: WagnerNoël PAC Midland/Odessa TX; Right: Bass Hall, Ft. Worth TX

 

Reference notes: 

[1] http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h306.html

[2] Texas Historical Commission www.texastimetravel.com the.state.tx.us (512) 463-6100 c. 2014.

[3] Lyrics to Ozark Mountain Jubilee recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys; Songwriters: SCOTT ANDERS, ROGER MURRAH © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group; Release 1983.

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To begin your Texas travel journey, visit:

www.texastimetravel.com

Texas State Travel Guide is a comprehensive directory for all the elements of your Texas adventure. www.TravelTex.com

_______________________________

NEXT SEGMENT:  MILE MARKER 2

Future segments:

How to Visit Small Town, Texas

Texas Roads – from dirt to Interstate

Geographical Regions – Climate & Energy

Travel Regions Highlighting Historic Sites

County Courthouse Stories

Town & Cities & People

Cultural Influence & Festivals

Mysteries & Ghost Towns

Interesting Facts About Texas

 

Back to the Beginning

I had the chance to drive through my birthplace a few days ago.  Does anyone know what you are supposed to feel when you re-visit the past?  I didn’t have a plan or a place to put that experience.  But when you arrive, you might as well see it all.

It’s just Small Town, Texas.  It has the obligatory “old” post office, the usual run-down Main street, and more than one place that is older than me!  The highways leading to it are either farms, crops growing or dying from drought, “fracking” for natural gas sites or oil wells pumping. The land is so flat you truly can see for miles!WP_20150114_09_35_39_Pro

I felt a little warm hug when I turned off the Interstate and saw that “welcome to” sign.  It’s not like I was raised there–only first grade then we moved.  But I am sure I saw some shadows around the old theatre and the original hotel of folks who had lived there longer than I’ve been alive.  Those kind of towns don’t change much.  They don’t usually have a Starbucks or a dozen choices of drive thru restaurants.  They still conduct business at the courthouse on the town square.  There are still a few stores operating on the perimeter of the square.  And they usually have a “town opry” or a “fairgrounds”or at least a “city park” or “town square.”WP_20150114_09_56_25_ProWP_20150114_09_59_37_Pro

Not sure what I expected to do on that short drive through town.  But it did make me feel grateful that some things, like Small Town, Texas, still exist.  They make good places to drive into and out of taking just a little piece of memory.  Most of the tour around town was more in my mind than through my camera lens.  I probably can’t explain what I felt to anyone, but then, they are my own memories. So glad I took that turn off the fast lane.

Back to the Interstate, set the cruise control, and head on toward more flat land in west Texas.

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Is there a town like this in your past? Hope you have a chance to re-visit and reminisce.  WP_20150114_10_15_29_Pro

2 Sisters’ Road Trip Comes Home

2 Sisters' Road Trip Comes Home

ALL ROADS LEAD TO SOMEWHERE…and that’s where I’ve been for the past month. After 28 days on the road; after crossing 11 states and 15 major rivers…a familiar road led me back home!

After nearly 3,600 miles, I can truly say each turn and each straightaway brought unexpected views and amazing vistas. Some were paths; some were dirt roads; some historic drives; some interstate highways; and some should not have even been where they were!

I believe even more now than before that there’s only one reason I venture down the pathways of life…and that is to find New Journeys on Old Roads.

Welcome back! I’ll begin posting stories, photos, trip routes and ramblings over the next few weeks. Follow along…let’s travel across this great country of ours. See part of America through my eyes!

Wildflowers Are Like Worries

Fields, roadsides & ranch lands are in full bloom.

Texas wildflowers have arrived!

bbonnett brown eyed edited

Bluebonnets and Brown Eyed Susan
 
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Indian Paintbrush and Indian Blanket
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Evening Primrose – from white to lavender to pink
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Bitterweed and cactus blooms
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The scenes look like a Monet painting.

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Wildflowers always surprise me when they shoot forth randomly among grass, rock and hard dirt.  They are a bit like your life being interrupted with troubles.  Neither worries nor wildflowers seem to care when or where they appear.  They are just there!

Does a problem, concern, or fear seem to appear out of nowhere?  It’s like that with wildflowers, too.  A week ago there were no blossoms.  It even seemed maybe they wouldn’t come this year–like something or someone had intervened and there would be no wildflowers.  But they’re here!

Do you think you could learn to see a purpose and beauty in the thing that appears uninvited in your life?  Like some folks, I tend to want to spend some time with my worries.  I want to bemoan them, even show them off to others. 

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There’s another similarity between your worries and wildflowers.  They are right in front of you.  If you think you can just hurry down the highway and ignore them…think again!  The same is true with your worries.  You can’t ignore them or outrun them.  There’s a formula for dealing with both–your worries and wildflowers.  You must:

Slow down.

Stop and face them.

Spend time with them.

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We know Bluebonnets don’t have to face the fear of spring storms, the pain of hail, the pounding rain or the long-suffering drought alone–because they are joined by their friends:  Indian Blankets, Paint Brush, Evening Primrose, Bitterweed and Brown-eyed Susan.  Like the Texas Bluebonnet, we are not alone.

Just as hard as it was for the wildflower to work its way up through rock and limestone, your worries will push through to your thoughts.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing if your next worries looked a little more like the wildflower that comes but then goes.

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There are rules about each–worries and wildflowers.  They are there to remind you that pleasant or unpleasant surprises often catch us unaware.  Here’s another rule about wildflowers and worries.

Don’t pick them.

They are not yours.

Leave them there.

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…And when you turn away from the wildflowers…or the worries…

when you need to get back to your journey…

you’ll leave less burdened…more joyous…

and ready for your next experience.

