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"
CADDO LAKE is located on the border of Texas and Louisiana, Harrison and Marion Counties in Texas and Caddo County in Louisiana. It is name after the Caddo tribe who lived in the area until they were relocated, in 1835 by the US, to Binger, Oklahoma. Today the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma headquarters is located there.
Hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century a massive extending 150 miles clogged the lower portion of the Red River in what is now Northeast Texas and Northwest Louisiana. This became known as the Great Raft. During this time banks of the river raised, creating new tributaries and numerous lakes in lower lying areas. Many of these lakes have vanished. Caddo along with Cross Lake, Wallace Lake, Bistineau Lake, and Black Bayou were preserved when dams were built in the early 1900s. These lakes are now known as the Great Raft Lakes.
Caddo is the largest naturally formed lake in Texas, the largest natural fresh water lake in the South, and the largest bald cypress forest in the world. It is a unique ecosystem thriving with wildlife, birds, and swamp creatures like alligators and water snakes. It’s one of the only places on Earth where you can find the paddlefish, the oldest surviving animal species on the continent. it looks nothing like what you would picture when you think of Texas.
In the early 1930s, T.J. Taylor, the father of Lady Bird Johnson, and other local businessmen and groups, donated land to the state of Texas with the intent to build a state park on its grounds. Caddo Lake State Park, is the first Texas state park to be supervised by National Park Service. With guidance from NPS, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) completed the project within four years after it was commissioned in 1933. Today Caddo Lake State Park boasts several miles of hiking trails, cabins, and an abundance of wildlife.
The best thing about Caddo Lake is as you are driving off you will begin to plan your next visit to this Texas Treasure!
Galveston was named after Bernardo de Gavez y Madrid, an 18th Century Spanish military/political leader. Galveston’s first settlements were built in 1816 by French pirate Louis-Michel Aury, on Galveston Island, to help Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain. When Aury returned, in 1817, from unsuccessful raids against Spain, he found that the pirate Jean Lafitte occupied Galveston and had organized it into a pirate kingdom called Campeche, and had anointed himself the island’s head of government. In 1821 the United States Navy forced Lafitte and his men off the island. After Mexico won independence, 1825 the Port of Galveston was established. During Texas Revolution in 1836 it served as the main port for the Texas Navy. In 1839, the city of Galveston adopted a charter and was incorporated by the Congress of the Republic of Texas and later would serve a temporary national capital of the Republic of Texas.
During the 19th century, Galveston became a major U.S. commercial center and one of the largest ports in the United States. It was known as the “Queen City of the Gulf” and was the largest city in Texas. In 1900, Galveston was devastated by the “Galveston Hurricane of 1900”. With an estimated death toll somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 people it is still ranked today as the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. During the Prohibition era (1919 to 1933) it became a center for illegal gambling, and was nicknamed the Free State of Galveston.
During World War II, the Galveston Municipal Airport was re-designated a US Army Air Corps base and named Galveston Army Air Field. In 1943 the air field was officially activated with the 46th Bombardment Group, serving as an anti-submarine role in the gulf of Mexico. After the war with the reduction of the military’s investment on the island and the states government campaigns to disrupt gambling and prostitution in the city, the economy and tourism crashed. Many of the business relocated off the island to other cities such as Houston.
In the 1950’s efforts began to preserve many of historic building, the Strand Historic District and other areas and a more family-oriented tourism began to emerge. In the 1960 there was an expansion of higher education in Galveston which became the home of the University of Texas Medical Branch, the Texas Maritime Academy, and Galveston College.
Galveston has six historical districts with over 60 structures that are listed – representing architectural significance in the national Register of Historic Places. The American Institute of Architects list the Bishop’s Palace as one of the 100 most significant building in the United States. The Library of Congress has classified it as one the fourteen most representative Victorian structures in the U.S.
When visiting Galveston, you can not only “dip your toes in the ocean, you can visit one of the most historical cities in the United States. Then before you leave town you can visit the Strand District and buy a real cool T-shirt that says………”I visited Galveston and bought you this cool t-shirt THEN DECIDED TO KEEP IT!
Galveston, oh Galveston I still hear your sea waves crashing While I watch the cannons flashing I clean my gun And dream of Galveston. From Galveston by Glen Campbell
Sunday, January 3, 2021 Posted in BackroadsNo comments
Inspiration is defined: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. Inspiration comes from many different places, something you read, a comment from a friend, from experiences through out your life, a song, a beautiful landscape, and for many of us from God.
