Monday, February 18, 2019

The HooDoo that You do....So Well

 A tough week here at Rancho Juvat.  Earlier in the week, we had "Snowmaggedon" Texas style.

Notice the heavy snow drift that threatened to burry my truck. 
This blizzard (shown in its full extent in the photo above), of course, sent drivers into a flurry (heh!) as there seemed to be that one car that insisted on driving at 30 (in a 70) because....Snow.  There wasn't enough on the ground to make it wet, much less icy or slippery.  But....Snow = 30MPH.  Until they got to a passing zone where, evidently, the road was much safer, as they rapidly accelerated to 75 (in a 70 zone  

Yep, then back to 30 when the road went to 2 lanes.  ARRRGGGGHHHH.  Where's my roof-mounted Vulcan when I need it?

Then Thursday morning, early, I awaken to the sound of everything in the house shutting off.  That happens.  So I lie there for a second waiting for everything to start back up.  Nothing.  So I get up and walk to the back door to see if it's just us or everyone.  A couple of miles away is a new development, lovingly referred to by locals as "California Hill".  Because....
This House was built by a lawyer from "The City by the Bay".  All glass front, because beautiful sunsets in TCBTB.  Unfortunately, sunsets in Texas aren't cooled by off shore breezes.  Rumors say he's not happy with the ambient temperature in his $10M home.
Anyhow, I look out the back door to see absolute darkness.  Evidently, an electric line had touched something it shouldn't have out at LBJ's Ranch and shorted out the electrical grid for the whole county. I could just here the resident's on California hill..."Buffy...I thought that Texas has loads of energy....."  Not a gas powered generator up there evidently.

Somethings, like electricity, you can live with out.  Coffee, however, is not one of them.  

Power was finally restored about 8:30 AM.  Our Guests in the Guest House were not happy.

C'est La Vie

Given all that drama, .Mrs J and I felt adventurous and decided to tempt fate and depart on another "Day Trip". Target this time was the thriving metroplex of Mason, Texas (pop 2114).  We also decided we'd forego US-87 for much of the ingress, saving that for a quick egress after a successful mission in the target area.

Therefore, we ingressed via RR2093 from Morris Ranch to Harper. 
Morris Ranch Guest Hotel
Morris Ranch was a huge horse ranch in the late 1800's and early 1900's, but has been broken up and sold in parcels over time, essentially ceasing to exist as a single entity ~1950. We own a small (very small) portion of it.  It, like most ranches of the time, was almost entirely self sufficient, even sporting its own school.

Once past the Ranch, we turned left on RR2093 and headed west to the little town of Harper, Texas.
Harper ISD on the other side of US290

 Safely transited US290 at a right angle and joined RR783 North (ish).

BTW, a RR in Texas is a Ranch Road, a feeder two lane (usually...There are RR's in big cities that are multi-lane.) that connects to a larger highway.  State built, they allow access to ranches/farms and very small communities so they can transport goods and commodities to larger markets.  Sometimes they are delineated FM (Farm to Market) or RM (Ranch to Market).

Anyhow...This led us on a beautiful journey north through the town of Doss, renowned for it's annual Fish Fry which funds its Volunteer Fire Department.
Doss is on the horizon.  Small town, Neh?  Yes, that is a Cedar Fever symptom reliever in the lower left.
Shortly thereafter, we encountered the town of Hilda Texas.  Now this town makes even Doss look like NYC.  However, we decided we'd pull off the highway and investigate a bit.  

Main St. Hilda.
The church is a very well maintained Methodist Church.  The Steeple is very bright white against the sky.  Somebody obviously invests some effort in the town.
Ranch House
This is the Ranch House, and apparently the only house, in Hilda.  There was a historical marker saying that this Ranch had been owned by the same family for a hundred years.  The Marker didn't have a date on it saying when it was awarded, but even if it was just presented this year...1919 was a long time ago.  A lot of things have changed.

Others?  Not so much.

