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A Place Where “Everybody Is Somebody”

Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas
With Waylon and Willie and the boys
This successful life we’re livin’
Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys
Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and
Newberry’s train songs and Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain
Out in Luckenbach, Texas ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain

Just outside of Austin Texas in the west hill country is the famous spot that songwriters have sung about. This tiny hill hamlet began its humble beginning in 1849 as a Trading Post for both pioneer farmers and Comanche Indians alike. There was where a small community of German immigrants thought of setting up a community. With the unifying of the Engel and Luckenbach families began the dreams of some.

Today it is known for being a spot about thirty minutes southwest of Austin Texas that has monthly dances at their legendary Dance Hall. Where you can get a cold beer and listen to good ole music. Luckenbach hosts wedding, reception, birthday and corporate parties. And for some of us it is just a tourist attraction. When I first moved back to Texas I started looking at places I had never been to in the Hill Country. That is when I realized I had never been to Luckenbach. The Trading Post is now a bar and little store.

U.S. Post Office (Trading Post)

U.S. Post Office (Trading Post)

And so with my tall guy and the dog called Lizzie it was a day to head out there to get a feel of the lay of the land. From Austin you passed through famous Stonewall where President Lyndon B Johnson Ranch is onto a spot on the side of the road. In southeastern Gillespie County you see a sign for Luckenbach. If you are not familiar with it, as I was not, be sure to keep your eyes open because it quite literally is just a spot on the side of the road you can miss.

Dance Hall

Dance Hall

There on the side of the road is the Dance Hall, the U.S. Post Office, which, was once the Trading Post. Some tables under the trees and a huge parking that will be home to many vehicles as folks pour in to have a cold beer, dance and listen to good music. There is a small RV concern as well.

We wandered about, took some pictures and my tall guy drank a soothing cold Lone Star beer. Lizzie the dog being the active dog she is wanted to check it out until we came across a large black chicken who was defending its home territory. As good guests we recognized the need to back away and respect its humble home.

Engel Luckenbach Family tombstones

Engel Luckenbach Family tombstones

Looking around at the Live Oaks and the tombstones of the Luckenbach family at the far endI see the buildings. I can almost hear horses coming pulling wagons, the jingle of the reins as they move. Over on the porch I imagine seeing pioneers and Comanche Indians mixing together while everyone gets their supplies before heading out their separate ways. Truly where “everybody is somebody”.



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Road Trip Into South Central Texas

Along the roadside as we leave San Antonio Texas the houses begin to dwindle away. Slowly we move from small town to small town. Readily it becomes apparent that this land that once inhabited a large group of Apache Native American peoples has changed into another life. You can almost feel their ancestors looking up from cooking or other work as we drive by. Off in the desert there on a hill can be imagined a few men watching over their land. Their family, and their way of life.

Back to the present I register oil rigs on the sides of the highway. Each mile brings more oil rigs, more oil industry until here in south central Texas is a whole new community. Small motels, RV parks and other amenities that the oil workers will be able to use. Here they will stay, some maybe separated from family for long periods to work to bring America oil. DSC_0026

As I looked at pumps moving slowly up and down my “big guy” jars me back to notice the small squadron of javelina ranging from 40 to 80 lbs. Thankfully we are happy to be in our vehicle as these poor sighted creatures that are also known as “musk hog” have a strong scent that helps them mark their territory upward to a few hundred acres.

Family of javelina

Family of javelina

Both the oils rigs and the javelina remind me that we are in a part of Texas that takes strong people and animals to endure.

After about an hour or so we move on to another pleasant experience. On to Choke Canyon State Park. While the water is low this time of year the “beware of alligators” sign reminds us that this land locked lake has many natural things to experience.

After wandering through the park my tall guy, the dog called Lizzie and I pull over to get a Google map set up to get us home. Just then we notice a lovely red and black bird we have never seen in Texas.

