An Adventure of Discovery in Texas
(Enjoying the back roads of Texas)
September 8-9, 2012
Day 2 - Small Towns, Big Murals and Signs
by David "Sumoflam" Kravetz
September 9, 2012: I finished my visit with Sherry and family and had to book it to Houston (actually Katy). I spent my Sunday enjoying a trip down the back roads of Texas from Keller to Houston via some interesting small towns.
Keller to Katy via some back roads
Initially, I returned via Glen Rose and Granbury down the same roads as yesterday. I had planned this drive to go through Hico and Lampasas and then into Austin to see my cousins and then on into Katy for a week of work in Houston.
One of the joys of back road travelling is the discovery factor. You really never know what you'll see. Obviously, I had certain target places in mind, thus this direction. However, along the way many wonderful things were discovered. This has happened so many times that these unexpected discoveries are an expectation of mine. Follow me on this one and you'll see some of the marvelous things our little towns offer.
First was the drive through Granbury. Only one little thing I missed that I didn't get yesterday was the water tower. It mentions Leta Andrews as the "Winningest High School Coach in History." Actually, according to one article in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, she won her 1,334th girls basketball game against Midlothian back in December 2010, becoming the winningest high school basketball coach (girls or boys) in the nation. She was 73 years old at the time. The Dallas-Morning News also wrote about her in June 2012. The connection is even more interesting as she spent time studying under Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky back in 1965.
Granbury Water Tower - proclaiming it as
"Home of Leta Andrews - Winningest High School Coach in History"
From Granbury I headed south through Glen Rose and then blazed new trails down US 87 and then down State Highway 220 towards the town of Hico, TX (pronounced High-ko). I had read about a giant set of spurs in Hico on Roadside America, so I thought it would be interesting to go see them. Turns out Hico had so much more to offer. I really loved this little town of about 1400. The town motto is "Where Everybody Is Somebody!"
Welcome sign to Hico, TX
One of my first pleasant surprises were the wonderful murals on a side wall in town. These show the great western cowboy roundups. I did some research and found out that this set of murals on the side of the First National Bank were painted by Cowboy Mural Artist Stylle Read. Though there isn't a title, this is one of the more impressive murals I have seen in my travels -- and I have photos of well over one hundred murals from the US and Canada.
Mural work by Stylle Read on the side of the First National Bank Building in Hico, TX
But this was not the only Wall Art. There are also has a number of older advertising murals dotting the town.
Wall advertising murals in Hico, TX
Downtown Hico has a small museum dedicated to Billy the Kid, though there is a great deal of controversy surrounding this museum and its story. Apparently, there was a guy named Ollie Roberts, also known as "Brushy Bill" Roberts, who lived in Hico during the 1940s. He claimed that he was the infamous outlaw "Billy the Kid" (aka William H. Bonney). Besides the museum there is also a statue by artist and children's book illustrator James Rice dedicated to Billy the Kid. Brushy Bill tried for many years to get his promised pardon by the governor of New Mexico. There is a nice write-up of the entire story on the Hico page on Wikipedia.
Billy the Kid Museum and "Billy" sculpture by James Rice
Downtown Hico has remodeled itself for tourism. There is a rustic setting in the buildings and a huge Mexican restaurant has some fun sculptures as well.
Scenes of Hico, TX
But the real reason I went to Hico was to see the Giant Spurs. These are metal and are just outside of a large welding shop on Highway 281 in Hico.
Giant metal spurs in Hico, TX
Though I wanted to stay in Hico a bit longer, I had to move on. So, I turned around and headed south on US 281 towards Hamilton, TX, which was the next town south. Though not nearly the fun place that Hico was, Hamilton had its own charm as well. As you get downtown there is a wall with a couple dozen historic photos of town along with a sign that proclaims "What Hometowns Should Be." The town is actually a bit run down, but has that western feel to it.
Hamilton, Texas welcome sign and the old HenHouse Cafe
One of the main objectives I had on this trip was making my way to Lampasas. I am an avid watcher of Storage Wars and Storage Wars Texas. I had actually hoped to locate the Lampasas Warehouse for Ricky and Bubba, as is my custom to find any interesting place on trips, even those related to TV shows (I have been to Antique Archaeology in Iowa and even have a photo with Danielle! Coming soon to another trip journal.) I did find my into Lampasas, but, lo and behold, the warehouse, located at 506-B S.Western St., is totally non-descript. Here is what I found.... No sign, no souvenir stickers, nothing indicating this is their place...
