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Written by Texas Highways

After the last great ice age, rugged limestone canyons protected the area's pockets of maples and ensured their survival. Sycamores add their own splendor to the maple display. (Photo © Lance Varnell)

As dusk settles over the campground, a faint chorus rises from the reed-fringed pond next to my tent. The sound gradually grows louder, high-pitched trills and chirps punctuated by occasional deep harrumphs and twangs. I crawl into my tent and fall asleep to this symphony created by amorous frogs and toads.

Excerpted and adapted from the book Living Witness: Historic Trees of Texas.  Text and photographs by Ralph Yznaga. reprinted with permission from A&M University Press ©2012; 800/826-8911

Share a photo of your favorite tree to win a copy of the book Living Witness: Historic Trees of Texas.

By Ralph Yznaga

The name Texas evokes dusty Spanish missions and cowboys resting beneath a sea of stars.  Texas’ myriad legends are based in both reality and myth, and the state’s mystique is partly due to the great variety of people who have called this land home, and—just as significantly—to the nature of the land itself. One impressive attribute of this land is the bounty of imposing trees.

Hollywood may have contributed to the popular misconception that Texas is treeless, but even in the starkest landscapes, like the plains of West Texas, trees are often the only identifiable feature. Elsewhere across the state, tall elms and pines, rustling cottonwoods, majestic live oaks, and stately pecans dignify a landscape of lonely deserts, arid mountains, whispering marshes, long beaches, and dense forests.

Texas’ trees have always been respected for the comfort they provide. Native Americans used them as landmarks, meeting places, and protection from harsh weather. The Spanish, French, and Mexicans established settlements among them, using their wood to build missions and forts.

Later, their wide boughs supported the homes and marked the homesteads of Anglo settlers. During conflicts, settlers used trees as mustering places and scouting nests. In peacetime, churches and courts held services and convened sessions beneath them, and their limbs were often the site of frontier justice.

More than five hundred years after Europeans first arrived in the Americas, some of the trees that were then seedlings or saplings re-main among us as silent witnesses to, or participants in, history. Today, it seems remarkable that you can stand under the same tree where Sam Houston gathered his small army to journey to San Jacinto. For me, learning the stories of these great trees and the lives of the people connected to them has been an exciting journey of discovery. I hope you enjoy learning their stories as much as I have.

They are also the last living witnesses to Texas’ unique story.

 (Photo © Daytripper with Chet Garner)

While Texas A&M University has made a sports move to the Southeastern Conference, College Station is still a truly Texan destination.  I headed into the heart of Aggieland to see what this maroon oasis had to offer.

This historic Galveston block combines neighborhood ambiance with a hint of New Orleans

The wide sidewalks in front of the Mod Coffeehouse invite passersby and local characters to take a few minutes for a conversation, or just to enjoy the neighborhood. (Photo © Sarah Kerver)

 By Charles Lohrmann

One of the reasons I enjoy sleeping in the Harbor House Hotel, a converted wharf warehouse on Galveston’s touristy Pier 21, is that, when I’m able to claim a room overlooking the channel, I can watch the ships glide past at all hours. This scenario evokes a sense of the world in motion and even a glimpse of a foreign port from one vantage point. Also, at the Harbor House, I can indulge my occasional preference for the port side of Galveston, in contrast to the beachy scenes across the island. And, even more importantly, the historic business district is just a few steps away.

One morning not too long ago, I took a few minutes to stroll from the Harbor House and Pier 21 over to the nearby cruise terminal to observe the sociological melee that unfolds as cruise returnees scramble off the ship. I see couples clutching straw bags, corralling luggage, and making their way out to an idling cab. Nearby cluster the oddly mismatched groups, comparing notes on experiences of the past few days. And always, a steady stream of vacationers making their way across the street to the Starbucks.

After a few minutes of theorizing about the cruise customers, I decide on an alternate coffee plan that directs me away from the now-crowded Starbucks and through historic streets to the 2100 block of Postoffice. There, I chart a course for the Mod Coffeehouse, which serves a stretch of the neighborhood that’s living up to its historic atmosphere, but in a neighborly way. I find more of the local characters who make their home in Galveston. And a fair number of them end up at the Mod at some point during the day. Many get their morning jolt of caffeine here, and I am glad to join them.

