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: WICHITA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE OKLAHOMA

Located in the southwestern part of Oklahoma, near Lawton, is the  Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.  The 59,020-acres are  home to elk, deer, buffalo and other wild life.  It is also a popular area for hiking, rock climbing, camping and other outdoor activities.

This area was established in 1901 when President McKinley proclaimed a portion of the mountains as the Wichita Forest Reserves, managed by the Forest Divsion of the U.S Department of the Interior.  In 1905 President Teddy Roosevelt issued a proclamation creating the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve, which became the nations first big-game animal refuge.  In 1906 3,680 acres was added to the refuge .  In 1907 the park became the Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve.  The area’s name was change again in 1936 when Congress renamed it the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.  Today over 1,000,00 visitors experience this area every year.

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is like an amazing Island as you approach it.  After driving trough Oklahoma flat lands you come upon this wildlife oasis.  A trip to this area is a must for any  Texas (or any other state) Backroader!  The perfect destination for a vacation or a long weekend camping trip.  It is truly where Buffalo Roam.

note:  A must when in the area.  You must visit the Meers Restaurant in Meers, Oklahoma.  Meers, Oklahoma was once a booming gold mining town with a population of over 500 folks.    Meers’ population now consist of one family, their pets and their restaurant and store.  Meers is considered to be the home of the best burgers in Oklahoma – I for one know that this is true!  These burgers are made from Texas Longhorns that are raised on the family’s near by ranch.

The mountains are calling and I must go.    John Muir

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: FESTIVAL OF TEXAS FIDDLING – TWIN SISTERS DANCE HALL

 

I was tempted to start this blog entry with……If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band…..but dang that would be corny – so I will not.  On Saturday, December 6th the first, of hopefully many, Festival of Texas Fiddling took place at the Twin Sisters Dance Hall in Blanco, Texas.  This event was organized by two outstanding organization, Texas Dance Hall Preservation and Texas Folklife.  These two organizations work towards preserving our Texas music and many of our historic dance halls.

The Festival of Texas Fiddling was an all day event filled with workshop lead by Texas fiddle masters:  Brian Marshall (Texas Polish), Ed Poullard (Cajun) and Howard Raines (Old Time).  Each of these masters not only shared their remarkable fiddling skills but also fascinating personal stories and history about Texas Fiddling.

There were also showcases by Mia Orosco.  In 2012 Mia won the Grand Champion Division at the National Old-Time Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho, becoming the 2012 National Fiddling Campion and the youngest female to ever win the title.  She is currently pursuing a violin performance degree at Baylor University.  Raul Orduna & Los Trineros also shared their skills highlighted by Mexican huapango music.

There was a time in my life that I did not listen to music unless it was in a 30,000+ seat arena being BLASTED out of mountains of speakers.  Times have changed……..In my opinion the FESTIVAL OF TEXAS FIDDLING was the Fiddling Woodstock of Texas.  Not only were the workshops and showcases great……..folks were treated to mini-jams in the Twin Sisters’ parking lot as musicians grouped together and played.

As if this was not enough……this event was capped off by a good (no a great) Western Swing Dance featuring Al Dressen’s Super Swing Review and yes THERE WAS A FIDDLE IN THE BAND!

Can only sum up the Festival of Texas Fiddling in a few words………dang it is fun to fiddle around at Twin Sisters!

     “While fiddling…….don’t Bb or B#, just Bnatural”   

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: CRIDERS RODEO AND DANCE HALL

What  better represents Texas than combining a Rodeo and Dancing?  Since 1925 that is exactly what the Crider family has done – providing entertainment for several generation.  Dang – horses, bulls, cowboys, pretty “Texas Girls”, music, and dancing – have we died and gone to heaven?

The Crider family came to America in the early 1700s when Jacob Kreider immigrated from Switzerland settling in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania right in the middle of the Pennsylvania Dutch area.  Early in the 1800s the family name was changed to Crider.  It was Jacob’s grandson Daniel Jr who first came to Blanco County in the Texas Hill Country.  Daniel was became an accomplished fiddle player and was known as Texas Dan.  Daniel married twice and had a total of nine children.  His first wife, Elizabeth and three of their children perished in a fire that destroyed their house.  Daniel and their other children escaped.  He married his second wife, Sarah in 1850.  The Crider family became well rooted in the Texas Hill Country.

On July 4, 1925, Walter and Audry Crider hosted a rodeo fund-raisier to benefit the Hunt School PTA .   Soon the guest at the Heart of Hills Inn and local folks and visitors wanted a place to learn folk dancing.  A wooden dance floor was build on the Crider property located on the lower banks of the Guadalupe River.  Each 4th of July the Crider family hosted the rodeo, dance, and barbecue.  In the 1930’s they began a weekly event during the summer months.

During World War II the dances were held across the street  at the store and cafe.  .  In 1950 it was moved back to the original site.  The cafe burned down in 1993 and was reconstructed in 2ooo.  The dance floor and stage do not have a roof  – A GREAT TRADITION OF DANCING UNDER THE STARS, instead of Dancing with the Stars (why should they have all the fun).  Many Texas legends have played on the Criders’ stage including a little know singer in 1966 named Willie Nelson.

