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Written by Texas Highways

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During their visit to Chappell Hill, featured in the April issue, Angela and Virgil Fox stop and smell the roses at the Antique Rose Emporium.  Editorial intern Caitlin Sullivan chats with the store’s owner, Mike Shoup, about finding, growing and “rustling” antique roses.

What exactly is an old garden, or “antique,” rose?

The first hybrid tea rose was developed in 1867.  Ever since that introduction, all roses from that date are considered modern roses.  There are a few exceptions, but all roses before that date are considered old garden roses.

The general rule is that modern roses were developed by breeders in an effort to perfect that flower; they’re good for show, but not as good for the garden.  An “antique rose” is a loose term that means a rose that works well in the garden.

How did you get into selling antique roses?

Our nursery business was not doing well, and we wanted to create a niche so we would not have to compete with nurseries selling similar plant material.  We set out to find alternatives to overused landscape plants, but it was in the search for Texas native plants that we found roses growing in the same environment where native plants had evolved, like beside abandoned homes and in cemeteries.

We knew that we had come across a group of plants that were all time-tested but easy to grow; they could withstand the tests of Mother Nature, and at the same time offer incredible qualities like repeat blooms, blooming throughout the season, fragrance, and wonderful, diverse forms that allow them to be integrated into any type of landscape situation.  Old garden roses proved to be just the ticket because they are tough and resilient; they’re good for the modern homeowner who wants to grow something easy.

Why would someone choose antique roses over modern roses?

People need to understand what application they’ll be buying their roses for.  If they’re looking for the perfect flower for their dining room table, they need a modern rose.  If they want a rose that lives year after year in their garden, providing fragrance, then an old garden rose is for them.

I can’t say enough about fragrance, it’s the emotional bond you have with these plants.  If a flower doesn’t have any fragrance, you may as well be looking at a picture of a rose in a book.  Fragrance will take you back in time for many, many years, when you were smelling that rose at your grandmother’s house, or to the future when your kids will be smelling that same rose.

Do you have a favorite type of antique rose?

The “found” roses.  These are roses that have been lost in commerce but still survive, and because of their survival, they’re being brought back into modern gardens.  They were once introduced as a named variety, but their names have been forgotten.

Many of the roses you sell are found by “rose rustling.”  What’s that like?

People think of rose rustling as this image of some guy dressed in black riding a horse in the middle of the night with a shovel over his shoulder stealing people’s roses.  But the real story is the search and rescue of these lost and forgotten roses.  Rose rustling is nothing more than finding roses that have, in many cases, been growing for a long time in a tough environment.  When a rustler comes across a rose like this, they give it every opportunity to live into the future.  We never dig it up; we dig out the dead wood and the weeds, we take a cutting, and we root it.  Then we have a clone of this rose that’s proven itself to be so good and can now be offered to other gardeners.  There’s no pillaging involved; it’s just trying to take what we’ve got and make sure it’s not lost.

 Do you have any tips for gardeners who may want to start growing antique roses?

The old rose is the ultimate garden plant.  There is a bias that most people have about roses:  that they’re fussy and hard to grow, that you have to rely on a spraying schedule and make sure nothing else is around it.  That is all tossed out the window when you consider the antique rose.  It’s truly a wonderful garden plant, and it needs to be planted with other plants.  We have gardens with perennial, native, and annual plants, and roses too.  Those gardens look good at all times of the year because different plants are doing different things all year long.

The antique rose has fragrance, and it’s easy to grow.  It has history and nostalgic value, as well.  It’s unlike what we’re taught about roses in a lot of ways, but it retains all of these wonderful attributes; it has all of the best qualities.

Spring brings wildflowers - and new foals - to the Monastery Miniature Horse Farm, operated by the Nuns of St. Clare near Chappell Hill. (Photo by Virgil Fox)

“They are just like people,” says Sister Angela of the miniature horses bred on the Franciscan Poor Clare Nuns' farm north of Chappell Hill. "Each one has its own personality.”

By Angela Fox

I’m standing alone in downtown Chappell Hill at twilight, watching the sky deepen to a cobalt blue. There are no sidewalks here, and the wooden planks that form the path in front of me are worn smooth with decades of use. The storefronts and the bank on Main Street date to the mid-1800s, so the Old West feel is for real. Across the street, a lone shopkeeper stocks her shelves as darkness begins to envelop the old buildings.

