Focus on the Backroads » Photo Journeys

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  • FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS

    There is approximately 50,000 miles of Interstate Highway in the United States.....filled with cars traveling at an average of 75 miles an hour. Several years ago I began driving the BACKROADS throughout Texas and the surrounding states - discover many fascinating places and people. While traveling "off the beaten path" I have tried to capture the spirit of these forgotten roads in photographs.

    After sharing some of these journeys with folks I have met I've been encouraged to document my travels.........I invite you to FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS!

    "To often......I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen"
    Louis L'Amour

FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: FORT WOLTERS – MINERAL WELLS, TEXAS

Fort Wolters is located four miles out side of Mineral Wells, Texas. The fort was an official Army camp for 21 years, from 1925 to 1946. During World War II it was the largest infantry replacement training center. It also served as a German POW camp. Audie Murphy underwent basic training at the base. Murphy was one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II receiving the Medal of Honor at the age of 19. At the end of World War II, Camp Wolters was deactivated and was abandoned until it was reopened in 1951 by the US Airforce. At it’s peak, the camp held close to 25,000 infantrymen.

In 1953, a U.S. Nike Guided Missile Site was set up at the site to protect the Dallas- Fort Worth area in case of an enemy attack.

In 1956, Camp Wolters reverted back to the US Army and became the headquarters to the United States Primary Helicopter School. In 1963 it was designated a permanent military base and renamed Fort Wolters. At it’s peak the base had three heliports and twenty-five stage fields, These stage fields were named after facilities in Vietnam and were located in the same relation to each other as actual locations in Vietnam. During the Vietnam all helecopter aviators received basic and primary flight training at Camp Wolters – not just Army pilots but also Marine and Airforce. Over 1200 helicopters were located here. By January 1, 1973, 40,000 pilots had been trained at Camp Wolters exceeding over 5.6 million flying hours.

Fort Wolters was officially closed for military service on February 1, 1973.

This site is now used as an industrial park, includes a branch of Weatherford College, and a training center for the Texas Army National Guard.

There is still plenty of evidence remaining of For Wolters‘ past. There is still an opportunity to visit this historical site that was once a major training base for our military. While visiting Mineral Wells and Fort Wolters include time to visit the The National Vietnam War Museum which is located one mile from the Camp. Time to salute the brave soldiers and pilots that passed through Camp Wolters……..

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return” Leonardo da Vinci

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROAD: THE LONGHORN BALLROOM

THE LONG HORN BALLROOM

In 1950, Dallas millionaire O.L. Nelson built a venue know as Bob Will’s Ranch House for Texas country music legend Bob Will’s and His Texas Playboys. Bob Wills was the host of the venue. In 1958 Dewey Groom took over and renamed it the Longhorn Ballroom. Dewey had played the Longhorn with his band, Dewey Groom and the Texas Longhorns.

The Longhorn Ballroom became one of the best known country western destination in the United States. Country legends that performed included Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, and Ray Price.

One night a week, the Longhorn would feature different music styles such as, jazz, blues, and R&B. Artist such as B.B. King, Nat King Cole, Otis Redding, James Brown, and Al Green took that stage. On January 10, 1978 the Longhorn made national news when the punk rock band, The Sex Pistols, took the stage. The band got upset and began to taunt the crowd – leading to a woman from the audience head-butting band leader Sid Vicious. The band broke up a week later and Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose shortly afterwards.

FAMOUS SEX PISTOLS CONCERT

Dewey Groom sold the Longhorn Ballroom in 1986 to Ira Zack. Owners began to book arts from many different musical genres. In 1989 Aerosmith shot the video for their song, “What It Takes” at the Longhorn. In 1990, a riot broke out when 2 Live Crew refused to take the stage until they were paid. Over 50 of Dallas’ finest showed up in full riot gear.

In 2017, the Longhorn Ballroom was purchased by Dallas entrepreneur Jay LaFrance, his son Jayson and his daughter Amber. Their vision was to restore this venue and preserve this important Texas landmark. Today the Longhorn Ballroom is coming back to life, hosting events ands concerts.

Visit www.longhornballroom.com for more information.

“To me, country music has always been the home for a great song” Zac Brown

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: Focus on Memorial Day

Once a year families and communities across the US take time to honor the men and women who died while serving our country. Many will gather at local memorials to give their thanks to these brave men and women.

Known as Decoration Day, the tradition was to decorate graves in remembrance of those people that died serving the country. This day was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of soldiers during the Civil War. In 1873, New York was the first state to official observe the day as Memorial Day. Several states followed and declared it an legal holiday. By the end of World War I it became a day to honor all those who had died in all of America’s wars and became a national holiday.

At the first national commemoration, Jame Garfield, a former Union General, sitting Ohio Congressman, and the future 20th President of the United States, mad a speech at Arlington National Cemetery said:

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

Over the years, to some, this day has become just another “3-day weekend”. A time to get together, hit the lake, tip a few, and grill. Nothing wrong with that – if we take a some time to remember and honor the brave folks that have lost their lives while serving our country – while serving you. Even though most of their names are unknown to us these men and women are heroes that should be held in high honor:

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men (and women) who died. Rather we should thank God such men (and women) lived” George S. Patton

This morning I visited the National Cemetery in Grand Prairie, Texas. There were a large number of people paying tribute to fiends, love ones, and others that have been laid to rest at this beautiful site. There were smiles, tears, fellowship, and prayers.

There are two Medal of Honor recipients at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery; Colonel James Lamar and Sargent Candelario Garcia both Viet Nam veterans.

Take a moment to remember all the unselfish American who made the ultimate sacrifice serving our great country. Through out our history these exceptional individuals and others who have service our country, both during war time and periods peace, have walked amongst us.

