Sunday, June 29, 2014

Reunion Part 2

I am giving you the musical option again. I suggest listening while you read, but some of you do not like music on while you read. The YouTube video clip is also a good one to watch. So without further ado: Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, followed by my blog post…

Dripping Springs is named for the spring that drips right below our bed and breakfast. This is one of those places where the Edwards Aquifer pokes out on the surface here in the Hill Country. Water is vital and it is clearly why this became a settlement.

Dripping Springs is typical of most small town. Once upon a time, when we were 80% farmers, it was a booming place. Today, ranching is still a main stay in the Hill Country, but most ranchers are also bankers or business men who have relocated to the area.  

Life pretty much revolved around the feed store. The feed store still thrives. It is also a great place to buy an ice cold RC Cola and watch life go by from the loading dock. 

Life also revolved around the bank. It is no longer a bank. The bank moved out to the highway along with a number of other businesses. Typical of small town life, the highway bypassed the town, shifting the businesses and how people interacted. Since  the family B&B we stayed in was right on Mercer (Main) Street, we had no complaints about the street being so quiet. It still saddens me to see yet another downtown killed by the bypass.

The barber shop was a hub of activity, too. It is no longer a barber shop. Currently it is a beer hall serving in-house brewing. I tried to go there, but the owner works when he feels like it. I guess we weren't 'feeling it' at the same time.

Many of the buildings on main street were built by very talented masons. They utilized the slight differences of color in the local limestone and used petrified wood as accents. I asked a bunch of old timers where the petrified wood came from but no one seemed to know. I would have paid the source a visit, for sure.

The barber was ambitious by building during the Great Depression. Maybe he realized that prosperity was soon to come to end.

Don't you wish your gas station looked like this? It is now a rental store. You can buy kerosene here still.

A little snap shot of main street, in a small town, in the Republic.

Another small town with a big reputation is Lockhart. You see a lot of town halls in the midwest and southwest, but the one in Lockhart, Texas is a little grander than most. So what is the deal with Lockhart? 
Lockhart is not officially the BBq capital, but t should be. It is kind of a Mecca for foodies who love bbq done Texas-style. I have wanted to do the pilgrimage for years. Once when driving a truck around the country, we stayed in Lockhart. I had no idea back then what culinary secrets it held.
 For many years I have had an Airstream internet friend. Marcus Moyer and I had never met face to face, even though we have discussed many things like travel, drinking, Airstreams, and of course BBQ. My visit to the Republic allowed for us to finally meet in Lockhart and experience a BBQ trifecta together. All three places have been called the best. All three have been written up countless times. We were here to settle the issue. Best BBQ in Lockhart?
 You must read on. 
(A Shiner Bock would go well with the rest of the reading. Bob Wills and Shiner go well together  so take a moment and go get one.)

This is the wood lot at Smitty's Market. You're looking at 100 cords of pole oak. This will last Smitty's Market about four months, according to the pit master.

Smitty's was actually our second stop. It is right downtown in a storefront on the square.

This kind of patina cannot be faked. People do sit at these tables and eat their meals. It is about 100 degrees in here, however.

They had two of these cookers going when we were there. They are a side draft cookers fired by logs burning next to the cooker. Heat and smoke is drawn into the side and back out a chimney on the other side. I imagine it is hard to regulate the heat. Meat on the flame side must cook much faster than others.

Over on this side of the pit area another cooker was raging, too. You buy your meat over on this side. They sell it all by the pound.

Next you can go over to the air-conditioned eating room. They sell everything else on this side like iced Shiners. There is creamed spinach, beans, banana pudding, and a bunch of other stuff. We stuck to beef and beer.

So the beef represented here was my third choice. It was rather dry and overcooked. Instead of brisket, it was like eating roast beef. The beer was mighty cold, however, and the entire place had an ambiance that made up for the mediocre brisket. Our hunk was probably a little too close to the intake part of the cooker. 

The powerhouse name in Lockhart is Kreuz Market. Their building would be the last choice if I were passing through, as it looks perfect for the masses to pull up to.

The pit area looked serious. No cookers were going when we were there. Once again, you buy your meat in here then go to another part for beer and everything else. The dining area looks like a couple of dozen busses of bbq seekers would have no problem getting seated.

The brisket here was really good. It was very flavorful, moist, and falling apart tender. The beer, though iced down, was very limited in selection. I had my first light beer ever. Natural Lite is not beer, so it does not count. I bought brisket to go. Later that night a relative told me that the brisket is not their specialty, sausage is. Go figure, German sausage makers in Texas.

Our first stop was actually Black's.  Black's has a serious reputation as the best. I wish we had come here last.

The staff was very friendly and appreciative that I was on a pilgrimage. Lots of samples were offered. 

