Another Aggie Hits the Ground A Runnin’

On Thursday morning May 9 we drove down I-45 south then west toward College Station.  Destination this trip was Olsen Field, home of Blue Bell Park (named for the best Aggie ice cream and located in Brenham, Texas) and Texas Aggie Baseball.  What a great place to park!  Named after Elsie Duncan Olsen, the perimeter of the parking lot has been designed as an RV park with all units actually accessing the large grassy park area with large trees, picnic tables on decorative concrete slabs and a large pavilion for group functions.  Each RV has its own pedestal for electric and water with covered trash can and a dump station located as you leave the lot.  It is within walking distance of Reed Arena where basketball is played and commencement ceremonies are held.  On Friday at 2 PM, grandson Adam walked the stage becoming the third generation Aggie on both sides, and a proud boy he was.  It was amazing to learn that over 7,100 graduated in those two days with three ceremonies each day, joining the largest alumni association in the world of over 350,000.  Afterwards we all gathered on the lawn behind our rig for a fajita buffet and had 24 members of 5 families present.  Luckily the rains that had pounded all night before waited until we all were fed and gone to rumble back in.  Then on Saturday morning we quietly folded our unit up and drove out of College Station heading due west.

Texas State Bison Herd

On Thursday, April 25 we decided to drive the southern route from Copper Breaks through Matador to Turkey.  A great drive and gave us a chance stop in Paducah and eat a burger and fresh cut fries at the Delicious Café.  Once in Turkey, we witnessed the crowds gathering and RVs looking for parking while the bands tuned up at the “Slab” (a foundation of a former building) where they will actually perform the next 3 days.  We took some pictures of the Bob Wills monument, sat and listened to a few of the songs and watched the dancers swing around the floor. (click here to view a short video) Bob Wills dancers video Then we decided to drive out to Caprock Canyons State Park at Quitaque (kitty quay) about 10 miles west of Turkey.  As we drove into the gate area we were greeted by part of the Texas State Bison Herd.  A great story of conservation!  In the late 1800s Charles Goodnight and his wife realized something should be done to preserve the largest land animal in North America.  They roped a few calves and acquired a few others, soon growing the herd to about 200 head by the 1920s.  The timely formation of Goodnight’s herd and the formation of four other private herds, along with government protection of a wild herd at Yellowstone National Park, saved the species from extinction. Those few herds provided the founding stock that produced nearly all plains bison in existence today.  Goodnight donated or sold bison to several early bison conservation efforts, such as those at Yellowstone, the National Bison Range and Canada’s national parks. He sold animals to numerous other parks, private individuals and zoos, including “Buffalo Bill” Cody and the New York Zoological Park, which was instrumental in establishing the first U.S. bison preserves.   Read more about this amazing story here.

And we agree they live in an amazing place – over 1000 acres in this park with rugged and beautiful scenery all around.

We decided the trip was a successful first run and returned home quietly on Sunday to place the rig in storage pending the next venture in a few weeks.

Bob Wills is still the King

Just northwest of this area the small (pop. 427) town of Turkey, Texas is located.  It is known as the home of Bob Wills, born in 1905 and died in 1975, who became known as the King of Western Swing.  He grew up in a musical family and worked cotton farms in Texas and New Mexico, often working along side of black farm workers where he learned many of their songs while in the field.  He worked as a barber during the day at Hamm’s Barber Shop in Turkey and played in minstrel shows at night while fiddling and later mixed this music with the blues to develop his own style later called western swing.  Then he began to draw crowds and traveled all over the west especially in California playing in clubs and starring in movies.  For a time in the 1950s Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys band drew bigger crowds than Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.  Luck would have it that we were in the area the weekend of the 42nd Bob Wills Days Festival so we decided to make the trip.  They have BBQ cook-offs, fiddler contests, catfish fries, craft fairs, parades, and many name bands each night playing western swing at the high school for dances.  Many people come in their RVs and campers and some stay in tents.  There are a few bed and breakfasts in the area and some ranches open their gates to the crowds.

