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Bluebonnet. Photo copyright: Rick TolarCelebrate National Wildflower Week, May 3-10, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. In partnership with Texas Highways, the Wildflower Center's Visitors’ Gallery will feature an exhibit of Rick Tolar’s wildflower photography (one of his images is shown at left), May 5-10.

Other scheduled activities include children’s programming at the center’s Little House, specials at the gift shop, 40 outdoor sculptures, and artist Shou Ping's 3-dimensional wildflower sculptures made from his watercolor paintings.

The Children's Parade takes place April 25, with awards for marching, cheering and color guard. (Photo courtesy Buccaneer Days)How many pirates can fit into corpus  Christi’s Buccaneer Stadium? Consider this: Some 23,000 football fans reportedly squeezed in for a hotly contested playoff game a decade ago—but no one was wearing high-seas haberdashery or carrying a cutlass.


So several  thousand pirates shouldn’t pose a problem, say the organizers of Corpus Christi’s annual Buc Days celebration (Apr. 23-May 3), which celebrates its 71st anniversary this year. As part of the big septuagenarian soiree, they’re mustering the troops to win the Guinness Book of World Records for Largest Gathering of Pirates in One Place. And blimey! The current record-holders are a group of 1,140 German pirates who assembled in Soltau for the 2007 premiere of Disney’s third Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Now that’s a passel of privateers.


Also on tap for this annual corsair carousal: a PRCA rodeo, carnival, fireworks, international music and dancing, and an illuminated night parade, which draws some 160,000 spectators.

—Lori Moffatt

 

Of 16 lighthouses constructed along the Texas coast, Port Isabel is the only one open to the public. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)As inland-bound 19th-Century sailors began the home stretch through the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, a beacon of hope shined during even the harshest of Gulf storms: the 72-foot-high Port Isabel Lighthouse, whose stationary white light was visible from 16 miles out to sea.


Just as it did more than 150 years ago, the 1852 Port Isabel Lighthouse continues to guide visitors to Port Isabel, a community of 5,000 residents across Laguna Madre from South Padre Island. It is the only lighthouse along the Texas Gulf Coast that opens to the public, and more than 50,000 history buffs travel each year to Port Isabel to tour the lighthouse and learn more about its important role in history. Tours to the top require only $3 (and some strong leg muscles!), but the reward—panoramic views of the Laguna Madre and South Padre Island—is worth it.

But the view at the lighthouse isn’t only from the top. Most Fridays throughout the summer, the Lighthouse Es--tablishment Cinema series invites movie-lovers to sit beneath the stars and enjoy new releases and classic films projected on the base of the lighthouse. Call 956/943-7602; www.portisabelmuseums.com.
—Samantha Hyde
 

The tallest of the Black Dragon's four masts extends 57 feet above the waterline. (Photo by  Kevin Stillman)The gray-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico conceal unfathomable mysteries. After all, it was here, in the early 1800s, where the elegant, entrepreneurial pirate Jean Lafitte commanded a small navy of privateers and smugglers who seized silks, spices, and other cargo from ships bound for New Orleans.

Like most people who spend time out at sea, veteran fishing-boat captain Phil Calo found himself steeped in the lore and romance of the buccaneer lifestyle. And in 2008, with an eye toward diversifying his business, he paid homage to America’s fascination with pirates and commissioned a fantasy ship: a visually accurate replica of a 17th-Century Spanish galleon. A mirage of masts, poop deck, and cannon ports with a hull painted red, cream, and black, the Black Dragon docks in Port Isabel—at Pirate’s Landing, of course.

Eager to reenact my own buccaneering fantasies, I wander to the landing past skull-covered bandanas, tricornered hats, and mock daggers to sign up for the Black Dragon’s next two-hour cruise into the Laguna Madre. As I wait to board with a motley crew of family groups, seniors, and couples, fire-eating pirate “Wilson the Fi-rate” entertains us. We gasp as he casually snuffs flames with his hand, swallows a flaming sword, and spouts a fountain of fire from his mouth.