A Vermillion Flycatcher is sitting in the tree next to us, moving back and forth to show off its red under belly. And as my tall guy tried to get a photo shot this beautiful bird flew toward my open window as if to say, “here I am see how pretty I am”. What a fitting end to a perfect day trip. DSC_0059

We turn to head north toward San Antonio. Soon the skyline comes into few. A beautiful place to be sure. It is a reminder of the many faces of Texas.






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The Way It Was…What Side Wins?

When I reached the age to have the right to vote I was a conscientious objector, more or less. I stayed that way for close to 20 years. Then I decided to take part in the voting process. I can not say I am really a “party” voter. I am a registered Democrat. I am a conservative Democrat, not a liberal.

However, I am not rabidly against the Republicans either. Each party has their strengths and weaknesses. I find I vote for the policies that best fit my needs. First international affairs are important and then the domestic affairs.

I care for my country and wonder why we think things have changed. For example, one major event for the Republicans was the Civil War when a Republican President declared freedom to slaves. So how did that change to be a Democratic platform? When I read about each Presidency I know why we are in the state of mind we are presently.

As the election is getting closer this year I am thinking about my number one important issue. It is international affairs. I know there is a ton of domestic issues which, I am very concerned about but foremost is the international scene. Why? Because since 1914 we have been in a constant conflict in one form or fashion. Every President has been involved. I think the country has had about a 12 year reprieve between WWI and WWII but then we had the Great Depression as a domestic issue.

There is a lot going on right now. I hear statements every once and a while that make me take pause. I wonder when the mud is flying is it the Republicans or the Democrats that are the warmongers? After checking it out I found it has been about even! If we have been in a conflict steady since 1933 it is not one party over the other, it is both. And on the other hand both a Republican and two Democratic Presidents received Nobel Peace Prizes.

If I did this right there were pretty much an even amount Democrats and Republicans who were President during these conflicts. Four Democratic-Republicans which, was a party founded by Thomas Jefferson to oppose the Federalists. Federalists were advocates of a strong federal government and a strong centralized government under Alexander Hamilton. I did not see any Whigs during war time but they were against Democrats and believed in a loose interpretation of the Constitution. Only one independent, George Washington, who never affiliated himself with any party led the country into war.

The findings below may read a bit dry because it is all just factoids but consider the next time we hear it is the Democrats fault of the Republicans fault that maybe it is just election rhetoric. See what I found below.

George Washington – Independent

Revolutionary War

Thomas Jefferson – Democratic-Republican

Tripolitan War

James Madison – Democratic-Republican

War of 1812, Creek War

James Monroe – Democratic-Republican

Indian Wars

First Seminole War

Andrew Jackson – Democratic

Black Hawk War

Second Seminole War

James Knox Polk – Democratic

Mexican War

Franklin Pierce – Democratic

Third Seminole War

Abraham Lincoln – Republican

Civil War

Ulysses S. Grant – Republican

Battle of the Little Bighorn

Grover Cleveland – Democratic

Apache Wars against Geronimo

Benjamin Harrison – Whig

1st Pan-American Conference (intended to calm relations between States and Latin America)

William McKinley – Republican

Spanish-American War

Theodore Roosevelt – Republican

Awarded the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation in Russo-Japanese War

Woodrow Wilson – Democratic

World War I

Awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize

Beginning 1913 America has been in constant wars except 1921-1933:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt– Democratic

World War II

Harry Truman – Democratic

Bombing of Japan 1945

Cold War with USSR

Involve with the UN Marshall Plan and NATO

Korean War

Dwight Eisenhower – Republican

Continued the Cold War w/USSR

John Kennedy – Democratic

Bay of Pigs incident

Lyndon B. Johnson – Democratic

Viet Nam War

Richard Nixon – Republican

detente with USSR and eventual withdrawal of US troops from

Southeast Asia

No war for Gerald Ford

Jimmy Carter – Democratic

Accords with Egypt and Israel

Ronald Reagan – Republican

Grenada, Central America, Lebanon, Libya

Cold War subsides during his Presidency

George Bush Sr. – Republican

Persian Gulf War I with Iraq

Bill Clinton – Democratic

Persian Gulf War II with Iraq

Serbia vs. Bosnia, Kosovo

George Bush Jr. – Republican

Afghan War

Iraqi Invasion and Occupation

Barak Obama – Democratic

Afghan War

Awarded 2009 Nobel Peace Prize


We really have never had a complete dominant party in America. Presidents as follows were:

