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Wednesday, 15 April 2009 08:14

Web Extra: Polo on the Prairie

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Third-generation polo player Tom Gose of San Antonio has participated in Albany’s Polo on the Prairie event—which has raised more than $3 million dollars for research and patient-care programs at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center—since the first match in 1987. His cousin, John Waggoner of Dallas, has been an avid player for two decades. Senior Editor Lori Moffatt chatted with the players to learn more about the game, its history in Texas, and about Polo on the Prairie.

Albany's annual Polo on the Prairie has raised more than $3 million for research and patient-care programs at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. (Photo courtesy of Eli Gukich)“My grandfather—my mother’s father— started playing polo at Fort Bliss, in the early 20th Century,” says Gose.  “That was part of the old Army system; the officers were encouraged to play polo. In fact, the breeding programs for polo horses were developed for cavalry horses. Horses on the polo field and on the battlefield are asked to do the same things—stop, turn, run fast, and above all, to wait for commands ; the horse is not supposed to do anything on its own.”

When my grandfather retired, he moved to San Antonio, a city with a long history of polo because of Fort Sam Houston. From the 1930s to the 1960s, the city was sort of a winter capital of polo; they played in Brackenridge Park; the current driving range was the old polo field. Most of the horses were kept at Fort Sam.

Then my dad got a wild hare, and in 1976, he built a polo club, on the site of the Retama race track. In 1979, we had a famous tournament there—the Cup of the Americas, between Argentina and the United States. We didn’t win, but it was a big deal. The Argentinean team brought 60 horses on a jumbo jet and stayed for four months.

We played the US Open there until 1986, when we closed the club. Polo dispersed somewhat, but it’s still being played; some in San Antonio and Austin, and quite a lot in Houston and Midland. The high-level players always use thoroughbred horses, because to be a good polo horse, you have to have lots of long-distance stamina.

For the public, Polo on the Prairie is a great chance to see people play, to get your first exposure to the game. A lot of people are intimidated by it, but they shouldn’t be. It’s a little like going to see a rodeo.”

John Waggoner agrees. “It’s one of the most special events anywhere. Without a doubt, there will be players here who are among the best in the world. But there’s also barbecue, fireworks, hanging out. The character of the event, in a way, is defined by where we play. It’s a HAY field! It’s a nice hay field, but it’s still a hay field. It adds to the character and charm.

“Visitors will see the best side of polo at Polo on the Prairie. It’s not all about champagne and hats and Prince Charles. Real polo is people who love horses.”

Wednesday, 15 April 2009 08:11

Web Extra: Hacienda Dreaming

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Founded on a stretch of the Brazos River in the early 1940s by sharpshooter and horseman Elmer Seybold and his wife Dorothee, the Seybold Guest Ranch—now the Double J Hacienda—enjoyed an impressive roster of celebrity clientele. The details, however, are sketchy, as most of the photographs and other documents from the period are carefully guarded by Seybold’s estate.

But even the apocryphal stories are intriguing. “In our kitchenette suite, the bedroom has a button next to the bed that may once have been a doorbell,” says current owner Jane Baldwin, who owns the Double J with her husband, Jimmy. “Reportedly, that was Ronald Reagan’s favorite room, as he could stay in bed to order room service.”

I wonder: Would that have been Jane Wyman or Nancy Reagan? (Wyman and Reagan divorced in 1948, and Nancy and Ronald married in 1952.)

We’ve also heard that John Wayne came to the ranch many times,” says Baldwin.  He liked to stay in Room #1 because it had a private entrance and he could come and go as he pleased, without having to make an appearance in the courtyard.  He loved the rodeos and horse races at Elmer's arena but most of all he loved the wagon races.

“We've also heard that Bette Davis visited here at least once.  Drawn to Mineral Wells by the Baker Hotel in town, she basked poolside at the Texas‑sized (100,000 gallon) pool in the ranch courtyard.” (That pool no longer exists.)

“As for Elmer Seybold, the original owner of the ranch, he was on the Johnny Carson show in the late 1960s showing off his skills as a sharpshooter. Elmer had a
trick he liked to perform inside the Great Room.  He would put a rifle over his shoulder, point it behind him, and hold a mirror up to his face so he could look in the mirror and see the giant fireplace behind him. Inside the fireplace was an axe with a balloon on either side. He'd fire the rifle at the axe, which would split the bullet.  The halved bullet would then pop the balloons. He did this act on The Tonight Show.”

—as told to Lori Moffatt


Wednesday, 15 April 2009 08:05

Web Extra: Texas Resort Recipes

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In the May issue, Texas Highways presented a roundup of resorts across the state that offer a satisfying combination of recreation and relaxation. We’ve managed to convince the chefs of the Woodlands Resort and Spa and the Westin La Cantera Resort and Spa to part with some of their prized recipes—and they’re perfect for summer.  