Next stop was Mason.  Now, Mason is famous for 3 things.  A Movie Theater, Fort Mason, and a War.

We intended to investigate all these things, but first, Lunch.

I'm a sucker for Chicken Fried Steak and am always trying it when I get to one of "those" places that might just do it right.  STxAR will know what I'm talking about.  It's not a chain, it's not got linen napkins or a wine list.  The waitress is named Betty Lou and is chewing gum as she takes your order.  Ice Tea is the expected beverage and you'd better say unsweetened if you don't have a shot of quick acting insulin handy.


In any case, We found a place, The Willow Creek Cafe & Club .  If you recall our discussion of Texas Liqour Laws,  we have some Dry counties.  Mason county is partially dry, in that you can have a "club" where you can buy beer or wine for a "membership" fee.  This was one of those establishments.  Hence, the "Club" in the name.

I elected to order Chicken Fried Steak with unsweetened tea.

Yes, I had a bite, or two, before I remembered to take the picture.  BTW, the dimensions of the roll, as measured by my smart phone?  2" thick, 3" wide, 3" tall.  

No, I didn't finish it.

Properly resuscitated, we walked around the main square and saw the Odeon Theater.
Mason is the home of Fred Gipson, the author of "Ol Yeller"   (Who cried when Ol Yeller Died?)

Walt Disney, in his honor, debuted the Movie in this theater.  So...They got that going for them.

We also saw the Seaquist house, a beautiful late 1800's cattleman's home, that is being renovated. According to the Historical Marker out front, the Third Floor is a ballroom.

Next stop was Fort Mason. As we're driving over there, Mrs J yells for me to stop.  As I asked her why, she pointed to this.

 Not many towns have cannons in their housing areas.

Fort Mason is one of several contained in the Texas Fort's Trail.  These forts started life as a string of forts running from the Red River down to the Rio Grande.  They were built about 20 miles apart (one day's horse ride) and intended to protect settlers from Comanche attacks.

While only one original building on Fort Mason's grounds remains intact, a replica of the Officer's quarters was built in the mid '70s and serves as a small museum.  

I'm not an expert on prime terrain for ground operations.  I did recognize it when I got to the top of Little Round Top at Gettysburg.  Placement of this fort was almost as good. One could "See 'em coming" for several miles.

The fort was only in operation intermittently from 1851 through 1861.  In his last position as an Officer in the United States Army, Robert E. Lee commanded the fort.

There were several other officers who served here who reached the rank of General in the War between the States.  I recognized quite a few of their names.

For a place in the middle of nowhwere 150+ years ago, the quarters seemed livable.

Bedroom with a bath.

Office with fireplace.

 Second bedroom
Dining Room

The various exhibits contained some interesting information about the inhabitents, including one about one of the commanders who convinced the local Indian tribe that he had magical powers and could even revive the dead.  When questioned about that, he brought in a "dead" dog that had been cloroformed, then took it back into his office where he worked his magic and brought it back to life.

Whatever works, I guess.  Better to hoodwink them than have to fight them.

There also was a passage from a letter General Lee wrote his son in January 1861 which I thought was interesting.  Unfortunately the picture I took didn't turn out.  However, it can be found here.

Failure to learn from history, means we have to relearn its lessons.

As we headed back down to the town, we encountered the only intact building from the original fort, the stables.

It now serves as a shed for one of the local residents.

But what's this about a "War"?  Well, after the War between the States, things weren't all "hunky dory".  There was a conflict within the Texas Hill Country called the Mason County War or the "HooDoo" War.  "Hoodoo" is an old term for "Bad Luck.

While this clip was from a very funny movie, the actions he sends them on were not, and that was essentially what was going on in Mason at the time.  He's inciting violence to improve his power and position. 

The German's who had settled the region were not generally supporters of the Southern cause.  That did not sit well with the returning veterans.  Additionally, the German settlers were primarily farmers, while the Texans were coming back and starting over.  Cattle ranching was becoming a big business in the region and ranching appealed to them..  However, the "rules" were still being worked out.