15 presidents – Democratic

18 presidents – Republican

4 presidents – Whig

4 presidents – Democratic-Republican

1 president – Federalist

1 president – Independent

2 presidents ran on the Independent but were Whig and Democratic






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Traveling by Car……

It takes about 14 to 16 hours for us to drive from our house to visit our kids in Austin Texas. Because we make multiple stops along the way we get to talking about what we are seeing and other curiosities to occupy the time.

There we were traveling down the road when the first curiosity was discussed. We passed the city of Lenox in good ole Mississippi. “Say”, I said, “where do to you think they make Lenox dinnerware?”. We talked about it, then I looked it up to find that Lenox is headquartered in Trenton, New Jersey. In 1889 Walter Scott Lenox founded the Lenox’s Ceramic Art Company. Lenox dinnerware has gained such popularity that has been used in the White House.

Lenox dinnerware

That curiosity satisfied we traveled a bit more until we got to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Off on our left was a large baptist church named “Istrouma Baptist Church”. Of course immediately my tall guy and I started musing over the word “Istrouma”. What we found out was, the local Native Americans gave this name to the city of Baton Rouge. We learned there is evidence about this found along the Mississippi, Comite, and Amite rivers, and in three Native American mounds remaining in the city. According to these finds archaeologists have been able to date habitation of the Baton Rouge area to 8000 BC. THAT! Was a good factoid

Still in Louisiana we passed the Sam Houston Jones State Park. We were very familiar with Sam Houston of Texas fame but did not know Sam Houston Jones whom this park was named after. Originally the park was named for Sam Houston, the Texas folk hero who traveled extensively in the western reaches of Louisiana. So who is Sam Houston Jones? He was the 46th Governor of Louisiana from 1940 to 1944.

Sam Houston Jones, Governor of Louisiana

Satisfied once again we were edging closer to Austin when we read the sign in Washington County stating it was “birthplace of Texas” so, we decided we needed to know exactly what that meant.

Washington-on-the-Brazos is known as “the birthplace of Texas”, a distinction it earned when on March 1, 1836 it became the meeting place of the Texas delegates who formally announced Texas’ intention to separate from Mexico, they also drafted a constitution for the new Republic of Texas and set up an interim government to serve until an officially elected government was put in place.

Interestingly, the State of Texas purchased 50 acres of the old townsite in 1916 and built a replica of the building where the delegates met.

Washington-on-the-Brazos Park Visitor Center

Great stuff! Wonderful stuff! But we were still miles from Austin when found the Wendish Museum. This was a great fact finding venture. I think this one was my favorite. The Texas Wendish Heritage Museum preserves the history of the Texas Wends, Slavic immigrants from Lusatia, an area in eastern Germany. Today the Wends of Lusatia are called Sorbs.

Wendish families began arriving in Texas in 1849, followed by a group of 35 in 1853. In 1854, a congregation of over 500 Wends immigrated on a chartered sailing ship.

The Museum is located in historic Serbin, near the St. Paul Lutheran Church, school and cemetery. The present Church building, built in 1871, is one of the painted churches of South Central Texas.

Texas Wendish Heritage Museum

This is the kind of thing we do on road trips. Hope you enjoyed our fact finding trip. Oh sure, we were glad to get to Austin. But we were also glad to get the answers to our questions. We travel a lot and it is so easy to just drive by a sign about something and never even wonder what is about or why something was named what it was. Every day a street, a place or whatever has a meaning to the people who put it there. Can wait to get on the road again!

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Due North! Go Due North!

