I forgot a couple of things in the last post: First, while I was out walking in the morning, I saw what looked like a cotton boll from a distance, fluffy and white with something brown underneath. Upon closer inspection, it was a pod that had popped open. The white fluff looked a bit like dense spider-webbing and there were seeds attached to it. Turns out, it was Milkweed. I never knew it was so pretty and interesting. As it continues to mature, the white fluff will loosen up, catch the wind, and spread the seeds, sort of like dandelion. Second, as we were buttoning up Petunia to get on the road, I reached down to remove the leveling block and quickly pulled back. There was a little snake curled up right behind the chock. Unfortunately for him, he decided to curl up on the sticky side of the chock tape. Although I think he was just a little black snake, reptiles are NOT my thing, so I had MW (Mr. Wonderful) take care of that. Turned out he was dead anyway.
Monday, June 14th, we were up and out early to beat the heat. We went back across the Granger Dam road, then headed west through Granger and Walburg. I looked around for Donnie and Mark to say “hi”, but they must be out in Cali making movies. At the beginning of the day, the land was mostly flat with the occasional hilly areas. Most of the trees were short, with an abundance of some type of cedar. (In fact, we noticed a billboard talking about removing “pest” cedars. I guess they take over fields if you aren’t careful.) Before long, though, there were mountains and mesas popping up in the distance. At I-35, we turned northwest on TX-195, then side-stepped over to US-183 on TX-138. At Lampasas, we stopped at another Roadside America attraction, the World’s Largest Spur. The owner of a real estate office in town commissioned artist Wayland Dobbs of Cherokee to create and install the giant specimen outside of her office. Sitting on a 40,000 pound concrete base, the 35′ tall, 20′ wide sculpture weighs 10,000 pounds and has a woman’s leg wearing a boot running up the shank. I have to say, it was larger than I expected and was pretty impressive.
Next we headed over to check out the courthouse and square. On the way, we passed the beautiful St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, completed in 1891. The square has quite a few buildings that give it the feel of the old west, and most appear well-taken care of and occupied by lawyers, real estate companies, and the like. The courthouse was completed in 1884 and survived floods in 1936 and 1957. It is a beautiful piece of architecture. Something about the tower brought Mary Poppins to mind for me.
The next stop in town was the Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden. Now, I’ll just go ahead and tell you that the main reason for checking this out was a giant fish in a pickup truck, but it was really pretty cool. Fenced off in the park is the pool for the old springs. In the early days of Lampasas, John Hanna promoted the health benefits of the local sulphur springs. People came from far away to camp and soak in the healing sulphur waters. The town grew somewhat famous, and after building a convention hall, the 1892 State Democratic Convention was held here. They supported Grover Cleveland for President and James Hogg for Governor. The convention center later became the opera house. Oddly, somewhere around 1900 the resort closed, and there is no mention of the sulphur springs after that. We walked around for as long as we could stand it in the heat. My favorite was the Addax.
Next it was time to find lunch, so we continued northwest on US-183 to Lometa where we stopped at the Rockin K Kafe. Wild coincidence: As we were pulling into the parking lot, a truck camper that was at the campground with us for the past week drove by. We are HOURS from there! What are the odds?! MW went for the breakfast tacos. He ordered two, thinking they would be normal tacos. Nope. They were these bulging shells stuffed with all kinds of TexMex breakfast goodness. The second became dinner on another day. I had the French toast and bacon. It was all delicious. Full, we continued northwest to Goldthwaite, then turned west over to Doole. There we hit FM-503 north, and ended up at Flatrock COE Park on Hords Creek Lake. We were pleasantly surprised by the weather when we got out to set up. There was a nice breeze, and it was about 85, which was a good 8 degrees cooler than projected. Our site was also very shady in the afternoon, which helped. On the way in, I realized that there was no cell service, so after setting up, I ran over to Coleman to take care of tax deadline stuff. (A bad cell signal is no excuse for missing estimated tax payments! LOL) The landscape is mostly flat, so I was chuckling when my GPS said “Steep Grade Ahead”. Yeah, right Sam! Then there was a steep grade sign. What?! Turns out, you are coming off of a hill and there is a REALLY steep drop. Who knew?! Later when someone was giving me directions, they asked me if I knew where the big hill was, so it is a landmark. Before heading back, I scoped out the only laundromat in Coleman and was disappointed at the lack of air conditioning. (Seriously, it is getting into triple digits this week. Are these people crazy?!)
