Web Extra (Archive) (85)
In our June 2015 issue, we tell the story of the Railean Rum Distillery in San Leon, a little town south of Houston, which manufactures the sugar-derived spirit in small batches—a concoction that’s perfect for sipping and mixing.
"Downtown was the only place to go."
The thrill of 1940s movie theaters, playing hooky at the pool hall, and greetings from the Drake Hotel. Abilene old-timers tell all.
“Where the Grace Museum is now,” says local geologist Gilbert Korman, who graduated from high school in 1950, “that was originally the Drake Hotel. And there was a pool hall in the Drake … through the 1940s and 50s and probably into the 60s. I wasn’t a pool shooter, but we’d all go down there.”
Financial planner Eddie Hodges fills in additional details: “Right next to the Drake, across the alley, there was another pool hall. The bigger boys used to go there to play snooker and pool. And yeah, I did play hooky from school and go there once or twice. I was probably about 10.”
“Downtown was the only place to go,” says Korman. “And there were three movie theaters on Cypress—the Paramount, the Majestic, and the Queen. The Paramount got two shows a week—the top movies—and we’d usually make both of them. In grade school, the place to go was the Queen. The Queen had the serial cartoons.”
“I think my mother used to give me ten cents to go to the Queen to see the serials…Batman or something,” says Hodges. “You know, you’d have the action and drama, and then the character would have a crisis..and the cartoon would end. You’d have to go back the next week to see what happened.
“Everything at that time was local, independently owned,” Hodges continues. “There were two or three department stores, a few drug stores, and an old bowling alley about four blocks from the hotel. Bowling was a very popular sport back then.
“When I was a young child, during the second world war, Camp Barkeley was still operating as a military base here—for awhile they housed German prisoners there. There was a huge USO in the downtown area. Always lots of activity to engage a young boy’s imagination.”
–– as told to Lori Moffatt
Texas Highways intern Brenna Burkarth interviews Ruby Rickgauer, co-owner of the unique Windmill Farm B&B in Tolar.
How did you acquire the windmill farm and how did it take off?
We bought the acreage in 1994 and moved out here. Four or five years later, we put up the first windmill. It originally was from my parent’s place in South Dakota. We were visiting my parents one time and noticed that their farm didn’t use this one windmill anymore to pump water. Chuck [Ruby’s husband] asked my mother if he could have it. "I don’t know what you might do with it, but if you want to take it you can,” she said. So we did. After the first windmill was installed, we started seeing others that Chuck decided to bring home and repair. Then, people began coming through our farm to look at them, and we started meeting other people who collect them. It just snowballed from there. It started as a hobby, but we never thought it would turn into a business.
How did you and your husband get the idea for a windmill farm B&B?
About seven years ago, I was working as a nurse and decided to do something different. My friend said, “You have so much room, why don’t you build some cabins?” So, now on our 26 acres we have 3 cabins for our bed and breakfast, and 42 vintage windmills. I run the bed and breakfast and Chuck sells and repairs windmills. He also works at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant as an engineer. It’s not just a bed and breakfast—schools will bring their children for tours, senior citizen groups come through, photography groups visit to take beautiful pictures, and car clubs come out here. It’s open to the public.
How far have you traveled to purchase a windmill?
Sometimes we arrange for windmills to be brought to us. We travel occasionally, but we try not to travel far away—more than about three hours. Usually, there’s somebody else who we know that does repairs within three or four hours of us. So, we refer back and forth between windmillers. We do go to windmill trade fairs every year—they have been in Colorado, Kansas, Illinois and Indiana. There have been 21 annual windmill fairs full of windmill enthusiasts who come and bring their parts and pieces to trade them.
Does one story behind acquiring a windmill stand out the most to you?
The six-foot Model 702 Aermotor windmill that came off my parent’s farm is very special to me. It carried water to our home. That was the only source of water we had until I was in the seventh grade. When it got real snowy and icy, sometimes the well would freeze up and my father would start a fire under the pump to get the water running again. If it was real windy, he would send me to turn the windmill off because the wind would tear it up. It is still working just fine--Aermotor windmills have survived the longest and remain the best made.
How do you fund your hobby?
All of our windmills are for water pumping, but none of them are over a well to generate power. We don’t receive any government funding—we are private. So, we make money off of selling windmills and doing repairs. Lost of times, Chuck will get a windmill for cheap and restore it, so it doesn’t cost us as much because he works on them and gets them looking good for other people to buy. Some of the wooden bladed windmills are harder to work on and maintain because they’re more fragile in the wind and storms.