“Ruby the Pirate Queen” calls us to dockside to witness the firing of a black powder cannon replica. This, I can tell, will be no quiet harbor cruise.

With shreds of red sails flapping from yardarms, a skeleton tangled in the rigging, and a Jolly Roger displaying an appropriate note of lawlessness, the Black Dragon heads assuredly into the bay. After all, beneath the ship’s crow’s nest and high, raked decks operates a modern, 60-ton, diesel-powered vessel.

On board, Ruby raises our swashbuckling spirits as she reads us the Pirate Code from a weathered chart. Our mission, as if we didn’t know, is to find other ships and plunder their gold and treasure. But first, a lesson. Ruby has us chorus pirate words. “Ahoy!” we shout in unison. “Arrrrrgh!” Vowing to be true pirates, we zestfully raise our fists and slip into character.

Mimicking Ruby, the kids scan the seas before crowding around her for instructions in the sword-fighting skills so necessary for such high-seas malfeasance. The black-clad pirate Robatodo (roughly translated as “steals all”) jumps into the fray as the kids swing plastic swords at Ruby. “Pirates don’t have to fight fair,” Ruby shouts in triumph as she escapes, standing near a treasure chest brimming with red goblets, gold platters, and sparkling jewelry.

Go. See. Do.

altA new look for the Official Travel Magazine of Texas

We’re fired up about the new look for Texas Highways. As you can see in this collection of  “historic” Texas Highways covers, (below) the magazine’s new logo represents the fifth distinct look-and-feel in the publication’s 35-year life span.

We initiated the redesign process almost a year ago, but before we even started, we confirmed the importance of the Texas Highways legacy, which represents decades of popularity and excellence. And Texas Highways enjoys the reverence of more than a quarter-million readers who see the magazine every month and don’t hesitate to share their likes and dislikes.

So the challenge of the magazine redesign is to create ways to make the photographs and text work better than ever, and to offer even more information about travel in the Lone Star State. We wanted to add to the Texas Highways experience through the Web site, too.

The first major change to the magazine is the logo on the cover. We decided the words “Texas” and “Highways” deserve equal billing. After all, we all need the highways to travel from the Sabine River through a complete time zone to the Rio Grande on the western tip of the state.

Change represents our hopes for the future of the magazine, but it also harkens back to the past. Even though the new logo’s typeface—Triplex—is thoroughly modern, there’s a hint of a retro vibe to the new look. After all, there is something a little retro about the classic road trip, just as there should be a hint of romance about travel. Even for short trips. Taking off on the open road strikes a resonant chord for most of us—it’s the need to see a new place, or simply to experience something different.  It’s always a good time to get away from the grind. Sure, there are other ways to travel, but we see the highway as a metaphor for the experience.

New people, new places, and new things.  Exploration in general. That’s what Texas Highways is about. And readers in every one of the United States and in 65 countries are looking at this issue, and probably thinking about spending a few days at Port Aransas, or hiking in Palo Duro Canyon, or birding in the Rio Grande Valley, or marveling at the sparkling, velvety night skies of the Big Bend country.
It’s time to Go, See, and Do !

– Charles J. Lohrmann, Editor
alt



Highland Park Pharmacy (Photo by Michael Amador)By June Naylor

Easing onto one of the shiny spindle stools at the soda-fountain counter inside Highland Park Pharmacy, I fight the urge to tuck in my feet and elbows and twirl the seat around. When I frequented this hallowed treat-stop as a child with my grandfather, that was acceptable—even approved—behavior.

The memory is as vivid as those I have of the little red coat I loved to wear and the beribboned braid that hung down my back from neck to waist. Such impressions burn brightly for everyone, it seems. I’ve brought my mom along today, and as we settle into the familiar setting, I watch her slip into habits she developed when she visited the Dallas landmark as a girl in the 1930s and 1940s.

