Tag Archives: Fredericksburg Texas

Central Texas Christmas Eve 2011

Circulating around Christmas Eve and coming into Christmas Day, I have taken some photographs that illustrate rural and town life in central Texas.  These photographs were taken near Mingus, Llano and Fredericksburg.  Mingus is the town that is designated on my mailing address, although Hannibal (no longer having a post office) and Gordon are closer to my ranchito.  (The Mingus post office is slated to be closed because of cost-cutting measures.)

My Uncle Floyd and Aunt Lennie had a ranch at Cherokee, near Fredericksburg.  I spent summers and holidays with Floyd and Lennie as a boy and teenager.  My Aunt Lennie prepared chicken-fried steak that was actually a recipe for wienerschnitzel (lightly breaded veal steaks) and serve beets that were purple and sweet and icebox cold.  My cousin, Allan, and I literally begged her to prepare chicken-fried steak.  Little did I know then that she obtained her country cuisine largely from the Fredericksberg German culture.

Christmas variety cookies at Fredericksburg Bakery, December 24, 2011.

The Fredericksburg Bakery has been producing cookies and breads since 1917.

Here is Dooley's Red Angus bull, my neighbor to the west (December 22, 2011).

There is nothing wrong with the drooling Red Angus. He has been feasting on shortgrasses and hay, perhaps a few Christmas cookies.  He’s a very gentle fellow and will amble away when you approach him. The Red Angus breed is noted for its weight-gaining ability. I have considered purchasing some.

Red berries beside Highway 16 near Llano, Texas (December 23, 2011).

These berries look good enough to eat, but don’t! If you see berries or fruits that are red and you don’t know the variety, don’t eat the red!  These berries are not to be mixed into any Christmas recipe for cookies or breads.  Please refer to your favorite cookbook for ingredients in your cookies.

Texas boots on the last shopping day before Christmas (Fredericksburg, Texas, December 24, 2011).

Cottontail rabbit eating spilled grain, December 22, 2011.

I like this pre-Christmas Eve image. I had fed Star before dark and left the light on in the barn and stalls. When I went back down to turn off the lights, I saw this cottontail beneath Star’s feed and hay bin, delicately picking up stray nuggets of Horseman’s Choice 12% feed. I watched the rabbit for five minutes and snapped several shots with my iPhone, the one I include here being the best in low light.  The rabbit probably favors a sweeter fare, like the Purina sweet feed for performance horses.

Heron and squirrel along Baron's Creek in Fredericksburg, Texas, December 24, 2011.

Baron’s Creek runs through Fredericksburg, Texas. I walked along the creek yesterday and today. This afternoon I spotted a heron in the water and framed the heron with the pecan tree on the left of the shot. When I looked at the results, I saw a squirrel in the tree. Do you see the squirrel?  The squirrel had been gathering pecans, the heron waiting for the stray frog or fish.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day.  I hope to have another post about rural and town life in central Texas as well as the flora and fauna.  Be sure to note my attention to juniper on Christmas Day.


Filed under Birds, Christmas, Fredericksburg Texas, Great Blue Heron

Speed and poppies

Red poppy field at Wildseed Farm, Fredericksburg, Texas, April 2011.

This is a cultivated field of red poppies at the Wildseed Farms, Fredericksburg, Texas.  The farm planted about one acre of poppies.  In addition, several rows of lavender, gardens of roses and other plants form a most beautiful farm east of Fredericksburg.

The wildfires lifted and rains were predicted to fall on the ranch as I drove to Fredericksburg a few days ago.  The town thrived on German immigrants who came to America frustrated by the lack of progressive reform in Germany following the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe.  The townspeople, stockmen and farmers concluded lasting peace treaties with the Comanche and lived through Civil War conflict to establish a successful enclave of farming and stocktending in central Texas that endures today.

In Fredericksburg the main street broadens into four lanes of slow traffic and angled parking on both sides of the street like the large thoroughfares in Fort Collins, Colorado, or the wide boulevards of Paris.  As a boy, I always enjoyed the German bakeries in Fredericksburg and still find them sweet-scented and delicious.

Sunday houses abound in the town for farmers and their families who used to come in for the weekend to shop and attend church.  They are small, cottage-like dwellings.  Many appear to be a hundred-years-old, cisterns and fences placed neatly, but now leaning in age, about the houses.  The automobile with paved roads terminated Sunday-house lodging.  As a sign of the times, the farmer and stockman could speed to church or market and return within a day.