 

South by Southwest vs. West by Northwest

41_19_76_web[1]It was just a spur of the moment trip.  I really had not planned to go anywhere last Friday, but there I was, driving west and headed to an old familiar place.  I’d taken this road many times—back and forth to my dad’s place over the last 30 years.  The road felt like an old friend.  I knew where each turn was, where the speed traps were, and how far it was to the next bathroom.  I knew where you had to stop and fill up with gas because THAT gas station was always the cheapest.  And I would stop there again–just because.  I knew I could make the trip in less than 4 hours.

You start off heading west on Interstate 20th[10] as if you were going to California—because, if you don’t stop for several days, that’s where you’ll be—or at least El Paso for an overnight stop!  In El Paso, you can catch Interstate 10 600px-I-10.svg[1]and then scoot across the edge of New Mexico around Las Cruces and Lordsburg.  From there it’s just hours on to Tucson.  That’s where your compass might become confused because you come to a crossroads.

Crossroads can sometimes be confusing if you don’t have a clear idea of what your final destination is.  But I didn’t need a map today…I knew the road and my destination.

From Tucson, you can continue to California by taking a hard northwest on to Phoenix and then set your sites on The Los Angeles area.  Of course, don’t get me wrong…that’s more than the 4 hour trip that I’m making to west Texas…but if the music on the CD is right and the gasoline card and credit card have enough available balance, I just might keep on those west-bound roads and be sipping a cool drink on the pier in Santa Monica. Tempting!cocktails-and-lemon-slices[1]

But I’ve overshot my daydreaming just a bit.  I’ve just arrived near the small town of Cisco TX so this is one place I have to make a decision.  Do I make that south turn and go on to my dad’s place—or do I set out on a 5-day trip that takes me all the way to California.

I know deep down he would think the trip west was a good idea.  He traveled all of those roads for many years and told great stories of traveling across the US during the depression and WWII years working when they could.

I would love nothing more than to sit with him again and hear all those great stories.  But a few years ago, his life, well-lived, came to a close.  I’ve gone back only a couple of times since then…and maybe that’s enough…to see if everything is still the same in the town’s rock-road cemetery.  What do I expect will change about it?  I don’t know, but it feels as if I ought to watch over his place like he always watched over me.

MY DADDY…

…could do anything—and I mean ANYTHING!  A carpenter by trade, that didn’t stop him from fixing my dainty jewelry, helping with homework, building a house for us, or making sure that we had enough to survive.

Seems it didn’t take as much in those days to get through—something about our greedy desires have increased since the 50s & 60s.  What we didn’t know about, we didn’t need. 

I have just picked up a hamburger and cherry coke and I’ve made the south turn onto State highway 183th[6] that will take me on to Brownwood, then a connect with US 377 on to Brady, TX.

Brady - Heart of TXA town of about 5,500 located in the geographic heart of Texas, Brady had been a place I had looked forward to visiting every summer when I was a little girl.  My mother and dad would go for a visit to my Mama’s & Papa’s house there, and I’d get to stay for a couple of weeks.

That was just great—especially when I was the last of the cousins (and the youngest of a dozen) to still think it was cool to be gone for a couple of weeks in the summertime staying with some old people.  My Papa grew vegetables and they had chickens.  I didn’t like that at all so I’d just stand at the wire and watch my Mama feed the chickens from the pockets of her always-present apron.

My Papa would pick and dig up vegetables and put them on the big picnic table under the tree to ripen.  I could already imagine those juicy tomatoes, that warm yellow watermelon, and those snap peas cooked in a big pot with potatoes!

Yes, my grandparents were old, but I didn’t mind because I was alone with them and my thoughts.  They had lessons to teach if I would just listen.

The town hasn’t changed too much from those days.  The roads are still made of shale rock and unpaved in most of the town.  Many of the old houses still look like they did when we would drive slowly (because everything in that town was/is slow) to the town square.

Brady Courthouse (2)The square, built around an old county courthouse constructed in 1878, never changed.  There were maybe 40 stores around that square.  As I drive in today, some are still closed up and some have transitioned from a theater to a hardware store, to a boutique, to a coffee shop, to another empty store in a dying commerce of downtown shops.

My destination is just a little off the square northwest on Highway 87  There, in the constantly blowing wind of west Texas, is the old cemetery.  My dad’s place is looking sleek and clean—because nothing can stay long under that incessant wind.  I tell him how much I love him, think to myself of how hard he worked, how much he liked Country Music & TV, how much he loved me from the time I could remember to those recent few years ago.  Many times he rode his white horse (really a brown Ford pickup truck) to save me from a bad decision I had made or a situation that surprisingly turned bad.

YellowRoses[1]I put some yellow roses in the vase near his name with birth and death dates.  Then I blow him a kiss and let the wind clear my eyes.  The skies look clear out here because the wind just blows the clouds out of those west Texas skies.  I look up and I feel the power of God in that wind and I know my daddy is resting in His arms.

I’ll get another cherry coke and start that ride back.  It’s less than 4 hours.  When I get to the crossroad again, I’ll turn east back into central Texas.  El Paso, Las Cruces, Phoenix and Santa Monica will have to wait for another time.

TX sundowner             Driving away from the setting sun with the road humming along and my music set to old country music–the kind my daddy loved. I start to sing along, like my daddy always did.  I felt sad but comforted by the trip to my daddy’s place.

In some ways, today I carved out a new journey down this old road. Traveling never looks the same when your purpose changes.

It’s good to know God will help you if you develop a new vision 

or if you need to take a new journey

even if it is down an old road.

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