We tried some pork ribs along with the beef brisket. The White Wing by Shiner is an awesome beer. If you like Blue Moon you won't after you try one of these. Ask your local store to get it in for you. Thank me later.
Oh, the BBQ… Well, hands down, Black's was the best we tried that day. The meat was very flavorful and incredibly moist.  I got the moist.  Marcus got the lean.  Last time in the Republic, it was called "the fatty" and you had to ask for it. All the BBQ joints offer it now "moist" or "lean". 
The atmosphere was typical 'bbq joint' with more than the eye could take in. Of the three places we went to, Black's was clearly the winner with me.

I feel like writing so I will continue on to the next day…

I love learning new things… Juneteenth, ever hear about it? You can read the link for the full story, but it was on June 19th that news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas. It was signed on September 22. News moved rather slowly in those days.

 At Peyton Colony they celebrate this event every year. Peyton Colony is a story all its own. I will paraphrase the older lady who told me the story:  It was founded on a piece of property no one wanted. No fool would buy it.

The land sits on a very high ridge far from water and other communities. An emancipated slave from Dripping Springs bought the land, as it was all he could buy. Keep in mind no one wanted it. Other Freeman came and they settled. Some still live there. 

The population of Peyton Colony is about 30 and it is listed as a ghost town by some. Those who do live there are very welcoming. The multi million dollar ranches surrounding Peyton Colony are not welcoming at all.

This guy could rip on the Texas swing. He wouldn't play any since he was on church grounds.

I loved the hay wagon-turned-band stand. They held a cake auction to raise money for rebuilding the schoolhouse. You'll see the schoolhouse shortly, along with my $21 pecan pie.

The ladies of Peyton Colony served a wicked good dinner. 

Brisket, beans, sausage, pea salad, potato salad, fresh tomato and homemade pickles. The only thing not homemade was the white bread. Do you like my $21 pie? It was very good, to say the least. Everyone in our group got a slice and I had the remaining one for breakfast the next day.

This is where the community went to school from 1877 till 1963. We were told the building was just about falling down. A former resident took pity and has been working on fixing it back up.

Can you imagine that this was school for an entire community? All grades lumped together in one space.

How many kids must have written their names on that board...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hill Country Reunion

As many of you know, I like music. As I write this, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys is playing. Perhaps you will hit the link below and listen as you read.

My father-in-law's family settled a chunk of the Republic of Texas way back in the day when land was $.13/ acre. They settled in the Hill Country, west of Austin on Missionary Ridge, close to Fischer Store.

Some of his cousins, twice or three times removed still live in the area. Our families got together to get to know each other. It is not hard to understand why they chose this part of the Republic. It is mighty beautiful here.

This year has been unusually gracious with rainfall after many years of serious drought.  The wild flowers are still everywhere you look.

Normally everything is brown by now. The ranchers are busy cutting hay. It is a good year for hay in the Hill Country.


It is a great year for the wildflowers.

We took a hike out to the Hamilton Pool

There was no swimming due to high levels of bacteria in the water. Lots of rain results in lots of cow shit being washed off of the ranch and into the waterways.

What a special place this must have been foreons. I bet some of Sam's kin came here when they arrived in the area.

I imagine little has changed except a ranger telling you not to swim or make contact with 
the water.

After a hike, one just might build up an appetite . We headed over to the Blanco Bowling Alley. By the way, in the Republic, they like to pretend that there is no relationship to Hispanic culture. Instead of calling it "BLAHN-CO" in the true Spanish pronunciation, they say "BLANK-OH".  The Blanco Bowling Alley is a mainstay in these parts. You can smoke and eat in one of the rooms. There is no place like that in Baltimore.

I had the chicken fried steak. It was textbook. I liked the corn flakes crust. It was the tastiest thing on the plater.

The next day we headed over to Jacob's Well. This is one of many places where the Edwards Aquifer comes out of the ground and bubbles to the surface. Cypress Creek begins here at Jacob's Well.

Some say it has no bottom. Eight scuba divers have died trying to find out. I suspect some local kids get seriously messed up each year misjudging the edges when they jump from high up.

A true oasis on the first day of summer. 

We then went out to the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. It is all also known as the Peal Cemetery, named after Beth's relatives.

The graves have seen better days.

I don't think the graves get many visitors. This land was donated by my father-in-law's family back in the day.  J.B. Peal, a Baptist minister, donated the five acres of land for a school, church and cemetery.

This is the building that serviced their community. It is now an antiques shop but once this was where one purchased everything one could not produce oneself.

We also went to Gruene. Now for you non-Texans, that is "green" not "gruene" as in the German pronunciation. Texans kind of like their German heritage. Gruene is a total tourist town. We ate lunch and went on up the road. 
The Bob Wills is about to end so I will sign off for this post.