Monday, June 21, found us up and out by 7 AM. More than a dozen deer showed up along the park road to see us off, too. I love days that start like that! We took TX-206 northeast out of Coleman up to Cross Plains, then FM-587 east to Dublin, and continued east on TX-6. As we approached Hico, we saw a sign for the Billy the Kid Museum, so you know we had to check that out. It was a cool little place that operates on donations and has a very interesting alternative story.
Pat Garrett shot Billy the Kid in the dark of the night on July 14, 1881, in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. OR. DID. HE?????? In 1950 (read that date again), a man named William Henry (Brushy Bill) Roberts died of a heart attack in Hico, Texas. Well-liked in the community, this quiet man kept a secret for many years, but finally admitted, after other people identified him, that HE was BILLY THE KID! Was he telling the truth? Accepted facts about the death of the Kid come mostly from Pat Garrett’s book, The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid. The thing is, Garrett had a lot invested in the tracking and killing of the Kid. There was a reward. He became famous. He sold A LOT of books about the shooting. What if it wasn’t actually Billy that he shot? Why would anyone think otherwise? Well, there are quite a few anomalies surrounding the Kid’s death. A witness at the time said the man that was shot was dark haired, dark skinned, and had a beard. Billy was fair and couldn’t grow a beard. Coroner’s reports are filed as official records. Billy’s was not. The custom at the time was to display the bodies of wanted outlaws so an enthusiastic public could view them. (After all, they were the Kardashians of the time.) Billy’s was not. As evidence for the reward, photos were typically taken of the body with the shooter or the body itself, was taken in. There is no photo of Pat Garrett and Billy’s body, and Garrett rushed the burial. Rewards are paid upon proof of death/capture. It took Garrett 8 months to collect the reward for Billy the Kid, and that only happened after he bribed his political cronies. It is said that only two other people saw the body of the Kid, one who knew him slightly and one who had never seen him before. Both later said they did not believe it was Billy laying dead on that floor. The inconsistencies are truly staggering. To me, the lack of a photo of Garret with the body is particularly telling, since Garrett was a politician interested in higher office. A photo of him with the body of the notorious Billy the Kid would have garnered votes, and no politician gives up votes. So if the dead guy wasn’t Billy, who was he?
The controversy started in 1948, when an elderly man named Joe Hines, who was involved in the Lincoln County War, told a probate investigator in conversation that Billy the Kid was still alive. He would not give his assumed name or location, but it piqued the curiosity of the officer, William Morrison. Later that year a man in Oklahoma who claimed to be Jesse James said Billy was living in Hamilton under the name O. L. Roberts. (William H. Roberts was said to have taken the name of his cousin, Ollie Roberts after his cousin died.) Morrison began writing to Roberts, who eventually confessed to being the Kid. Over the course of their correspondence, he gave details that filled in gaps in the Kid’s story. He claimed that Garrett actually shot gunslinger Billy Barlow, giving the Kid a chance to disappear into Mexico and later assume a peaceful life in Hico, Texas. Naysayers are abundant, to be sure, but there is some very compelling evidence. A family Bible owned by Brushy Bill showed family members with the names Bonney, McCarty and Antrim, all known aliases of the Kid. The scars on Brushy Bill’s body matched every known wound that Billy had. The tintype of Billy the Kid and photos of Brushy Bill were sent to both the Advanced Graphics Lab and the Laboratory for Vision Studies at the University of Texas, where they were analyzed using the same technology relied on by the FBI, CIA, and Interpol. The results were a 93% match between Billy’s facial features and those of Brushy Bill at age 71. They also said photos of Brushy Bill at age 14 resembled an old tin type of the Kid. The analysts concluded that the result “irrefutably shows that Roberts and the Kid are a very close match”. What are the odds of that if the guy was just a fame seeker?
Did Billy the Kid die young? We may never know the truth. Requests to exhume the body buried in 1859 in Fort Sumner, NM (which may have actually been washed away by floods) and his mother, Catherine Antrim, for DNA comparison have been denied. Given the word-of-mouth nature of history from that time and all of the comparisons, I’m inclined to think he died of a heart attack instead of lead poisoning.