The Mod serves as a convenient starting point for any excursion to historic Galveston. Not only because the coffee’s good and the setting is relaxing, but also because this coffeehouse anchors a block of the neighborhood that shares what’s best about the venerated Strand area: good food, quirky retail operations, friendly people, and historic architecture. I determine the final mix of the experience according to my mood, but the ingredients are all here. On a sunny morning, the Mod can lure me in for a lengthy visit. Typically, preferring coffee only, I don’t consider any breakfast options, but move outside where I can monitor the street’s pedestrian traffic as I enjoy a latte.

I enjoy remembering the day I rediscovered the 2100 block. I was following a recommendation for a good bowl of gumbo and made a beeline for the Gumbo Bar, near the opposite end of the street from the Mod, and next to the Stork Club on the corner. The Gumbo Bar’s shotgun space offers a row of tables with a banquette on one side and a bar across the aisle. I made my way to a back table where I could watch the visitors.

I didn’t have any place I had to be, so an icy cold ale hit the spot, in anticipation of a half-dozen oysters. No better way to make your lunch special. On this day, I chose the prime-rib gumbo, and it was extremely tasty. And note that the Gum-bo Bar prides itself on its flexibility. One customer requests fish only in her gumbo and the chef obliges.

As I enjoy my gumbo lunch on this trip, a few more diners amble in. One towering, yet rotund fellow, appearing as if he might be a retired NFL lineman dressed for a business trip to the Yucatan, takes a seat and gestures to a waitress who, within a couple of minutes brings him a mega bowl of gumbo, which kind I didn’t find out, and a dozen oysters. He seems like a Magazine-street character from one of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels. Other customers mention the beer selection, the wine list, and the variety on the menu. For me, the Gumbo Bar is all about the gumbo and the people-watching.

On this afternoon, I retire to the Mod for an after-lunch latte and additional people-watching. But not before making a stop into The Witchery, a fascinating retail operation right in the middle of the block, proclaiming “metaphysical books and gifts.”  Browsing for a few minutes, I find a particularly compelling book titled Spells for Men, which I’m convinced would be extremely useful, but perhaps some other time. In one of the curtained back rooms, a psychic awaits a customer, which is not to be me.
But it keeps a hint of New Orleans alive in the neighborhood.

Abandoning the Mod, I take a few steps to the Rene Wiley Studio and Gallery next door, and enjoy the truly friendly ambiance I’ve come to expect on the street. I am drawn in by the bright watercolors of Galveston’s local scenery, and by the watchful-but-friendly gallery dog who keeps me company as I examine the pictures. Across the street, Designworks, another easygoing and relaxed gallery, displays the work produced by members of a multi-artist cooperative, including modestly scaled sculptural pieces and jewelry.

On another evening, with the intention of returning to Postoffice, I initiate a mission to compare the gumbo at the Black Pearl, a few blocks away at 23rd and Market streets, with that of the Gumbo Bar. At about six on a weeknight, the bar and tables bustle with local folks noisily enjoying happy hour. From my seat at the bar, I order what I expect to be a cup of gumbo and a half-dozen oysters. As soon as the server suggests that a full dozen oysters cost only a nickel more than the half dozen, I know the gumbo taste test is off for the evening: Not only because I double the number of oysters, but also because the cup of gumbo is the size of a normal bowl.

Despite the boisterously friendly atmosphere and the surprising value presented by the Black Pearl’s happy hour, I conclude that I prefer the gumbo at the Gumbo Bar, not only for the variety, but also because the Gumbo Bar’s roux seems richer, darker, and spicier.

There’s more that continues to draw me to the microculture of Galveston in the 2100 Block of Postoffice.The Opera House sits in the next block, only a few doors away, and always offers performances worth considering. There’s the Sky Bar, next to the Gumbo Bar, with its tempting combination of steak and sushi. And the Stork Club on the corner, also recommended for its food. 