Cloud Building -- home of Ricky and Bubba's Lampasas Warehouse
So, I drove around the small town and did find a few other interesting murals. Turns out the town created a program called Vision Lampasas! wherein the Art Committee of VL proposed a 4 mural master plan to beautify buildings in the downtown area. In order to involve the entire community, the art was planned as a gigantic paint-by-number. Volunteers could show up and pick up a can of #2 paint and paint every shape that was #2. Groups came and went and some came and stayed throughout the projects.
Welcome to Historic Lampasas mural
Called "Postcard from Lampasas" - completed June 2010
The first of all of the Murals to be done was "Boot Roundup" in 2008. According to the Vision Lampasas! website, this mural was created "to honor the art and talents of local boot makers, and as a symbol of our rural western heritage. Local folks were invited to a "Boot Call" at which over 100 pairs of boots were photographed and the design of the mural emerged. On November 13, 2008, after three months and over 1500 volunteer hours, the mural was dedicated as a gift to the community of Lampasas, Texas."
A section of Lampasas Mural "Boot Call"
Another mural in town, called "Generations" was designed as a tribute to the generations of businesses that had occupied the building located at the corner of Second and Western Street since the late 1800's until the present. I have seen similar murals depicting historic scenes of the town in many towns in my travels.
Four sections of "Generations" mural in Lampasas
Lampasas is on the registry of National Historic Districts. Their courthouse is typical of many of the Texas courthouses I have seen on previous trips.
Scenes from downtown Lampasas
As I continued to make my way from Lampasas to Austin, I took US Highway 281 South to Burnet and then took State Highway 29 east into Bertram, Texas. I had unique interest in Bertram since a person I work with at iHigh.com is named Bertram. What came as a surprise is that Bertram is home of the Oatmeal festival during Labor Day weekend. Bertram came about as a railroad town in the early 1880s and was named after Rudolph Bertram, who was the Austin and Northwest Railway Company's chief stockholder.
The Oatmeal Festival ("The Most Oat-Rageous Festival in Texas") has an interesting story as well. As many know, Texas is well known for its Barbecue Cookoffs and BBQ Festivals. As a spoof to these, this festival began in 1978. Just three miles south of Bertram is the small community known as Oatmeal, Texas. Apparently, you won't find the community on a Texas map. Interestingly, they do have a parade and a barbecue, but I am not sure if they have an Oatmeal Cookoff. I have tried to find some indication of such, but didn't. The festival has portions that take place in Oatmeal and others in Bertram.
Another interesting find in Bertram was a giant metal dinosaur sculpture along with some other whimsical pieces of metallic folk art. Those of you that follow my writings know that I love folk art. This dinosaur and other work was done by Garrett Wilkinson (1915-1999), a Bertram resident who created over 100 pieces. According to an Austin Chronicle article about Wilkinson, he was commissioned by the town of Bertram to build the dinosaur as a drawing card for parades. He used various old auto parts and junk pieces to make the 30 foot giant with an oil pan head and crankshaft legs. Like other metal folk artists I have found in Canada, Wisconsin, Oregon and elsewhere, Wilkinson has built eagles, roadrunners, flamingos, and penguins. He's crafted sunflowers from old saw blades, turkeys from chair springs, fire ants and grasshoppers from railroad spikes and armadillos from motorcycle gas tanks. Some of his other works can be seen here.
Bertram metal dinosaur by Garrett Wilkinson
Moonshine maker and still (L) and metal eagle perched on unusual gate at Wilkinson welding shop (R)
Here are a couple more scenes from Bertram...just for fun
Hungry Moose Restaurant - famous for its Ice Cream and Pizza...and the big moose on the roof
An old Mobil pump, Scooters and Shooters Biker Bar, a 12 foot tall Mexican Mariachi sculpture
After Bertram, I headed to Austin to visit with my cousins Ben and Lew, had some Vietnamese food for dinner and then drove into Houston. One great day trip!!
Check out Day 1 - Wild Animal Safari in the middle of Texas
Some roadside guidance provided by......
See more of Sumoflam's Trip Journals
Visit Sumoflam's "Less Beaten Paths" blog for more interesting places