As I stood in the gardens of Wildseed Farms I looked out on the highway and saw cars and trucks speeding by the farm, by the poppies and the lavender.  I know that commerce and trade in this day and age must have the machine to carry the goods, but much is lost and never regained when a field of poppies goes unnoticed on bright Spring day.  I should like to think that the tanker trucks and minivans have drivers and passengers that at least glance, perchance slow, at the beauty of the countryside and make a promise to stop the next time and fill their senses with all that nature has to offer.  And, frankly, nature is abundant in gifts even if we don’t slow down.


Filed under Fredericksburg Texas

Listening to the Fredericksburg Cypress

Mexican Cypress tree on Thanksgiving Day (2010)

Earlier today, I wrote the post below about identifying the tree pictured in this post.  I have since identified it as a Mexican Cypress tree.  Brenda and I drove back to the tree before we had our Thanksgiving dinner at August E’s in Fredericksburg, and as soon as we rounded the corner, she said, “That’s a cypress.”  I snapped more photographs and have factored attributes so that I am reasonably confident that this is a Mexican Cypress.  Other exotic nomenclature includes Montezuma Bald Cypress, Sabino, Ahuehuete and Cipres.

* * *

On one plane, I identify the tree because it is scientific to do so, giving a living thing a name that can be recognized across the community of naturalists so as to place it, give it provenance.  It is curiosity that prompts me to go back to this living, breathing organism and know its name, history and classic place in the scientific literature.  I might, in researching, find that this Mexican Cypress has healing qualities from its sap, its perfume.  It may even be a thing I would lace about my neck so that its scent alleviates anguish, propelling kinship with an organism that does not march across Texas, but sits still, in the yard of an old German land grant, most patient, most alive and most still.

On another plane, different and perhaps redemptive, is the search for connection in nature, in a world that seems so repelled by these things — trees, wild animals, un-managed waters — that all things wild are seen as a cropping, a harvesting opportunity.  I find that the cypress tree tells me something 1000 fathoms deep in the sea.  It says, I am the shade for your cattle, for your family reunions and my timber will eventually be your table, even your fire to warm you.  But, I will do those things only if you choose me to do so.  I will remain complacent and here until that day you choose to use me or ignore me in your work.

The cypress tree is named Mexican Cypress and is forty-feet tall, but it tells us something beyond the graph paper of science.  Are we listening?

The following photographs were snapped on Thanksgiving Day, my second effort at identification, giving rise to the above post.


The post that follows below was written earlier today.

Before identification, one of two photographs that started the identification process (photographed the day before Thanksgiving, 2010).

In 1846, German immigrants settled Fredericksburg, Texas.  They brought seed and domesticated animals, planting corn most quickly.  I am in the town — population about 4,000 — and have been walking through older sections of town and I came upon this tree, pictured above.  It’s a most unusual tree, but I live 180 miles north of here in another life zone, so I am unaccustomed to the botany here.  I will continue this post later today or early in the morning with more photographs, but for now I am stumped on the identification of the tree.  I only have two photographs and the above shot is the best and it’s not all that good artistically or for the field record.  It’s all I have at the moment.  I did not get stimulated to type this until I couldn’t find botanical attributes quickly.

At this moment, I have one possibility:

Montezuma Bald Cypress, Mexican Cypress, Sabino, Ahuehuete, Cipres
Taxodium mucronatum Description: Montezuma Bald Cypress is found from the Rio Grande River south to Guatemala, although it is uncommon to rare in Texas. The main difference between Montezuma Bald Cypress and Baldcypress is that Montezuma Baldcypress is evergreen and the male flowers are borne in long racemes, whereas common Baldcypress is deciduous and the male flowers are in short clusters. Since the extreme southern part of the state is the northernmost of its range, it has difficulty surviving winters farther north than San Antonio.

Fredericksburg is within the life zone for this tree.  What has me thrown off is the trunk of the tree that appears oak.  It may be a graft?

More later today.



Information from Native Trees of Texas, Texas A&M University, see link on my pages.

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Filed under Field Log

Harry’s of San Saba, Texas

In 1950, Aunt Lennie bought me a pair of jeans and a straw hat at Harry’s Store in San Saba, Texas, a dry goods store near the corner of East Wallace and Highway 16.  As I was growing up, I visited Aunt Lennie and Uncle Floyd many times, spending weeks at their Cherokee, Texas, ranch near San Saba.