I might let established habits win out and stick with the gumbo. But next time I might visit the psychic and my future will be changed.

See Full Article in the December 2011 issue.

An authentic Old West town brings together history, food, and culture

Built in 1873 as a saloon catering to cattle drovers, Saint Jo’s first building now houses the Stonewall Saloon Museum. Next door, the Lazy Heart Grill serves lunch and dinner. (Photo by Randy Mallory)

By Randy Mallory

On many trips through North Texas on US 82, I’ve always seen Saint Jo as a diamond in the rough. The tiny town occupies a spot at the crossroads of two important 19th-Century trade routes, the California Road and the Chisholm Trail. But over the decades, the Old West charm largely had faded from the century-old buildings facing the square.

That’s different now, as my wife, Sallie Evans, and I discover on a delightful weekend poking around Saint Jo and surrounds.

We start our busy visit by checking in early at the Texas Kings Hotel, where we’re greeted by innkeeper Tom Weger. Ten years ago, Tom, his wife Kristy, and their family transformed two adjacent 1870s and early 1900s buildings into this boutique hotel.

Five large, upstairs guestrooms are furnished with antiques and boast original pressed-metal ceilings and beaded-wood walls. Sallie and I stash our bags in the “Outdoor Room,” once a doctor’s office, and check out a display of fishing rods and lures. Down the hall, we peek into Saint Jo’s former Masonic Lodge, now a spacious, comfortable gathering room that looks like an old saloon, where we ask about the hotel name, Texas Kings. “It refers to the kings of our economy—cattle, cotton, and oil,” explains Tom Weger. “Saint Jo has a rich history, and a good place to start exploring it is across the square at the Stonewall Saloon Museum.”

We take his tip and stroll across the square, past a tree-shaded gazebo and pickups parked where 19th-Century trail-hands tied up their horses. I push open the mu-seum’s swinging doors Clint Eastwood-style, with a little swagger in my step.

In 1873, town co-founder Irb Boggess erected the town’s first building to serve the needs of drovers moving Longhorns on the Chisholm Trail. Today, the building has been restored and showcases area history with photos of 19th-Century cowboys, vintage chaps, branding irons, and trophy deer mounts. Poker tables and bar chairs are scattered across the wooden floors, and a 1908 vault in back speaks to the building’s later days as a bank. I belly up to the antique bar and imagine myself ordering a shot of whisky from a salty barkeep.

Historian Janis Sneed shows us a mural of flowers and a blue stage curtain uncovered beneath multiple layers of paint during restoration. Workers reproduced it with fresh colors, leaving part of the original intact.

Our rumbling stomachs call out for lunch, so we mosey next door to the Lazy Heart Grill, which owners Jack and Debby Schoppa opened last year in two restored 1890s structures. Jack shows us a heart-shaped branding iron used by three generations of his family. Jack’s cattle have been branded with the heart on its side, hence the restaurant’s name, Lazy Heart. After a hearty meal of chicken fajitas and chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes—followed by slices of coconut-cream and white-chocolate-strawberry pie—we’re ready to continue exploring.

We spend the afternoon perusing establishments on the square’s largely refurbished Main Street side.

A sign saying “Custom Boots, C.T. Chappell Prop.” draws us inside a century-old former drugstore. There we find proprietor and master bootmaker Carl Chappell amid a sea of leather, antique stitching machines, and custom-made boots in various stages of construction. He’s busy teaching his craft to aspiring bootmaker Janneman Pienaar, who came from his current home in Washington State “to learn from the best.”

Chappell, a third-generation bootmaker, can’t remember how many bootmaking contests he’s won, but he’s glad to pass along his craft wisdom; he has trained more than 150 bootmakers in the last 17 years. His skills are in such high demand that a pair of custom boots may take three years from order to delivery (and cost thousands of dollars).

A few doors down, we find Western art at Davis & Blevins Gallery, a former 1880 hardware store that now showcases the work of noted artist Donna Howell-Sickles and 20 or so other contemporary artists. Howell-Sickles moved to Saint Jo in 1995 and soon transformed a former church into her studio. Donna and her husband, John, restored the gallery space a few years ago and have plans to move this fall to larger quarters next door.