Tuesday was a slow morning again. Man, do I miss going to bed, falling asleep quickly, and sleeping until morning. These days I either go to sleep quickly and wake up, wide awake, in the middle of the night, or don’t go to sleep until 2 AM. Ugh! This morning it was the latter, and I was very sluggish. There was still a bit of work to be done, so MW and I headed into town to Owl Drug Store, which is a combo drug store, gift shop, and diner that has been in business for almost 100 years.. They also have free wifi, and I asked if I could hang out and work. We parked at a booth in the back, and MW had a sandwich before heading over to the hardware store to walk around, then back to the campground. (He would come back in a couple of hours to get me.) I had some fried pickles and later, a sandwich. I hadn’t counted on how busy the place would get for lunch, so when a line formed, I gave up the booth and moved to the bar. The waitress said I didn’t need to move, but really, I did. (I just can’t concentrate on work when people are in line for a table. Plus, it’s rude, and I don’t want to be a jack**s!) As soon as I got to the bar, the two ladies nearest me started chatting me up, so that was the end of work. They were very nice, though. Apparently one of them used to live in Coleman and is now in Fort Worth. She comes back once a month to get her hair done and brings her friend. That’s a LONG WAY for a haircut. (Of course, who am I to talk. I still drive to Greensboro, NC, for my Ortho guy. Then again, he is cutting flesh and not hair.) It was close to time for MW to pick me up, so I looked around in the shop (and found a birthday gift, too), then walked down the street to a bench in the shade to wait. He was there before I even got settled, and we headed back to the park. I was still pretty wiped out, so I just relaxed with a bit of TV for the evening.
Wednesday I was once again dragging, this time because I woke up at 2:30 AM. I did manage to nap a bit in my chair, but not nearly enough. The good news is that, with two nights in a row of bad sleep, I should be out like a log later. It was laundry day, and Coleman was out, so I headed over to Brownwood, Texas, about 40 minutes away. It was an easy drive, and I got to catch up with Mom, too. After towing at 63 mph all the time, it is really hard for me to keep Brutus at 75 mph, though. I finally had to set the cruise, and even with that, these Texans were driving up my rear end. I think 75 is the low-end suggestion for them. As I’ve noted before, the land is mostly flat with occasional hills. Brownwood, just like Coleman, gives you a surprise view as you come into town. You are driving along and then suddenly break over a small hilltop to see everything spread out below you.
I had picked out Shaw’s laundromat online, but when I got to the address, the building was being renovated and there didn’t appear to be a laundromat anymore. Uh, oh! I headed for the other option, Wash-Brite Laundry, which thankfully, was good, although pretty busy. I was able to get a little writing done during the wash cycle, but after moving everything over to the dryers, a guy started chatting me up. Despite the cowboy hat (straw), boots, and multiple tattoos, I got the impression that he was a math nerd playing cowboy. (I am, after all, a geek magnet!) He was nice, but I declined when he offered, “Let me help you carry those out, little lady.” The Texas drawl was appealing, but he was really just a bit skeevy. After my escape, I headed over to Schlotsky’s for lunch, an Austin, Texas, original. Then, of course, I had to check out the square to report back to MW. The courthouse was pretty, but did not have the elegance of others. The old jail was definitely cool, though. The original jail burned in 1880, along with the courthouse. This jail was built in 1903, and according to America Unearthed: Lincoln’s Secret Assassins, is built over an old Knights of the Golden Circle tunnel. Hmmmm. The courthouse was rebuilt in 1917, and is a remodeled version of the original 1884 building. After my look around, it was time to head back, to the park. On the way back through Coleman, I popped in at Owl Drugs. I happened to look at the receipt from when we were in yesterday, and I forgot to TIP after sitting there for hours! Wow. Had to get that rectified.
As I’m writing this, the CarShield commercial just came on TV. I have to ask…what did Chris Berman and Ice T do with all of that money they made over the years. According to them, they are terribly concerned about their cars breaking down and not having the funds to pay for it. Now, I’m not knocking CarShield at all. In fact, I don’t know much about the company. But I do know that, if you’ve been making that kind of jack for that long and need to worry about having the funds to get your car repaired, insurance probably isn’t going to fix your particular problem. In Ice T’s case, he has owned a Bentley Continental GT, a Fisker Karma, and a McLaren, among others. Couldn’t he just buy one less fancy car to pay for any necessary repairs? Also, is CarShield really going to cover repairs on a $200k plus vehicle? Uhhhh…I don’t think so.
Thursday started with a pre-dawn walk, when the weather was actually pleasant. At one point, with the breeze blowing, you could fool yourself into thinking it was going to be a nice, cool day. Nope. After that, we got cleaned up and hit the road for Abilene. (Get that song out of your head. This is Texas, not Kansas.) Now, let me clarify that MW picked the route, so there was no way he could blame me when FM-503 turned to dirt for about 7-8 miles. You know I love a good dirt road, though. The rest of the drive up on US-84 was quick, easy.