“Without Memory, there is no future. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” Elie Wiesel

Happy Memorial Day and God Bless America

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: HISTORIC TEXAS CEMETERY ART

Cemeteries are a link to our past – they are full of history and stories of real people. There are approximately 50,000+ cemeteries in Texas. These range from a single unmarked grave marker to very large cemeteries with hundreds of marker. Many are forgotten and difficult to find but each are reminders of early settlements and a a window to a lot of Texas history.

The HTC (Historic Texas Cemetery) Designation was established in 1998 with the purpose to preserve these historical sites. To be eligible for a HTC designation a cemetery must be at least 50 years old and deemed worthy because of historical value – which is every cemetery.

In early times when cemeteries did not exist people were buried in plots near their family homes. To keep the dead from rising stones, rocks, and wood were used to mark the bury plot. Eventually church cemeteries began to appear with simple markers with the deceased’s name, age, and year of birth. In the 19th century public cemeteries appeared along with more elaborate headstone and monuments that memorized the dead.

Scattered throughout the backroads of Texas are familiar green signs that designate to turn left or right to visit a cemetery. When I see these these sign I turn without even giving it a second thought……why…..because I know that this path, that I am about to wander down, is going to possible lead to a ghost town, many photo opportunities, and most of all a hidden TEXAS TREASURE: Cemetery Art.

Over the years I have visited hundreds of tucked away cemeteries. Each is unique and reveals it’s own story. Wondering many times who were these people that once lived near the ground that I was standing on…..what was the story of the man whose marker read “a man that wondered into town and was shot”. What happened to the infant whose marker said simply “baby”. Why a Dad, Mom, and several children passed on the same day. Even one time being shocked to see a stone that said David Norris, kind of creepy.

Another reason to visit these sites to spend time capturing the beautiful art that these historic cemeteries provide. The many angels with such expressive faces that creative so many emotions. The inscriptions sharing feelings from so many years ago.

Often I will share my “habit” of wandering through historic cemeteries with my camera only to be met with “eyes rolling” and faces that say “what the heck is wrong with you”. I assure you that I will be turning down the dirt road pointed out by one of those green sign, with abundant anticipation, and of course with my camera in hand!

Kay StantonMarch 4, 2019 - 4:01 pm

Love your work.

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: HICO, TEXAS

Higo Texas: Where Everybody is Somebody

This area was first settled in the early 1800’s. A post office was established in 1860 was then closed in 1867 and finally reopened in 1871. By 1874 the town had eight businesses, including a cotton gin. Most of the residents of the area raised cattle and cotton. The city Hico, Texas was incorporated in 1883. Hico soon became the shipping center for Hamilton County and a center for cotton and cattle markets.

Billy the Kid:   “Brushy Bill” Roberts, a resident of Hico during the 1940’s claimed to have been the famous outlaw, Bill the Kid. Brushing said he was born south of Abilene in Buffalo Gap. He spent his last years of his life trying to prove to everyone his true identity and obtaining a pardon that was promised to him by Lew Wallace, the Governor of New Mexico. Brushy Bill died in Hico on December 27th, 1950. The son and other decedents of Sheriff Pat Garrett claimed Garrett had not killed Billy the Kid. There were no eye witnesses as to whose body was placed in the Billy’s grave. They believe that Garrett and Billy the Kid plotted to collect the $500.00 reward offered for the capture of Billy the Kid.

Billy the Kid Museum – Hico


Things to do in Hico? PLENTY

Koffee Kup Family Restaurant – located at the intersection of Hwy 281 and State Highway 6 – has been Backroad travelers favorite since 1968. Is it good…….hell yeah you can tell by all the trucks and motorcycles that are always parked in front. The Coffee Kup is famous not only for it’s world-class Chicken Fried Steak, but also for it wide variety of delicious homemade pies, they bake 90 to 100 pies a day. For breakfast they feature the biggest donut you will ever see – great for sharing! http://koffeekupfamilyresturant.com

Koffee Kup Family Restaurant

Els Ice cream and sandwiches – guess what is delicious here! http://hicosupstairsinn.com

Wiseman House of Chocolates – located in the historic Wiseman House it now houses some of the best Belgian chocolate truffles in the world as well many other chocolate treats. A local favorite is the “Wild Woman Truffle” which is dark chocolate dipped in dark chocolate and then drizzled in dark chocolate! They also have Chocolate Classes available to visitors. http://wisemanhousechocolates.com

Billy the Kid Museum – explore the evidence and decide for yourself the fate of this famous outlaw http://billythekidmuseum.com

Blue Star Trading Company – very large retail/event space featuring Texas art and western wear and furnishings. Upstairs is a gallery of historic photographs of Hico.

Midland Hotel – the old hotel has been restored and opened for guest. You can grab a great dinner at The Chop House and 1896 Saloon. http://historicmidlandhotel.com

The Midland Hotel

Texas Steak Cookoff – every 3rd week in May, Hico is the home to the Texas Steak Cookoff. More than 100 cooking teams compete for the honors as the Texas Steak Cookoff Champions. This event draws over 5,000 visitors. This event features vendors, live music, wine tastings, and of course the best Steak you will find in the Lone Star State. http://texassteakcookoff.com

When traveling the Backroads of Texas there are towns that are a must – Hico is one of these. If you like bright lights, traffic, and men in skinny jeans you probably should stay on I35 – BUT if you like great food, Texas History, friendly people, men in boot cut jeans and do I need to mention the best pie in the United States then HICO IS A MUST. Come enjoy the town where Everybody is Someonehttp://hilo-tex.com

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