March, 2012. Texas Hill Country Roundup

Posted on March 26, 2012

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While this IS cattle country, we aren’t out chasing cows.

The roundup I’m thinking of is a recap of our two-month stay in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

Fredericksburg, Luckenbach, Alamo Springs, Comfort, Castroville, Bandera, Boerne, Bergheim, Johnson City, Mason, Llano, Stonewall – all different, and yet all the same because of the pride they share in their history and heritage – German, Texan, and Western.

While the “Wild West” era encompassed only a short span of time, it left an indelible imprint on the culture of each of these cities and towns.

Almost everyone in the country lives on a “ranch” – no matter how small. Almost every ranch has livestock – even if only a few goats or sheep.  Horses and chickens are everywhere, and windmills stand proud, spinning away though cut free from the pumps that once filled their storage tanks.

And our RV park owners kept chickens and longhorn cattle on site.

Yes, much of the cowboy stuff for sale in town is aimed at the tourist trade.  But Texans in this area are still busy  “living the life”, and if that lifestyle is attractive to tourists – well, they are happy to share it and make money doing so.

A lady stopped by our site yesterday who recently took a wildlife tour of the YO Ranch, a ”dude” ranch outside Kerrville, where exotic animals are raised for hunting.

She said her tour guide talked about the many people from foreign countries who come to the ranch looking for a “Western” or “cowboy” experience. They want to ride a horse, they want to wear a cowboy hat, they want to shoot a gun.

Why?  Because they’ve seen all the John Wayne movies?

Perhaps.

Or, more likely, it’s because the culture of the West is still perceived as being composed of a combination of hard work, self-sufficiency and sincerity. The West is still seen by many as the very embodiment of straight-talkin’, straight-shootin’ values – an attitude sadly in short supply today, both here and abroad.

Western culture is carefully kept alive through rodeo, a love of livestock, rifle shooting competitions for young people, fashion – or more often, the functionality of the way they dress – and preservation of their built environment.

We heard again and again that local Historical Societies are very vigilant, very active and very committed to the preservation of the old, original cow town buildings.

Whether constructed of native rock and plaster or fachwork, this reluctance to replace the old with something new is what makes these towns look nearly the same as they did 100 years ago.

You may find a Walmart or a Dollar General, but they will be respectfully hunkered down on the outskirts of the “real” town.

Then there’s the countryside itself.

Broad sweeping vistas, a big sky and the rustic elegance of both the landscape and the towns, all make the Hill Country the jewel of Texas – at least for us.

Maybe this is a lesson more areas of the country should learn – preserve your heritage and build on it.

It’s certainly working in the Hill Country of Texas.

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Posted in: Travel - Texas