The long, narrow space is exactly as it’s always been, with a big mirror running the length of the soda fountain that spans the east wall of the room.  

I ask Mom what she’s ordering for lunch. “Well, a chicken-salad sandwich,” she replies, looking a little like I must have lost my mind to even wonder. “On wheat, and grilled, of course.”

She’s in good company, as legions have made that choice a bestseller since H.S. Forman opened his pharmacy in 1912. Anchoring the corner of Knox and Travis streets in what’s called Old Highland Park, the brick facade, which is the color of yellowed newspaper, has changed not one bit.

Neither has much inside, for that matter. Pharmacy Manager Mary Duncan says the counter and black vinyl-topped stools are original; they’ve just been recovered through the years. “We even have one of the old cash registers on display,” she adds. “But it doesn’t work anymore.”
Pharmacists still fill prescriptions in the back, and you can still buy specialty health and beauty items, but it’s the delicious breakfast, lunch, pastries, and other desserts that bring the many customers who crave a taste of yesteryear, a hint of uncomplicated moments.

The real regulars are those who visit the pharmacy every day, says Duncan, who notes that some patrons eat meals here twice daily. Among the best customers is Norman Andres, who hires a taxi or driver to bring him daily for breakfast and then either for lunch or early supper. His favorite menu item? A pimiento-cheese sandwich called the Palm Beach.
“Everything they make here is good. And I like the atmosphere and the people,” says Andres, who first visited the pharmacy in 1948.

No need to figure out the exchange rate for the euro in Muenster. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith) The best thing about Germanfest–April 24-26–is that you can’t make a bad decision at this three-day, Texas-size party, because everything about it is designed with fun in mind.

The first Germanfest here was held in 1976, after local officials decided to honor the town’s German heritage in conjunction with the nation’s bicentennial celebration. In so doing, they were inspired by two old German phrases—Gemütlichkeit—meaning “Good Health, Good Food, Good Friends,” and Jetzt kommen die lustigen tage—translated as “Now Come the Joyful, Happy, Exciting Days.”

If you arrive at the right moment and feel a bit silly-nilly, you could be just in time to join the crowd lining up to do the “chicken dance”—that perennial frolic that promptly gets dancers and spectators alike laughing their feathers off.  But if you should arrive a bit later, fear not, for they’ll be “chicken dancin’” over and over again all daylong.  You’ll also be able to enjoy polka music, clogging, and folk dancing. Or, perhaps you’re more the Texas two-stepping type.  You’ll find that on tap, too, over at the pavilion, with live country music, as well as pop and rock.

Did we say “on tap?” There’s plenty of beer available, swell, for thirsty souls.

If competition is your thing, you can participate in fun runs and walks, both 5K and 15K, or bring your bicycle and have a “rally” goodtime at the fest’s Metric Century. And, if you think you’ve got the secret recipe of the gods, the Lodestar Barbecue Society holds a sanctioned barbecue cook-off in five categories—brisket, pork spare ribs, chicken, sausage, and beans.

Whenever I’m in Muenster, I can readily see why its residents take such pride in the community. Founded in 1889 by German immigrants, Muenster still maintains the ambiance of the “old country,” replete with restaurants where you can indulge in popular German fare. You can also see a series of murals in the center of town depicting a typical German village.

Here’s a tip: You’ll receive free admission if you arrive inauthentic German lederhosen, in costume as a milkmaid with braids, or dressed like famous characters such as Hänsel und Gretel. Or, let your imagination run wild and go as Bach, Beethoven, Martin Luther, Marlene Dietrich, Albert Einstein, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, models Claudia Schiffer or Heidi Klum, former tennis great Steffi Graf, NBA star Dirk Nowitski, or whomever you fancy. However you choose to dress, though, you’re welcome at Germanfest in Muenster. Here’s a toast to the town’s German heritage and endearing Texas hospitality.

