Written by Matt Joyce
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Texas schoolkid from the mid-1980s forward who doesn’t crack a smile at the mention of Hank the Cowdog. Hank, the self-assured yet blundering hero of John Erickson’s long-running Hank the Cowdog series, narrates his adventures as the self-appointed “head of ranch security” on a Panhandle cattle ranch.
Nolan Ryan doesn’t pitch much these days, unless you count the occasional honorary first toss, bits of sage advice for up-and-comers, and games of catch with his grandkids. But the legendary Texas fastballer keeps plenty busy with his business pursuits, drawing on the same energy and competitive spirit that made him a first-ballot Hall of Famer after he retired from a 27-year major-league career—including nine seasons with the Houston Astros and five seasons with the Texas Rangers—in 1993.=
From a rise overlooking this Hill Country valley, the elements that create Utopiafest’s celebration of music and place come into focus: A band rocks a stage to the cheers of a bobbing crowd. Nearby, mountain-bikers saddle up for a ride and disc-golfers navigate a rocky hillside course. Hemming the festival grounds, campers lounge around their tents in live-oak groves that stretch to the valley’s edge.
The Lone Star State was a little late to the national parks game, but as is our way, Texas jumped into the scene with a splash.
In the span of roughly one year, documentary filmmaker Lynn Boswell has hiked the Guadalupe Mountains carrying a camera tripod, rung the historic church bell at Mission Concepción, shed a tear at the moving spectacle of sea-turtle hatchlings scurrying into the surf at Padre Island, explored Big Thicket mushrooms, and boated Lake Amistad in search of prehistoric pictographs.
Dedicated road-trippers know that the greatest journeys enrich their final destinations—and sometimes even eclipse them. Famous sightseers from Robert Louis Stevenson to Jack Kerouac and Clark Griswold have shown us how an expedition’s pleasures and pitfalls make the entire experience all the more memorable.
Like most Texans, I grew up loving pork: bacon, bratwurst, ham, carnitas, chops, loin, hot dogs, baby-back ribs, breakfast patties, chorizo, and so on. But also like most people in this urbanized state, my primary contact with pork has been the plastic-wrapped products in grocery stores.
J.P. Bryan opened The Bryan Museum in Galveston in June 2015 to showcase his vast collection of artworks and historical artifacts. The founder and chief executive of Houston-based Torch Energy Advisers, Bryan has been collecting rare artifacts for decades.
It’s been a busy year for roadhouse rocker Joe Ely, the prolific songwriter, guitarist, and singer known for his captivating portrayal of the grit, despair, and romance of his native Texas, particularly the Panhandle region where he grew up. Born in Amarillo and raised in Lubbock, Ely has been an integral part of the Texas music scene since the 1970s and has performed with bands as diverse as the Clash and Los Super Seven.
Amid the hiss and hum of century-old machines, hat-makers steam, press, and sew felt and straw into headwear both fashionable and utilitarian at the Hatco factory in Garland. Their craft hasn’t changed all that much since the early 1900s, when American men would no sooner leave home without a hat than without their pants.
Before opening his restaurant Chicken Scratch in Dallas, Chef Tim Byres and a couple of friends made a five-day, 2,500-mile road trip across parts of the South and Midwest on a quest for chicken-fried inspiration.
In creating Utopiafest, Travis Sutherland and his partners set out to develop a music festival worthy of its picturesque Hill Country namesake and host. Taking place September 4-6 (Labor Day Weekend), the seventh-annual edition of Utopiafest features three days of music with about 25 diverse acts ranging from soul to bluegrass, rock, folk, hip-hop, and punk—all in a natural amphitheater with limited crowds.