I recognize Howell-Sickles’ signature style—awash with reds, umbers, and oranges—depicting cowgirls riding horses, herding cattle, and playing with ranch dogs. “Having grown up on a Texas ranch,” she says, “I try to tell the real story of Western women.” Her work has garnered national recognition and induction into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth.

Sallie and I drive six scenic miles north on FM 677 through high hills to Arché Winery, where owners Howard Davies and Amy Sterling, along with their son, Grayson, grow 12 acres of red and white grapes—including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, chardonnay, and roussanne. They welcome us to a cozy tasting room inside the winery, where we sample a delightfully floral roussanne reserve with notes of honey and tropical fruit. It’s so delicious that we buy a bottle to enjoy later. Outside, picnic tables beckon, but we have dinner reservations at a nearby restaurant called Ancient Ovens.

Inspired by communal dining experiences they’d enjoyed in Italy, owners Denis and Susan Moody built two massive, wood-fired brick ovens, one outside and one inside a native-stone dining lodge, just steps from their rustic hilltop home. As the sun sets, a cool wind rises, so we join 70 other guests at the lodge’s long plank tables for a fixed-menu feast.

We start with artisan sourdough bread, served with a rich spinach-and-artichoke dip. Next comes Susan’s signature Italian Teardrops, wonton wrappers stuffed with olives, cream cheese, and spices. Dozens of different thin-crusted pizzas follow, topped with all manner of meats, vegetables, and sauces. For dessert, we savor a calzone oozing with molten dark-chocolate-and-hazelnut filling, then toast to an unusual, community-focused evening.

Heading back to the Texas Kings Hotel—where we spend a quiet, relaxing night—we feel satisfied, not only because of the hearty food and wine, but also because there’s now a definite luster on the old diamond that is Saint Jo, Texas.

 In a restored 1890s building on Main Street, the Fredericksburg Brewing Company showcases its gleaming copper and stainless steel brewing kettles in the dining room. (Photo by Kevin Stillman)  

By Rob McCorkle

Savvy brewers, beer aficionados, and discerning diners have turned what a decade ago was merely a novelty—the brewpub—into a full-fledged, taste bud-tingling phenomenon replete with fresh, artisanal brews and sophisticated cuisine. The Texas boom in craft brewery-restaurant combos can be enjoyed today from Amarillo to South Padre Island.

These aren’t your daddy’s beer joints serving mass-produced beer and subpar “pub grub.” Not by a long shot.

The Lone Star State’s beer Dark Ages ended in 1993, when lawmakers gave restaurant owners the nod to brew and serve their own ales and pilsners on-site. Today, Texas brewpubs number 29 and counting, according to Southwest Brewing News.

Since many of them operate in German-settled, Central Texas communities, that’s where my wife, Judy, and I headed to get a taste of the action.

Fredericksburg Brewing Company

It’s a warm afternoon when I meet up at the brewpub to chat with brewmaster Rick Green while Judy hits the shops. Fredericksburg Brewing Company, which opened on Main Street in 1994, reigns as the state’s oldest brewpub. The space evokes an international feel: Hundreds of foreign flags dangle from the ceiling, an elk mount hangs over a rustic stone hearth, and German sayings such as Das bier! and Hier Wird mit, Liebe Gekocht advertise the beer choices and proclaim, “Here with love, we cook.”

Green brings me a pint of the seasonal, caramel-colored Balanced Rock Maibock, while he sips the dark, sweet Pioneer Porter. The porter, along with the Peace Pipe Pale Ale and my favorite, Enchanted Rock Red Ale, flow year-round from the brewpub’s six taps. Green’s copper and stainless-steel brewing vessels, which are on view inside the restaurant, produce seasonal varieties to round out the establishment’s beer selection. 

Green imports German hops and malt for his German-style brews, such as the award-winning Helles Keller beer and the perennially popular Oktoberfest, as befits the city’s Teutonic heritage. The restaurant’s chef even incorporates beer into several dishes, such as Oma’s Meatloaf and the cheddar ale soup.

