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Written by Texas Highways

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The Lone Star State has long celebrated its Wild West history—the gritty pioneers, the proud Native Americans, and the hardened lawmen who fought to establish frontier law and order. Perhaps the most iconic symbol of justice in the wilderness, especially as mythologized by Hollywood, is the U.S. Cavalry charging forward on horseback to save the day. Commemorating the history and heritage of the African Americans among the Cavalry is the primary mission of the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston.

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Imagine yourself in Fort Stockton’s adobe Grey Mule Saloon, around 1894. Sidle up to the bar and order a shot of whiskey, but keep an eye out for trouble while you imbibe. Cowboys, sodbusters, and hot-headed gunslingers—drinking, smoking, cussing, gambling, and spoiling for a fight—pack this Wild West saloon.

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A busy work week behind us, my husband and I headed west from Fort Worth late on a Friday afternoon for a relaxing weekend of dining and
adventure in Brownwood. “You can eat chicken-fried steak here in Cowtown without driving 150 miles,” our confounded friends at home suggested.

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Although craft beer-making has flourished in Texas for decades now, the Big Bend region has been slow to benefit, only recently welcoming the arrival of a sustainable local brewery.

IMG 1561V2Most people think to visit Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in the spring, when Mother Nature rolls out her most outrageous show of color.

141109 1830If you’ve ever driven across the Sidney Sherman Bridge in East Houston, you’ve likely taken notice of the incredible sweeping views of the Houston Ship Channel. Located where Interstate 610 crosses the expanded Buffalo Bayou, the 135-foot-tall freeway overpass affords an urban panorama of one of the largest ports in the world.

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While the Texas Hill Country and the Panhandle have grown popular for wine touring, I’m here to make a case for a culinary-viticulture escape to the East Texas Piney Woods.

01-KLEPPER-BBRSP-STAR-PARTY-4A wide asphalt airstrip stretches 5,500 feet into the desert landscape toward a row of hills in the distance. I spread out a thick blanket and lie back for an unobstructed view of the sky in all directions. Not a single manmade structure or light source mars the darkness, only a mesmerizing number of twinkling stars.

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When most people think of canyons in the Big Bend, the large chasms come to mind: Santa Elena, Boquillas, Mariscal, and Colorado. I’ve seen all of these Rio Grande canyons—by raft—from Colorado Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park to the Lower Canyons below Big Bend National Park. Nothing beats drifting down the river and admiring the canyon walls towering above with the descending trill of a canyon wren sounding in my ears. However, as I’ve learned in my years of traipsing around the two parks, the region’s smaller canyons also have much to offer the adventurous traveler.

 

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When William Hennessy, a guide at Far Flung Outdoor Center in Terlingua, called me out of the blue with an idea for a Big Bend adventure, my interest was piqued.

Courtesy Texas State University School of Music

Texas State University will honor the legacy of San Marcos-born jazz pioneer Eddie Durham February 6 with the Eddie Durham Jazz Celebration. Born in 1906, Durham started his career in San Marcos with the Durham Brothers Orchestra. By the 1930s, he was writing, arranging, and performing big-band jazz for the likes of The Count Basie Orchestra and Glenn Miller. The free 7:30 p.m. event features a big-band concert and a talk by jazz historian Dan Morgenstern. On February 7, Texas State hosts the Hill Country Jazz Festival, culminating with a show by the Texas State Jazz Ensemble.

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Far from the battlefields of the Southeast, a little-known but influential chapter of the Civil War unfolded on the Texas-Mexico border as Rebels and Yankees fought for control of valuable cotton-trading routes. On February 28, developers of the new Rio Grande Valley Civil War Trail will celebrate the launch of the trail with a history symposium at UT-Pan American in Edinburg (free and open to the public). The trail offers a bilingual website, brochure, and podcasts that trace some 60 historic sites, such as the Port Isabel Lighthouse (above) and Palmito Ranch—site of the final Civil War land battle, which recognizes its sesquicentennial in May.

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