This time of day, it’s easy to imagine Chappell Hill 150 years ago. The town was laid out in 1847 by trader’s-wife-turned-developer Mary Hargrove Haller, who named it for her grandfather, Robert Wooding Chappell. Situated in the midst of some of the richest farmland in Texas, the town grew rapidly into a bustling trade and distribution center. Cotton was king here until the Civil War and a yellow fever epidemic changed things forever. The town didn’t disappear exactly, but it never again thrived as a commercial center. Instead, it has found its niche as a historic village offering respite from the busy pace of nearby Houston.

The folks who call Chappell Hill home like the historic vibe just fine. Bluebonnet House owner Dale Ramey says his shop's building once housed a grocery and a saloon. Actually, Chappell Hill had 18 saloons at one time, he says. “It was a rockin’ town.”

Revelry is more seasonal now and family-friendly. In spring, the rolling hills turn blue with bluebonnets, and in April, Chappell Hill celebrates the state flower with a festival that attracts thousands. In July, there’s an old-fashioned Independence Day parade; October brings fall foliage and a colorful burst of scarecrow displays; and a home tour in December affords an insider’s peek at some of Chappell Hill’s restored historic homes. 


Our first stop is the Monastery Miniature Horse Farm, a place I’ve wanted to visit for years. I learned from the monastery’s Web site that this order of Franciscan Poor Clare nuns fled Castro’s Cuba in 1961 and found refuge in Corpus Christi before moving to Chappell Hill in 1984 to raise miniature horses.

We’re greeted by Sister Angela, abbess and head horse wrangler. Because the horses have been selectively bred from the smallest examples of many different breeds since the 17th Century, these tiny animals come in all colors.

Some are inquisitive; others eye me indifferently or bolt away at my outstretched hand. “They are just like people,” Sister Angela says.” Each one has its own personality.” All of them, though, seem to know and love Sister Angela. The youngest horses trot behind her like devoted puppies, nuzzling and nipping at the folds of her long, brown habit, begging for attention and searching for treats.

After saying goodbye to the little horses, we go in search of vintage roses at the Antique Rose Emporium. Here, owner Mike Shoup gives us an introduction to the world of antique roses—many of them descendants of flowering plants that have been around 200 years or more. Antique roses seem to come in an endless variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and scents. Many have been rescued by “rose rustling,” the practice of cultivating cuttings from roses found along highways and beside abandoned houses. Shoup shows us an example called Highway 290 Pink Buttons, a little shrub rose covered with dime-size pink blooms.



 

Bluebonnet from Brazos County. The white spots on the petals turn red or purplish. (Photo by Rick Tolar)

 

“I have found that the most important thing to do is to research different varieties of wildflowers in an area before actually looking for them. It’s incredible just how many you will spot with your newfound awareness."

- Rick Tolar

 

By Jill Lawless

The casual wildflower observer might subscribe to the notion that “if you’ve seen one bluebonnet, you’ve seen them all.”

Not so for Austin-based photographer Rick Tolar, who also makes no such presumption about Indian paintbrush and blankets, passionflowers and poppies, sunflowers and spider lilies, and his many other petaled subjects.

Unlike most Texas wildflower-watchers, who search for blooms in abundance along the state’s roadsides, Tolar seeks to capture the singular glory of that one-in-a-million blossom —spring’s perfect specimen. To him, the season’s beauty is not only field deep.

“One way to really study a flower is to take close-up photographs of the blooms,” says Tolar. “I have found that the most important thing to do is to research different varieties of wildflowers in an area before actually looking for them. It’s incredible just how many you will spot with your newfound awareness.”

Tolar’s spring wildflower hunts include his wife, Barbara, and son, Justin, who help him collect and observe. “In the past, we would collect specimens and keep them in a cooler until I could get them to the studio. Now, we sometimes plant native wildflowers in pots early in the winter, so when they bloom I can shoot them in the studio.

“When a flower reaches the perfect stage for photographing, I pull the drapes, turn off all the lights, and use just a trickle of ambient light from a skylight or a single window to illuminate it. Using this kind of light, I can take a long exposure to create an image that will show off the flower’s grandeur against a black background, and create a sense of balance and mystery. This technique allows me to photograph without a flash and exposes the most delicate structures.”

Tolar, who spent much of his early career shooting rock-and-roll shows and conventions, didn’t have much interest in flowers until he bought a digital camera in 2001. He says, “I took a few shots of some flowers growing in my yard, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

“These photos reveal the most intricate details that the flowers have to offer, yet we most commonly overlook. The architecture and the intense coloration that I observe are what keep me and my camera coming back year after year.”

