Focus on the Backroads » Photo Journeys

Focus on the Backroads bio picture

    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



The only two things in life that make it worth liven’….Is guitars that tune good and firm feelin’ women…..Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas with Waylon and Willie and the boys –  these lyrics written in 1977 written by Bobby Emmons and Chips Moman were recorded by Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson.  Luckenbach Texas (Back to the Basics) became a world wide hit and propelled  tourist from around the world to visit Texas town with a population of 3.
In 1849,  a Trading Post, was established in Gillespie County,  that provided goods to local settlers and indians.  In 1879 a steam-powered cotton gin was built on Grape Creak, it operated until 1929.  Within 10 years the town also had a blacksmith shop and a consolidated school.  In 1886 the Post Office/General Store/Tavern was opened by August Engel, a preacher from Germany.  Engel’s daughter chose the name Luckenback in honor of her fiancé’ Albert Luckenbach.  Years later they found another small town not far away and called Albert.
Where was the world’s first airplane flown?  (you are wrong)…In 1865 Jacob Brodbeck, a Luckenbach teacher and inventor made the flight.  Brodbeck was born in Wuerttemberg, Germany.  He graduated from the University of Esslingen having studied scientific teachings.  Brodbeck invented the first watch that would run without winding.  He decided to leave for American after the King of Wuerttemberg offered him one cow for his invention. Jacob flew his airplane over the treetops of Luckenbach but could not rewind the coils quick enough to stay in the air.  Fifteen years later the Wright Brothers got their aircraft off the ground, for about the same period of time that Jocob Brodbeck was in flight.
In the late 1800’s  the community center and DANCE HALL was built at Luckenbach. Like all settlements of this time the Dance Halls were used as a meeting place to handle business  and also a place to enjoy good company, good music and a good beer!
In 1970 – Luckenbach, still owned at the time by decedents  of August Engel, was put up for sale when an ad was run in a local paper stating – TOWN FOR SALE – lock, stock and dancehall”.  The Luckenbach we know today began when group of “Texas Characters” led by Hondo Crouch bought it.  Hondo declared himself Mayor.  Hondo,  and fellow investors Gulch Koock and Kathy Morgan immediately bagan planning events including, “Hug-ins”,  The Luckenbach Worlds Fair, Ladies State Chili Bust, the Dauber Festival, and the now famous daily sessions of song-picking, domino playing and beer drinking all center under the 500 year old oak trees.  
In the 70’s Luckenbach became known worldwide – because of Hondo’s promotional savvy and “crazy” personality thousands of people began traveling to the Luckenback to experience the town “where everyone is someone”.   Also many Texas musicians became regulars  at the town with a population of 3.  In 1973,  Jerry Jeff Walker and his Lost Gonzo Band took over the dancehall.  They stacked bales of hay to serve as sound buffles.  They wrote, recorded, and drank beer day and night.  The result was Jerry Jeff Walker and his Lost Gonzo Band….VIVA TERLINQUA  album.  The album went gold and made Luckenback a must destination for everyone that heard it – not to mention a side road trip to Terlinqua, Texas an amazing  ghost town in the Big Bend area of  West Texas.  In 1977, Luckenback, Texas (Back to the Basics) was released by Waylon and Willie –  which resulted in folks worldwide visiting where  – Out in Luckenbach, Texas Ain’t nobody feeling not pain. Through out the years many of the best know Texas musicians have played at the Luckenbach Dancehall  – not just Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff Walk and the other Texas Country Outlaw.  These include Ray Wylie Hubbard, Bill Joe Shaver, Gary Nunn, Pat Green and many other.  Tens of thousands other Texas singer songwriters have shared their song and stories on the outdoor stage while folks rest under the big oaks enjoying a cold beer, soda, and burger.
A VIST TO LUCKENBACH IS A MUST……….even if it is just to experience a place where everybody is somebody”>

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During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries German and Czech immigrants built numerous dance halls throughout Texas. These halls served as community centers, providing folks a place to meet with others who shared the same language, customs, and interest. These halls were meeting places where the community conducted business. More importantly the halls were a place to relax and socialize usually including music and dancing. Over the years as communities became more culturally diverse and more mainstream American culture. The traditional German and Czech Polka and folk music suddenly blended with honky tonk and Tejano music resulting into the birth of Texas Swing. Many Texas music legends such as Bob Wills, Milton Brown, Lefty Frizzell, Ernest Tubbs and other began to perform at many of these Halls.

Anhalt Hall was built in 1879, additions were added in 1898 and 1908. Anhalt, Texas was settled by German immigrants in 1855. It was originally known as Krause Settlement and was located halfway between New Braunfels and Boerne. The name was changed to Anhalt in 1879 when the post office was opened. That same year Anhalt Hall was completed and was used as a meeting place for the German Farmer Association. In 1887 the Association began construction of a larger meeting hall connected to the original hall, it was completed in 1989. This area now serves as seating area for the dance hall.
In 1908 a 6,000 square foot dance floor was added and later the bandstand.

One of the first bands to play at the Anhalt Hall was William Specht Spring Branch Band, a six piece brass band, in 1880. Since then many Texas country western singers have climb on the Anhalt stage including George Strait, Johnny Rodriguez, Geronimo Trevino, Chris Wall, Jerry Jeff Walker, and others. The Anhalt Hall has been included in many movies including All the Pretty Horses in 2000, which starred Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz – directed by another Texan Billy Bob Thornton.