Our first stop was Frontier Texas! (I’m not weirdly excited. The exclamation point is part of the name.) This is not only an attraction, but the lobby also serves as the Abilene Visitor’s Center and has a nice gift shop. Tickets are $10, but for the month of June they were letting military veterans and their families in for free. Nice surprise! It was a pretty nice museum about the history of the area, including the very early Jumano tribe and the domination of the Comanches after they learned to ride horses. They have an introductory video that is done by Buck Taylor who played Newly O’Brien in Gunsmoke. (He is 83 years old and still plays a darned good cowboy. In fact, I looked him up, and he plays Emmit Walsh in Yellowstone.) Then there are many exhibits surrounding the natives, buffalo, conflict with settlers, and herding of cattle. The neatest thing, though, was a video feature called Blood and Treasure on the Frontier. Sitting in a round room on stools spaced out that swiveled, you heard the stories of various characters. Designed as if you are inside a cabin, it gave you a little sense of what it was like as a frontier settler facing the wild animals, storms, and Indian attacks. Throughout the museum the stories of several people are told in video vignettes. (There was a docent who kept repeating that “these are actors”, which I thought was funny. Did someone really come through and think the videos were the actual people from the 1800s?) There were a couple of stories that just amazed me:
Elizabeth Clifton, originally from Alabama, ran a boarding house while her husband, a free black man named, Alexander Carter transported cargo. That husband was murdered in 1857. The next year she married Lt. Owen Sprague, who disappeared while on duty 8 months later. In 1861 she married ranch hand Thomas Fitzpatrick, who was murdered 18 months later. During the Elm Creek Raid of 1864, her daughter and infant grandson were murdered, and she was taken captive, along with her 13-year old son and two granddaughters ages 5 and 2. Her son died before they made it back to the Kiowa camp, and her youngest granddaughter froze to death that winter. Her other granddaughter, Lottie, was branded with a circle on her forehead. Elizabeth and Lottie were rescued after being in captivity for more than a year. Both squared their shoulders and went on with their lives. Elizabeth married again, and Lottie married and had a family.
Britt Johnson, born in Tennessee, was a slave who came to Texas with his owner. A loyal, hard worker, he was made Foreman of the ranch and owned his own horses and cows. In the Elm Creek Raids, his son was killed and his wife and two daughters were taken captive. His owner made him a free man and gave him half of his gold to help finance the search for his family. He searched for months, finally meeting the Comanche leader named Esihabitu who assisted in getting them released the next year. Famous in the area for his search, he built a freight business running wagons between Weatherford and several forts. He died in 1871 while defending a wagon train he was leading from a Kiowa attack. A crack shot with his Henry rifle, there were 173 spent casings around his body when he was found.
Stories of the old west, like those of our military heroes, fascinate me. The grit and tenacity that it took to decide to venture into this harsh land to scratch out a living is phenomenal. The odds of survival weren’t great, and yet, they headed west by the thousands, searching for a new life. If you had the money, you could take the Butterfield Overland Stage, which ran from Missouri to California. The trip took 25 days, a third of that through Texas, but it wasn’t a picnic. Journalist Waterman Ormsby was the only through passenger on the stage’s first run, and he said, “Had I not just come out over the route, I would be perfectly willing to go back, but I now know what Hell is like. I’ve just had 24 days of it.” The rest traveled by wagon train, which took months at 12 to 20 miles per day. Those brave men and women could not have envisioned that the actual wagon trip would be the easy part. I wonder if anyone alive today, if sent back in time, would have the gumption to climb aboard? Probably precious few.
After the tour, it was time for lunch. We picked up a list of local eateries on our way out, and originally planned to go to the Taylor County Taphouse. With only a couple of cars parked out back at 12:15 in the afternoon, we opted out. (Seriously, unless you are eating at an odd time, arriving just as they open, or in a very small town, no/few cars in the parking lot is usually a bad sign.) As we were turning around to head to another place on the list, MW saw the packed parking lot at Blue Sky and pulled in. He had a bacon cheeseburger, and I tried the grilled chicken sandwich. We split the half and half fries and onion rings. Everything was good, and the buns tasted right out of the oven. They also had some pretty nice looking hotdogs and quite an assortment of sides/appetizers, including fried jalapeño rings and Anaheim chiles.