Many more amazing photos are featured in the print edition.

By Nola McKey

The little-known guayacan tree heralds spring with clusters of purple flowers in March. (Photo by Richard Reynolds)In most parts of Texas, flowering trees are the harbingers of the season—their blooms appear before those of many wildflowers and even before some of the trees themselves leaf out. Most of us merely note the blooms and enjoy the colors, but if you look closely, there’s much more to see. Nature writer and biologist Roland J. Wauer describes the burgeoning glory of several blooming trees in his book Heralds of Spring in Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 1999).
“Few trees display their flowers so well as flowering dogwoods,” he writes. “They often are the only trees in bloom below the Pineywoods canopy, and—because their flowers appear before their leaves, so that their lush greenery does not obscure the flowers—they put on a dazzling show of white blossoms, like bright stars on a dark night … . The blossoms last only a few days before turning a pinkish color and drying up.” Of Texas mountain laurel, which grows throughout the Hill Country and east to the Gulf Coast, he writes, “Almost everyone loves Texas mountain laurel when it is in bloom, and for many … it represents spring …. The huge clusters of deep purple to whitish flowers, which usually begin blooming in March, are outstanding. The pendant, wisterialike clusters can be ten inches long and may contain thirty-five individual flowers, each one smelling like grape Kool-Aid.”
Wauer also extols the beauty of huisache blooms: “New huisache leaves appear in Central Texas by mid-February; green-up is earlier to the south and somewhat later to the north and west.  And deep rich yellow flowers, spherical heads about two-thirds of an inch across on one- to one-and-a-half-inch stalks, are not far behind. Once those trees are in flower, they seem literally to light up the surroundings, providing both color and aroma to a landscape mostly dull from winter. And rather than putting on a few scattered flowers, which could easily be missed, the huisache usually bears hundreds of flowers at once. An incredible show! They may last for several days or several weeks, depending upon the local temperatures and winds.”
Gardening guru Howard Garrett (find details about his books, radio show, and newsletter at www.dirtdoctor.com) notes that while the beautiful blooms might bring us pleasure, their real purpose is to entice pollinators—bees, wasps, moths, butterflies and other insects. He points out that all trees produce flowers of some kind; some flowers are just showier than others.
Not only do flowering trees spruce up the spring landscape, says Garrett, but “the trees with the most extravagant blooms often have beautiful fall color, too.” One of his landscaping favorites, for that reason, is rusty blackhaw viburnum. “It has clusters of small, white flowers in the spring,” he notes. “The leaves are dark green and glossy in the summer and range from pink to red to dark purple in the fall. It’s beautiful from mid-spring to the first hard frost.”
He also favors desert willow and flowering dogwood. Garrett says that although this dogwood species’ natural habitat is East Texas, it can thrive in other areas, too. He adds, “It has spectacular spring flowers, and then red fruit develops over the summer that birds and other wildlife like to eat, followed by shiny, red seedpods that last over the winter.”
Garrett (aka The Dirt Doctor) also likes Texas madrones for the long-lasting punch they provide. “They have creamy-white blooms from February through April,” he says, “and a fleshy, edible fruit that forms from October to December. Even the bark is beautiful, ranging from white to orange to apricot and tan and even dark brick-red; it’s showiest in the winter.
“Kidneywood is also high on my list,” continues Garrett. “The blooms, which are most pronounced in late summer, range from pale yellow to white, and look light and lacy, similar to bottlebrush blooms. Not only are the flowers pretty, they’re very fragrant. Sometimes they begin blooming in May and continue through September.”
No matter what your preferences when it comes to blooming trees, enjoy watching for those first thrilling blossoms of the season. As common as this age-old ritual is throughout the world, it still inspires hope with the promise of new beginnings, and isn’t that what spring is all about?