It’s a getaway out into the country and it has the unique draw of the
windmills. Coming here is an experience that you can’t get
Which windmills do you decide to sell? Keep?
We always have some ready for sale. Right now we have stopped with our 42 windmills because it’s a lot of work to keep them running. The ones that we choose to keep are a different kind than the rest we have. We have a Challenge 27, Star 7, a Hummer an Eclipse, and many other varieties. We have windmills that represent about 10 or 12 different brands—Aermotor, Red Cross, Clipper, Monitor, Samson and Air King are a few. Some have wooden blades and others have steel blades. We put them up two or three at a time. We have brought home several from the windmill fairs.
How do you incorporate the windmill farm into the guests’ experience at the B&B?
Most of the people who come to the bed and breakfast are interested in windmills to begin with. The three cabins are spread out, and they each have a big porch so they can sit and watch the sunset. It’s real quiet and people just like to get out of town. Most of our guests come from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. They go down and visit with Chuck while he’s working in his shop, they like to walk around, or talk to the guy at the front gate who knows about each windmill. Guests look forward to what I make—apple pies and cinnamon rolls.
Most interesting person who has purchased one of your windmills?
Oh, I have lots of stories. One lady wanted one for her husband’s birthday. She said, “Can you sneak it in without him seeing.” So, we went over to work on it while she kept him away from the house for six or seven hours. When she brought him home, the windmill was up in their front yard. I’ll never forget her.
Which would you say is the favorite windmill among spectators?
The 14-foot Axtell that was made in Fort Worth. It has a big wooden wheel, white blades and red tips. We got it three or four years ago, they’re not made anymore. It’s an awesome looking windmill because it’s so big. It’s at the entrance of the driveway and makes for a great picture.
Which is the most popular cabin to stay in?
The cabin I put in front of my parent’s Aermotor windmill, I named the Dakota. It is very rustic, and couples love to stay there. The Windjammer has a full kitchen and sleeps more people—it is also popular among families.
What is a typical day like for your B&B guests?
Many guests come in the late afternoon—around 3 or 4 p.m. I usually put a snack of some sort in the cabin—like a pie, cookies or brownies. They usually go and eat dinner on their own in Granbury. There are a couple of theaters, the Granbury live, and the opera house that keep our guests entertained. The next morning, I serve breakfast between 8-10 a.m. Then, they spend the day doing whatever they want to. Lots of times, they’ll go out to the Glen Rose Dinosaur Valley State Park or Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Or, they’ll go back into Granbury to shop. Many people just wander around here on the property. We have a donkey named Jack and a horse named Lightning. If there are guests here, they’ll come to the fence because they know they’ll get fed. I give the kids carrots to feed the horse.
Why is the Windmill B&B unique to Texas?
It’s a getaway out into the country and it has the unique draw of the windmills. We take children and pets, which many other B&B’s don’t. People travel here with their diabetic dogs, or their blind dogs, and we welcome them. Coming here is an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.
Senior Editor Lori Moffatt speaks with Debbie Trainor, a Training Specialist with the Astronaut Office at the Johson Space Center. (Talk about the name fitting the job!)
“I’ve been here at the JSC for 24 years now, but in my present position for eight years. My current job is officially known as the Training Specialist with the Astronaut Office. I’m basically like the principal of a school—I oversee all the training and make sure the astronauts receive what they need to do their jobs.
When astronauts are first elected to be candidates, they receive a year and a half of training, learning the various systems of the International Space Station. We’re talking about a living area that orbits more than 200 miles above the earth, so the astronauts need to be self-sufficient. They learn how to operate and repair the thermal control systems, electrical systems, and communications systems, just to name a few of the many systems they must know. There’s also EVA [Extravehicular Activity—spacewalking, in layman’s terms]training and robotics training. To be an astronaut, you need to be both mentally and physically fit, and you need a wide breadth of knowledge on the technical side as well.
EVA training in particular is very much a physical effort. They train in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab [a 6.2-million-gallon, 40-foot-deep facility that has been called the largest indoor pool n the world]. It’s the only facility we have to simulate weightlessness. But unfortunately, the suits they train in are designed for space flight, not water, and they weigh around 280 pounds. So they must be physically fit to have the endurance to train for hours at a time, completing complex tasks in the water.
We also do a lot of team-building exercises, such as hiking adventures. The astronauts need to be able to work as a team, and it’s better to work on issues here on earth rather than wait until they’re in orbit.
