Thursday, December 15, 2011

Texas History: Sam Houston’s Statue

After completing our Passports to Texas History, we continued exploring some Historical sites along our route. As we drove and chatted about places we’d been, I realized that many of these trips had taken place before FRitW and MT were born. How in the world did time pass that quickly?! It was about time that the little guys got to experience some of these historical site too.

First one on the list? Sam Houston’s Statue. This statue is visible for several miles from Interstate 45, but when you approach him from the visitor’s center – this is what you see:

Walk a little farther though – and surprise!

In real life, Sam Houston was 6 foot, 6 inches – a rather tall man - and the creator of his statue, David Adickes, made sure his statue emphasized his stature! The statue is 67 feet tall and stands on a 10 foot base. It is not an easy task to get a photo that includes the entire stature (especially with only a cell phone for a camera – remember the chickens?)

If you want a better look at his face, you're in luck:


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Texas History Sidetrip: Blue Bell Creameries

Texas History didn’t stop with independence from Mexico, so this stop on our trip encompasses some more modern Texas history! Blue Bell Ice Cream  is a favorite in our home – it is simply the best ice cream we’ve tasted and it is made right here in Texas. The factory was opened in Brenham Texas in 1907 and remains open today. They have factories in a couple of other states now too.

Blue Bell Creameries uses ingredients from within about a 200 mile radius of their factory when available and bakes all of the cookies, cones, and  other baked goods used right in their own factory. The Blue Bell Ice Cream is handled only by their own employees from the beginning to the shelves of the grocery store. Besides the fact that it is so delicious – I love that the company uses local American products as often as possible. I’m even willing to pay the little bit more it costs to purchase their delicious ice cream – as long as it keeps jobs here in America and supports local farmers.

We had the tour to ourselves this trip and had another wonderful tour guide (we’ve had fabulous tour guides throughout this trip!). The tour takes you through windowed hallways overlooking production lines. We watched strawberries and bananas (washed and cut here in the factory) get added to Banana Split Ice Cream. We saw Ice Cream Sandwiches made and wrapped (cookies baked here in the factory and ice cream made as we watched!). We even saw employees assembling the large ice cream cartons for ice cream shop cases then filling them with 3 gallons of creamy ice cream! Our guide explained the daily (yes, I said daily) cleaning operation. They complete disassemble each and every production line and wash, sanitize and reassemble the lines every single day. The cleaning process takes longer than the production day!

Unfortunately, they do not allow any photography during the tour, so all you get is this:
Kirk had Banana Pudding, Maggie ate Chocolate Covered Cherries

FRitW had Krazy Kookie Dough, MT had Strawberry, and Mom (not pictured) had Spiced Pumpkin Pecan

Then end of the tour and the free, very generous dips of ice cream we enjoyed. What I’m not showing is how many free samples we tried before deciding on a flavor! Even after we finished our ice cream, our guide continued to encourage us to taste another flavor and another. She said she really enjoyed having our family as her tour!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Texas History Sidetrip: Barrington Living History Farm

While in the Washington on the Brazos State Park, we also visited the Barrington Living History Farm. The Barrington Living History Farm is a working farm representing a farm of the 1840’s. It consists of some original buildings from Anson Jones’ Barrington Farm. Anson Jones was the fourth and final president of the Republic of Texas. After his presidency he farmed near the Washington on the Brazos area. His farm was named after his family’s estate in Massachusetts. Jones farmed cotton and corn, and raised pigs, cattle, chickens, and ducks on his farm.  The farm supported him, his wife and four children, his sister, sister-in-law, and 5 slaves. During his time farming, he kept a journal. This has enabled interpreters to reenact his daily life for visitors to the farm.

 It is truly a living history farm in that the employees operate it as it would have been run in the mid 1800’s. Our guide was wonderful. She was dressed as an 1840’s woman would dress – she (modestly, of course) showed us her pantaloons and petticoats to prove it. It was windy and cool today so she was grateful for all the layers, but mentioned that this summer was pretty miserable. She and another guide had been seated in the dogtrot of the home while waiting for visitors, but once we arrived she accompanied us throughout the home and yard, explaining, demonstrating, and sharing stories. It was truly delightful!