Who owned a cow was a big, yet problematic question.  Most of the land was not owned by anyone specifically, fencing was sporadic at best and branding was not scientific.  So there were lots of arguments over cattle rustling with everyone accusing everyone else of doing it.  The Germans, typically raised minimal cattle specifically for their needs, so theft of one of those had a disparate impact on them.  That, coupled with a desire for revenge, often made them targets. 

Additionally, law enforcement wasn't pure and clean either.  Pay wasn't good, so many lawmen were cattlemen also.  When cattle were rustled and tempers flared, people got killed.  When someone was arrested for that murder,  they sometimes, somehow managed to escape from jail.  When a different group of people "arrested" them again, well...sometimes they didn't make it back to jail...alive.

All that is contained in this article by the Texas State History Association, but you need a roster to keep track of who shot whom.  This is complicated by the fact that the Courthouse burned down during that time and the records were destroyed.

A longer, but better explanation can be found here and is worth reading.  It does a very good job of putting together all the causal factors but the lesson I took from reading about the HooDoo Wars reinforces passages from General Lee's letter.
"...But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice every-thing but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resortto force. Secession is nothing but revolution.
... Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness,has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved, and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and save in defense will draw my sword on none."

 We live in scary times.

P.S.  Yes, we made it home, with windows and wallets intact.  Our successful day trip record has been reset 


  1. A very interesting post juvat, you have a knack for travelogging your jaunts. a structure with how much glass in it on top of a hill with no shade on it then get upset about your cooling Texas? The divide tween right and left is ever growing and with the InterNet everybody's voice can be heard. Something can take off like wildfire now unlike previous generations that had to rely on radio, TV, newspaper or face-to-face talk.

    1. Thanks, Nylon.
      Yes, because they've got money, they're WAAAYY smarter than the rest of us. I know his builder. The Builder offered several different options that would have maximized the view and minimized the heat, but...Nooooo!
      That instantaneous dispersal of story (as opposed to information) is very scary isn't it? in 1861 it took days/weeks to get stories to various outposts. And things still went to hell in a handbasket. We don't have anywhere near that time frame to make informed decisions nowadays.

  2. That picture of lunch got me hungry... Now I want to go to Momma's Cafe in SA. They do gravy pretty well there... Then I'd need a nap in the parking lot.

    I was coming home from a pm trip to west Texas years ago (SJT, MAF, LBB?). I went through Mason for a change. It was really late, and there was a cold rain just sheeting down. It may have been about 2300 or so, and I was glad to be in the truck with a heater. Something weird caught my eye, as I was splashing my way south on 87. I caught a glimpse of a FACE hovering about eye level on the right side of the road!! "Did I really just see someone standing on the side of the road with a suitcase?!?!" I hooked a U, and drove back. Sure enough, there was an old timer standing in the rain, waiting for a bus. I stopped and rolled down the window to visit. I offered to take him to Mason or let him sit in the truck to warm up. But he was afraid he'd miss the bus. My heart broke. Not five minutes later, a deputy rolls up and I said goodbye and eased on home. I never found out what the story was, but I figured he was starting to lose his grip.

    I love that part of the world. Reminds me of southwestern Oklahoma where my kith and kin stuck out the dust bowl. Mason used to have a great gun shop, too. I found a lot of treasure when I'd sneak out that way. I think the owner went back to real estate, though.

    Thanks for the pictures, good stuff!!

    1. My Pleasure, STxAR. That nap in the parking lot would be a bit problematic wouldn't it? I'd be worried the proximity to the IRS would allow them to steal what little I have left.

  3. A really great travelogue with excellent photos. Lots and lots of history in Texas.

    I've always wanted a cannon for the front yard, The Missus Herself doesn't see the utility in it. I had to relent, not enough of a field of fire to make it useful.