Harry’s purveyed hats, boots, shirts, Levis, jackets, coats and all associated accouterments to farm and ranch living in central Texas.  The smell of leather, felt, and Levis surrounded a customer as they shopped.  The dry goods were new and unbroken by weather and work.  Trading at Harry’s was serious shopping, not browsing or spending time checking out the newest fashions, rubbing the fabric for quality. You bought jeans that withstood brush and barbed wire; hats that shielded you from a sun that blistered the fair-skinned into pain; coats that were warm and gave enough room to twist, turn and lift sacks of feed and drag cedar posts; and boots that had high-heels enough to keep the foot from plunging through the stirrup in a tight turn or a moment of fright.

I wasn’t riding horses or lifting cedar posts into holes in the ground.  I was eight or nine-years-old and tagging along with my uncle into the pastures and fields, making a nuisance of myself, asking too many questions.  Nonetheless, I had jeans and a hat from Harry’s after that trading day in San Saba.  The possession of country dry goods to protect myself from brush and sun signified a boy’s development into life on farm and ranch.  I dressed the part and looked like my uncle and cousin.  Not a poser.  You are not a poser when you buy from Harry’s and work on your uncle’s ranch.

Now in 2010, Harry’s has expanded into several adjacent stores, including the old San Saba Hardware store.  Four buildings comprise Harry’s, not the one or two rooms I remembered.  The expansion into the hardware store revealed a weather history.  A clerk had recorded San Saba’s weather patterns, writing data on the wall for remembrance, prediction, or both.  Today, the tin ceiling remains intact.  The hat area is on the second floor.  Silk western shirts are now sold with short-sleeved cotton work shirts and Levis.

Harry’s still evokes the same scent as years gone by.  As my wife and I toured on Highway 16 to Fredericksburg this week, we went into Harry’s to purchase jeans and shirts.  Opening the door to the new entryway, the smell of leather and new jeans surrounded us and I felt comforted that life may be, for a short time, comprehensible and integrated.  I bought a pair of Wrangler jeans — a change from the past — that the sales girl said were pre-washed and less stiff to begin with.  My wife looked at the shirt section and selected one for me: a Ryan brand, silk type that I would never wear in the field, but under my field jacket in winter it would give me flexibility in the barn as I fed the horses.

As I stood in the middle of Harry’s breathing a history, a friend and colleague came up to me.  Surprise!  He had seen me and and Brenda enter the store and had parked his car to come in and say, Hello — he was on the way to Austin down Highway 16 to visit his son on spring break.  We talked and chatted about politics and the weather, the recent death of a colleague and her funeral.

I need to buy you a shirt, I said.

Oh, no, he said.

Oh yes, a work shirt.  Come over here.  Which one do you like?  This one?

Well, yes.

Then, it’s yours.

I paid for it and told him the story of my first visit to Harry’s.  I fetched him a business card from the sales clerk.  Then, he looked down at the shirt and Harry’s store label was attached to the lower flap.

Oh, I’ll remember Harry’s, from the label on the shirt, he said, as he walked out the door.

So will I.


Filed under Cedar, Juniper, Recollections 1942-1966

Bluebonnet in Texas, March 16, 2010

[Please note that this post was published last year on March 16, 2010.  I have brought it to the front page since it is an anniversary of the bluebonnet.]

We toured to Fredericksburg, Texas, today for a two-day vacation.  This was the first bluebonnet (Lupinus texenis) I saw this spring.  No large fields, yet just one blossom.  It’s here, at least, a bluebonnet twixt Llano and Fredericksburg.


Texas Bluebonnet (click to enlarge) March 16, 2010, Twixt Llano and Fredericksburg, Texas

All the way down Highway 16, we had seen few signs of spring.  Winter still dominated the landscape and roadside.  One significant greening area was south of De Leon, Texas, where the trees showed green leaves beginning to sprout, but not full emergence.  That was along the River Sabanna.  Past Llano on Highway 16,we stopped beside the road for a rest.  As we paused, I saw this one bluebonnet and got the camera out.  About the time I started shooting photographs, cars and pickups whizzed by.  I stopped, then took several shots.  This shot was without a flash.  Just natural.  Shouldn’t it be that way?  Natural?  In springtime?  In America?

Oh, I think so.


Filed under Life in Balance