Here I am in the deepest part of Texas. Land of sweet tea and fried okra. Hell, they'd fry jello here if they could. I came to the call of a sick mother who finally said, “Come soon.” So one day from my little cabin in the woods of the Cuyamaca Mountains outside of Julian, I got my little kit bag packed and off I went. A mere 22 hours later, egad, I arrived on a dirt road, through a gate and to the door of my little mother. She stayed up until 1am to see me when I got here.
Around 3am, I finally got to bed that first night. Something called a “spork” lives in the pasture next to my window and it goes off like a rooster during the night. It is a cross between a donkey (which is also a cross breed) and a miniature horse I think. Anyway, there's a pair of matching sporks and a funny little donkey called “Pedro.” One night I laid out in the field in despair and Pedro wandered over and I told him everything including how it took my breath away to see my mother in such a weakened state.
Also in the pasture is a very old horse, another lame one, a half-blind one and one that has a club foot. It should come as no surprise that others have dubbed this property "misfit island." These animals are basically lawn ornaments that eat.
Turns out the health scare wasn't as serious as we thought and guess who is just feeling all kinds of better? She even feels well enough to start directing my life. “You should get a job,” was her declaration over coffee one morning. I hadn't really planned to look and thought I was coming to find her near the end of her life. Well, she got up-both physically and in spirit-which has been a tremendous relief.
On my first trip to town, I was struck by how beautifully preserved the downtown area is. Commemorative plaques are posted along the historic red brick streets and the neighborhood which borders it appears filled with restored, turn-of-the-century homes. I stopped for lunch at a place called Barnhill's and for less than ten dollars had the best fried chicken, black-eyed peas and turnip greens I've ever had. The sweet tea alone could have been dessert but the banana cream pie was excellent.
Somewhere in the surrounding area is an Indian reservation. I have already seen signs of the native American influence. A woman named LaDonna Simpson has taken me under her wing and I expect that she will introduce me to the ins and outs of living in this old Texas town which is home to about 33,000 people.
The first residents here date back to 1200 A.D. and were the Caddo Indians. The local forests and streams produced so much that elaborate trade relations were started here. Around 1716, five religious missions were built and the town was officially established as "Nacogdoches" which makes it the first in Texas.
If you look closely at Willie Nelson's album called "Nacogdoches," you will see the town's first Lt. Governor. The statue of Antonio Gil Y'Barbo, which stands in the town square, was digitally enhanced with long braids and a bandana to look like the singer and photographed for the cover. Y'Barbo was a prominent Spanish trader who built a house which still stands called the Old Stone Fort. It served as the gateway between the United States and the Texas frontier in the late 1700s.
Nacogdoches remained a farming community until the railroad arrived in 1883 transforming the area into an industrial center as well. In 1923, the Stephen F. Austin State College was established here and still provides a significant economic impact with its annual enrollment of nearly 13,000 students.
What apples are to Julian, blueberries are to this town. The festivals and celebrations of that little berry are impressive and ongoing. I see posters everywhere touting the multiple uses, excuses and plans for the tiny fruit. So far, I haven't had any but there are U-pick orchards that I plan to explore.
In Julian, Patrick Brady made the area famous with the Raven Hill Orchard and the U-Pick idea. He really did so much for the little town in the mountains that it is hard to describe the memories embedded after so many tourists visited his 8000-tree farm where Fuji, Pippin and Jonathon varieties were plentiful.
Here in the deep south, temperatures are high and summer is in full swing as my new adventure in the oldest town in Texas begins..
Stay Tuned, SherryD