After checking out the museum and buying a book about Brushy Bill, we continued east. The land was beginning to flatten out a bit, and there were mountains in the distance. At Meridian, we stopped to walk around a little bit at the Bosque County Courthouse. Built in 1886, this is one of the oldest courthouses continuously in use in the state. A renovation in 1934 removed the clock tower and the four corner roof turrets and dramatically changed the inside, lowering ceilings and replacing windows and doors. Thankfully, a renovation in 2005-2007 restored it to its original glory, and it is quite beautiful. Especially compared to the first one, which was a one-room log cabin built in 1854. One strange thing we noted: There is a path around the base of the building the gives you access to the plaques. It is made of broken tempered or laminated glass, like that used in cars. It was kind of cool looking, and I guess is fine unless you happen to be barefoot. The square also has several really nice, old buildings.
Next we headed northeast. I found good reviews for the Olde Town Country Store in Itasca for lunch, and they weren’t wrong. Set up similar to Amish store/bakeries we’ve been in, this one had a deli in the back and seating for lunch. The sandwiches were great on fresh-baked bread. Mine was chicken salad, and it was large enough for two meals. We ended up leaving with a few other baked goods, because seriously, there was no way around it. After lunch, we headed generally east, and the further we went, the flatter and more crop-filled the land became. Grain elevators, which have mostly been absent to the west, began to reappear on the horizon. At Corsicana, we turned southeast on county roads to Purdon. I was talking to Mom on the phone and was a little alarmed when MW started turning onto CR-2090, a dirt road that actually had grass growing up in the middle. We ended up being on a one-lane dirt for the next several miles, but it was smooth and well-traveled. We hit pavement again outside of Fairfield and made it to Fairfield Lake State Park by mid-afternoon.
Tuesday started with a nice walk around the park. Then it was writing for me, before heading back into Fairfield. First stop was lunch at Sam’s Original Restaurant, a buffet-style deal. The food was very good, and it seemed that a lot of the locals agreed. As we were coming through town on Monday, we saw a sign for the Texas Alpaca Ranch Experience. Well, you know I’m going to check that out, despite the heat! Turns out, it isn’t so much a “ranch experience” as it is looking at alpacas in a fence. It is located right off the main road beside a gas station, where there is a small fenced area with four alpacas. As we pulled up, they were all resting under the tree, but when we approached a little table beside the fence, two got up pretty quickly. There were small cups filled with food that you purchased on the honor system. I was going to get several, and MW went to the car for the cash as I started feeding them with one. They each took a little, then turned their noses up. Apparently, it’s not their favorite food. We paid for the one I used, then headed out to finish a few errands and go back to Petunia so I could get some bookkeeping work done.
Sleep was again elusive Wednesday in the wee hours, so I opted out of our walk. MW did head out for a while, though. Later I forced myself to get moving and headed into Fairfield to take care of the laundry at Rene’s Nice and Clean Laundry. It beat out the competition because it had…you can guess…air conditioning. There was only one other person there when I arrived, so I was able to get in and out pretty fast. That left a bit of time before my mani/pedi appointment, so I went to Subway/TX Burger to get a little work done and have a bite. Next it was Bella Nail Spa, where I had made an appointment the day before. It was a bit of a disappointment. First, they started the pedi for a walk-in while I was still waiting after my appointment time. When I asked about it, the guy said “your person is coming”. She arrived a few minutes later. The pedi went well, but the mani did not. You ladies out there tell me what you think: If I go in to get color on my nails, they put a base coat, two color coats, and a top coat. That will typically last more than a week. Since they charge me the exact same amount, I think a clear job should be done the same way. She put two quick coats of plain clear polish on my nails. They weren’t even shiny. I asked her about a top coat, and she immediately started speaking in Vietnamese to the girl next to her and was clearly irritated. She stormed into the back room and came back with another polish that she said was a “different” top coat than the one she had already used. She applied a coat of that, for which I thanked her. The next morning half of my nails had already started peeling off. Seriously! I don’t often do scathing reviews. In fact, I think I’ve only done one other in the past couple of years. (You regulars can correct that if I’m wrong, because I tell you about all of them.) This time, though, I actually created the company in Yelp just to give them a bad review. I headed over to the square to get pics. The Freestone County Courthouse has an Alamo-feel about it. Finished in 1919, it cost $136,000, and is the fourth courthouse. The prior ones were built in 1851, 1855, and 1891, although I couldn’t find what happened to them. There is also a brass field cannon displayed on the grounds that was taken by Lt. Joseph D. Sayers’ company in the Civil War Battle of Val Verde in New Mexico territory in 1862. It was later used in the recapture of Galveston in 1863. On the way back to Petunia, I popped in at the post office. The afternoon was spent on a bit of work, and later, we took a drive around the rest of the park for pics.