That evening, I return with Judy for dinner. Judy chooses the Sausage Sampler (using locally made knackwurst, bratwurst, and pepperwurst), with red cabbage and sauerkraut, along with a glass of pinot grigio from Messina Hof, which just opened a winery in town. I opt for another mellow maibock, along with the Uberbacken Schweineschnitzel, a pork chop stuffed with cheeses, bell peppers, and mushrooms, with an apple-cider cream sauce. Crisp onion rings and tangy red cabbage prove perfect side dishes.

Sated, we need only climb a flight of adjacent stairs to take advantage of the brewpub’s “Bed and Brew” promotion in its adjoining 12-room bed-and-breakfast. The tropical décor of the Admiral’s Suite pays homage to World War II Pacific Fleet commander Chester A. Nimitz, a native of Fredericksburg.

 The Dodging Duck Brewhaus, Boerne

Boerne’s 10-year-old brewpub practically named itself when owners Keith and Chandra Moore witnessed the feathered denizens of Cibolo Creek braving River Road traffic to visit their restaurant, bar, and brewery. Today, the Dodging Duck Brewhaus offers beers and eclectic cuisine in a wood-frame bungalow that dates to the early 1900s. An expansive front deck offers al fresco seating, as well.

“In 2002, we used to have people stop by and ask for a Miller Lite, Coors, or Bud Light,” Keith Moore says. “Many would say they’d never tried a craft beer before, but not anymore.”

Moore keeps four beers on tap at all times, rotating special beers as the season dictates. This fall, you should move quickly to get a glass of the popular Oktoberfest before it’s tapped out, but you will always find his hoppy, slightly bitter IPA (India Pale Ale) on draught. 

We head to the L-shaped bar for a sample, and the bar manager serves us small glasses of the day’s offerings. The almost-opaque Luckenbacher Hefeweizen, a Bavarian-style wheat beer, tickles my taste buds with just a hint of banana.

For lunch, Judy orders the Philly cheesesteak on a jalapeño-cheese sourdough bun and a side of sweet potato fries. I go with the succulent beef tenderloin medallions served with a spicy Argentinean chimichurri sauce. A generous portion of sautéed vegetables and brown rice complete the hearty offering.

The Faust Hotel & Brewing Company, New Braunfels

“You Don’t Have to Go Home. You Can Stay Here,” reads the Faust Hotel’s marquee. We decide to take this advice during a recent visit to find out how the revamped Faust Hotel & Brewing Company is faring after a recent renovation.

A lively Wednesday clientele quaffing to the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar player in the enclosed beer garden shows all is well. In fact, veteran brewmaster Ray Mitteldorf has already pocketed two silver medals at the prestigious World Beer Championships for his German-style Oktoberfest and Altered States ale.

I sip a pint of Altered States, and the malty brew upholds its reputation, proving smoky and smooth on the palate. “I brew pretty much everything, from pilsners to Oktoberfest to chocolate stout,” explains Mitteldorf, who makes three varieties available daily.

The Faust Brewing Company’s extensive menu features everything from soups and salads to German nachos, crab cakes, and pulled-pork tacos. Cozied up to the handsome, antique bar, Judy and I share an order of dumplings stuffed with potato, cheddar cheese, and jalapeños and served over crispy onion straws. Next, we dig into the brewpub’s highly touted kartoffelchips—thin, lightly salt-ed potato chips dipped in beer-cheese sauce. It’s hard to stop eating the subtly tangy morsels, but entrees await.

Judy can’t resist ordering a tapas plate of shrimp prepared with garlic butter, diced tomatoes, and Parmesan; and I tuck into the Faust Wellington, a juicy bratwurst wrapped in puff pastry, served over a bed of sautéed onions and topped with sauerkraut.

To satisfy my sweet tooth, I finish my meal with a slice of deep-fried cheesecake sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with caramel. 

