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Web Extra (Archive) (91)

Monday, 18 May 2009 14:24

Web Extra: Sea Turtle Facts

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See related slideshow.

By Samantha Hyde

Sea Turtle Facts. Did you know...?

  • Kemp's ridley sea turtle hatchling faces an arduous journey. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

    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

Friday, 15 May 2009 16:12

Web Extra: Seafood Recipes

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Recipes from The Texas Highways Cookbook, available through The University of Texas Press. See

Grilled Snapper
½ tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
¼ tsp. dried basil
½ T. chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp. paprika
garlic salt
1 whole red snapper, cleaned
2T. lemon juice
¼ lb. clarified butter
½ tsp. smoke flavor
lemon slices
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.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009 14:59

Web Extra: Texas State Railroad's Roger Graham

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altTH Intern Samantha Hyde visits with Roger Graham, Chief Mechanical Officer at the Texas State Railroad. Check out the TSRR story in the May issue of Texas Highways.

When did you start your career with the Texas State Railroad?
I’ve been here 34 years. I got out of the Air Force in 1974, where I was an air traffic controller for four years. I came to the area because my brother owned some land here. The first job that became available was with the Texas State Railroad. They were starting up the railroad because the land was about to revert back to the landholders because it hadn’t been used for so long. And Parks & Wildlife didn’t want to lose their land. Emmett Whitehead, who was a state representative back then, came in and said, “Well, let’s just run a railroad.” I started out with the convicts cleaning the right-of-way and trying to get it to where we could run a train.

So, did you have an interest in trains before you got the job?
Not really, but I had an interest in mechanical things. I’ve always been good working with my hands, whether it’s on planes, trains, or tractors. Then I grew to like trains after I got used to working on them. It was and is real interesting.

Currently, you have worked your way up to Chief Mechanical Officer. What is your day-to-day work life like?
Right now, I have multiple duties. I started training the locomotive engineers, firemen, hostlers, and all the crews as the Designated Supervisor of Locomotive Engineers. Now, they need me in the shop, so they brought me in as Chief Mechanical Officer to oversee the cars, engines, and everything.

Part of your job is to oversee the restoration of the old engines. What is it like working with such antiques?
The engines and cars were built in the early 1900s. Some of the parts aren’t made anymore, so it is sometimes really hard to find the parts you need to prepare the engines. Some springs broke in one of the engines and it took about six days just to locate some replacements. We had to go to Tennessee. It’s a complicated chess game trying to keep everything running. Our engines are big. Our No. 7 engine [diesel] weighs 120 tons. Our steam engines vary in weight, but they are still heavy and big!

Because you have been around trains for so long now, can you tell by the way a train sounds what the problem is?
Absolutely! These engines are like people. They are all different and they all make different sounds when there is something wrong. People look at me kind of funny, but an engine will actually talk to you and tell you what is wrong. Going down the tracks, I can just listen to the different sounds and usually tell what’s wrong. Every once in a while, something will go wrong that I’m not familiar with, but that doesn’t happen very often.

What is your favorite part of your job?
When I was running [as engineer on the train excursions], seeing the smiling kids and people after the ride and seeing how well they enjoyed the ride was a joy for me because we did something to make them happy. Also, I always like to teach. It has always been fun sharing that information.

Working on trains, I am assuming that you have been on a fair share of train rides.
More than I can even count! I couldn’t even tell you how many runs I’ve made. I lost count years ago.

Is there any one of those trips that really stands out in your memory?
When I first started running, I was on a trip to Palestine, and a guy was sitting there waiting for me. He said, “Would you do me a favor?” And I said, “Sure, what is it?” He said, “When you go back, would you blow the whistle again at mile post 21? My dad started crying when he heard that whistle because it reminded him of the steam engines back when he use to ride them.”

What about passengers? Have you ever had any famous faces aboard?
Back in the 1980s, we were over in Palestine, and they were going to let Governor White drive the engine a little way down the track for publicity. In front of the train was a cameraman on a ladder taking a picture of the engine and the governor. I wasn’t really crazy about him moving the engine, but they wanted him to do it, so we let him. I told him what everything did—“These are your brakes, this is what makes it go, etc.” And I said when you want to stop it just push this handle back. Well, he got so excited he pulled the throttle out and away he goes! If I hadn’t reached over and grabbed the brakes he would have run right over the cameraman. He never knew what happened. He thought he did it all.

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

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