Fairfield Lake State Park is located a few miles outside of town on another relatively small lake built by the Texas Power and Light Company as a cooling reservoir for the Big Brown Power Plant. The park offers ~15 miles of easy to moderate trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. If water is your thing, you can fish, water ski, jet ski, kayak, paddle board and swim in the 2,400 acre lake. Other amenities include boat ramps, a fishing pier, fish cleaning stations, a beach, a playground, a volleyball court, a group hall with kitchen, and an amphitheater. The campground is divided into three loops with a combined total of 126 sites: 93 with water, 30-amp electric, picnic tables, and fire rings (7 are handicap accessible); 33 with water, picnic tables, and fire rings. The sites were paved, fairly smooth, and mostly shaded. Our site was a pull-through in the last loop, and was about 3 miles from the gate. It was really tough to get situated in, because they left large trees right up against the pavement on both sides and a good 6″ drop off of the passenger side from the pavement to the dirt. MW parked it like a ninja master, though, missing the tree on the driver’s side by less than 3″. The neighbor walked over and said he was going to let him drive his trailer out later! LOL. The bathhouses were clean, but EXTREMELY hot – 10-15 degrees warmer than the outside air. They had large fans blowing, but with nowhere for the hot air to go, it just pretty much felt like a convection oven. The only plus to that was, after being in there, the outside 96-degrees felt, somehow, cooler. LOL. Overall, though, it was a beautiful, peaceful park, and we would go back. This visit in June 2021 cost $60 for three nights. (We bought an annual pass for $70 that eliminates the park entrance fee of $5 per person, per day except 12 and under.)
INTERESTING SIDE NOTE: The plant closed in 2018, leaving the lake to cool off naturally. Like south Florida with its iguanas, giant pythons and Central American milk snakes, this area is the victim of someone releasing something and changing the ecosystem. It’s possible that it was transported from another lake in a boat that was not properly drained, but they initially showed up because someone was not using their grey matter. Thanks to the warm water, Blue Tilapia, a tropical, non-native species, has been thriving in Fairfield Lake, competing with native fish. Now that the plant has closed and the waters are cooling, park staff are monitoring not only the tilapia, but other fish and wildlife around the lake to see how they are affected. With any luck, the Blue Tilapia will become less hardy, and nature will balance everything out.
ANOTHER INTERESTING SIDE NOTE: During prohibition, the woods around Freestone County were notorious for the production of whiskey. Due to the mineral content in the local water, the quality was high and it became known as Freestone County Bourbon Deluxe. The Texas Rangers spent quite a bit of time in these woods destroying stills and dragging ‘shiners to the pokey. While, obviously, the stills are no longer active, there were enough of them that the park brochure instructs visitors to notify a ranger and not move or take any remnants you might find.
Thursday it was finally time to head back to San Antonio, or to be precise, Schertz. We’ve been circling around in Texas for weeks waiting for the winging ceremony of our nephew, Alex. Thanks to Mother Nature not allowing flight time, it had been postponed for several weeks. We headed down to Buffalo, Texas, then caught US-79 southwest to Hearn. Near Marquez, we passed a field full of some beautiful deer that I couldn’t identify. We passed so fast that MW had to turn around to go back. Later I found out they are Fallow Deer that come in spotted, brown, and white. We didn’t see a white one, but the other two were there. I guess the ranch must be a game preserve or a breeding facility. Next we hit FM-50 south to TX-21 southwest to San Marcos, then basically paralleled I-35 down to Stone Creek RV Park in Schertz.