My own background is in computer science; I have degrees in science and math. I started off here at the JSC as a secretary, but once I got here and saw all the different opportunities, I switched from full-time to half-time to take advantage of a NASA project that encourages employees to seek higher education. So with each degree, I was able to move up. It was the BS in math that allowed me to be a Space Station Training Instructor; I taught the astronauts and mission controllers about the computer system of the International Space Station. That led me to work with the various international partners, including the Russians, when they came into the program.
In June 1996, I went to Russia to learn about the Soyuz vehicles that the Russians used. I remember the date well, because that was when they were having their first democratic presidential elections as an independent country, and there were bomb threats, and security people everywhere. [Results were contested and a second round of voting was required to establish Boris Yeltsin as the winner.] Before I left, I got a security brief and I was told there was a 50/50 chance there would be tanks rolling in the streets. We stayed at a hotel in Moscow and witnessed an important moment in history.
I love being part of history every single day. To work here is to work with people who are the best of the best. That someone like that would value my judgment is so rewarding. I’m not sure what it’s like in other industries or organizations, but every single day is a new adventure because there are still new ideas that are being thrown out for international gain. Off the top of my head: medical breakthroughs like the pacemaker, thermal wear that firefighters wear, bicycle helmets…..even Velcro is a spin-off from the Space Program.
Would I go into space? Oh, my goodness, definitely. Who wouldn’t?
How long have you been a park ranger?
Have you worked at any other parks before? Which ones?
Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site
What do you like most/least about being a park ranger at the Devils River State Natural Area?
The thing I like the best is making it available to the public, you know, making it a good, safe park for the public. I like working, if I can, outdoors. The thing I like the least is the paperwork.
Describe what a normal day is like for you? What are your duties?
I spend a lot of my time in the office doing administrative work. That’s because I’m the manager and that’s what I do. I do some park patrol and park maintenance.
What is unique about working at Devils River?
Devils River is very remote, very distant. We’re out here by ourselves. There’s no stores; if you don’t have it with you, you don’t have it. The nights are beautiful, there’s no lights to mess it up. And the stars, you just feel like you can reach up and grab them. It’s just really pretty out here, especially if you can catch it right after rain. My favorite time is just after a rain because everything starts blooming and the animals come out and everything, it’s just a lot prettier.
What is your favorite recreational activity in the park?
I like exploring, you know, hiking down these canyons . There’s lots to see out here. I like really doing it all. We have a bunch of bird researchers right now and it’s really interesting to talk to them about the birds. And then we’ve got some archeologists doing some work here and it’s interesting. Just what we do—preserve the flora, the fauna, the cultural and natural resources.
What is the most beautiful site in the park?
It’s all pretty. I just like Golden Creek itself. It’s phenomenal, it changes at every water crossing and runs almost through the middle of the park in the canyon.
Do you have a favorite campsite?
I live here on the park, so this would be my residence. Occasionally, we [the park rangers] sit outside with a cold glass of tea and take field glasses and do a little bird watching. We check the animals, see if there’s any deer, that’s fun.
How do you think the facilities at Devils River State Natural Area compare with facilities at other Texas state parks?
Our facilities are pretty rustic. They’re adequate and nice, but just updated on what was here. They fit the natural area. We’ve got old hunting cabins that have been made into bunkhouses, and of course, the bathrooms and showers are already in there, and so we just fixed them up. It’s more like home than a commercial-type park.
What didn’t get into the article that you would like to have read?
I thought it was perfect for the concept of traveling the Devils River. It wasn’t just about the park, but what you could see traveling the loop on Devils River. They hit it just right, they sure did.
According to Ranger Brotherton, he has received several phone calls on Dolan Falls, which is not open to the public. The story says the Devils River has water in it all the way to Sonora. However, currently it only has water about 3 miles above the Hwy. 163 crossing.
Archeologist Clark Wernecke, director of the Gault School for Archeological Research in Austin, speaks about the Gault Site in Bell County, one of the richest Paleoindian sites in the world.
“Since 1993, I had been working on large Meso American archeological projects in Belize and Guatemala. But during the wet season, I’d be back at home to Texas, writing reports, recruiting people.
But I don’t sit still well, and they were just starting up in 1999 at Gault. I had heard that they were taking volunteers on the weekend. so I went out to volunteer. When my Meso American project ended, our principal investigator asked if I could work with him.