Later, as we drift to sleep in our cozy room upstairs, I wonder if we’re sharing our quarters with the benign ghost of hotel namesake Walter Faust Sr. On my next visit, I’ll have to try Walter’s Ghostly Pale Ale, the libation named for him.

See full article in the October 2012 issue.


By Nola McKey

 (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)In the days before stainless steel canisters and plastic milk jugs—and easy access to ice—our ancestors relied on stoneware for food storage, as well as for many other household needs. The demand for this strong, high-fired, nonporous pottery, along with the expense of importing it from other areas of the country, prompted the opening of numerous Texas potteries in the last half of the 19th Century. Many of these enterprises opened along the Wilcox Formation, a band of clay that stretches northeast across the eastern half of the state.

Three of these sites, known collectively as the Wilson Potteries, operated in Guadalupe County, near Capote, southeast of Seguin. Today, their history has inspired an archeological dig, a museum exhibit, and a family’s mission.

The story begins with JohnMcKamey Wilson Jr., a Presbyterian minister from North Carolina who brought his family to the Seguin area in the winter of 1856-57. He established a pottery, known as the J.M. Wilson Pottery, on Salt Creek in 1857.

“John McCamey Wilson never threw a pot in his life,” notes Wilson Potteries expert Richard Kinz, a surveyor and former archeological steward with the Texas Historical Commission in Guadalupe County. “But he had his slaves trained by some experienced potters who came through the region. They taught the slaves how to throw pots and apply glazes. Of course, not long after this, the slaves became free.”

Accounts differ as to details, but around 1869, the potters at the original site relocated to two nearby sites. Most authorities say that one site was run by Marion J. Durham (a white man) and John Chandler (a black man), both of whom had come to Texas from South Carolina, where their families were well known in the stoneware industry. (Durham and Chandler may have been employed by Reverend Wilson earlier.) The other site was run by former slaves—Hiram, James, and Wallace Wilson. (Hiram, the oldest, was the owner.) Although all three men took the Wilson name after Emancipation, it’s not known whether they were close-ly related or only slave-brothers.

Their business, known as the Hiram Wilson Pottery—the first recorded African-American enterprise in Texas—produced utilitarian stoneware with distinctive designs. For example, the handles on some of the storage jars were horseshoe-shaped and smaller than those on jars produced at the original Salt Creek site. Another distinctive feature was that the vessels were always stamped “H. Wilson & Co.” (an unusual practice at the time). “Today,” says Richard Kinz, “stoneware with that mark is highly collectible and sells for hundreds—sometimes thousands—of dollars.”

The Hiram Wilson Pottery thrived until shortly after Hiram’s death, in 1884. An article in the Fall 1999 issue of Heritage states that James and Wallace Wilson then went to work at the Durham-Chandler site, which remained in business until 1903. The article’s authors, Marie Blake, Steve Johnson, and Richard Kinz, sum up the significance of the Wilson Potteries: “These sites provided vessels such as crocks, jars, and jugs for food storage and preservation in South Central Texas for 56 years. The men who worked these sites were white and black, and were bound together in a tradition that survived slavery and the Civil War.”

Abandoned for decades, the Wilson Potteries were formally recorded as archeological sites in 1971. The story might have ended there, except for Richard Kinz’s interest. While doing a survey for a local landowner several years ago, he became intrigued with the potteries when he found some pottery shards.

By digging in county records, Richard discovered a partition deed that showed Wilson descendants still had a claim on the Durham-Chandler-Wilson Pottery site. He contacted some family members, and in 1998, some of the descendants formed the Wilson Pottery Foundation, which now holds the deed to the five-acre site.

Interest among family members is high: More than 600 attended last June’s Wilson family reunion in Seguin, some having come from as far away as Germany and Japan. The foundation plans to restore the pottery as a living museum so people can learn about the family legacy and see how the pots were made.

In October 2002, with a small grant from the Texas Historical Commission for fencing, Richard (who likes to call himself “Keeper of the Kilns”) began the physically demanding work of excavating the overgrown site.