Friday was ceremony day. We met up with the rest of the Jones contingent at Alex’s apartment late in the morning. Once on Randolph Field (pics of field from former visit here), we dropped Alex off to get ready, and headed over to the Base Exchange to look around a bit and get something to drink. (Once again, did I mention the HEAT??!!) At the appointed time, we showed up at the auditorium in the Base Administration Building, nicknamed “The Taj Mahal”. The ceremony was very nice, and as is tradition, the guys all broke their wings. (The pilot keeps one half and gives the other half to someone special to keep safe. The two halves are never together again until the pilot’s death.) Afterwards we all went to Youz Guys, one of Alex’s favorite sandwich places, to grab a quick bite. Then it was back to the base for some celebrating at his training squadron. Later, after going by Petunia to change clothes, we headed over to hang with the other Joneses for the evening. Aside from a Sprite spewing all into my lap and having to wear wet pants for the rest of the night, it was a pretty darned awesome day. Plus, it’s always fun when this group of Joneses gets together.
Saturday started with a nice walk around the RV park. It’s a lot larger than I thought and has a separate section for long-term visitors. I was surprised to find quite a few horses right next door, too. It is apparently stables that give riding lessons, just off of I-35 in town. Odd! Next we made a run over to Shipley Do-Nuts for kolaches and donuts. (There are more donut places in Texas than I’ve seen anywhere else in the country!) When we pulled in, there was a lady in a Pepto Bismol pink, convertible Corvette doing donuts (no pun intended) in the parking lot. Turns out she was a waitress at the diner across the way. I guess she just felt like donating some tire tread before work.
Back at Petunia, we waited for our chauffeur, Mark Jones, to take us all downtown. The first job was finding a parking spot. It was crowded! As we walked past the Alamo, there were street performers doing some kind of reenactment. That’s when we realized there was a festival going on. Turned out it was the last weekend of Fiesta San Antonio, seriously big doins’! The 10-day event is normally held the beginning of April, but it was pushed back to the end of June this year because of Covid. (Don’t they know how hot it is at the end of June???)
We headed on down to the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum. Alex took us there last year when we visited, but the others hadn’t been. Plus, it’s definitely worth a second look, and where else can you walk around a cool museum while enjoying refreshments? (See pics from previous visit here.) After seeing his statue a few weeks ago in Georgetown, Texas, I was surprised to see Three Legged Willie‘s actual peg leg on display. Didn’t remember it from the last visit. After spending some time checking everything out, we headed down the street in search of food.
Except for the heat, the walk through town was beautiful. The building right across the street brought back a lot of memories for me, although not in this town. When I was growing up, my grandparents lived in Brunswick, Georgia, just down the block from Kress. Built in 1909, it was there for my Mom’s entire youth as well. It was a dime store that also had a lunch counter, and we loved to walk over there. I understand that it is now condos called The Kress. It is amazing how much can come back in an instant with just a word, sight, or sound.
Alex picked out Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia for linner…late lunch/early dinner. Located in Historic Market Square, which was a music venue for the fiesta. It was a challenge getting to the restaurant through the crowd, and we ended up circling the building, but it was totally worth it. The food was AWESOME! I had the absolute, no kidding, best steak fajitas ever, and I feel certain that was in part because the fresh-made tortillas simply melted in my mouth. I took half of it home, and they were just as good the next day, too. The inside was its own Mexican fiesta, with bright colors and lights everywhere and a huge bakery counter. After dinner, the guys Ubered to get the car since we had walked about a mile and did I mention the HEAT?! While they were gone, we picked up some desserts to take home. Seriously, if you are in San Antonio and like Mexican, do yourself a huge favor and check this out. Our driver dropped us back at Petunia, where we said our goodbyes to the other Joneses. (On Sunday Mark and Jennifer would head home to Pensacola and Taylor, to Houston. The original plan was for Alex to leave also, but he still had some paperwork to clean up. He will head for Fort Rucker in Alabama on Monday.).
Sunday morning I did a little writing, and then we watched our church live stream. The choir is finally singing again, which just makes me happy. I’m sure they were all more than ready to get back up there. We had a few errands to run, so we headed out to take care of that and have a little lunch. MW was looking for a burger and found Chester’s Hamburgers over near the base. I had a grilled chicken sandwich, which was really very good. Both were very large and on poppy seed buns, which I really like. The place was packed and had a consistent line, so it must be a local favorite. The afternoon was spent writing and relaxing.
Stone Creek RV Park is a private park in Schertz, Texas, just northeast of San Antonio. We’ve stayed here before, so click here for the review. For this visit in June 2021, we paid $198.00 for four nights.
Next up…The Badish Day, The Barn Rollover, and Another State (Finally!). See you on the path!
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