Since it was Monday and a woman’s work on Monday would be laundry, they had washboard and buckets set up. We washed the scraps of fabric they had for that purpose and hung them on the line. Maggie and I laughed that we would have had good helpers from FRitW and MT if we were back in 1840. By the time we left, the lines were almost full of drying fabric scraps. Our guide apologized for the lack of soap to wash with. Since it is a living history farm, they actually make their own lye soap and with the burn bans in effect, they were unable to make soap and had run out. They don’t just dress up for a day or special events – this is their everyday life. Someone has to come to the farm everyday to let the chickens out or water the vegetables and feed the pigs.

Speaking of animals – we visited the chickens and fed them over the fence. The chickens they keep are varieties that would have been common in Texas in 1850. Their rooster is a funny looking fellow – he is a Crested Polish Rooster. The guide said that the lady of the house would have an elegant, fussy looking rooster – it was a source of pride. Most of these chickens are young and they are looking forward to seeing what the baby chicks will look like.

The farm butchers a couple of pigs each year and smokes the meat in their smokehouse – boy did those hams smell good! There is a kitchen garden and a large garden – all hand dug, watered, and maintained. Herbs are grown next to the kitchen, and large Lamb’s Ear plants were scattered here and there. The Lamb’s Ear leaves were a much nicer alternative to toilet paper than the oft used corn cob – ugh!

Inside the house, our guide spun some of the cotton grown here on the farm into yarn and showed us the corn husk mattresses. We saw where the children would have done their lessons and learned about the many chores the children were responsible for, like picking cotton, cleaning chamber pots, and fanning the cook to help her stay cool. Then we went back and let MT and FRitW do more laundry.

We did wander over the now bare cotton and corn fields and through the workshop/barn, but there were no attendants to tell us about them. We did not visit the slave cabins because there was a sheriff’s deputy guarding some prisoners at work in those buildings.

There were two pig pens made of wood and when we got close, we found a mother pig and her piglet in one and what must have been the daddy pig in the other. He was huge and those stick fences were not too strong looking, so we moved on rather quickly!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Passport to Texas History San Jacinto

We were almost to the final site necessary for our Passport to Texas History and it was pouring rain. Pouring! There was lightning and thunder, oh, and did I mention it was pouring rain? The weather was absolutely awful!

All day we had managed to stay just a few minutes ahead of the storms, but the wait to cross by ferry allowed those nasty storms to catch up with us. We left the ferry and pulled into the parking lot of The Monument Inn where we had planned to eat lunch. We ran through the rain and settled in the restaurant on the second floor of the building just in time to watch the storm unleash it’s fury right on top of us.  We were so grateful to be across the ferry, because when the rain lifted we could see it had crossed during the worst of the storm and was now on its way back across. Whooo! Wouldn’t that have been an interesting ride? The restaurant lost power twice as we ate and we were thankful for the light offered by the large windows overlooking the Houston Shipping Channel.

With a drizzly sky, but no thunder and lightning, we drove on to the San Jacinto Monument. Funny thing about that monument – you can not park anywhere near the doors. The building is designed so you have to walk up a series of steps to a platform, then another series of steps, then a platform. Then if you are me, you realize you parked on the wrong side of the monument and have to circle the building searching for the door. Naturally, the rain had begun to fall again.
This is what the monument looks like. (Photo from a previous trip)

We cheated at this point. Sorry, but it is true. We didn’t ride the elevator to the top (None of us were too keen on being caught at the top when the next storm descended – we’d already been through the electricity failing at the restaurant), we didn’t view the educational film, and we didn’t pay to enter the special exhibit area. We simply walked to the gift shop, got our Passports stamped, checked out the weapons and memorabilia in the main (free) part of the museum and headed back to the car.
The boardwalk over the bayou. (photo from previous trip)

This is a really neat site on a warm, dry, day. The views from the top are spectacular and there is a beautiful little wooden walkway into the bayou. During this trip we learned that the ferry we cross to reach San Jacinto – Lynchburg’s Ferry was used by the Texans in their desperate run for safety  known as  the Runaway Scrape  as well as by Santa Anna’s forces in preparation for the Battle at San Jacinto.
FRitW loved this reflection of the monument in the bayou. (photo from same previous trip!)

Sam Houston destroyed the ferry and the bridge that gave access to the San Jacinto area – leaving Santa Anna (and his own army) no opportunity for retreat or escape. San Jacinto was the battle that ended the fight for freedom. Santa Anna was captured and history was made! Oh, and our Passports were complete!!!!