By Ray Blockus

Muenster’s charm abounds, from its clean streets to manicured lawns and gardens, to its restaurants and gift shops, right up to the melodic glockenspiel atop Fischer’s Meat Market. But nowhere is Muenster’s heritage as apparent than in its restaurants and delis.

Fischer’s offers more than 30 varieties of German sausage, plus condiments such as spicy Düsseldorf mustard and the market’s own private label preserves and relish. Fischer’s huge selection of cheeses pleases, too. Fischer’s also sells authentic German confections and products, including Maggi Späetzle and Schlunder Black Forest Cake.

Those craving more German fare can find it at eateries such as Doc’s Bar & Grill on Main Street, or The Center Restaurant & Tavern and Rohmer’s Restaurant (both on US 82, which runs through town).

Doc’s German sausage platter—bratwurst and other German sausage, sauerkraut, and rye bread, plus homemade German potato salad and sweet cabbage makes for a Bavarian feast.

A German mood prevails at Rohmer’s, too. Try the Reuben sandwich with a dish of German potato salad and you’ll understand why the eatery has been popular since 1953.

At The Center, which dates to 1958, recommendations are for the jager schnitzel, followed by a slice of one of their homemade pies, like their famous German chocolate cake.

For a special dessert treat, I like to visit Bayer’s Kolonialwaren und Backerei, a small combination bakery-confectionery-gas station that has been a part of the town since 1964. Although the strudel is the only authentic German delicacy there, it’s one of the best we’ve ever eaten.

With a dozen colorful murals, a Main Street museum, a popular antiques mall, and a recent profusion of modern wind turbines, this small Texas community prides itself on welcoming visitors.

Nolan Ryan (Copyright Wyatt McSpadden)

Thanks to his involvement with three baseball teams, two ranches, and a variety of other business interests, Texas pitching legend Nolan Ryan crisscrosses the state regularly. Three of his favorite vacation spots are Big Bend, Palo Duro Canyon, and the Laguna Madre.

By Shermakaye Bass

 

Lee Daniel  (Photo by Kevin Stillman)
Cinematographer Lee Daniel initially earned his chops collaborating with filmmaker and fellow Austin resident Richard Linklater, first on Slacker (1991), and then on a string of other successful projects (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Fast Food Nation, and subUrbia). Daniel is also renowned for his camera work on environmental documentaries, such as The Unforeseen (2007), a film backed by Robert Redford and Texas filmmaker Terence Malick that looks at issues surrounding Central Texas water rights.
Two of Daniel’s loves—the Lone Star landscape and Texas music—often surface in his documentary projects. The Austin resident shot Margaret Brown’s heart-wrenching study of Townes Van Zandt, Be Here to Love Me (2004), as well as director Keven McAlester’s compelling tribute to Roky Erickson, You’re Gonna Miss Me (2005). Daniel has also worked on a film about the Lubbock music scene (Lubbock Lights), and on videos for Los Lonely Boys.
If you trace Daniel’s work back to the 1980s, it’s easy to see what makes his soul sing (or cringe): nature, pop culture, environmental issues, injustice. Daniel’s cinematographic vision is invariably framed with the “eye” of the poet-philosopher-contrarian, making him as iconoclastic as any of his subjects. But as his friends will attest, Daniel is that rare species: the humble intellectual, the erudite artist who deflects attention from himself to his work.

 

BASS: Many Texans have a strong sense of place, or as some would call it, “Texas pride.” What is that about?

DANIEL: Well, my father would always say that individuals are a product of the earth that they stand on. They’re an extension of the ground, the land. I think that applies to people everywhere, but maybe particularly to Texans.

BASS:  You’ve said that your parents loved to read when you and your siblings [two brothers, one sister] were growing up in Richardson. Did that shape you as an artist?

