Our readers share tales of their travels around the world.
Who: Gilbert Holland (the author) of Washington; his mother, Adine Holland of Wharton, Tex.; and his sister and brother-in-law, Libby and Buz Marvins of Houston.
Where, when, why: The Hill Country of central Texas, Dec. 27-29. It was a non-strenuous road trip for my mother, age and weight 93, to a scenic part of Texas with rolling hills and rugged countryside, historic small towns settled by German immigrants, dude ranches and wineries.
Highlights and high points: Before getting to the Hill Country proper, we stopped to barbecue-market-hop in Lockhart, possibly the only town in the world whose economic engine is barbecue. The Texas legislature adopted a resolution naming Lockhart the “Barbecue Capital of Texas” (and therefore the universe). We had long waits but savored the brisket and ribs at two of the town’s three famous barbecue joints. In the small town of Shiner, we toured the traditional Spoetzl Brewery and its generous sampling room, with the smell of smoked hops permeating the area. The wineries around Fredericksburg, on the other hand, are modern and fashionable, set among commercial fields of lavender and peach orchards. Another highlight was an early morning photo session with Buz and his brother, Mike, both professional photographers. We stepped among cypress tree roots in the Guadalupe River to catch the perfect reflection of the trees in the water and later walked beside dilapidated windmills and cacti.
Cultural connection or disconnect: You can tell if someone is a real Texan by asking for the plural of “y’all.” Most people will reply that “y’all” is plural; it’s the contraction of “you all.” But the real Texan knows that the plural of “y’all” is “all y’all.” After living outside Texas for years, I smiled when I heard a waiter ask, “Are all y’all sittin’ together?” I also heard “y’alls,” the second-person plural possessive, and such Texas favorites as “fixin’ to” and “good ol’ boy.”
The Hill Country has plenty of deer, but it was still a surprise to come across an art gallery specializing in antler art, as well as signs for “deer processing, jerky, boudin” and “taxidermy and wildlife gallery.”
Biggest laugh or cry: Everything about Luckenbach (pop. 25) was amusing. Souvenir thieves steal the road signs to the town, made famous in a 1977 song by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, as soon as they’re replaced. We passed Peach Cobbler Pass, arrived in Luckenbach and followed the “Park Yonder” sign. Luckenbach consists of a former post office and general store (now a souvenir shop), a dance hall and a beer tavern. My mother was moved by the live Western music to do a foot-stomping dance. Chickens were running among the people, and you could mount a saddled longhorn cow for a photo.
How unexpected: Zebras in central Texas! Last year “60 Minutes” reported on exotic game ranches in Texas, but what a surprise to see groups of zebras and blackbuck antelope as we cruised down a country road. Who needs to go to Africa for a safari?
Memento or memory: It took weeks to convince my mother that she could still travel comfortably at 93, so it was very satisfying to see her enjoy herself with family, taking in the unique culture and scenery of Texas Hill Country.
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