At age 86, Mary Kemp takes the long view about bluebonnets and history. For more than 30 years she has cultivated both on 220 acres in Mt. Nebo Valley south of Weatherford. Amid 20 acres of bluebonnets, she and her late husband, V. Kemp Jr., created a frontier village featuring a dozen replica structures anchored by the 1856 Thomas J. Shaw log cabin. Since 1980, period-dressed volunteers have welcomed thousands of visitors each spring to the Shaw-Kemp Open House.
Houston suffers from no shortage of museums, but I’ve always thought of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as the grande dame of them all. It was here that I first marveled at the splendor of European masters. As a mother, I’ve found that my appreciation for art is magnified when I experience it through the eyes of my children. So on a recent sunny day, I set out with my three young children for an afternoon at the MFAH and its companion sculpture garden to see what this Houston art institution has to offer for a family visit.
Once you step into the Garza Furniture showroom, located along a nondescript side street just blocks from Marfa’s renovated Second Empire-style courthouse, you’ve clearly arrived at one of the community’s many lively creative hubs. Here, the infusion of West Texas light—often responsible for drawing artists from around the globe to Marfa—fills the showroom with a congenial glow. The selection of relaxed, handcrafted furniture, including daybeds, bistro tables, chairs, and barstools, blends luxury with simplicity in both materials and design.
Donna shaver first glimpsed the Gulf of Mexico in 1980, arriving at Padre Island National Seashore as a college student to study the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. She soon dedicated her career to saving the smallest of the Gulf’s five species of sea turtles.
Every Texas town has its distinctive qualities and attractions—just ask the locals. Given the more than 2,000 small towns that populate this vast state, that makes for a lifetime of worthwhile country drives, courthouse square cafés, and quirky local history museums. That’s why we turned to Texas Highways readers to help identify our state’s “coolest small towns.” We had a blast fielding the nominations, which came in from all across the state. Considering the “small” stipulation, we set a population limit of about 10,000, although that meant some popular nominees weren’t included. We believe these small towns reflect the essence of Texas—from peaceful porch swings to sprawling oak trees, chicken-fried steak, and six-man football—and we invite you to join us as we explore their charms.
In Spanish, “conjunto” means “together.” Conjunto is also a lively musical style born on the Texas-Mexico border in the early 1900s. Conjunto blends German traditions of the button accordion with Mexican traditions of the bajo sexto 12-string guitar and the contrabajo string bass.
When 53-year-old Loncito Cartwright says his family came to Texas before the war, he means the Texas Revolution of 1835-36. The original Texas Cartwrights came to East Texas in the 1820s and eventually owned a million acres across the state. In 1915 the family acquired land near Dinero, 50 miles northwest of Corpus Christi, and named it Twin Oaks Ranch. During the past decade, Cartwright has steered the 6,000-acre cattle operation in a new direction—raising grass-fed, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free lamb.
Texans who are lucky enough to live among the vistas of this great big state share a common morning ritual: We get up, we grab our coffee, and we walk to the window to take in our own special view of the desert mountains or the Hill Country or the Gulf Coast waves. The routine is an affirmation of sorts, confirming a kindred sensibility that the world is still a beautiful place to live. But even if your view is nothing more than the neighbor’s scruffy lawn, consider yourself fortunate. Our highways offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy the vistas of the Texas landscape, whether you live in the midst of one or not.
In the September 2013 issue, writer Michelle Burgess delves into the history and restoration of the beautiful Comal County Courthouse in New Braunfels, a German-flavored town between Austin and San Antonio. You can visit the New Braunfels Chamber's website to gather dozens of ideas for things to do during your visit, but here are some of our favorites:
This refreshing and elegant cocktail is perfect for patio parties. The house-made passion fruit- coconut drinking vinegar (known in bartending circles as a “shrub”) is part of a family of old-fashioned ingredients that have come back in style with today’s craft cocktail movement.
My family has made a number of trips to Big Bend National Park over the past 30 years, driving the scenic routes, hiking its many trails, camping, and enjoying stargazing and hot springs. We love this 800,000-acre park for its incredible and diverse landscape: swaths of thorny Chihuahuan Desert, verdant springs, sand dunes, rocky ridges, and entire mountain ranges hiding waterfalls and spruce-filled canyons. Even more, we cherish its opportunities to get away from the madding crowds.