Some called it a miracle: For a couple of hours across a wide swath of Texas last December, people could legitimately sing along to “Let It Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!”
There’s something special about small towns and the folks who live there. You can do things in the country that aren’t possible in the big city, like build castles, throw fireballs, and hang out in jail (on purpose). All of these things and more lured me to Bellville for a day trip unlike any other.
An up-close visit with a Longhorn or bison can be humbling. The animals’ large chestnut-brown eyes reveal a complex blend of wild animal and domesticated stock. It’s hard to know whether they’re plotting an aggressive charge or happily anticipating a bucket of feed.
Early one morning on Trinity Bay, the autumn sky began to glisten. Myriad monarchs unfurled in clouds from the shoreline, fluttering overhead, some landing on our boat, on our fishing rods, and even on me and my husband. We watched, enchanted, as they danced ever-southward, propelled by a light north wind and their biological imperative.
My clearest memories of travel from my childhood tend to recall the simple moments. The start of vacation was always the same—my dad carrying me out to my grandparents’ motor home before dawn and settling me into the bed above the cab. When I woke up, we’d be well on our way, and I’d relish watching the road unfold in front of me from my new vantage point. Other highlights come back to me in blurs: collecting pine cones with my brother, playing cards with my mom, and listening to my dad’s scary stories before we drifted off to sleep each night.
The Old West comes to life daily at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the Longhorns of the Fort Worth Herd mosey down Exchange Avenue in the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. The mesmerizing sight is worth a pause from shopping for cowboy boots at Fincher’s White Front Western Wear (where materials range from cowhide leather to exotic skins like snake and alligator) or browsing the jewelry, belts, hats, and apparel at Maverick Fine Western Wear. Visitors also flock to the shops at Stockyards Station, which include a general store, hot-sauce retailer, leather trading company, spice and tea store, children’s gift shops, and a vintage record store.
I was lured to Kimble County by my fly fisher husband—his heart set on hooking the fabled Guadalupe bass and learning a trick or two at the annual Oktoberfisch fly-fishing festival. For three days every October, the Fredericksburg Fly Fishers invite first-timers and avid anglers to their event along the Llano River in Junction. The town—known as The Land of Living Waters, a nod to the county’s abundance of flowing waterways—sits where the North and South Llano rivers meet, so it’s a prime locale for such a fest.
Spanning 3.5 acres along West Main Street in downtown Fredericksburg, the Pioneer Museum chronicles the history of Sunday houses (among other vernacular architecture) and serves as an ideal launching point for a self-guided walking tour of the tiny historic homes, most of them within a few blocks of one another. For a broader overview, the museum offers a guided historical and architectural walking tour of the town on select Wednesday evenings.
The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature opened in 2000 to showcase the work of storybook artists in a fine-art setting. The light and airy gallery curates about three shows per year, including a summer exhibition of the artist featured during the annual Children’s Art and Literacy Festival. “Our mission is to instill the love of art as young as we possibly can, because if you think about it, the first art that children see is in the books they’re reading,” Director Trish Dressen says. “If we can instill that in them young, then we can preserve the love of art for the ages.” Entry is always free.
It may be one of the smallest incorporated towns in Texas (official population: 90), but don’t let that fool you—the little town of Round Top makes for some big trippin’. Visit during the biannual Texas Antiques Week and you’ll find thousands of “junkers” filling every available cow pasture with vintage collectibles. But even on a normal day, this hamlet has plenty of charm.
Not far from the banks of the Canadian River, tucked among the River Valley Pioneer Museum’s artifacts of Panhandle ranching and railroad history, black-and-white portraits gaze from the gallery wall as if they’ve been waiting patiently for a century to look you in the eye.