By Eileen Mattei

Fort McKavett staff member Russell Tipton and others provide living history programs here. (Photo by Skeeter Hagler)“The prettiest post in Texas” is how General of the Army William Tecumseh Sherman described Fort McKavett in 1871. Still meriting Sherman’s designation 138 years later, Fort McKavett State Historic Site perches above the San Saba River in Menard County on a grassy hilltop. Its 16 completely restored, whitewashed-limestone barracks, hospital, and headquarters (several other buildings are partially restored or in ruins) comprise what has been called the best preserved, most intact example of a Texas frontier fort.
In the quiet that surrounds Fort McKavett, it’s easy to imagine bugle calls, the creak of saddlery, and the snort of horses. It looks like the 600 soldiers posted here and their families moved out only yesterday.
Fort McKavett was a link in a chain of frontier forts—including forts Chadbourne, Belknap, Mason and Phantom Hill—that protected Western travelers and settlers. Fort McKavett soldiers escorted wagon trains and mail coaches, scouted the region, and built roads and telegraph lines. Patrols of 15 to 25 soldiers rode out for several days to a few weeks at a time, sometimes skirmishing with hostile raiding parties, but never fighting in large-scale battles.

Built in 1852 by the 8th Infantry near the source of the San Saba River, and set on the San Antonio-to-El Paso road, Fort McKavett was originally named Camp San Saba. Soldiers quarried nearby stone and felled oaks for the fort, which was renamed for an officer in the Mexican-American War. Abandoned in 1859, when the region appeared peaceful, Fort McKavett was reopened in 1868, and rebuilt and expanded in 1869, by General Ranald Mackenzie’s troops when the Army resumed its protection campaigns after the Civil War.
The black troops of Fort McKavett’s Tenth Cavalry were the first to be called Buffalo Soldiers by the Comanches, in reference to their buffalo-like tenacity. Companies of all four Buffalo Soldier regiments were stationed at Fort McKa-vett during its heyday. The segregated units of Buffalo Soldiers did the same work and received the same pay and honors as their white peers. One African-American soldier stationed at Fort McKavett, Sgt. Emmanuel Stance, saved a wagon train under attack. For his bravery, Stance was awarded the Medal of Honor, the first African-American so honored after the Civil War.
A self-guided walking tour starts at the high-ceilinged post hospital, ingeniously ventilated by a system that draws cool air in from open windows and expels it through a long cupola. The interpretive center here uses photos and artifacts to present the routines of everyday life at the fort—hauling water barrels from Government Springs, preparing mounted patrols to ride out, unloading wagon trains from San Antonio (seven days away) piled with tobacco and other supplies.
The Dead House, or morgue, displays primitive medical equipment and describes concoctions laced with cocaine, opium, or morphine, which were used to treat illnesses.
Of the 16 historic structures that have survived, four are furnished as they would have been in the post’s later years.  
The view from the fort’s parade grounds has barely changed through the years—no power lines or communications towers intrude on the past.
When you visit the fort, be sure to explore the old cemetery, which lies a half-mile away. At its center, a grassy area without markers is the resting place of several soldiers, family members, and civilians that the Friends of McKavett identified from post records.
 Isolated now as then, Fort McKavett State Historic Site shares its unsullied night skies with amateur astronomers at star-gazing parties. Just think: Under the same view of distant stars, the soldiers of another century listened to the bugler playing “Taps.”

By Joel Salcido


Generations of cowboys frequent the Valley Family Store. (Photo by Joel Sallcido)This photo feature on Quitaque (pronounced kitty-quay), a Panhandle town about 40 miles east of I-27, between Amarillo and Lubbock, is the fifth in a series I’ve done for TH. I picked Quitaque because it’s a remote pinprick of a town in the middle of the vast Panhandle, and I thought it would be interesting to reveal the humanity of the place. After all, the bountiful rewards of living in or visiting a small town revolve mostly around the people you meet. They tend to be independent and opinionated.
If you pay attention, a rustic sign will eventually welcome you to Quitaque, population 400, give or take a few. The sign even tells you the local pronunciation: kitty-quay.