    1. Thanks, Sarge. The good news is Mrs J had fun and thought the Fort was interesting. So......Road Trip!!!!!

      A cannon just inside our main gate & pointed directly at it, would make a pretty good statement wouldn't it?

  4. We got a foot last Tuesday, five inches yesterday, and we may get seven Tuesday night.

    1. Were we to get that much, I think mass extinction due to extreme stupidity would happen around here. Stay warm and remember...NOBODY drives well on ice.

    2. Especially Texans enroute to a Colorado ski vacation.

    3. Very nice! I got to take a trip without leaving the farm. Still snowed in, so that was a treat.
      I'd like to have a cannon too!

    4. WSF, No disagreement here. The guy I was describing in the post had skis on his roof and a bumper sticker saying "Ski Colorado".

    5. BBC, It does make a statement doesn't it?

    6. California is suffering from such a dearth of snow and rain that they had to cancel winter sports in many areas. Yes, I was being sarcastic about the dearth...

      Here we are suffering from 85 degree temperatures during the day. It must be globull worming or something.

    7. We hit 87 on the truck thermometer ( guaranteed accurate within 100 degrees) on the trip. So we were at ~30 (wind chill of ~10) early in the week and nearly 90 at the end of the week. Must be winter in Texas.

  5. You're a great travel guide. Loved all of the pics and background stories.
    A cannon would be a step up for the hovel, wonder if I could borrow one from Ft Vancouver...

    1. Thanks. I’m sure they’d be willing to accomodate.....or not!

  6. Fear not that idjits from Kalifornistan are the only idjits, for here in Florida I know one NASA type engineer (NASA-contractor, not actual NASA-NASA) who built a wonderful airport home (with big garage that isn't a hanger for insurance reasons though it has one of those powered hanger doors and he can store 3 planes inside the 'garage'..) with a huge picture window facing west. Dead west. So by 3pm his 'beautiful view' has driven the heat of the building up by 10 degrees or more, and also shining on the black leather couches... Not to mention he never turned the house lower than 85 'to save energy.'

    His first wife put up with it, as he spent all his evenings home from work in his 'garage.' His second wife? Curtains and window treatment and blinds within 30 days of signing the papers. Leather couches sent to Valhalla via bonfire (they were full of stink anyways.) And about a thousand dollars of insulation later (yes, engineer dude had cheeped out on insulating his house...) SHE had the AC turned down to a more reasonable 72 by day and 68 at night. Which, curiously enough, suddenly cured his 'insomnia.'

    Glad you managed to avoid any deer kamikazees. Sounds like a really fun trip. As to the 'chicken fried...' I would totally expect that a state where large numbers of Germans emigrated to would be able to make wonderful schnitzel.

    Balkanization of our great Nation is something the leftists think is a good thing. So are dissolutions of many things that keep us a republic, like the Senate (though we really need to go back to state appointment, not voting on that one) and the electoral college. After all, the people in charge of illegal voting assure us that every vote should count... Bahhhhhhhh.

    1. Sounds like some of the folks on the hill.

      As for every vote counting, well, only the ones for the progs, the others are countered by 2 illegal votes for the progs.

  7. Tell the folks on California Hill OAC advises watch the sunsets at night. It's cooler then.

    I recall an episode of one of the 1950's series (Father Knows Best?) wherein there was a kerfuffle over whether to save or scrap the old Civil War cannon in the town square. Our hero winds up towing it home and parking it in his driveway. Irritating nosy neighbor (who is for scrapping the cannon) comes boiling across the street. "You've got that thing pointed right at my bedroom window!". Our hero replies "That's right, Jamison. Stick 'em up!".

    1. Oops. Not O.A.C. Should read A.O.C. Need more coffee.

    2. That might work, they might fall for it. I mean their fearless leader says things that don't make sense, but she's an intellectual, just ask her.

