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"A Blessing for You"

Written by Kathleen Kaska.

If God dreamed of a hometown, it might look like Blessing, Texas, surrounded by acres of rich ranch land. This same thought may have crossed Jonathan Edwards Pierce’s mind when he established the town on his 200,000-acre cattle ranch near the Tres Palacios River in Matagorda County back in 1903. At a time when no roads led to this out-of-the-way place, Pierce and other settlers lobbied for railroads in order to build a cattle business. When word got out that the rail line was a done deal, Pierce was so grateful, he proposed to name the town Thank God. The U.S. Post Office rejected the name, and Pierce settled for Blessing.

The tracks were laid in 1905, the town site platted in 1907, and by 1914, Blessing boasted a population of 500 and had two churches, a library, hotel, bank, and weekly newspaper. Early on, Pierce had hired an architect from Victoria to build the two-story, clapboard hotel, which the rancher named the Hotel Blessing.

By the 1930s, the town boasted 22 businesses. Blessing grew to 1,250 in the mid-’60s (present pop. 861). The Hotel Blessing has maintained a toehold in the town’s economy, and after a restoration in 1978, it was entered in the National Register of Historic Places. Still in operation, the hotel is now owned by the Blessing Historical Foundation and overseen by Pierce’s great-great-grandson Lee Edward Pierce. “We recently added a new coat of paint and have plans for replacing the balcony,” says Lee Edward.

Nowadays, locals and passersby have two more things to be thankful for: the Hotel Blessing Coffee Shop and its owner, Helen Feldhousen. Since 1977, Helen has been serving home-style meals that would turn any grandmother green with envy. She and the gang begin working every morning at 6 a.m., and from 7:00 to 10:00 serve the best hot cakes, omelets, and bacon and eggs in Matagorda County. While the bacon sizzles on the grill, they prepare for the Blessing’s famous noon buffet.

Ed Bell, a local resident and retired businessman, has been a regular at the Blessing Coffee Shop since the mid-’70s. “I’m here three to five times a week,” Ed says. “Helen makes the best fried chicken and dirty rice I’ve ever eaten. To tell the truth, everything she cooks is wonderful, especially the peach cobbler and strawberry shortcake.”

On Mondays, Helen features chicken-fried steak and roast beef; Tuesdays, it’s fried chicken and sausage; Wednesdays, diners enjoy meat loaf and chicken-fried steak; Thursdays, it’s fried chicken, sausage, and Swiss steak; Fridays offer beef tips, enchilada pie, and fried catfish; Saturdays bring chicken-fried steak, fried chicken, and liver and onions; and every Sunday, it’s turkey, dressing, and all the trimmings. With the entrées comes a slew of veggies—corn, green beans, mixed greens, spinach, rice, potatoes and country gravy, yams, lima beans, black-eyed peas, broccoli—along with lettuce-and-tomato and other salads, dinner rolls, and cornbread. All that for $6.95. Oh, and there’s fruit cobbler and coffee or tea as well.

“We have regulars who come in several times a week,” Helen says, “but it’s always a surprise who’ll walk in the door—Nolan Ryan, Johnny Rodriguez, bikers out on a run. We even had a group visiting from Japan. We’re out of the way, but people usually find us.”

If Blessing’s not on your travel route, don’t worry. Helen spreads her culinary talents around the area. After putting the pots on to cook at the Blessing, she travels to three cattle-auction barns and feeds the two-legged animals perusing the paddocks. On Mondays, she cooks at Edna’s auction barn, Tuesdays at El Campo’s, and Wednesdays at Wharton’s. Fare at these establishments is home-style as well. If you’re at any of these locations during the morning hours, try the homemade cinnamon rolls and breakfast tacos. And if your business lasts until the wee hours, celebrate with a grilled T-bone.

Driving into Blessing via Texas 35 from Bay City to the north, or Palacios to the south, take Farm Road 616 to the center of town. The Blessing Hotel and Coffee Shop is a two-story, wooden building on the corner of 10th St. and Ave. B. Rooms rent for $30 a night and have AC, TV, and shared baths. Coffee shop hours: Daily 7 a.m.-2 p.m.; closed Christmas Day. Call 361/588-6623, or the hotel at 588-9579; www.hotelblessing.com.

At the livestock auctions, Helen starts serving around 9 a.m. and continues until the last bovine is sold or the food runs out (a rare occurrence). Just in case, call before you go. Edna Livestock Coffee Shop is 34 miles northwest of Blessing (1543 Texas 111 North; 361/782-7666; open on Mon.). El Campo Livestock Co. is 30 miles north of Blessing (Texas 71 South at Otis Rd.; 979/543-2703; open on Tue.). Wharton Livestock Auction is 41 miles north of Blessing (3230 N. Richmond Rd.; 979/532-3660; open on Wed.).

From the July 2005 issue.

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