Main-Street Quitaque is ghostly. The storefronts—most of which date to the 1950s—on Texas 86 are mostly abandoned now. What’s really interesting, though, is that some of the display windows encase quirky museum-like exhibits, courtesy of the local women’s club, such as taxidermied coyotes and pyramids of high school trophies. However sleepy, Quitaque remains the unspoiled gateway to about 15,000 acres of stunning red sandstone and siltstone vistas that make up Caprock Canyons State Park.  The park’s unusual, 64-mile trailway traces a former rail line from South Plains (on the western end) to Estelline (on the eastern end) and attracts hikers, bikers, and horseback-riders. The park brings yet another cycle of life to Quitaque.
But there are plenty of personalities here already.
Ranching is still at the heart of Quitaque, and it’s not uncommon to see three generations of cowboys corralled up at the Valley Farm Store for a round of morning coffee and tall tales. Elder statesman Earl Patrick, perhaps Quitaque’s best-known yarn-spinner, holds court here on a regular basis. Catch him in a good mood, and he’ll likely brag about the accomplishments of his cousin C.L. Hawkins, who takes care of the majestic Texas State Bison Herd at Caprock Canyons State Park. Now numbering more than 60, these bison descended from the half-dozen bison bred by Charles Goodnight, perhaps the most famous rancher in Texas history, who in the 1870s brought cattle to the area and named the fledgling community Quitaque. According to one story, he believed “Quitaque” was the Comanche word for “end of the trail.”
Spend some time getting to know this tiny Panhandle town. Not only is it the gateway to the stunning panoramas and adventures of the Caprock canyons, but it’s also a window to a hardscrabble world where a handshake seals deals, a tall tale becomes reality, and hard work and ingenuity mean that life goes on.

“I’ve been shooting Roy for 17 years, and he hasn’t changed at all, he’s still Rick Schmidt’s right-hand man at Kreuz Market in Lockhart.”

I grew up in a grocery store in Amarillo. My dad and his brother took over the family business from their father when they returned from World War II. In 1962, when I was ten years old, I started going to work with Dad on Saturdays. I carried around a milk crate to stand on so I could work produce or bag groceries, my apron rolled up so I wouldn’t trip on it. The store was a marvelous place for a little kid, but the best part, the heart of it, was the meat market. Central Grocery was known around town for its fine meats, and the star of the operation was the butcher. The butcher was special: He didn’t sack groceries, run the register, trim the lettuce, or stock the shelves. The meat market was off limits to me—its floors were slick, the knives were sharp, and the butcher was not to be disturbed.

Photo by Darren Carroll

“It’s a logistical challenge. You’ve got to figure out a maximum number of species and habitats, and the shortest route to get them all.”

- Regular competitor Richard Gibbons, Ph.D. candidate at LSU

 

Horse trainer Robbie Boyce dashes through Dallas’ American Airlines Center arena during the Texas Stampede's patriotic show opener. Photo by Skeeter HaglerSweat, blood, guts, and glory. All of these words seem to go together when talking about a rodeo. And as the legend of the cowboy is so closely linked to Texas, so, too, is the rodeo tradition.
But in spite of its pop-culture perception as a Western creation, rodeo’s roots extend back centuries to vaqueros on Spanish-Mexican ranches, where competitions were a mixture of cattle-wrangling and bullfighting. (The Spanish word rodeo means “roundup.”)

Click to read a Web Extra interview with a rodeo clown.The American rodeo developed informally in the late 19th Century with cowboys celebrating the completion of cattle drives across hundreds of miles of vast, open land to various stockyards across the country. Cowboys from different ranches would challenge each other to see who was best at cutting cattle, throwing a rope, or riding a bull. Most likely, drinking and fighting were part of these early competitions, too.
Spectators would inevitably gather, and the modern-day rodeo was born. The town of Pecos claims “the [world’s] first public cowboy contest,” held in 1883, and the West of the Pecos Rodeo is still held there every summer.
As a young-pup photographer, one of my first “real” assignments was to cover the Texas Prison Rodeo in Huntsville. What an indoctrination to rodeo this was: Hardened criminals, given a taste of freedom, if just for eight seconds—with nothing to lose, and sometimes a stay in the comforts of the in-firmary to gain—put their all into each event. Under the ever-watchful eyes of guards, the cowboy convicts didn’t just compete in events, they attacked them with wild abandon.
From then on, I was hooked. Even though the rodeos I’ve seen since have proven somewhat tamer than the prison rodeo, they still embody everything American, everything Texan.

Of all the vaunted singer-songwriters who serenaded the Lone Star State with a rock-tinged country-and-folk sound when Austin was putting down its Live-Music-Capital-of-the-World roots in the 1970s, it is Jerry Jeff Walker who perhaps best wears the mantel of troubadour. Part Jack Kerouac, part Woody Guthrie, and part French Quarter busker, he is a music-poet in the truest sense. Even though he performs less frequently these days, Jerry Jeff still tells stories and sings songs that interpret the human condition with insight and soul. He reminds us why life is worth living.