The Wilson Potters: An African-American Enterprise in 19th-Century Texas, was an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston that focused on the establishment of a pottery industry in 19th-Century Texas, and included nine pieces of H. Wilson & Co. pottery, as well as pieces from other early Texas potteries.

Other examples of Wilson pottery have been on display in San Antonio, at the Institute of Texan Cultures (pieces on loan from the Witte Museum collection), and in the Seguin-Guadalupe County Heritage Museum.  

 See full article in the October 2002 issue.


Just as with wine, lighter beers tend to complement light-tasting foods, while more flavorful, full-bodied beers suit more substantial meals. Try a bock or a hearty ale with this tasty Zwiebel Kuchen (onion quiche). (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)In the October 2012 issue, writer Rob McCorkle takes readers on a Central-Texas brewpub trek. We’re intrigued by beer’s populatity both as a beverage and as an ingreient in food: Beers that are light in style (pilsners and wheat beers, for example) complement lighter-tasting foods, but also serve as the perfect foil for things like fried chicken and Tex-Mex. Darker, heavier beers go well with steaks, sausages, and other substantial foods—and even chocolate. Beer used in cooking often takes advantage of beer’s tenderizing qualities, and also of its mild leavening effect, thanks to the yeast used in brewing. Of course, a good beer also adds flavor. Here’s a tried-and-true onion quiche (zwiebel kuchen) recipe from the Fredericksburg Brewing Company.

Zwiebel Kuchen (Onion Quiche)

  •  1 unbaked 10” pastry shell
  • 6 oz. bacon
  • 3 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 T. butter
  • ¼ cup bock beer
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. each mustard seed, caraway seed, and rosemary
  • pinch each white pepper and cayenne pepper
  • 6 oz. grated Jarsberg cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ c. half-and-half

 Bake pastry at 375 degrees until half done (about 10 minutes). Brown bacon, crumble, and set aside; save bacon grease for another use or discard. Sauté onions in butter until translucent. Add beer and seasonings to saucepan, then reduce over low heat until no liquid remains. Cool. Combine onions and cheese; place in pastry shell. Mix eggs and half-and-half, pour over onion-cheese mixture, and top with bacon. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until set in the center.

A great egret fans out its showy plumes at Ruby Lake. The 15-acre lake provides a home to more than 17 species of birds. (Photos by Nathan Lindstrom)

It all started with a story. British author James Hilton’s 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, told of a nirvana tucked away in the Himalayan heights, mysteriously filled with promise of peace, harmony, and other unearthly ideals. He called it Shangri-La. The name and fantasy caught on, going viral from Hollywood to the White House. Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt played characters seeking the promises of Shangri-La in Frank Capra’s 1937 movie Lost Horizon. President Franklin D. Roosevelt named the presidential retreat Shangri-La (since renamed Camp David). And in a far corner of the Southeast Texas coastal plain, philanthropist H.J. Lutcher Stark plowed some of his family fortune into creating a haven of flowers and forest he called Shangri-La, opening it to the public in 1946.

See related: Quanah Parker Trail

The Quanah Parker Trail is a project of the Texas Plains Trail Region, a participant in the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Heritage Trails program. Each site on the Quanah Parker Trail will be marked with a 23-foot arrow and a monument describing a connection to Comanche chief Quanah Parker.

The Hardeman County Historical Museum is at 105 Green St. in Quanah. Call 940/663-5272 or visit 102 Mercer St. to arrange a tour.

Red’s Drive In is at 103 E. 11th in Quanah. Call 940/663-5087.

For details about the Downtown Medicine Mound Museum, in the old Hicks-Cobb General Store building, see 

Copper Breaks State Park is at 777 Park Road 62, between Quanah and Crowell. Call 940/839-4331.

The Foard County Historical Museum/Fire Hall Museum is at 116 N. Main St. in Crowell. Limited hours and no phone; email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Gentry’s Country Store is at 101 S. Main in Crowell. No phone; generally open daily.

The Longhorn Ranch Steakhouse (open Fri. and Sat. for dinner only) is 10 miles west of Crowell at 5315 US 70.  Call 940/655-3444.