    3. Wondered about that. Was headed to the Acronym page (PLQ's favorite) when I saw your correction.

  8. You've made me hungry as well, juvat. CFS is one of my favorite meals - one of the best was at a little place in Waller between Austin and Houston on 290 (old 290, not the new road) - One of those local places where the workers and residents came for a hearty meal. Don't see it on Google maps any longer though. When I lived in Dallas, there was a truck stop south of the city (unfortunately I can't remember exactly where - that was early 70's so it's probably long gone anyway) and their CFS came out on two plates - one was filled completely by the CFS, the other was filled by the vegetables and potato of choice (mashed or french fries), and IIRC, it all cost about $4.

    Nice info on Fort Mason - thanks for that. One of the other forts on that Texas Forts Trail is Fort Cahdbourne, just outside of Bronte. Great place, well worth a visit. Has a great museum with an outstanding gun collection. Here is a clip from the Fox program, Strange Inheritance, which did a segment on it.
    I may go back when I am in Austin and SA this May. And definitely stopping by as many BBQ joints and local cafes for CFS as I can!!

    Re: Ice Tea (without the 'd' on the end!) - has Texas succumbed to the sweet tea phenomenon? In Dallas and Wichita Falls and environs back int he 50's, 60's and 70's, we would always get unsweetened tea by default. I remember the first time I got sweet tea by default, I think it was in NC back in the 80's, and boy, were my taste buds surprised!

    1. Waller's still there Been through there quite a few times. Haven't stopped there though.
      Mrs J was pleasantly surprised and impressed with Ft Mason. I guess that others on the trail could be in our future.
      Sweetened Tea is making inroads, but I think most folks recognize that it's probably better for you if you do it yourself. DIL is a BIG fan though.

  9. I have to remember not to read your posts on an empty stomach- now I'm craving Chicken Fried Steak! That little house with the moon on it would cost $300K here in SoCal. $400K if the fixtures were updated. That Seaquist house is beautiful. It's a little strange to see such a stately home surrounded by modest ones. These days rich folk would have their homes surrounded by big gates in exclusive enclaves. Glad you had a successful trip. I recommend avoiding the long hikes with public parking lots to maintain your streak.

    1. The long hike on the previous trip was less than 20 minutes door to windowless door and no further than a couple hundred yards. I've got a much smaller tool kit and bought Mrs J a RFID Credit Card wallet that fits in her pocket. Hopefully we avoid anybody that breaks in just to vandalize.

  10. Btw, I looked at Google Street View to see the Seaquist neighborhood. Day trips in Texas look like something I'd like to do.

    1. Mason has had some rough times in the 80's and 90's, but with the boom of the winery business in the Hill Country plus the general good economic climate in Texas, it's pulling itself up by its bootstraps.

  11. Nice one. I enjoyed every bit. I prefer the other Fort Mason oer there by the Presidio of San Francisco but on the Bay. We used to hold our Dining In there for each change of command and Quarters 1 was pretty damned nice. iIRC it was the home of the 6th Army commander. When I scouted Texas for a place to live in retirement I'm afraid I didn't look too much further than San Antonio and environs. Back when we lived in Fort Riley it was weird to see that there was still a military family living in Custer's old house on the post. I wish I could remember the BBC show on PBS back in the late 90's about the English Civil War when a cavalry troop swept up to a home and the leader offered that every house needs a cannon.

    1. San Antonio, as well as Austin, fell into the "Way too Big" category of places to live. We didn't want to live any place that remotely resembled DC (or for that matter Honolulu). Other than recently selling my Son's car, I hadn't been to SA in over a year. Austin, I pinch my nose shut and go visit my Daughter. Blood pressure goes way up on ingress and egress though.
      A 20mm Vulcan cannon would make a nice addition to the yard also, Car first though.

    2. Get one of those M113 Air Defense Vehicles with the Vulcan mounted on top. That way you can crush and shoot your way through. Add an engineering blade and a pto for a back hoe assembly, well, would fit nice on the farm.

