One of Texas’ greatest sportsmen never played a down at Cowboys Stadium. He never took the field with the Rangers or Astros. He didn’t win a championship with the Stars or Spurs, or electrify crowds in college sports or the Olympics.
I noticed something strange as I drove down the tree-lined country road wending south from US 290 toward the bucolic town of Round Top. Though I’ve made this trip dozens of times, today there was one striking anomaly: The time-worn number “77” indicating the town’s population on the city-limits sign had been repainted to read “90.”
We Texans love to celebrate our heritage in creative ways, and we go so far as to designate special routes that commemorate important events in our state’s past. Among them, the Independence Trail follows our struggle to statehood, leading us from the Brazos River bottomlands to the Alamo in San Antonio, and the Forts Trail traces historic settlements on the edge of the Texas frontier. Our trails also celebrate the progress of early influential personalities like Comanche Chief Quanah Parker and statesman Sam Houston, who—along with other notable figures including lawmen, pioneer women, Buffalo Soldiers, and vaqueros—deserve recognition for their unique contributions to Texas and what it is, as well as what it represents, today.
It’s a late afternoon at Club Westerner, an 84-year-old dance hall in Victoria, and musicians with The Scott Taylor Band are setting up their instruments for the night’s show. The sounds of tuning guitars and microphone checks bounce off the walls, just as they have for decades. In the hours to come, dancers will fill the historic hall, absorbing the country music and skimming across the shiny oak dance floor in a counterclockwise motion. It’s a ritual that has taken place at dance halls across Texas for more than a century, and judging by the diversity of halls and their fans, it’s a tradition that shows promise to persevere as a hallmark of Lone Star culture.
When I’m traveling I seek out what the locals are feeding the locals, says Jon Bonnell, executive chef and owner of two of Fort Worth’s hottest restaurants, Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine and the new Waters: Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine. He and Dena Peterson, executive chef of Fort Worth’s Café Modern, the light-infused restaurant at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, have just served up a special seven-course dinner designed to showcase the Fort Worth culinary scene to a group from all over the United States, including me, from New York City. It has been an evening full of appetizing surprises.
On the southern edge of Texas, along the Gulf of Mexico, there’s a town that defies the typical “Texas” stereotypes. And while South Padre Island may have a reputation as a party town, in truth it’s a laid-back island paradise, a place where you can escape the world—without ever leaving the Lone Star State.