DANIEL: My parents weren’t pushy with any of us, ever. But they both had college edu-cations, and they liked to read, and my dad would always drop books on me. … I remember when I was in the seventh or eighth grade, and he just dropped this book on my lap and said, “Read this, you’re going to appreciate it when you get a lot older.” It was John Graves’ Goodbye to a River.

BASS: Speaking of history, you’ve got some funny memories about how Texas legend and history may have shaped your future as a filmmaker?

DANIEL: Yeah, one of my first memories of that sort of Texas pride was this movie with Peter Ustinov called Viva Max, where this kind of quasi-Santa Anna, Mexican-type dictator, played by Ustinov, comes back in modern times and takes back the Alamo. I remember as a kid saying, “He can’t do that! Stop him!” We were like, “Where’s Travis?! Where’s Crockett?!”

BASS: What got you truly interested in film?

DANIEL: One of the formative experiences was seeing West Texas for the first time. The whole family took a vacation in our Country Squire station wagon and went to the McDonald Observatory and stayed up there at the inn [Indian Lodge]  in Davis Mountains State Park. … And I remember looking through that telescope at the observatory and just wondering, how do those lenses magnify the stars like that? Just trying to figure out how that worked. That might’ve been how I got interested in photogra-phy. Plus, our next-door neighbor in Richardson was a cinematographer, so my mother kinda blames him for getting me interested in the business.

BASS: How did you get together with Richard Linklater, who is also a Texan and whose two seminal films—Slacker and Dazed and Confused—were set in Texas?

DANIEL: It was at a Super 8 club—Super 8 is small-format filmmaking—that met down on 6th Street in Austin. This was back in 1982 or ’83, and Rick showed up. … He was real quiet. He didn’t bring anything. He was like, “I’ve never showed my films to anybody.” And that made me really curious. … Later he took me to his flat in West Campus, where he’d converted his closet into a projection booth. But the interesting thing with Rick was he was working with sound, and it’s really difficult to work with sound on Super 8. (The two became fast friends and eventually moved into the house on Nueces Street that became the birthplace of Slacker—a film born from Linklater’s observation of his over-thinking, couch-surfing, punk-rocking pals.)

BASS: Did you feel early on that you and Linklater might go somewhere—together?

DANIEL: Richard might have felt that. We came from different worlds. I wanted to be an adventurer and sail on The Calypso and speak French and just be a Jacques Cousteau underwater cameraman, whereas Rick was more steeped in classic Hollywood. I was in film school at UT at the time, and he taught me more about feature filmmaking and classic Hollywood films than anyone. … From there, we ended up forming the Austin Film Society. (Now the organization’s advisory board includes filmmakers John Sayles, Quentin Tarantino, Mike Judge, Jonathan Demme, Robert Rodriguez, Steven Soderbergh, and Kevin Smith.) We moved into the same flat that Janis Joplin had lived in—behind where Les Amis Café used to be. That was kind of our production headquarters during Slacker.

BASS: During those days, what made Austin a creative hotbed?

DANIEL: Austin in the ’80s just seemed to be ripe because it was pretty bombed out after the first big real estate/savings and loan bust.It was a much quieter place, you could find a place to park your car, overhead was really low, rent was $100 a month, you could have a minimum-wage job and still have money left over to drink beer and go to punk-rock shows or see movies. It was just heaven. Some of these so-called harsh economic times have really benefitted us, and Slacker probably would never have been made, had there been a really robust economy.

BASS: What do you consider the most cinematic places in Texas?

DANIEL: Houston’s ship channel, that’s cinematic for me. … Also I like to shoot time-lapse in West Texas. On some of the first trips I made on my own when I was in college, I’d go hit Big Bend with my Super 8 camera—sometimes just me in my VW bus, with my hammock and the camera. I’d hit those primitive roads and not see a soul for two or three days. … A decade later I found myself in West Texas shooting time-lapse in 35 mm for a bank commercial, and I thought, “Wow, how lucky am I?” Your camera is taking a picture every 45 seconds, and you just sit there and listen to nothing—the wind. There’s something mesmerizing and kind of therapeutic and Zen-like about watching clouds in West Texas develop in the late afternoon in summertime. They build up, and the thunderstorms come. It’s just… (he falls silent and grins).