The Backroads of Texas (and every state) are filled with inspiring things. Sometimes when I head out to wander the backroads I have something specifically I am looking for, an example are wildflowers. Most of the time I have no specific thing I am searching for……I am simply looking for inspiration! Early in my journey with my camera my friend and mentor Alan Rokach gave me some great advise; he told me that you need to first become one with the environment that you are photographing before you can see the image you want to capture. Alan’s advise was very inspiring. I am going to share some of my favorite images and try to explain what the inspiration was.
This image was shot in 2010 while attending a Wildflower Workshop with Alan in Brenhan, Texas. I was new to photography. Alan had me sit down in some grass. He told me to put my camera down and just look for 10 minutes. Before long I started to realize the interesting twist and turns the grasses made. When 10 minutes passed, this fly landed on the blade of grass I had been studying – he was there for a split second. That evening when I downloaded the days images this picture was there – I WAS HOOKED and the journey began.
This image was taken Salt Basin Dunes near the Guadalupe Mountains. There was an amazing contrast between the sky and the sand – it is actually like being on a different planet.
Was driving outside of Brenham, Texas when I spotted this angel in an old cemetery – I almost wrecked my car! What I noticed was not only her beautiful face but also the dirt and moss.
This image was taken out side on Route 66 outside of Arcadia, Oklahoma. This was inside of an old decaying stone gas station – the graffiti caught my eye.
Photograph was taken at Twin Sisters Dance Hall, a historical dance hall in Blanco, Texas. The band was actually getting ready for a dance that evening and this couple got out on the dance floor.
From the first photo-journey on January 1, 2021. This lone oak tree and the contrast with the fresh snow.
THE LEADER OF THE PACK
This image was taken in Yellowstone. Nature is a fantastic source of inspiration – nothing is more beautiful than a wild animal or something as simple of a single flower.
Old structures from the past are interesting to photograph. This barn is located outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is said to be the most photographed barn in America.
THE TEXAS BACKROADS
The backroads of Texas are the ultimate source of inspiration. There are endless opportunities for photographers that enjoy wondering!
Photography is a very personal thing. Many people specialize in certain type of photography such as portrait, wildlife, landscapes, or others. I like what I call “Hobo Art” – wandering the backroads (and sometimes cities) in search of interesting subject matter. One moment it might be an old rusted truck on the side of road, another moment a Longhorn in a pasture and another an angel watching over a grave in an old cemetery.
It is important to remember that an image is only going to present itself once – a minute later it is a completely different photograph. As Rod Steward said, “Every Picture Tells a Story – don’t it.”
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see” Edgar Degas
In 1722, a Roman Catholic mission was established, by Spain, with the mission to convert the Karankawa Indians to Christianity. Mission Nuestra Señora del Espiritu Santo de Zunlga. The Spanish had begun colonizing the area that is now considered South Texas in the late 1600’s after the Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico. Missions were built not only to save souls but to keep the French, who occupied most of Louisiana from establishing a foot hold in the area.
The mission was first located on Matagorda Bay, near where Houston is today. The Mission Espiritu Santo de Zuniga along with a fort called Presidio La Bahia were were built to convert the Karankawa Indians to Christianity and to secure the Texas coastline. The mission and fort did not last long at this location because they were unable to grow crops and failed to convert the Karankawa people.
In 1926 the mission was moved in an area close to where Victoria, Texas is now located. The local tribes included the Tamique and Arnama. Dams and acequias were built to provide and carry water from the near by Guadelupe River. The mission and fort prospered and remained at this site for 26 years.
In 1749 Mission Espiritu Santo and Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de Bahia, were moved for the third time to the banks of the San Antonio River near what is now Goliad, Texas. At this location the Spanish were able to protect the major trade route to the north and east. Construction was not completed until 1758.
Run by Franciscan priest, the women spun wool for clothing, made clay posts for cooking and storing food. They also harvested fruit, vegetables, and grain. The men farmed, worked cattle, and help with the construction of the mission and the fort. They were assisted by native people from local indian tribes, including the Aranama, Piguique, Maos de Perro, Tarnique, Tawakoni, and Tonkawa – who chose a life at the mission because they would be protected from raids. The mission provided thousands of head of cattle during the American Revolution to support the colonist fighting for independence from England. At it’s peak the mission had over 15,000 head of cattle.
