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Written by Texas Highways

The spectacular cooks featured in our coverage of Texas holiday meal traditions also shared the secrets of their favorite dishes. Find inspiration in recipes ranging from Lou Lambert’s grilled beef tenderloin to Larry Delgado’s tamale tips and Ross Coleman’s black-eyed peas.

Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast in Marathon © E. Dan Klepper

In the coming weeks, families across Texas will gather to puzzle over index-card recipes, stir sticky pots, peer into ovens, and maybe mop up a spill or two. These annual gatherings with family and friends are perhaps the greatest tradition of the holidays—a chance to celebrate the season, reflect on the year past, and look forward to the year ahead. Love fuels this flurry of activity, and our shared heritage of home-cooked comfort provides a rallying point that everyone can embrace: the holiday meal.

Fresno Ranch

What: Fresno Ranch

Where: Big Bend Ranch State Park

When: Year-round

Between 2006 and 2013, writer, photographer, and artist E. Dan Klepper—a contributing editor for Texas Highways—lived on and off at the Fresno Ranch, a deserted tract of land in the Chihuahuan Desert. The 7,000-acre ranch—which was purchased by the state in 2008 and added to Big Bend Ranch State Park—contains a human history spanning centuries, including prehistoric camps, and Mexican and Anglo settler sites from the 19th- and early 20th–centuries. In Why the Raven Calls the Canyon, Klepper explores his fascination with this remote corner of the country and its sharp contrast to the urban routine. As a photographer, he was initially allured by the landscape’s rough, raw edges, but soon Klepper began to embrace the simpler, less complicated way of life. “I started this project with an insider’s vision of a particular place and time in the Big Bend, and ended up with a much deeper appreciation for the state’s wildest place,” he says. “I hope readers will too.”

Klepper will be signing copies of his books at the Texas Book Festival on Nov. 4-5, 2017 in Austin, in the Texas A&M University Press tent 1:30-4:30 p.m.

Target Marfa

What: Target Marathon

Where: US 90 between Marathon and Alpine

When: year-round

The Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway first reached Brewster County in the 1880s—turning this isolated spot into a shipping and supply point for area ranchers. Despite its stark beauty, the area remains one of the most unpopulated parts of Texas (the 2010 census counted only 1.5 people per square mile). Sometime in early 2016, the world’s smallest Target store quietly “opened” in a former railroad structure along US 90 west of Marathon—a nod to Prada Marfa near Valentine, perhaps. Unlike its high-end predecessor, no artist has come forward to claim this clever commentary on consumerism, so there’s no telling how long this quirky photo-op will remain. However, those who have ventured inside for a shopping spree report the tiny big-box store carries little more than a beehive and the occasional rattlesnake. Consider yourself warned.

Arborist Steve Houser examines the California Crossing tree, a pecan with a bent trunk that points to a low-water crossing in Dallas.

No historical marker indicates that this particular pecan tree near the grounds of the Texas National Guard Armory in northwest Dallas is special—just the fact that its trunk grows along the ground for about 25 feet before turning upward. Sometimes natural forces, such as ice storms, can bend trees into strange shapes like this. But for this pecan, its shape is no accident.

Astronaut Charlie Duke

Only 12 people have walked on the moon, and New Braunfels resident Charlie Duke is one of them. Duke became the 10th astronaut to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. It was a life-changing experience for Duke, who was the first person to collect moon rocks from the lunar highlands. And the 82-year-old still shares his observations frequently as a guest speaker at events across the globe.

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