Griddled Macaroni & Cheese (courtesy the Woodlands)

½ lb. elbow macaroni
1 cup whole milk
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon scallion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
1 tablespoon butter

Cook macaroni al dente, and do not rinse. Combine cooked macaroni with other ingredients. Bake at 325 degrees in a lined loaf pan for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and set. Slice into 1-inch-thick slices, and sauté in butter until crispy and golden brown. Loosen your belt buckle, and enjoy.

(At the Woodlands, you’ll find this rich dish served with pork tenderloin medallions.)

Spiced Wild Berries with Cajeta Anglaise (courtesy of the Westin La Cantera)

For the berries:
½ cup EACH of dried strawberries, dried figs, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried currants, and dried blueberries
1 ½ quarts port wine (a cheap one!)
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon toasted allspice

Place all ingredients in a large saucepot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until berries are soft and a syrup has formed. Place in ice bath and let cool. Serves 6.

For the cajeta Anglaise:
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon cajeta (goat’s-milk caramel sauce, now available at most groceries)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and flesh scraped

(makes about 2 ½ cups)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they are very pale yellow and smooth.

In a medium saucepan, bring to boil the heavy cream, sour cream, and vanilla bean with its scrapings. Whisk about half into the egg-yolk mixture, then combine the two mixtures in the saucepan.

Over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Be careful not to scramble the eggs.

Strain into a clean bowl and set the bowl over ice cubes and cold water until chilled, stirring occasionally.

Serve with Spiced Wild Berries, a fresh-fruit salad, or ice cream.  

 The Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lover's Paradise is one part cookbook, one part tour guide. Enjoy this granola recipe featured in the book. Read the accompanying story in the May 2009 issue of Texas Highways Magazine.

Berry Street Bakery House Granola

The Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lover’s Paradise by Terry Thompson-Anderson (Shearer Publishing, 2008) includes this recipe from Berry Street Bakery in Llano. The bakery/lunch spot sells this delicious granola in small bags displayed on top of the bakery counter. It’s easy to make and would make great hostess gifts or Christmas gifts, sealed in plastic bags and packed inside colorful tins.

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup dark raisins

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup mixed dried fruit

¾ cup canola oil

1½ cups honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 cups rolled oats

4 cups wheat flakes

2 cups sunflower seeds

2 cups raw wheat germ

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup sliced unskinned almonds

1 cup whole almonds

1½ cups coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine the fruits in a bowl and toss to blend; set aside. Combine the canola oil, honey, and cinnamon in a bowl, whisking until well blended; set aside. In a large bowl combine all remaining ingredients. Pour the oil mixture over the dry ingredients in the large bowl. Stir to mix well. Spread the mixture out in a thin layer on baking sheets. Toast in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown. Do not overcook. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. When completely cool, turn the mixture out into a large bowl and mix in the reserved fruits. Store in an airtight container. Yield: About 1 gallon.



Concrete artist Carlos Cortes will embellish this River Walk grotto with symbols of nature. Photo by J. Griffis SmithWhen San Antonio concrete artisan Carlos Cortes was a child, he often assisted his father, Maximo Cortes, as he created his signature faux bois (false wood) structures from concrete. The senior Cortes had learned his craft from master concrete artist Dionico Rodriguez, who had brought his highly secretive technique from Mexico to Texas in the 1920s (and would eventually marry into the Cortes family). Rodriguez called his work—fashioning concrete structures that look uncannily like wood—trabajo rustico, or “rustic work.” Cortes and Rodriguez worked together on many structures throughout San Antonio, including bridges and palapas in Brackenridge Park.

The younger Cortes was in his twenties before he realized he was destined to pursue trabajo rustico himself.

My father died in 1997,” says Cortes, “but he got to see me do the faux bois tree at the San Antonio Children’s Museum.” That year, Cortes went on to create a four-stor,  faux bois “tree” at he Witte Museum near Brackenridge Park.  Known as the H-E-B Science Treehouse, Cortes’ creation overlooks the San Antonio River and provides kids multiple opportunities to learn about science and nature.

Cortes’ latest faux bois vision—a 180-foot grotto along San Antonio’s new River Walk extension—features such elements as a waterfall, a bench inside the largest cavern, and re-created tree roots coming through the ceiling. “It looks like a natural cave, “ says Cortes, “with stalactites and sedimentary deposits of minerals, but it also looks very whimsical, with a tall pinnacle towards the center. I’ve also created a sculpture of Father Nature, with hundreds of seashells creating his facial features. I use shells to symbolize that this part of Texas used to be part of the ocean. And I love doing benches. I’m interested in doing work that is functional.”