BASS: Continuing with things Texan: What’s your favorite Texas critter?

DANIEL: It’s gotta be the armadillo, right? I mean, we gotta hold up the stereotype of the venerable vermin.

BASS: You do a lot of Texas-based films; tell me about some of them.

DANIEL: Linklater and I have only done two films that are set in Texas really, but I love doing movies about music, and three of my favorite musicians happen to be Texans—Roky Erickson, Townes Van Zandt, and Daniel Johnston. I’ve worked on documentaries about all of them, which is really a blessing. … It’s true Austin is “the velvet rut.” You get stuck here, but you’re so comfortable. It’s a good place to reflect, it’s a good place to be creative. All the filmmakers in Austin help each other out. You don’t find that in New York. You don’t find that in Seattle. You don’t find that in Vancouver or Los An-geles. But you can find it all over Texas.

BASS: You’re an outdoorsman and an angler. Where would you say are your favorite fishing holes in Texas?

DANIEL:Well (Daniel laughs, reluctant to reveal his prized spots). … we grew up camping and fishing our whole lives, and we made a lot of trips down to Falcon Lake and Lake Texoma, Lake Tawakoni, Lake Ray Hubbard.

BASS: For beauty, what’s your favorite lake?

DANIEL: Aw, I like Falcon Lake. I think it’s weird there’s a whole town under there that got covered up—a little Mexican town that got flooded when they built the reservoir in 1953.  The ruins of this town, Guerrero, are still underneath there. It’s right there on the Rio Grande.

BASS: You love both East and West Texas—compare them for me.

DANIEL: You know the Balcones Fault lies right between ’em, right? That’s the dividing line. That’s what makes these Central Texas people, these Austin people, a little schizophrenic like they are. Because of that fault line. (Playful smile.) There’s seismic activity along the Balcones Fault, actually little mini-earthquakes, you know. Seriously.

BASS: You’re an art lover. What do you think are the best Texas museums?

DANIEL: In Texas, Fort Worth rules as far as art goes.  That kind-of-new museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, is great. … Fort Worth is probably my favorite city in Texas. I used to love to go to Caravan of Dreams, which I thought was way, way ahead of its time, and see people like Ornette Coleman play. I like to visit San Antonio, too. I like the vibe there—it kinda reminds me of the way Austin used to be.

BASS: What’s your favorite roadhouse or hole-in-the-wall dive?

DANIEL:I like Pendleton Pump, up near Temple, west of I-35. It’s an old service station turned into a bar, and all the farmers go there, and it’s real racially mixed. They have cheap beer, and they have live music sometimes. Sometimes you’ve got a secret place, and you’d like to keep it one. But not Pendleton Pump—they welcome everyone. It’s very cool.

BASS: Favorite Texas writers?

DANIEL: My dad turned me on to a lot of these writers, like J. Frank Dobie, John Henry Faulk, and George Sessions Perry. Perry wrote a book called Hold Autumn in Your Hand. Just basically guys with three names. And I guess Katherine Anne Porter would have to be in there; she has three names. … Cormac McCarthy [who’s not from Texas but writes about it] is not too shabby. And then my favorite artists are probably Robert Rauschenberg—he was a Beaumont/Port Arthur boy—and Terrence Malick, who grew up just outside of Waco.

BASS: What about theme parks? Do you have a favorite in Texas?

DANIEL:(He asks if the State Fair would apply. The answer is yes.) I went last year, and that was the first year they’d reinstated the gondolas. I took a ride on one just by myself. All my friends had left, and I lingered around almost until the park closed, and took a solemn ride on a gondola. It was a really calm, kind of meditative moment, just looking down—and you know, as a kid I remember it seemed like you were 300 feet in the air. And you’re barely 30 feet up!