Next we headed over to Academy Sports to get a birthday present for our grandson, Little Booger (Liam). He is 10! Man, time is really flying! Each of the Boogers is special in his/her own way, and Liam is our hilarious sweetheart. The second born grandson, he is brilliantly funny and very loving. He is the most likely to, out of the blue, tell you he loves you. He is also the one most likely to hit you with a one-liner without blinking an eye. Once we (me and all five Boogers) were headed out, and one of the kids was pouting. I said they needed to smile to go to the movies. Without missing a beat, Liam said “because this car runs on FUN!” Another time he and I were talking about remembering things, and he said, “I think I fell and hit my head, which damaged two brain cells, because I can’t remember years 1 and 2.” Brilliant!
After popping in at Target to stock up on a few things, we headed to downtown Abilene to look around. As the Official Storybook Capital of Texas, they host a Children’s Art & Literacy Festival every year. Wandering around, you will see statues of various characters tucked here and there. We drove around a bit, then stopped in at the Texas Star Trading Company, which purports to have “all things Texas”, and picked up a few Christmas gifts and postcards.
It was time to head back to Petunia. We came up from Coleman all the way on US-84. For the return, we took FM-89 down through Buffalo Gap and hit US-83 south at Tuscola. The landscape is still mostly flat, but there are lots of hills around. It’s mostly cattle and sheep country with a little bit of farming thrown in. It is vast and beautiful, and you can’t help but wonder what it was like before the roads, power lines, houses, and cars. It sure must have been something to see! At Buffalo Gap there is a a Historic Village you can tour. We didn’t, because honestly, it was 1,000 degrees! It would be worth taking a look at though. I was kind of hoping that we would pass into a little eco-dome at Winters where the temperature dropped 30 degrees. Didn’t happen, though. Disappointed, we hit TX-153 and made it back home in time for supper.
Friday was a quiet day. I went back into Coleman to mail Liam’s package, get a little work done, and run by the grocery store.
Saturday we took another pre-dawn walk, then headed back over to Brownwood for a few things unavailable in Coleman. While there on Wednesday, I drove past what initially looked like a church, but was confused by the General MacArthur statue out front. The grocery store was right next door, so we walked over to check it out. A woman coming out of the building said that it is the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom, a part of Howard Payne University. Turns out that there is also a memorial for him on campus and some of his papers, personal memorabilia, and Medal of Honor are on display. (Having read about the history of the latter, it is disappointing. In my opinion, handing out those types of honors to anyone who did not actually meet the criteria just cheapens the award for those who really earned it. Same with the one given to Charles Lindbergh. Both were great men, but there are very specific check boxes for the Medal of Honor that neither filled.) I could not find a link between MacArthur and either Howard Payne or Brownwood, Texas. While searching, I noted that several people commented about the building housing the Academy of Freedom. Once a beautiful, stone structure built by the Presbyterian Church in 1890 and established as Daniel Baker College (merged with Howard Payne), it was later updated to add an atrocious, modern, white and glass front. Why wouldn’t you stay with the aesthetic of the original building?! It looks like filet mignon merged with pizza. Ugh!
After taking care of the groceries, we went to lunch at Underwood’s Bar-B-Q, which has been in business since 1946. Expecting a regular BBQ joint, it turned out to be a cafeteria-style situation, and at 11:30 AM, there was a line practically out the door. They charge you for the meat you choose, all of the sides, drinks, and desserts you want are included. They had “beef steak” which was a thinly sliced piece of beef with their sauce on it. We had to try it, because that seemed to be what everyone was getting. I thought it was pretty darned good. They also had ribs, chicken (fried and bbq), sausage, chicken fried steak, and I’m sure others. Oh, and they are famous for their rolls, which are awesome! In the dining area, people come around and ask if you would like anything else. It isn’t anything fancy, but I would definitely go again. By that time we had to skedaddle to get back in time for our afternoon activity…an Audie Murphy MARATHON! We picked up pizza at Rancho Pizzaria in Coleman on the way back for supper later, because a marathon requires food. We wouldn’t go there again. Their large pizza is 12″ and runs $12-18. The toppings were fresh and good (Margherita and Carne), but the dough, which is rolled into a pretty thin crust, was VERY tough (over proofed or over kneaded – yes, I watch The Great British Baking Show).
Sunday we couldn’t watch our church service due to signal issues, which is just a weird start to the day. I got a little writing done, and we headed into town to call Dad2 for Father’s Day. Then we drove through the park to get the rest of the pics I needed for you guys. It was still hot and steamy, so we stayed indoors and enjoyed a little more Audie.