To reach the marker commemorating Cynthia Ann Parker’s recapture in 1860, turn east on FM 3103 from Texas 6 between Crowell and Quanah and travel 4.5 miles. Continue east on FM 98, turn north on CR 246, then go east on CR 231 for one mile. The marker is on the north side of the road.

The Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus is on 4187 FM 654, about 14 miles southwest of Crowell. Call 940/684-1670.

Bob’s Oil Well is at US 70 and Texas 70 in Matador.

The Scurry County Museum is at 6200 College Ave. in Snyder. Call 325/573-6107.

To find the monument to the Battle of Adobe Walls, travel 24 miles north from Borger on Texas 207, turn east on FM 281 at the green sign, and go another 15 miles to the monument.  For more details, call the Hutchinson County Historical Museum, 806/273-0130.

The U-Drop Inn is at 105 E. 12th St. in Shamrock. Call 806/256-2501.

To see items belonging to Quanah Parker and his family, visit these spots:

In Claude, the Armstrong County Museum (120 N. Trice St.) displays a beaded purse that belonged to one of Quanah Parker’s wives. Call 806/226-2187.

In Tulia, the Swisher County Archives & Museum (127 SW 2nd St.) displays a robe worn by Quanah Parker during peyote ceremonies. Call 806/995-2819.

In Canyon, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum (2503 4th Ave.) features one of Quanah Parker’s headdresses on rotating display. Call 806/651-2244.

50 51 CattleStanding on a rock ledge looking south over the Pease River Valley in the Texas Panhandle, it is easy to understand why the Comanche loved this country.

 Slow down and savor East Texas’ dreamscape of autumn splendor

Photographer Joe Lowery happened upon this idyllic autumn mix of pines and oaks along a side road off of FM 23 in Cherokee County. (Photo by Joe Lowery)

See related: East Texas Autumn

 By Joe Lowery

In the part of East Texas I call home, there are at least as many miles of country roads as there are official highways. Some of these byways have stripes and some don’t; some are paved and some aren’t. But they all weave a wonderful web through the Piney Woods, one of the prettiest regions of the state.

As a photographer for Texas Highways for more than 15 years, I have spent a lot of time wandering woods, hiking trails, and climbing hills to capture images, but I’ve found that some of the most beautiful views and vistas can be enjoyed from the comfort of a car. I’m often asked how I found a certain scenic location, and how difficult it was to reach the spot. While I have a few adventurous tales to share, for the most part photography is about slowing down long enough to see what we normally rush past. And I don’t dismiss the joy in wandering; many of my favorite images were taken when I was lost.

I live in Angelina County, close to Angelina and Davy Crockett national forests, both webbed by backroads that come alive with autumn hues, usually from late October to early December. The season’s splendor varies depending on the weather, and, unlike the riotous bursts of color in other parts of the country, Texas’ fall color comes and goes quietly with understated elegance.

In my autumnal exploration of the area, I make a point to visit Daingerfield State Park in Morris County, where the brilliance of sweetgum, southern red oak, red maple, and other tree species is reflected in the namesake lake. Another favorite spot is Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area, off Texas 7 between Lufkin and Crockett in Houston County, where cypress radiate orange against water and sky, sometimes through Thanksgiving. (The recreation area is temporarily closed—see Essentials.) And photographs hardly do justice to Boykin Springs Recreation Area near Zavalla, with its painterly mix of longleaf pine and hardwoods. The six-inch pinecones alone are worth the trip.

Some days, just to check on the progress of fall color, I take a half-day drive through a variety of East Texas landscapes, ranging from creeks in Houston County to gentle hills in Cherokee County. (Two reliably scenic legs of the loop are FM 227 out of Ratcliff and FM 23 south of Rusk.) And I always look forward to the maples—which glow lemon yellow, then orange—on FM 343 east of Rusk.

I’ll let the photos on the following pages further speak to the glory of autumn in East Texas. My rule for this story is that I had to be photographing within sight of my car, so there’s no excuse: Take a road trip, slow down, and enjoy the fine fall show.

See full story and more fabulous fall photos in the October 2012 issue.

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