True enough, this compass does not point north.”
“…Where does it point?”
“It points to the thing you want most in this world.
~Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann
“So where are we now?”, I ask. The GPS says, “Turn left in one mile. Then merge to the right. You have reached your destination.” I am so familiar with the directions on the GPS that I had completely forgot about compasses. When I was younger I relied heavily on a compass, carrying one in my pocket.
Compasses have been around since the ancient Chinese invented them. The first compasses were made of lodestone, a naturally-magnetized ore of iron. The chinese showed they already were creative in their efforts. As early as the Warring States Period (475BC-221BC), the Chinese discovered that a magnet could be applied to indicate the south or the north, and a direction-indicating instrument Sinan.
Compasses were intended to point due north. Not at all like Jack Sparrow’s compass. His did not point due north but to the “thing you wanted most”. It looked and navigated completely different that a traditional compass.

Jack Sparrow's Compass

Han Dynasty Sinan

A traditional compass would later be used with a seaman’s sextant. Which, nowadays can get quite detailed. While GPS is the mode of directions used most often the concept relies heavily on the ancient invention of the compass.

Seaman's sextant

The compass that caught my fancy is the Rose Compass. It appears on maps and charts dating back to the 1300’s. I began to take them for granted living in a electronic age because I had forgotten about maps. But, when I pulled out some maps why, there they were! How beautiful and useful as it shows the thirty-two points that designate the wind directions. The bisections are the four points (north, south, east and west) of the winds then are eight major winds, the eight half-winds and the sixteen quarter-winds. When I took a real close look at the compass my husband recently bought I could see all thirty-two sectors.

My husband's recently purchased Rose Compass

So this little object, the Rose Compass, has so much that it does and an illustrious story of a long life. While the GPS is here to stay many people, including those who sail the seven seas, hike or just need to know a direction find they still rely on the ever reliable compass.
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Paper Dolls

The house had a large living room. It opened into the dining room on the left and my mother’s bedroom on the right. The dining room had a bay window with a window seat. Underneath it was a drawer. In the drawer were sewing materials that we kept for making clothes, quilts or whatever home made things my mother and us girls could think up. Above the drawer on the bay window seat my mother would put some house plants. Those plants were just lovely. But the pad that they sat on was my place to hide things.

One of the things I would hide there were my paper dolls. I haven’t thought about paper dolls for quite some time. About fifteen years ago my youngest sister reminded me how I loved to cut out the paper dolls. And I did. I loved the clean lines and I loved my paper dolls. She bought me some paper dolls at that time for old times sake. I still have the set, I just can’t part with them.

I got to thinking about some of the paper dolls I have had. One was the Betsy McCall series It was cute enough, I did cut them out to play with but I really liked the fancy paper dolls like movies stars or the bridal paper dolls.

Elizabeth Taylor, American Movie Star

And sometimes I would just cut the models out of a Montgomery Ward or the Sears catalog. These little cut outs made good neighbors to the “real” paper dolls. Then I would tear out the pages and fold them into different pieces for furniture like a couch or a table and chair so my little people would have a home.

Montgomery Ward catalog

As a child I never thought twice about when and how they were first made. It never entered my mind that these two-dimensional toys had a history. But I was curious when I learned that the celebrity paper dolls were quite impressive, A doll portraying the renowned ballerina Marie Taglioni, published in the 1830s. In 1840, a boxed set was done of another ballerina, Fanny Elssler, as well as of Queen Victoria.

Of course, my idea at the time was that a celebrity was someone like Elizabeth Taylor. Queen Victoria never entered into my childhood consciousness. Or the Barbie series were sought after. The Barbie products were just rolling out when I was a child. Barbie was launched in March 1959 so by the 1960s she was the hottest girl toy around.

Paper dolls were more than a personal toy for me, they are an era gone by. But I still love the memories of playing with them. You can still get paper dolls however, back then you could find them anywhere. You didn’t have to special order them on Ebay. Nowadays they are a collector’s item.