Like his father and great-uncle, Cortes uses simple, handmade tools to replicate wood grain and create other organic effects. “We might use a fork with bent tines, or use a trowel made of a wide comb,” he says. “And when the concrete is cured, we stain it using natural mineral salts.”

“When I was a kid,” Cortes continues, “helping my dad clean the tools…helping out however he needed me… was mostly a chore. My dad was older than my friends’ fathers. He was 54 when I was born. I would rather have been out playing. But now, I’m glad that I was there and can carry on the family legacy.”

— Lori Moffatt

Thursday, 12 March 2009 08:54

Web Extra: More on Muenster

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By Ray Blockus

Muenster’s civic campaign reads, “Keep Muenster Beautiful.” It might have said, “Keep Muenster German.” Civic and ethnic pride prevails in this small North Texas community. No wonder, then, that it garnered national recognition in 2008’s Keep America Beautiful contest.

In the heart of town at the intersection of US 82 and FM 373 (Main St.), 12 murals depict German businesses (a bank, a flower shop, a watch maker, a toy shop, a coffee house, a pub, et al) a la “The Old Country.” This unusual artwork, along with five huge redecorated milk and cheese containers that depict wine, cheese, and beer at a former dairy plant, was begun by local volunteers in 1973 and expanded upon several times, most recently in 2008.

On Main Street, the small but jam-packed Muenster Museum’s contents reflect the community’s earlier 19th-into-20th Century origins. Situated in the refurbished historic home of former Muenster mayor Ben Seyler and his family, the contents include rooms featuring an early medical office, a school room, and the kitchen of Aggie Seyler, wife of the former mayor. Also among the thousands of items on display are cameras and clothing from the early 1900s, farm machinery of the past (like a 1928 steel-wheeled McCormick Deering tractor with a stationary belt-driven Swayne Robinson hay baler), and military memorabilia from World Wars I and II, including uniforms, recruiting posters, and a piece of carpet taken from Adolf Hitler’s bombed-out Southern Bavaria residence.

The Muenster Antique Mall, at the east end of town on US 82, provides another opportunity for treasure hunters. A converted supermarket with about 100 vendor booths, the mall attracts collectors who enjoy browsing for antique furniture, jewelry, Depression-era glass and other housewares, quilts, and just about anything else that reflects a part of America’s history.

It bears mentioning that Muenster has a sister-city of the same name in Germany (Münster) with more than a quarter-million residents. Muensterites from both continents occasionally visit each other and maintain friendships.

That the new continues to appear alongside the old is evident north of town, where NextEra Energy and Wolf Ridge Wind recently installed 75 wind turbines. Now producing electricity, they stand like a phalanx of sentinels overlooking Muenster. It’s worth the short trip up Main Street to watch them spin their silent magic over territory that once merely represented a dream to a handful of German Catholic immigrants who established the town. This small North Texas community is definitely worthy of a closer look.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009 12:03

Web Extra: While in Waco

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  • George’s, a Waco tradition at 1925 Speight Ave., serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try a burger; lunch special; classic comfort food dinner with sides; Tex-Mex/fajitas; and a Big O (18 oz. draft beer) or margarit-O. I loved their flavorful Shrimp Gabrielle.
  • East meets West at Kitok Restaurant, 1815 N. 18th St. (254/754-1801), known for its Liplocker cheeseburgers, Oriental fries, chicken and beef bulgogi, stir fry, kimchee, and soup.
  • Health Camp, 2601 Circle Rd. (254/752-2081), is a longstanding burger and shake joint on Waco’s famous Circle.


  • Cameron Park Zoo, 1701 N. 4th St., is a personal favorite. Giraffes rule.
  • The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum is at I-35, exit 335B, near the Brazos River.
  • Cheers for the Dr Pepper Museum as it continues to celebrate America’s oldest major soft drink (created by Waco pharmacist Doc Alderton in 1885) at 300 S. 5th St.
  • The Historic Waco Suspension Bridge (1870) crosses the Brazos River in Indian Spring Park along the River Walk. Access via University Parks Dr. or Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
  • Five 19th-Century homes, maintained by the Historic Waco Foundation, are all worthy of a visit. They include the Earle-Napier-Kinnard House, Fort House, McCulloch House, Hoffmann House and East Terrace House.
  • On campus at Baylor University, consider stops at the Mayborn Museum, Armstrong Browning Library, Big 12 basketball at the Ferrell Center, iconic, gold-domed Pat Neff Hall, and the live bear habitat.

—Marty Lange

Wednesday, 21 January 2009 11:50

Web Extra: Birding Resources

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Birding Resources

Birding spots are everywhere in Texas. Start with this list, and ask other birders as well as staff at natural areas, bird sanctuaries, and parks for suggestions. Don’t forget your own backyard.

