Thursday, February 12

Although I enjoyed all the pleasures and distractions the city has to offer, and knew I would miss the familial comforts of my homes away from home in San Antonio and Austin, I was getting worn down by the non stop noise and crush of cars and people and the busy, busy ways of the city.

So it was with much relief I said goodbye to urban ways and drove west into the Hill County of old and gnarled oaks and prickly drifts of cactus.

So, on Thursday morning, at the crack of 6AM I departed Austin via Rt 1 and US 290 West and in 49 miles later was in small town of Johnson City, population 1500.

Johnson City is best known as the birthplace of Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), 37th Vice President of the United States.

Too get ready for the day I had to fuel the car and myself. I attended to the car first and did so quickly as the temp was in the 30s and I was dressed for warmer weather. That taken care of I was off in search of victuals. It was not long, given the small size of Johnson City, before I came accross the "El Charro" Mexican resteraunt at 502 S. Highway 281.

"In Mexico, 'El Charro' is a term referring to a traditional cowboy of Mexico, originating in the State of Jalisco. In the rest of Mexico, including that part which was annexed by the United States in 1848, the equivalent term was "vaquero". In Spain, a charro is a native of the region of Salamanca. It is likely that the Mexican charro tradition derived from Spanish horsemen who came from Salamanca, Spain and settled in Jalisco.

Source: WikiPedia


Click on these photos for a higher resolution.
Will be slow with dial-up connection.


Since arriving in Texas I have eaten a good bit of Mexican/Tex-Mex food, at least for me. Although tasty and sustaining I find it can be very heavy and often times salty and greasy. But - it is almost always economical - note the sign: "Breakfast Tacos 3 for $2.75". And these are not your Taco Bell tacos either. So, knowing I had a full day in store, I decided I had better stock up.


A very typical looking Mexican joint: No frills. An ordering/checkout counter and the menu up on the wall. Most of these smaller places do a lot of take out, so the menu is always prominent.


After looking over the menu I decided to have something I had not had before: "Huevos con Jamon", eggs with ham. Nothing fancy, but I knew it would be filling and good - an it was. Here you see my serving of "2 eggs and ham, potatoes and beans". The eggs were either huge or they tossed in and extra. I was able to polish all of it off except for a small portion of the beans. The potatoes by the way were hot and crispy.

Mexican meals always come with salsa. I liked the salsa verde, but the red sauce I found a bit sweet with acrid overtones.


I departed Johnson City just before 8 o'clock. I headed north on 290, and picked up US 281 north to Farm Route 1323, about 3 miles from Johnson City and soon found myself in a vast expanse of Oaks of all sizes and shapes.


There is something about these gnarly old trees that captivates me. All looking much the same, but each one unique.


I could not help but wonder how old this beauty was. Surely a hundred years or more.


This country is open range and in my wandering around I saw a lot more pies than cattle.


Cactus and old oaks. Not exactly what you would consider prime grazing country.


I saw several of these small, concrete pillars along the way. I assumed they were boundary markers.


Try as I might, I could not capture the spare beauty of these oaks. But, the shutter just kept on snappin'.


I thought the twisted and bent shape of these oaks was truly fascinating. It was hear also I heard the bubbling gurgle of some Bluebirds. A welcome sound indeed.


A bit further down the road I drove by this sheep farm. The soil her was very dry in spite of some recent rain. i tried to get a tighter shot, but every time I moved in, they moved away.


This and the following two photos show some of the landscape along Farm Route 1323.


All the low spots like this are in washes aka creek beds. This one is Buffalo Creek. They all have flood gages at the base of the dip with some of them reading as high as 5'.




Here we are at the town of Willow City which is about 27 miles west of Johnson City.

In 1904 the population was estimated at 132, and by 1915 Willow City had three general stores, a drugstore, two blacksmiths, and a cotton gin. The population declined during the first half of the twentieth century, to 100 in 1925 and to forty in 1939. During the 1940s it climbed again, reaching sixty by 1949, and then it fluctuated between a low of seventeen in 1964 and a high of eighty-five in 1968. In 1970 the population was estimated at seventy-five, where it remained through 2000.

Source: Copyright © Texas State Historical Association


The sign across the building proclaims: "The Best Pit Mesquite smoked BAR-B-Q in Willow City Texas". Not anymore...

Several years ago Harry's was counted among the top 50 barbecue joints in Texas by Texas Monthly, but their barbecue days are no more and a sign outside proclaims "no public restrooms" which must be kinda hard on the beer drinkers.

Source: Touring Texas Monthly Newsletter, 2003


This is the Willow City School, now a Community Center.

A brief history of Willow City School (#12 on the driving map located at 2501 Ranch Road 1323): Built in 1905. Consolidated in 1961. Some students brought lunch in half-pint jars with their names carved on the lids. At other schools, students used lard or molasses buckets with a wire handle, white flour bags, or later even lunch boxes. There was always a designated place where lunches were stored. Lunches consisted of homemade bread, boiled eggs, butter and jelly bread, headcheese or kochkäse (cooked cheese), and dried meat or sausage, in addition to fruit and cookies.

Current activities: The Willow City Community Club was formed in 1961 and meets monthly on the 1st Friday evening at 7:30 to play "42" dominoes. The building is also used for many other community and private activities.

Source: Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools


There was a high fence and gate with a sturdy chain and padlock so I climbed over for a better look.


One can only imagine what it was like to go to school here back in 1905. Musta got cold and drafty in winter.


All of the lintels had the same color stone for every window.


This is the east side of the school. What looks like a tombstone is actually and old pump.


I had never seen one like this before and could not help wondering what the purpose of the covering was. Dust shield perhaps?


All the way from St. Louis.


Here we are at the intersection of Farm Route 1323 and ST 16 and town of Eckert.

Eckert is 11½ miles northeast of Fredericksburg in northeastern Gillespie County. It was originally called Nebo, presumably after nearby Mount Nebo, and was founded in 1875 when eight Anglo-American families settled there and built a log church called Mount Zion. The town was officially renamed when local farmer and merchant Wilhelm Rudolph Eckert opened a post office in 1903. The population was estimated at 100 in 1925 but fell to fifteen in 1933 and to seven in 1964.

Source: Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

Day 20: Part 1 - FINIS


The rest of Thursday's journey continues.



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