    3. Good idea. Seen any at CarMax?

    4. No. But you can periodically check

      There is a MULE with a 106mm recoilless rifle and .50BMG spotter gun, be a fun way of moving haybales for the hayburners.

    5. Beans! The intent of moving haybales is to FEED the hayburners! Fun as shooting them may be, burned hay is not nutritious. Just sayin’ ;-)

    6. I was trained on the M40 recoilless and M8 spotting rifle in Small Arms Repair School. Still have my notes and a manual. If you happen to need one tuned up, let me know.

      If one rifle seems a bit under-gunned, you might look into one of these--

      It is THE ultimate six-shooter.

    7. Good to know. I am looking for an on-site tractor repair. Seems more free time means more chores. A working tractor would be helpful.

    8. Airheads, so damned silly. Use the bed of the Mule for transporting. Shoot the M8 at coyotes, feral hogs, nosy neighbors. Use the M40 to peg leftists from Austin...

      It's like you have to have a manual and checklist in front of you for you to make coffee...

    9. Not much baled hay anymore. I'm sure a former knight of King Arthur's court could lift and load a round bale, but the years haven't been that kind to me. Now, Sarge...I've seen him in action. He can lift and throw them from 15 yards. You should see him with a caber. Just sayin'

    10. I'd have to see that. Just sayin. Me and Sarge bought each other and Tuna beers at Shakespeares and Sarge would have a little trouble throwing one of them round haystacks 15 yards. Maybe 12 but that's a stretch.

    11. If it's round, I'd roll it. If I had to throw it, maybe ten yards, but only after a Guinness, for strength you know.

  12. There's a lot of history here in Philly and it happened a very long time ago.
    You took a short road trip from home and visited history that's in the very recent past.
    My great-great, and in one case, great-grandparents were alive during some of the periods you mentioned, and that connection makes history real in a way that all the history books cannot.

    Good post and thank you for sharing your day.

    1. Thanks John. When we were stationed at the Pentagon, my folks came to visit. Basically they staged out of our house. Over the course of a month, the went on a bunch og Guided bus tours. 3-4 days each. They never got much further than maybe 150 miles away, but they saw an awful lot of US history. That aspect was one of the very few things I liked about my tour there. (Most of the things I didn’t like are still prominently on display today, plus traffic!)
      You’re right though. While it seems a long time ago, in Earth years it’s about a minute ago.
      My pleasure, John.

    2. My father did a tour in the Pentagon after he Leavenworth and Vietnam. He is a military history buff and he would take us out just about every weekend to see every Revolutionary and Civil War site/battlefield within a 150 mile radius. Been to them ALL. Loved it. We did the same thing every place we lived. There's a lot of history out there and it's just shocking how little people here know about it.

    3. We did similarly when we were stationed at both places. I'd always wondered why towns in the west were ~20 miles apart. Learned the "days travel" measurement at Leavenworth. Lot of truth in your last statement.

  13. If that ranch house was set back from Salt Branch Loop about 300 yards and had a small church/turned into a house at the road, it was mine prior to one of those things where you get to divide your stuff in two.

    1. There used to be a great place to eat between there and Fredricksburg, an old gas station run by 5 star chef that had live music, real good stuff on the weekends after midnight, it was kinda a undercover thing and you needed to know about it.

    2. I think that's a possibility. On the map its known as Hilda. About 10 miles south of US87 and about 20 north of Harper on US290? It looked like a nice place. Somebody was obviously maintaining the church behind the Ranch house.

    3. I think you're talking about the Hilltop Cafe. Johnny Nicholas (of Asleep at the Wheel fame) owns it.

    4. Yep that used to be mine, o well different life, different wife.
      Hilltop is correct, it is great.

  14. Nice little tour, thanks! AND glad with nothing missing or broken this time!

    1. Yeah, we parked right in front of the breezeway at the Fort and went inside. Mrs J was looking in a different room than I when someone pulled up. Both of us were out front in a manner of microseconds. Another Retired Old Fart Military. We chatted for a few.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)