This was my first experience working on a Paleoindian site, and the first time I’d been able to drive at home at night.
But the big difference isn’t “where,” but “what.” In the Middle East, in the American Southwest, at Mayan sites—most places have architecture. You don’t have architecture at a Paleoindian site. You have stone tools and other organic clues, and you can’t afford to miss even the smallest clue.
The sheer quantity of artifacts at Gault is astounding; we will often have a thousand artifacts in the open excavation sites. People lived there for 14,000 years. Not only did the Edwards Plateau have an abundant supply of chert-one of the better tool-making materials—but there was also abundant fresh water.
Some of the most special pieces we’ve found are small pieces of limestone with incised designs; these are found throughout the world but have never found in a Paleoindian context. They are among the first art in the Americas.”
Marble Falls fans Cindy and Hugh Vaughn have been active in the Main Street Historical Society and the annual Bluebonnet Music and Fine Arts Festival. Intern Samantha Hyde shares the couple’s insider tips on this quintessential Hill Country town. This interview accompanies the Hills of Home feature in the July 2009 issue of Texas Highways.
TH: If you only had time to do one thing in the Marble Falls area, what would you recommend?
Cindy: If I were coming here for the weekend, I would go to Ginger and Spice for dinner, then to Lorraine’s to hear music and dance. And if it were a Sunday morning, I would go to Lost Creek Vineyards in Kingsland and have brunch. During the day, I’d go to The Slab for swimming or one of the sandbars on the Llano River.
Hugh: Picking the right weekend would be good, too. Come for the sculpture fest weekend [October] and you get to see the unveiling of all the new sculptures.
TH: You’ve been married since 1996—would you say Marble Falls is a romantic getaway?
Cindy: Oh, yeah! You can go antiquing or to the vineyard. We have bed and breakfast inns all over the place that are just beautiful.
Hugh: You have to mention the Wallace Guest House, too! The nights we have spent at the Wallace House are unforgettable because you can sit out on the porch and see Lorraine’s night club and on the other side, the neon lights of Uptown Theater, without the hustle and bustle of everywhere else.
TH: Well, there have been many musicians that have come through town. Are there any memorable moments?
Hugh: We’ve had some really great blues people come through. The late Clifford [Antone] came and then the late Uncle John Turner came and he played the drums for Jerry LaCroix for a couple of years. The blind piano player [Bobby Doyle] came and played at our second Pianorama [part of the Bluebonnet Music and Fine Arts Festival]. He played Ray Charles so good you would’ve thought you were in front of Ray at the piano.
TH: The Bluebonnet Music and Fine Arts Festival is one of many big, annual events that happen in Marble Falls. Do you have a favorite?
Hugh: The Bluebonnet Music and Fine Arts Festival is what we created and produced. From the profits on that, we started the Sculptures on Main project.
Cindy: I would say that Sculptures is my favorite now. There’s food and wine tasting. Some of the local vineyards and restaurateurs participate. Then you have the sculptors…
Hugh: They come from all over. The drag boat races [Lakefest; in August] are awesome!
TH: Let’s do rapid fire. I’ll list some subject, and you two give me your favorites. Musical venues:
Cindy: Lorraine’s would be first, and Uptown Marble Theater would be second. It’s very cool there.
TH: Main course:
Cindy: Chicken dish with peanut sauce at Ginger & Spice
Hugh: Lost Creek Vineyard’s blackened fish
Cindy: Crème brûlée with fresh berries at Lost Creek brunch
Hugh: Yes! Without a doubt.
TH: Artist or gallery:
Hugh: Main Street Gallery
TH: Weekend activity:
Cindy: Being on the lake
Hugh: The fireworks show July 4th and the boat parade [Flotilla]
Hugh: I’m not a shopper, but Smartie Pantz is pretty cool for grandparents.
Cindy: Main Street, the whole area
TH: Best thing to do under $10:
Hugh: The Walkway of Lights [during the holidays]
Cindy: All the parks or hanging out on the lakes and going to the Slab. The Slab is free.
TH: Splurge activity:
Cindy: That would have to be Lost Creek Vineyards.
Hugh: Without a doubt!
See related story: Ridleys Believe it or Not. Sea Turtles of Texas. See related slideshow.
By Samantha Hyde
Sea Turtle Facts. Did you know...?
If you come across a turtle on the side of the road on a drive through the country, chances are that it isn’t actually a turtle. Turtles live in water for the majority of their lives, while tortoises are the life-long land dwellers. If in doubt, look at their feet. Turtles have webbed feet and, sometimes, flippers to help navigate, and tortoises have round and sturdy feet so they can walk over rocks and dig burrows.
