26 April 2024

A Taste of Texas

Way out west.....

I always wanted to be a cowboy - at least I thought I did....  Watching The Lone Ranger or The Cisco Kid, then Bronco, Rawhide and Bonanza on TV, and then films from directors such as John Ford, Howard Hawks, Anthony Mann and Delmer Davies, before the late flowering with Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, I yearned for a horse and saddle, and a bed roll and a hickory fire, a bottle of bourbon and a can of beans....

Many happy afternoons were spent playing Cowboys and Indians, practising drawing my Colt Apache, and pretending to rob banks or kill savages.  Innocent days?

But I never made it to the Wild West, despite reading great novels such as The Searchers, Lonesome Dove and The Way West, as well as biographies of the likes of John Wesley Hardin, Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickok, life on the prairie passed me by, and the legends faded into the past.

Until the opportunity arose recently to visit Dallas, and the dream was revived.

Except that, with a nod to Kirk Douglas on Whiskey trying to cross Route 66 in the 1962 film Lonely are the Brave, the motor vehicle has changed the face of Texas.  Although it has been around for 100 years or more, the oil and motor car industries have all but killed the cowboy, except on the big spreads where horses, and mules, are still the King.

Even the recent past (before the tech boom) focussed on the motorcade:

Which drove through Dealey Plaza (though the shining towers weren't there then):

This is the view from the window of the book store on the right of the sixth floor:

But we all know how that ended.....  (Or do we?)

Yes, guns are a part of the culture, whether they're for shooting Kennedys, or Oswalds, or hunting, or robbing banks.....

Though Bonnie and Clyde did not rob the bank in Waxahachie, as they considered the city too big and the police department too sophisticated.  Indeed it has that air about it, having two courthouses and a mighty jail right bang in the middle.....

As well as a fine Meat Church, right next to the Theatre (which has a free show every Tuesday):

And a picturesque grain store just across the railroad tracks:

We stopped in the bank (now a restaurant) for a beer in Waxahachie after following one of the Ennis bluebonnet trails, a flowering delight amongst ranches on rolling hills.

These bluebonnets (a kind of lupin and the state flower of Texas) bloom every year in the first weeks of April. (The town of Ennis is the Official Bluebonnet City of Texas and it showcases over 40 miles of mapped driving Bluebonnet Trails sponsored by the Ennis Garden Club.)

Fields of them make quite a sight, perhaps especially when mixed with the Indian Paintbrushes (or Prairie Fire) and are enormously popular with visitors from all over:

However, pretty flowers are not cowboy stuff (they are in fact poisonous to livestock), and so we head to Fort Worth, where I get a real taste of Texas. The Stockyards Hotel has been the place to stay in Fort Worth since 1907, and it is home to Booger Red's historic saloon (named in honour of the legendary Texas bronc-busting champion Samuel Thomas Privett (1858-1926)).

It is here we have 'Anita Rita' Margaritas (concocted with premium tequilas, lime juice and secret ingredients including extract from selected Sarrano peppers) served on the rocks in a frosted 18oz schooner (with a salted rim). and guacamole (in preference to a 12oz Buffalo Butt beer)....

Then, to get properly kitted out, we cross the street to M L Leddy's: (a visit to M.L. Leddy’s is like a trip back in time, where old-fashioned values are refreshingly new again. In the historic Fort Worth Stockyards location, hand-laid brick streets welcome customers into a rough-hewn world of knotted pine, pressed tin ceilings and the unmistakable smell of leather).  

I quite fancy a pair of Vaqueros, but at $1395, style #O2818 (Full Quill Ostrich), it seems a little too much for my life in Snettisham. Likewise, I kinda feel the jackets and hats would be a touch out of place in my Norfolk village..... and I really don't need a hand-tooled saddle.

But we have a great time in Fort Worth. Rabbit and rattlesnake sausage with wild boar ribs and Blood and Honey Ale at Lonesome Dove, and then, brisket, pulled pork, grilled corn and Shiner Bock at Cooper's BBQ, before moving on to Billy Bob’s Texas (built in 1910 as a cattle barn, but opened in 1981 featuring a 100,000 square feet entertainment centre with more than 30 bar stations, real Pro Bull Riding, and a Texas size dance floor.)

So this is where I get to live the dream (or dream the life....)  Bull riding - here I come: (That's me on the right, y'all):

And off we go.... (Off being the word:)

Yeeee Haawww!

Well....  It was fun while it lasted, and pretty soon I regain consciousness, and then we are back in Dallas, where at the (Simply Tex Mex) Taco Joint I have a Spicy Grilled Shrimp Taco chilled by a large glass of Pacifico, 

Then I lubricate my aching bones in the Lakewood Growler (a Texas Craft beer Growler Fill Station) with a flight.....

Which really doesn't last long when you are a thirsty cowpoke:

Back in the real world of Dallas I experience modern America. Empty sidewalks, wide streets, six lane freeways, high rise blocks.   

But it has an elegance, looking across White Rock Lake at the CBD from the Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, it has something of Singapore about it.

And the mansions in the leafy streets in the University quarter are breathtaking by night, their etched windows and lit porches inviting all to gasp at their wealth.

In the centre there are vast art galleries such as the Dallas Museum of Art (currently highlighting a special exhibition entitled The Impressionist Revolution), the Crow Museum of Asian Art, and the Nasher Sculpture Centre (which has works by Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti, Barbara Hepworth, Joan MirĂ³, Jean Arp and Anthony Gormley amongst many others.) And there are smart restaurants (such as Mi Cocina) by the tree-lined Klyde Warren park.

Back home with my hosts it is time to rest under the trees by Briar Creek.  It is cool, and calm, and as I reflect upon this new world and my adventures in it, a white heron dreamily glides across my vision, quietly bringing me down to earth.....

With very many thanks to Emily and Richard for their kindness and hospitality in making all this possible


  1. What a fascinating story you've lived and told, what lovely and interesting photos! That said, Texas is a bit pesante, no?

  2. A 'real live' cowboy living Snettisham...now there's a thing! The bluebonnets looked wonderful. Kindest KK