By Marty Lange

San Antonio River Walk (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)The twelve days of Christmas are celebrated in widely diverse ways throughout the world, and in most cases, are actually the 12 days from Christmas to the Epiphany in January. In the spirit of a winter’s dozen here, we’ve selected a sampling of holiday fun and adventure, with the hope that you may have an epiphany of your own along the way. Join photographer Griff Smith as he showcases special seasonal events and attractions from Lubbock to San Antonio.
As our title suggests, the little West Texas town of Christoval holds its annual Christmas in the Park festivities on December 6, and the city of New Braunfels offers a variety of December highlights from Schlitterbahn’s Hill Country Christmas (November 28-January 4) to a Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk at Landa Park on December 13.
Here are 12 more promising places to fulfill your wish list. Potential trip itineraries abound during the whole month, with in­finite points of interest to investigate. Want more? See the rest of this issue, the quarterly statewide Texas Events Calendar, and www.texashighways.com. 254 counties. More than 268,000 square miles. Overwhelming? You bet. But for now, sit back, relax, and savor this splendid selection of inspirational images. Peace, prosperity, and happy trails in 2009!

By Kathleen Kaska

Columbus' historic town square. Photo by Skeeter HaglerWhenever I receive e-mails from my sisters in Houston laden with phrases like “stressed-out,” “fed-up,” and “can’t sleep,” I know we’re due for a weekend getaway. This time I invite my friend Ruth along, and the two of us head southeast from Austin for the historic town of Columbus, where we’ve arranged to meet my three sisters. With galleries and shops to peruse, restaurants to try, and an unusual cemetery tour awaiting us, we get an early start on Friday morning.

We’re due to check in at BlissWood B&B on the Lehmann Legacy Ranch. From the ranch entrance, we drive down a tree-lined lane to the century-old Lehmann House, one of 11 lodgings on the property.

We line out our plans for the afternoon and head into Columbus. Our first stop is the Stafford Opera House. Originally, the building housed the Stafford Bank on the first floor, and had a theater on the second floor. Today, local repertory groups stage monthly dinner shows in the original theater space from October to June. If you’re in town between performances, you can always visit the Opera House Museum on the first floor, where you’ll find the bank’s original vault and photographs of Columbus that date to 1869.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau is adjacent to the museum, so we pick up brochures and maps, including one for the Walking Heritage Tour, which leads us to the Colorado County Courthouse across the street.

A block away, on Washington Street, we discover the Mary Elizabeth Hopkins Santa Claus Museum. Hopkins collected more than 2,000 pieces of Santa memorabilia before her death in 1990, and today, her treasures delight visitors year round.

We stroll to the Turner-Chapman Gallery—a 150-year-old building that once housed Fehrenkamp Grocery—and find artist Ken Turner chatting with visitors about balancing career and family.

The day ends quickly, and we hit the road. Finding the Cross Road Tavern in the dark is surprisingly easy; cars line the road and the aroma of fried catfish fills the air. Famished, we fall into the buffet line and fill our plates with light, crispy catfish, crunchy coleslaw, and pinto beans.

On Saturday morning, ranch owner, B&B operator, and restaurateur Carol Davis arrives on a golf cart with three dogs aboard, ready to give us a mini-tour of the 650-acre spread. We collect two more carts (and two more dogs) and begin. Carol started purchasing the acreage 14 years ago, and since then has skillfully melded a working ranch and a B&B.

Back at the town square, we visit Over the Rainbow, an antiques consignment shop; Keyser’s Meat Market, where Kenny and Jo Ann Venghaus sell chopped beef sandwiches for $2.50 each; and a charming toy store called A-Trains Hobby Store. Down the street we find Calico Hens, a gift shop housed in the 1867 Montgomery House. After adding to our purchases—my sister finds a set of ceramic roosters for her kitchen, and I pick up a wrought-iron planter—we drive out to Odd Fellows Rest Cemetery for the Live Oaks for Dead Folks Cemetery Tour.

Bill Stein, the creator of this unusual attraction, has a talent for delving into the community’s past. The tour, in which citizens from the past “come alive to tell their stories,” has become an annual event the first weekend of November. We join a cluster of people at the entrance, where guides greet us with flashlights, divide us into small groups, and then lead us through the cemetery. We stop at a dozen or more gravesites, and at each one, we’re introduced to the resident “ghost,” who then begins his or her tale.

On Sunday morning, I start the coffee brewing and step out on the back porch. I find Christie, one of the ranch dogs, lounging under a tree. I want to do the same, and at that moment, I began planning my return trip to Columbus and Cat Spring.

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