Now please take note fellow BACKROAD WARRIORS – Criders Rodeo and Dance Hall is a TEXAS TREASURE.  Weather permitting Criders still opens for dances and rodeos every summer weekend.  When visiting the Texas Hill Country be sure and include Crider’s Rodeo and Dance Hall – It is everything Texas rolled up in one.

www.cridersroadeoanddance.com

 

 

 

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: TEXAS DANCE HALL: FLOORE’S COUNTRY STORE

In 1858 George Marnoch, a Scottish immigrant, purchased the land that would later become the site of Helotes, Texas.  His home served as both a stop for the stagecoach and a post office for local cowboys driving cattle from Bandera to auction in San Antonio.  In 1880, Arnold Gugger bought a portion of the land and built his home and a general store.  Around this store Helotes began to grow.  In 1908, Gugger sold his property to Bert Hileman, who opened the towns first gas station and dance hall.  The towns population began to decline and he sold his holding in 1919.

As World War II ended John T Floore managed the San Antonio’s Majestic Theatre.  In 1945 he purchased  land outside of San Antonio and created the Floore Subdivision, with plans to make it the center for the small community of Helotes.  He and his wife operated a Red and White Store.  Red and White Stores were a chain of independently owned food stores that operated in small towns throughout the United States.   In 1942  John T.  Floore’s Country Store was opened.  It was not just a store but a Dance Hall and Cafe that also offered meat and groceries.  It quickly became know for its world famous tamales, exceptional homemade bread, distinct Texas menu, cold beer, and of course great music by some of the biggest names in the industry.

Some of the artist that have performed at John T. Floore’s Country Store include Bob Wills, Ernest Tubbs, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Elvis, Dob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, George Jones,  Waylon Jennings, Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl King, B.B. King, Little Richards, and of course Willie Nelson.   Floore’s is known as the birthplace of Willie’s musical life – in his early years he played there every Saturday night.  Floore’s continues host the current Texas and Red Dirt Stars.

Floore’s has a stage inside and seating that can accommodate 400.  Also outside there is a stage and what John Floore billed as “the largest patio in the Southwest”.  The outdoor area will accommodate up to 2,000.

When entering the building you immediately enter the ultimate TEXAS atmosphere.  From the ceiling there hangs boots, cowboy hats, and wagon wheels.  On the walls there are framed pictures and concert posters of famous country singers and actors.  Through the room are signs – many of them clever quotes that were found in a trunk after John Floore’s died in 1975.

In the March 2001 issue of Texas Monthly, John T. Floore’s Country Store was listed as one of the top 50 Things Every Texas Should Do.  Please remember you don’t have to be a Texan to visit!  In 2006 they received a Texas Historical Marker.

When visiting the San Antonio area remember the famous words of General Sam Houston  REMEMBER THE ALAMO……..but don’t forget to visit FLOORE’S COUNTRY STORE!

 

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: TEXAS DANCEHALLS – SISTERDALE

Sisterdale, Texas is located in Kendall County, in the valley of Sister Creek.  It is 13 miles North of Boerne, Texas.

Sisterdale, Texas was settled in 1847 by Nicclaus Zink, a German surveyor and one of the many freethinkers that settled in the area.  During the middle 1800 many freethinkers immigrated from Germany to the Texas Hill Country with the hopes to settle and live without the interference of government and church authorities.  Most freethinkers who settled in this area were  very well educated and respected scholars in their native country.

In 1851 Sisterdale received a post office.  Eventually a school house , general store, a cotton gin, and a factory that made cypress shingles were built.  The cotton gin, which was built in 1885 has been restored and is the home of the Sister Creek Vineyards.

It is not know exactly when when the Sisterdale Dancehall was built.  Some of the structures on the site date back to the mid-1800s.  There are remains of the pre-Civil War stone block fort with narrow angular openings that allowed gunmen to fight off indian attacks and to protect the folks from return fire and arrows.  These have the same designs used in Medieval European castles.  Originally the Dancehall was a Opera House, dance hall, and community center.  As in other early Texas towns the Sisterdale Opera House was the center of social activities for the towns folks.  Both the post office and general store stood next door.

A visit to the Sisterdale Dancehall is a must for Texas Road Warriors.   The dancehall sits on the banks of the West Sister Creek.  When you walk into the 3,000 square foot dance hall you step into an important part of the Texas historical past.  It is amazing to step on the original dance floor that was built out of 300 year old long leaf pine.  You then look up at the amazing wood ceilings.  On the grounds there are century old oak trees and of course the old weathered tin roof.

Sisterdale Dancehall is available for private functions and is a very popular wedding site.  During my recent visit I had the pleasure of meeting a soon to be bride and her father.  The future bride had a smile on her face that lit up the hall.  She said that her dream since she was a little girl was to be married at the Sisterdale Dancehall.  To think about 170 years ago Nicclaus Zink had a dream and established a settlement and a new life at the exact location that this young girl today shares that same dream……..Dang DREAMS DO REALLY COME TRUE!

We’ve got to have a dream if we are going to make a dream come true…….Denis Waitley

 

 

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