I recently had the pleasure of attending an event at The Anhalt Dance Hall benefiting The Texas Dance Hall Preservation Organization. This event featured Asleep at the Wheel and was on heck of a good time! Texas Dance Hall Preservation is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote and preserve historical Texas Dance Halls – in other words to preserve a very important part of Texas History….please visit their website at

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In 1968 my family lived in Hazel Dell, Washington. One evening my Mom and Dad sat down with my two brothers and I to let us know that we were going to be moving to Marshall, Texas. Being that all my hero were TV and Movie cowboys I was EXCITED. I knew that soon I would be living in surrounding similar what I saw while watching Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, and other popular shows of the times. Imagine the shock to discover that they had indoor plumbing and electricity and the they drove cars, well mainly trucks, instead of saddling up on their horses. Well 1968 was a great year because it was the year that Texas became my “adopted home state”

Shortly after moving to East Texas we discovered Jefferson and Caddo Lake. My mom became the Director of Nursing at a private hospital in Jefferson and my family spent many hours water skiing at Caddo.

Jefferson was founded around 1841, located on land ceded from the Caddo Indians. At that time a log jam more than 100 miles long existed on the Red River near Natchitoches, Louisiana, known as the Great Red River Raft. This Raft acted as a dam and raised the level of Caddo Lake and the Red River several feet creating the Big Cypress Bayou at Jefferson. This event permitted commercial riverboat travel to Jefferson from ports such as St Louis and New Orleans. During the Civil War Jefferson was one of the most important ports in Texas. A few years after the war the population of Jefferson exceeded 30,000 making it the sixth largest city in Texas at the time. In 1873, the Army Corps of Engineers were able to clear the raft from the Red River, this cause the water levels to drop to a levels that resulted in the end of riverboat traffic to Jefferson to cease. A few years later the population dropped to about 3,000.

What remains today is a town with a population of a little over 2,000 people. Jefferson is a town full of history – almost every commercial building and house on the main roads in Jefferson have a Texas historical marker. A visit to Jefferson is like stepping back in History.

Caddo Lake is one of the only natural lakes in Texas. Caddo covers over 26,000 acres making it the largest natural lake in the south. The lake begins in Karnack, Texas on its western edge and empties into the Afchafalaya River, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. Half of the lake is located in Texas and half in Louisiana. Caddo Lake is the home of one of the largest cypress forest in the world. This area is a must for fisherman, nature lovers, and photographers.

Points of Interest:
Caddo State Park
Caddo Lake Tours
Uncertain, Texas
Marshall, Texas – Marshall Pottery – Wonderland of Lights – Fire Ant Festival
Jonesville, Texas – TC Lindsey General Store – has been in operation since 1847
Jefferson, Texas – Jefferson Railway – Jefferson Ghost Walk – House of Seasons Tour – Excelsior House Hotel – Jay Gould’s Railcar tour – Paddlewheel Steamboat – numerous antique/gift shops

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CRITTER: (noun) a living creature or animal

In the book of Genesis 1 we read how God created the Earth. After the earth was created he made the animals of the oceans, the air and land. To paraphrase Genesis 1:25 And God made the Critters of the earth…….and God saw that if was good.

Critters come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are scary and dangerous while others we allow into our home and they become family. Some critters are so small we can not see them while others are as large as a small building. No matter of what they look like or what size they are all of God’s critters live together on Earth. We sometimes run and hide from these critters while other time we stomp on them to hear them crunch.

Below are some fun CRITTER FACTS:

Hummingbirds have so much control that they can fly backwards
Horses and cows sleep while standing up
Rats breed so quickly that in 18 months 2 rats could have created over 1 million offspring (did not need to know that)
The houseflies life span is for only 3 weeks (unless they meet a flyswatter)
The female mosquito is the only one that actually bites humans
Sharks lay the biggest eggs in the world
The Blue Whale can produce the loudest sound of any animals
The Tasmanian Devil is a real animal that lives in Tasmania, Australia.

In the backroads of Texas we have many critters. Some we love such as the roadrunner, the armadillo, and the Longhorn; while others we are not so fond of such as skunks. As you travel the backroads please remember the famous words of Ellie May Clampett, “I love Critters”, and enjoy all these
interesting creatures.

In all things in nature there is something marvelous…….Aristoltle

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FOCUS ON THE BACK ROADS: Remember the Alamo – however do not forget MISSIONS NATIONAL PARK

In the 1600 Spain laid claims on much of the land that is now Texas. With very few settlers and soldiers to protect this area of encroachment by France and England they need to established missions to help win the loyalty of the native people of the area.
Beginning in 1690 six missions were established in an area which is now East Texas. During the early 1700 four of these missions were relocated to locations along the San Antonio River. During the 1780 walls were built around the missions due to attacks from the Apache and Comanche Indians. living quarters were built inside the walls while farms and ranches were outside.
Life in these communities was centered around the church. Mission efforts were carried out by the Franciscans – their task was to spread Christianity and to increase Spanish influence throughout the area.

The MISSIONS NATIONAL PARK is made up of four Spanish frontier missions:
Mission Espada established in 1690
Mission Concepcion established in 1716
Mission San Jose established in 1720
Mission San Jaun Capistrano established in 1731
These four missions are operated by the National Park Service and run along 7.7 mile stretch, along the San Antonio River, known as The Mission Parkway. The Archdiocese of San Antonio own portions of these four missions and still are run as active parishes.

In additions to these there is a fifth mission established in 1718. This mission was named Mission San Antonio de Vellero and later became know as The Alamo. The Alamo is owned by the State of Texas and operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The Alamo was the site in 1836 where during the Texas War of Independence 180 defenders fought off over 2,000 Mexican soldiers, lead by General San Anna, for 13 days before finally being defeated. The Alamo became the American symbol of patriotic sacrifice. For Texans it became the symbol of our pride in The Lone Star State.

You may go to Hell, and I will go to Texas……… Davy Crockett

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