- Sea turtles hatch on land but spend most of their lives at sea. Males never return to land, and females only do so when it’s time to lay their eggs. In fact, nesting female turtles can swim thousands of miles to return to the beach where they were born.
- The world’s largest sea turtle is the Leatherback. The shell can reach up to eight feet in diameter making the weight of the turtle about 1,300 pounds. The large fins make the turtle the fastest as well. One Leatherback turtle was recorded going 22 miles per hour!
- The smallest sea turtle is the Kemp’s Ridley, which grows to be 27-32 inches long and 75-100 pounds.
- There are seven species of sea turtles that inhabit the Earth’s oceans. Along with the Leatherback and Kemp’s Ridley, three more can be found in Texas, including the Hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead. (Green sea turtles found in the Eastern Pacific Ocean are often called Black sea turtles.) The Olive Ridley and Flatback sea turtles can be found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
- When turtles arrive on land, many people can see “tears” falling from their eyes. Since they spend the majority of their life in salt water, sea turtles have special glands, located behind their eyes, to process salt out of their bodies.
- Sea turtles don’t have teeth as adults, but as hatchlings, they are born with one tooth, known as the egg tooth or caruncle. The little tooth helps the hatchling break out of its shell, a process that can take more than 20 minutes. The tooth looks like a white bump on the front of the turtle’s nose, but falls off a couple of days after the turtle leaves the shell. Baby turtles are also born with a yolk sac to feed them for the first few days.
- Turtles also don’t have ears. They “hear” through the vibrations in the water and changes in the water pressure. This allows them to locate food and predators. Turtles also have a strong sense of smell.
- Incubation temperature determines the sex of a sea turtle, though the temperature range varies depending on species and geography. In Texas, if the egg stays below 82 degrees, the hatchlings are mostly male, and if the temperature rises above 87 degrees, females are usually born. About an equal number of male and female hatchlings are born if the temperature falls in between. As the Earth’s core temperature continues to rise, more female hatchlings are being born, making it more difficult for female turtles to find a mate.
- Six of the seven species of sea turtles are found in the United States. Of those six, all but one is listed as endangered and that one, the loggerhead, is listed as threatened. Many factors contribute to their decline. For example, Leatherbacks feed on jellyfish, and the turtles often mistake plastic bags floating in the water for supper. Sea turtles often drown in fishing nets or are injured by boats. Currently, shrimp boats in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are required by law to include a Turtle Excluder Device (TED) in the fishing nets. These devices allow about 97 percent of turtles to swim free once trapped. More than 70 laws have been passed to help conserve sea turtles on the local, state, national and international level. But you can help, too, by picking up any litter on the beach, keeping lights low on the beach-front properties and eating local seafood (caught with turtle-friendly nets). To learn more about turtle conservation, go to www.savetexasseaturtles.org.
Recipes from The Texas Highways Cookbook, available through The University of Texas Press. See www.utpress.com.
½ tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
¼ tsp. dried basil
½ T. chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp. paprika
1 whole red snapper, cleaned
2T. lemon juice
¼ lb. clarified butter
½ tsp. smoke flavor
additional fresh parsley
Combine lemon-pepper seasoning, basil, parsley, paprika, and garlic salt. Sprinkle mixture on fish.
In a bowl, combine lemon juice, butter, and smoke flavor; baste snapper, reserving remaining sauce. Place snapper in well-oiled fish-grilling basket and grill over medium heat (coals burned down to gray). Close lid and smoke for 15 minutes. Turn fish basket and cook another 10 minutes or until fish flakes. Baste with more lemon-butter sauce and serve lemon slices and fresh parsley. Yield: 2-3 servings.
Fresh Mango-Jicama Salsa (for grilled fish)
1 c. chopped mango
1 c. chopped jicama
¼ c. lime juice
1 poblano chile
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
3/8 tsp. salt
Mix mango and jicama with lime juice; set aside.
Roast poblano in a very hot iron skillet over a gas flame or on a grill until charred on all sides. Transfer to a plastic bag, seal loosely, and let steam 10 minutes or more.
Remove seeds and membrane of poblano, rub charred skin off and chop. Combine with mango-jicama mixture, cilantro, and salt; mix well Allow to stand for about 3 hours. Serve at room temperature. Yield: About 21/2 cups.