Written by Texas Highways
Harlingen came to life in 1904 as a crossroads on the Arroyo Colorado, garnering the daunting nickname of “Rattlesnake Junction” because of the abundance of rattlers that greeted railroad workers. While Harlingen’s frontier past lingers in art and artifacts, today the town is better known for its expansive downtown murals, Rio Grande Valley culture, and a subtropical climate that invites you to slow down, smell the orange blossoms, and watch flocks of wild parrots swirl above the palms.
This December, when I string my lights and trim my tree and light my menorah, I have four new friends to help me ring in the holiday cheer. Four miniature ceramic figurines, to be exact. Dressed in wintry clothes and perched on patches of white faux snow, my people are all busily headed somewhere. One lady, clutching a bag of wrapped gifts with another under her arm, is “walking” so swiftly her scarf flies behind her.
We’ve been running for about 15 minutes—skipping over small boulders and sidestepping cacti that spike up from a trail winding the perimeter of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
They headed north from Cardwell Flats on April 1, 1866. Crockett Cardwell, who operated a trading post and stagecoach stop near present-day Cuero, had gathered some 1,800 rangy Texas Longhorns for trail boss Thornton Chisholm and a handful of cowboys to drive to a railhead at St. Joseph, Missouri, a journey that would take them seven months.
My family of 12 was once referred to as “a small country.” Growing up in a four-bedroom house in Houston with six sisters, four brothers, and two parents fostered close ties among my siblings. Our adult lives took us on different paths and to different places, so in the 1980s, I proposed our first “Sisters’ Getaway,” a weekend escape for us to get together in a small Texas town.
When the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum (or “Bush 43,” as it is called colloquially) opened on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas last year, it made Texas home to not one, but three presidential libraries.
Gentle, peach-toned light beams from a thin slice of roof hovering over the grass-covered pavilion on the campus of Houston’s Rice University. We approach the glow in pre-dawn darkness, dodging sprays from the lawn sprinkler.
It’s a typical Thursday evening in laid-back downtown Kerrville. From our bistro table in a niche between the wine shelves and bar, my wife and I watch the eclectic mix of locals and out-of-towners making themselves at home at Grape Juice.
These days, whenever I bump into someone from my hometown of Victoria, the conversation inevitably turns to Bloody Mary shrimp shooters. On the menu at the Pumphouse Riverside Restaurant & Bar, a hangout that is breathing fresh air into the culinary landscape of South Texas, these wee hybrids of a Bloody Mary and shrimp cocktail are tasty morsels that you savor in one spicy swig.
While the westernmost city in Texas may be outside the “day-trip zone” for many Texans, a trip to this border-bound metropolis is an experience as rewarding as Texas is wide. So saddle your horses and head west.
More and more I try to travel during the Christmas season. Even if it’s just a daytrip, I like to blast away from the clatter and take a few deep breaths somewhere the trees don’t have lights on them. I highly recommend any sort of outdoors getaway to urban dwellers overwhelmed by stress. A spare winter landscape regenerates the spirit like nothing else I know.