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.
Shoppers browse clothing racks inside a 19th-Century drugstore. Diners feast in a repurposed post office that was built in 1910. Antiques hunters admire dozens of chandeliers hanging from the arched ceiling of a 1960 former church.
Instead of pigeon-holing Bastrop as a place to stop for a piece of pie and a poke around the shops, my husband and I arrive for a weekend visit to take a fresh look at Bastrop as a place for enjoying art and other handcrafted beauty. Hearing from friends that roughly a dozen art galleries now populate Bastrop’s historic downtown, we’re curious to find out whether this means one of our favorite Central Texas escapes deserves the designation of art destination. As soon as we walk inside the Lost Pines Art Bazaar, we think we’ve found an affirmative answer.
It is nearly dusk on the lower Guadalupe, one of those incomparable evenings when skies are clear, humidity is low and the only insects in sight are lightning bugs. The river is low and has been since the drought came along in ’05, and maybe that contributes to the blessed dearth of mosquitoes. But water flows deep enough for the handful of fly fishermen who have spread out along this stretch to get a hit every 20 minutes or so. They aren’t speaking—it’s not even clear if they’re together—and are too far away for me to hear the zzz-zzz-whoosh as they rhythmically cast their lines over and over. I can hear the burbling Guadalupe itself, but just barely.
The beauty of Mission wasn’t lost on Tom Landry. In his 1990 autobiography, the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach reflected on his Rio Grande Valley hometown, where he’s now memorialized in a colorful downtown mural.
Cat Spring must have seemed like a dream come true for the German immigrants who settled the community in the 1830s.
On a stormy night last May, a tornado packing winds of up to 200 mph cut through the North Texas city of Granbury, destroying dozens of homes and killing six people. When that tragic news reached me the next day, I had no doubt that Granbury would recover and come back even stronger. I had traveled to Granbury for the first time the month before the tornado, and it had taken only one visit to grow fond of the place, its people, and its spirit.
It’s a dicey proposition, living in a picturesque, easily accessible town in the Texas Hill Country—in my case, Boerne. On the one hand, our population swells significantly on temperate weekends, meaning we locals relinquish our usual haunts to the visiting hordes. Plenty of folks who start out as tourists come back to stay—enough to cause an 86 percent rise in population between 2000 and 2012. And though I was one of those latecomers, I was hoping like everyone else that they’d close the gates behind me.
The cowboy rides in from the West,
mulling stanzas, lines and words.
Winter delivers a fleeting rest
from the fences, trenches and herds.
Humble and independent in nature,
his friends are the horse and hawk,
But this trip is for a matter of culture,
to honor a special kind of talk.
Suspicious of the city and its business,
the cowboy girds himself for the crowd.
He wants to give personal witness,
to share his life with the world out loud.
The cowboys on Alpine descend,
the West Texas wind blowing and swirling.
They speak and they sing and they listen
at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Dripping Springs, my old friend, I thought I knew you. After years of rolling through town on US 290, I pegged Drippin’ as a no-nonsense farming and ranching community striving to preserve its “Gateway to the Hill Country” identity next door to Austin.
Imagine you’re a young soldier in the late 1800s, assigned to Fort Davis, a military post located in far West Texas. With a life expectancy of only 48 years (33 if you’re African American), you’ve got little spare time to ponder the inevitable. Besides, you’re too busy tending to the basics of military life—practicing drills, hauling water, taking care of the cavalry horses and other livestock, cutting wood for heat, escorting citizens across the Big Bend country, or fending off attacks by unfriendly Comanches. With little time left for anything else (except maybe an occasional binge at the local tavern), you’re definitely not sweating the small stuff. But however arduous and uncertain your life may be, it’s the small stuff that constitutes your greatest danger in the form of invisible germs, present everywhere in your unsanitary surroundings.
As you approach Ten Bits Ranch Bed and Breakfast on a dusty road that bumps and swerves through slanted hills and cliffs, the beaten path tapers away and it becomes apparent that you’re venturing into the remote badlands of the Chihuahuan Desert. Most signs of human development have already receded from the roadside as Texas 118 zips down from the relative metropolis of Alpine, leading to the Ten Bits turnoff.