BASS: Do you have a favorite Texas saying?

DANIEL: “You got to dance with them what brung ya.” Molly Ivins used that one a lot. In fact, that’s the title of one of her books. And I like the word “dang.” Nobody says “dang” but us.

BASS: During your career, you’ve met lots of larger-than-life Texans, politicians. Tell me your most memorable encounter with a political figure?

DANIEL: Lady Bird I really admired. I worked on a documentary about her, her 80th birthday, for the LBJ Library. … And the crew all stayed out at the ranch, and one time she took us up and down the runway where LBJ’s pilot used to land his plane, driving in the same Continental they had when he was President! That was one of the greatest moments of my life—filming Lady Bird in her Continental going up and down the airstrip at that ranch. …

Bass: So she’s a Texan you admire deeply. What, if anything, did you find surprising about her during that project?

DANIEL: I expected her to be a bit more guarded and her people more guarding of her, and it wasn’t that way at all. She invited us to dinner every night and to stay there at the ranch instead of in town at Johnson City. When we’d wrap up, she’d say, ‘Stay for supper!’ And you don’t turn down the First Lady.H

Anvers, L'entree du Port by Eugene BoudinBy Charles Lohrmann

When you spend enough time studying and enjoying works of art, inevitably an individual painting, sculpture or photograph will take on personal, almost totemic, significance. Over time, if you visit and venerate the work often enough, the relationship that develops is almost like a friendship. You remember and think about the art at odd times, wonder what other viewers think of the piece, share your thoughts about the experience, and plan to visit again next time you’re in the neighborhood.
I have one particular group of such friends that I visit often and suggest you get to know as well. It’s an attractive group of five small-scale

Impressionist paintings in the collection of The Old Jail Art Center in Albany, on US 180 northeast of Abilene. The diverse subjects represented in the group—a still life of roses, a harbor view, a landscape, a nude, and characters cavorting at a masked ball—create an imaginary visual vocabulary for life in the late 19th Century, so there’s a definite romantic appeal. And the small scale—not much larger than the magazine you’re reading—makes these paintings seem all the more exquisite. The larger (and more typical) Impressionist paintings you’ll see in other museum galleries are amazing and engaging in their own way, but these small paintings, particularly in this intimate setting, seem more personal.
Even though I’ve been thinking of these paintings as my own for several years, I decided I needed to find out a little more about them. So, on a recent visit to The Old Jail Art Center, I asked Museum Director Margaret Blagg about the collection.
She explained that they were bequeathed to the museum by an Albany man named Marshall R. Young Jr., who had strayed from his hometown to become a magazine publisher in California. She also put my mind at ease by adding that—along with another favorite, a Modigliani—this set of Impressionist paintings (aka, the masterworks) would always be on view.
If it were my personal choice, this group of paintings would always have a small room of its own—a shrine of sorts—but that’s not in the cards. So I’ll plan to continue my drop-in visits to the museum to see them wherever they’re displayed.
After sharing a few more details about the Impressionist paintings, Blagg, as museum directors do, wanted to point out some other developments at the Old Jail Art Center. Turns out the museum, as part of a recent project, has just restored the jail’s windows to the original look, and now the glass is inside the bars instead of outside. So passersby can see the jail bars in the windows as they scrutinize the odd glyphs carved in the stones by the Scottish stonemasons documenting their work on the structure. The bars create a more authentic historic view of the 1870s, two-story building, which was the first public edifice in Shackelford County.
The Old Jail also has enhanced its already-appealing collection of Asian art with special selections on loan from the internationally renowned Arthur M. Sackler Collection. And, in the two rooms upstairs (the original jail cells), Blagg explains a new series of exhibits called A Cell of One’s Own, which will feature the work of contemporary Texas artists.
But, wait a minute. I have to ask, how does a small museum in a town of 2,000 manage such a diverse collection? The answer from Blagg is: “The museum was founded by art collectors, so it had a serious art collection from the very beginning. One of the founders, Bill Bomar, was an artist himself and was a member of the noted Fort Worth Circle. He and his cousin, Reilly Nail, were the co-founders.” Of course, prosperous ranching and oil interests in the area have a lot to do with the museum’s ongoing operation, but the original vision is still essential to the identity of the collection.