I love Audie Murphy. Yes, he was a western star (with a few war movies thrown in) making 40 films over 21 years. Yes, he was a little cutie with big guns. Yes, he was a Texan. All of those are plusses in my book, but what makes him absolutely amazing is his military service, and that started with a lie. Murphy was not old enough to join the military when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, but he desperately wanted to serve. So, with his sister’s help, 16-year-old Audie falsified documents to meet the age requirement to get into the Army. Originally turned down by the Army, Navy, and Marines for being underweight, he kept trying and eventually the Army allowed him to enlist 10 days after his 17th birthday in 1942. By the end of January 1945, Murphy had been wounded multiple times (heel, hip), and more than once put himself in the line of fire to direct his men. Promoted to second lieutenant, the 19-year-old, who was already a well-decorated soldier, then earned the Medal of Honor, which was presented to him 18 days before his 20th birthday in Austria. The actual citation is quoted below, and I certainly can’t say it any better. It is said that, when asked why he single-handedly took on an entire Company of German infantry, he said “they were killing my friends”. Murphy was awarded every U.S. military combat award for valor available from the Army. He also received awards from several other countries and became, after 3 years and 3 months of active duty, the most decorated soldier of World War II. The movie “To Hell and Back” tells his military story with him playing himself. It is totally worth a watch.
Medal of Honor Citation: “2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machinegun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.”
Did I mention the flippin’ heat???? We’ve been in Texas for several weeks now, and I think summer started the moment we arrived in mid May. Seriously, the temps around Houston jumped up into the mid 80s the week we came to town, and Taylor blamed us. No kidding. The last couple of weeks, though, have been crazy…96, 98, 99! This past week was nice in the mornings, though, because the temps dropped into the upper 60s at night. It’s amazing how many people tent camp when it is that hot. I remember one trip back in our tent days when it got up to 85 or so. The sun shining on the tent during the day turned it into a little sweat box! As the tent campers come in and set up their tents in the sunshine instead of any available shade, I’m wondering if they’ve done this before and just like sleeping in a sauna or if they are going to learn a lesson later. That one trip taught us that we didn’t want to tent camp unless the weather was cooler. Okay, in all fairness I will say that there is a bottom end for me, too, although not as much for MW. Once we tent camped in Virginia on the last day the park was open in October. The temps dropped into the low 30s that night, and it was only going up into the low 50s during the day. That was too far the other way for me. I’m not a hat person, so didn’t have anything for my head, which was freezing. Trying to sleep in tons of clothes, including socks on my hands, was an exercise in futility. It was mostly shivering awake. I got up in the middle of the night to relieve myself and have never been colder in my life! The sauna tent might have felt good then, at least for a few minutes.
Flatrock Park is a Corps of Engineers park on Hords Creek Lake a few miles west of Coleman, Texas. The setup confused us a bit when we first arrived, because the road sign said Friendship Park. MW knew there were three parks on the lake, but the GPS was telling us to turn there. At the gate we found out that it was the entrance for both parks. The road splits off beyond the gate with Friendship Park (which also has a campground) off to the right and Flatrock across the dam. (On the map you can also access the park on the other side of the dam on CR-434, but that is gated off and just two ruts through the grass, so not sure what’s going on there.) Despite being only a few miles from town, this park is very rural, quiet, and isolated. There are four camping areas in Flatrock, but the third one has been closed off. Our site was the last one at the end of the road, and the drive to the gate was 5 miles! The lake is very small, but beautiful. It is mostly used for fishing and water sports. There is a swimming beach in Area 1 (and you can also use the one near the dam in Friendship Park) and a large playground in Area 4. Amenities include a boat ramp, fish cleaning area, and fishing piers. They also had two really cool group pavilions that also had power and water hookups for several RVs. The one in Area 4 was basically a parking lot where you back in side by side, but at the one in Area 2 the campsites were spread out around a circle. The campground has 10 full-hookup sites, and 40 with electric and water (10 50-amp and 30 40-amp). Most of the sites were nicely wooded with at least partial shade, and had covered picnic tables and fire rings. At some sites, including ours, the picnic table was in a screened enclosure. We didn’t like that, because it totally blocked off the wind and made the table unusable in the hot weather. Area 2 also had several sleeping cabins (no bathrooms inside). The bathhouses (one in each area) were clean but pretty hot inside, even in the early morning. In our area, the toilet side was locked for repair, so there were port-a-johns outside. In the sunshine, they were pretty steamy! (There were people working on the bathrooms during the cooler hours, and one day they forgot to turn the water back on to the building. MW was not happy after taking the long walk there the next morning!). The only negative was the lack of cell signal. The entire area is extended network for Verizon and is very spotty. Overall, it was a nice park, though. This stay in June 2021 was $182 for seven nights.
That’s it for now. Next up…Brushy Bill, Alpacas, and a Winging! See you on the path!
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