In 1821, Mexico won it’s independence and the Spanish government no longer needed the services of the mission. Two Franciscans refused to leave and remained there as parish priest. The mission closed in 1830 after continuous raids by Apache and Comanches and with a lack of money and turmoil between Texans and the Mexican Government. The land was claimed by local Mexican and American colonist. The mission became part of Goliand and the mission’s stones were removed and used for other construction.
In 1931, the mission ruins became a part of a new park, Goliad State Park. In 1933, funds were provided by Works Progress Administration to begin reconstruction of the chapel and the granary – this was completed in 1941. Additional construction projects in the 1960s and 1980s returned the site to how it was during 1749. During the 1970’s the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department restored the chapel and built exhibits in the granary.
Also at the park is the birthplace of General Ignacio Zaragonza. General Zaragoza commanded a rag-tag Mexican Army the fought and defeated French army on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. This date is celebrated both in Mexico and the United States as Cinco de Mayo.
You can not explore the backroads of The Lone State without seeing windmills. Prior to windmills being introduced to Texas people were forced to settle only in area where there was a constant supply of water. As you know there is vast area Texas where early settlers were unable to work the land.
The first recorded vertical windmills were in the 12th century. These evolved from horizontal windmills which had been developed in the Middle East and Central Asia in the 7th century. In the 13th century the masonry tower mills these were developed to provide more power – these were common in Great Britain, Denmark, and Germany. Later the Smock Mill was developed, replacing the masonry with a wooden framework. These were later introduced to the New World.
The first windmills built in Texas were built by European immigrants and used for grinding meal. The biggest need for this technology was to extract water from under the surface, these early windmills were unable to do this.
In 1854, Daniel Halladay built the first American made windmill in Ellington, Connecticut. Halladay added a vane, Texas ranchers called it a “tail”. The “tail” made it possible to guide the wheel into the wind. The wheel was made up of a circle of wooden slats set at angles. Centrifugal force would slow it in high winds – the windmill could operate unmanned. By 1873 the windmill had become a major source of water for the railroad, small towns, and farms where the only water supply was beneath the ground. There were many “home-made” windmills using old wagon wheels with wooden slats nailed to them. The windmills that were later used on ranches were factory-made and much more dependable.
Barbwire was introduced in the 1870’s. Suddenly waterholes, creeks, and rivers were fenced in and unavailable to some landowners. With no access to water, fighting and fence cutting began usually late at night by bands of cowboys. Many times they would light pastures on fire. Rancher began to dig wells and experimented with windmills. Many times they were unsuccessful not knowing the proper size of a windmill was need to extract water from the wells.
One of the earliest successful experiments was made in Schleicher County by Christopher Doty, a sheepman. Doty had move his sheep into the county and found a number of shallow wells available. In1882, a drought dried up his wells. He purchased a drilling rig from Fort Smith, Arkansas and bored a fifty-two foot well and erected a Star windmill. This well was capable of supplying water for his 4,000 head of sheep. This method of drilling spread quickly through out North, Central and West Texas.
Eastern land speculators began buying and fencing land – running cattle until it would be available to settlers. Land owners were forced to build windmills for livestock and their personal use. In 1887, the Capital Syndicate, the largest of these speculators began using windmills on it’s XIT Ranch. By 1900 the XIT had 335 windmills in use – including what was believed to be the Worlds tallest windmill at 132 feet tall, it blew over in 1926. By the 1900 windmills were used all over Texas, inhabitable land had become habitable! Texas would soon become the largest user of windmills in the United States – only two Texas companies produced windmills on a large scale,, the Axtell Company in Fort Worth and the San Antonio Machine and Supply Company. There were 99,050 windmills produced in the United States in 1928. Over 35,000 of these were sold in Texas.
In the 1970, during the Middle East oil embargo the US government increased the funding for research using windmills as a source of energy.
The windmill is a constant reminder of the hardships and loneliness of the early Texans that settle the vast remotes areas of The Lone Star State. These early settlers are the inspiration for all Texas and our “Don’t Mess With Texas” attitude.
“You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down” C.S Lewis