  • Audubon Texas provides information on Audubon centers around the state. The organization’s Web site links to other birding sites and birding basics. Call 214/370-9735.

Places to bird

  • Gulf Coast Bird Observatory: 103 W. Tx 332, Lake Jackson. Call 979/480-0999. Maps for Brazoria County and Galveston Bay birding sites.
  • Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory: Austin Water Utility’s Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant. Open seven days a week, dawn to dusk.  Regular guided field trips.
  • Houston Audubon Society :Sixteen sanctuaries for birding, guided field and birding trips and walks. Web site lists favorite birder pit stops (food and restrooms).
  • Images for Conservation Fund nature photo tourism alliances: Private ranches with developed sites for birding, wildlife watching and photography.
  • National Wildlife Refuges: Created to protect, manage and restore bird habitat. Staff help find and identify birds. 13 located in Texas. Click on Refuge Locator, Texas, and Texas Refuges.

Places to stay

In the January issue, Skeeter Hagler’s photo feature on rodeos introduces Cameron Keeton, the “politically incorrect rodeo clown.”  Keeton shares his thoughts on his time inside the barrel with editorial intern Caitlin Sullivan.

After riding bulls, what made you decide to become the guy who distracts them?

I discovered I really enjoyed making people laugh, so I decided that the barrel man/rodeo clown job was for me.

How exactly do you become a rodeo clown?
You find someone who is a rodeo clown and talk to them to make sure this is something you want to do.  It is a long, hard road with not much reward at times, but when everything is right, there are those times few and far between when the reward is indescribable.

What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
There’s not one specific thing; it’s the travel, making people laugh, making new friends, and making a living doing something I really enjoy.

Is there anything you don’t like?
When nobody laughs; that sucks.

Where do you like to perform, small-town or big-city rodeos?
Small rodeos with big crowds because I feel more one-on-one with the crowd.  There is nothing better than a small Texas town on a hot Saturday night with the music playing and the bulls a-bucking, and everyone is on their feet.  You can just feel the electricity.

What makes your act different from other rodeo clowns?
In my acts I put a lot of emphasis on being myself.  Nobody does that quite like me.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008 10:02

(Guitar) strings attached: A musical passion

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“Any Texas evening,” says TH Staff Photographer Stan Williams, “You can stroll down a Hill Country lane, an inner-city street in Houston, or a farm road in Abilene, and chances are you’ll here the sweet strings of an acoustic guitar dancin’ on a gentle breeze while fireflies perform an aerial two-step. Maybe a banjo or a mandolin sweeten the mix. The siren song of the violin (better known as a fiddle in these parts) puts the icing on the cake. It’s a Texas symphony.”

Such romantic musings are born out of a love for music, and of a love for guitars. Williams describes how the December issue’s feature on luthiers came into being:

It all started when I was 12 years old.  I asked my dad to teach me how to play the ten-dollar Sears guitar that sat in a corner of his bedroom.  He spent the next several weeks teaching me how to play “Tom

On April 4, 1971, I was just discharged from the Army, and I was walking in downtown Houston searching for a pay phone when I walked by a freight salvage company.  I glanced through the open door and saw a guitar hanging on a wire from the ceiling; it was hanging on my back when I found the phone and called home.  That old Framus, made in Bavaria, still resides in my bedroom—even though it never could hold a tune through the upper octave.

Sometime in 1997, I test-drove a Chevy truck and dropped an entry in the box to win a Gibson J-200 guitar.  I was stuck in traffic on the Interstate when they announced on the radio that I had won.  I

That series of events led to my attendance of a guitar demonstration by Lawrence Juber, guitarist for Paul McCartney and Wings, at a local music store.  Juber demonstrated the features of each of the sponsor’s guitars and why the different types of wood produced different sounds and different body shapes produced different tonalities.
At one point, he asked the crowd, “Would any of you like to hear something on my own guitar?”  Every hand shot up instantly.  We all strained to see what he was pulling out of his gig bag; tt was a Collings, made in Austin.

For the next 20 minutes, he played a blur of chord changes with a sprinkling of incredible lead runs sprinkled about like bluebonnets on a hillside.  Every note spoke with clarity and brilliance and every chord rang with harmonious resonance. Goosebumps covered my neck and arms, feeling like electricity running down into my hands.  I suddenly understood what a friend had told me so long ago, that upon hearing Pavarotti sing in New York, his eyes filled with tears at the purity of voice.

I practically ran to the computer when I returned home, speeding down the information highway to find out more about this wonderful instrument that had so captured my senses.  Somewhere between the pages of delightful html coding, a thought burst into presence.  “How many other guitar-makers are there in Texas that I don’t know about?”  In this feature, I share with you some of the guitar-makers I discovered. I hope you enjoy it. –Stan Williams

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