Copper Breaks Longhorn Herd

The Texas Longhorn is actually a hybrid between Spanish retinto Criollo brought by Columbus and Coronado and English cattle brought to Texas by settlers between 1820s and 1830s.  During the 1850s Texas longhorns were trailed to markets in New Orleans and California.  They developed immunity to Texas tick fever, which they carried with them and passed on to local herds along the way.  In 1861 Missouri and the eastern counties of Kansas banned Texas stock, and during the second half of the nineteenth century many states attempted to enact restrictive laws in an effort to fight the fever.  After the Civil War, however, millions of Texas longhorns were driven to market.  Herds were driven to Indian and military reservations in New Mexico and Arizona, and in 1867 Illinois cattle dealer Joseph G. McCoy arranged to ship cattle from Abilene, Kansas, to the Union Stockyards in Chicago. Over the next twenty years contractors drove five to ten million cattle out of Texas, commerce that helped revive the state’s economy.  Longhorns, with their long legs and hard hoofs, were ideal trail cattle; they even gained weight on the way to market. Soon ranchers had begun crossing longhorns with shorthorn Durham and later with Herefords, thus producing excellent beef animals. Longhorns were bred almost out of existence; by the 1920s only a few small herds remained.  It is estimated that by 1927 only 27 head remained and then the US Government stepped in and with $3000 the Texas longhorn was saved from probable extinction by Will C. Barnes and other Forest Service men, when they collected a small herd of breeding stock in South Texas for the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma.  A few years later J. Frank Dobie, with the help of former range inspector Graves Peeler and financial support from oilman Sid W. Richardson, (of Fort Worth fame) gathered small herds for Texas state parks.  Since 1948 the official state Texas longhorn herd has been kept at Fort Griffin State Historic Site which is now part of the Texas Historical Commission.  Smaller longhorn herds were located at Possum Kingdom State Recreation Area, Palo Duro Canyon State Scenic Park, Abilene State Park, Dinosaur Valley State Park, and Copper Breaks State Park. We were able to see the local herd as we came and went from the gate each time.  The Leader attempted to get photos of the ones with the longest horns which can reach up to seven feet tip to tip.  As usual in his efforts to photograph Longhorns they quietly turned tail and continued to graze peacefully except for this one. They are beautiful animals and so many colors!  Maggie wanted to make friends (yeah) but it was hot and dusty that day!

Bunny Chase in Benjamin

Tuesday after breakfast we decided to drive over toward the small community of Margaret to find the site where Cynthia Parker was recaptured then into Crowell and over to Benjamin.  As we traveled we noticed crews in pastures everywhere building a 345 kV transmission line which will carry electricity from wind farms in the northwest part of Texas into the southern part of the state.  We actually watched them stringing wire from one tall steel tower to another using a helicopter.  We stopped to eat Frito Chili pie at the local Dairy Bar in Crowell, one of the few places in this small town.  We drove on over to Benjamin where we found a great empty field where we let the girls out.  Oh glorious day, a bunny took off and the chase was on – giving them the best run they had in days.  Nearby was the old jail which is now a private residence and behind it is a small 6×8 foot adobe structure with large steel door we assume is the old vault remaining from the former bank.  Would be great to poke around in these old towns except it was very cold and windy due to the cold front last night, maybe next trip!  Just as we left Benjamin we noticed this sign beside the highway which speaks to a different type of problem than Comanche facing current travelers.  Then back to our campground and a pot of homemade soup and cornbread waiting where it was warm!

On The Road Again

Once our new F-350 truck arrived, we drove the required 1,000 miles before towing could begin.  While getting the new truck ready to go, we made plans for the first Traveling Basenji journey of 2013.  Holiday World did a great job of checking out the entire RV and making necessary repairs after the February Wreck.  So early Sunday morning April 21, we set out for Copper Breaks State Park near Quanah, Texas.  The new truck towed well and seemed very solid.  We actually arrived at the park about 3 PM and had time to set up and be ready for a nice dinner and some TV before bedtime.  Monday we were able to spend some time enjoying the extra large site we selected and let the girls enjoy outside while we did some inside cleaning and re-organize the cabinets to settle items from the Feb Scramble.  We drove into Quanah for propane since the forecast was a cold front coming and we would need to run the furnace.  While there we had lunch at Sonic and got some groceries at United Market.  Some of the pictures show the older buildings and some neat signage painted on old adobe walls.  Quanah is a small town that is located just south of the Oklahoma border and was named after the last Comanche Indian chief Quanah Parker.  It was established as the Hardeman County seat in 1890.  History tells us that 9 year old Cynthia Parker was captured near Groesbeck by the Comanche in 1836 and lived among them, becoming the wife of Peta Nocona.  They had three children, one of which was Quanah, then she was recaptured by American troops and Texas Rangers led by Sul Ross in 1860 near the Pease River.

Sul Ross later became a Texas governor and served as president of Texas A&M University (the alma mater of the Leader of the Pack).  Our campground actually overlooks the Pease River from a high bluff.  Cynthia remained with her white relatives until her death in 1870.  Her son Quanah became a friend of Charles Goodnight (famous rancher who gained fame from herding feral Texas Longhorn cattle to railroads to provide for the Army and inventing the chuckwagon) and Teddy Roosevelt.  There are many historical sites of this period located near this quiet state park.  Later on Monday the temps actually reached 92 degrees and all that saved us was the stiff breeze which was bringing in a weather change.  Went to bed under a sheet and pulled up a down blanket about midnight when the winds tried to blow us into the Pease River.  So much for temperature changes in Texas!