 What you'll find

The Old Jail Art Center’s collection of small-scale Impressionist paintings includes:
•    Nu Couché, vu de dos (Reclining Nude from Back) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
•    Paysage avec Rivière (Landscape with River), by Gustave Caillebotte.
•    Nature Morte aux Roses (Still Life of Roses) Henri Fantin-Latour.
•    Anvers, L’entrée du Port (Entrance to Port of Anvers) Eugene Boudin.
•    Au bal masqué—les fêtes Parisiennes—nouveaux confettis (Masked Ball) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
For more information on Albany’s Old Jail Art Center (at 201 South Second St.), call 325/762–2269; www.theoldjailartcenter.org.

By Charles Lohrmann

A view of Fort Griffin's administrative building from the ruins of the Army post's bakery. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)On most days, the sketchy ruins of stone buildings at old Fort Griffin will not offer many details of 19th-Century life in this rugged and hilly country 15 miles north of Albany. But on a recent late-summer afternoon, uncharacteristically overcast skies and an unusual misting rain cloaked the landscape in foggy mystery and muffled all sound, so that even the occasional passing of a truck on US 283 in the valley below the site registered as only a low whir. And in that silence so complete that even my own footsteps echoed slightly, the solemn, stolid buildings seemed willing to reveal their secrets.

First established in 1867, Fort Griffin prospered for less than 15 years as a supply post to serve other frontier Texas forts and to support the commercial hunters and cattlemen driving their herds on the Western Trail north. While the Army post occupied the high ground overlooking the Clear Fork of the Brazos, the hard-drinking, rough-hewn town known as The Flat (among other names) sprang up on the level river valley below. Legend has it that this town, organized as Fort Griffin in 1874, earned a notorious reputation for its walk-on-the-wild-side ways and for the visitation of characters such as Wyatt Earp, Big Nose Kate, Bat Masterson, and Doc Holliday. A few relics of the town—including a Sharps Rifle originally purchased at Conrad and Rath Merchandise—are on display at the Old Jail Art Center in Albany.

Even though the imaginary activity of the Fort Griffin Army Post in its bygone days enlivens my quiet stroll through the grounds, I’m as interested in learning a little more about the current activities at the site and check in with Site Manager Mitch Baird. He tells me that the Texas Historical Commission, the agency that now operates the site, has commissioned a major effort to restore the original grassland at Fort Griffin by removing invasive mesquite and prickly pear from about 75 acres surrounding the historic ruins.


Baird explains that the grassland restoration will not only return the site to its true 1870s appearance, but also that the work will enhance wildlife habitat. And, no doubt the enhanced grassland will be welcome for the State Long-horn Herd, now about 75 animals strong, that also rambles at Fort Griffin.

In addition to grassland restoration, the Historical Commission also has plans to stabilize the original military structures at the site, including the hand-dug, rock-lined cistern, in which water was stored for the post. Within the year, a local friends-of-the-park organization plans to take the first steps toward adding a roof to the powder magazine and stabilizing that building’s structure.

Today, eight sites (including Fort Griffin), along with the communities that support them, encourage history buffs to make the 650-mile-long drive called the Texas Forts Trail.
But Fort Griffin is not just for history enthusiasts. A 50-acre campground adjoins the Clear Fork of the Brazos and invites relaxed exploration with three easy trails that meander over the riparian landscape.

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