BJ and I scour earnestly for new and envigorating stories from history to share on this website. Check out our newest addition Vintage Features page, "A Live Oak Christmas". This story circa 1918 centered around a Live Oak instead of today's traditional evergreens. Its notalgic remembrance of large family and sumptuous feasts sets the mood to wish the best ever Christmas in 2014.
Regretfully, we lost
our precious Charlie, who shared this Christmas story so generously, on January 6, 2015.
Another Cowhand gone to the Last Roundup.
Charlie (Charleen) Reagan Brown left the Brush Country she loved today, January 6, 2015 for the last time. Once again, she is with Tige Brown, her lifetime love, husband, and father of their three children. RIP, Charlie. The Brush Country will always remember you. Among other things, Charlie was the first woman to graduate in Texas with a degree in agriculture, rodeo champion of barrel racing and cattle cutting, trick roper, leather artist, middle school teacher, and church leader. She is a current nominee for the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Her daddy, Pryor Reagan, always called her his "cowhand".
Visitation: Thursday, Galloway Funeral Home, George West 5:00 PM-7:00 PM. Funeral: Friday, First United Methodist, George West, 10:00 AM. Interment: Oakville Cemetery.
Last year, BJ and I finished writing an illustrated history of Live Oak County, Texas. It was released to the public July 2013. We are happy to say the first edition is just about gone. It is an addition to Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series and is available through our store for $21.99.
We also compiled and
edited a companion for our Live Oak County book. It is a long lost memoir by Charles
R. Tips who created and colonized Three Rivers, Texas. Tips ancestors came into Texas through Indianola from Germany during the days of theTexas Republic and became a part of the Austin colony. It
was his fascination with the Empresario, Stephen F. Austin, that inspired Tips to create and colonize Three Rivers. He wrote his memoir when he was seventy for
the town's fiftieth anniversary. It was promptly lost and remained missing until 2012 when we came across it. It's a fun and informative read with vintage photographs commissioned by Tips as he was
building the town. Memoir of the Last Empresario is in our store and available.
We had lots of fun writing Live Oak County and compiling the Memoir. We met lots of wonderful and intriguing Live Oak County folks, some whose ancestors came to Texas from Ireland way back before Texas became a Republic in 1836. And many who came from other places too, like Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Italy, Mexico, and many other far away and not so far away places. They brought their peculiar culture with them, mingling it all together to form the unique South Texas culture so often misunderstood by our Eastern U.S. seaboard brethren.
In fact, we met several generations of Pugh descendents who showed us their family's original homestead built on the north bank of the Nueces River when Mexico occupied the South bank just across the river.
Shortly we will have more information about our book and why, especially if you are a Texan, you should buy it for your Texana library. So check on us every so often for more details and some sneak peeks of what's in the book you'll find fascinating about a part of Texas that has had an impact on our American way of life in some very big and surprising ways.
Moravian Czech Influence Behind
Best Barbecue in Texas
Maybe they missed Smolik’s Smokehouse while zipping up and down Interstate 37 between San Antonio and Corpus Christi looking for the nirvana of Texas BBQ in the bigger cities. Maybe they just blinked when skirting Mathis on the Interstate going and coming.
Granted, it’s easy to do, unless you’re true-blue Texan looking for a table to belly-up to for lunch or dinner. For every Texan knows the best little cafes and BBQ joints in the state are in small towns, especially where Moravian Czechs have put down roots in Texas soil since the mid to late 1800s.
The Smolik family has perfected the art of Texas BBQ by transforming their old world recipes into what we all call Texas-style sausage, jerky, and BBQ ribs and brisket. I won’t say it’s to die for, but it does come pretty doggone close!
How did BJ and I discover the place? Indirectly from Cecilia Venable, a library associate in the Special Collections & Archives of the Mary & Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. We expressed curiosity about the history of the old Echo stagecoach station near Mathis. Cecilia put us in contact with Andi Estes who owns the property on which it sits. Andi suggested we meet at Smolik’s Smokehouse for lunch.
The place was packed. We were fortunate to find a parking place. When Andi arrived, we ordered brisket, ribs, and chicken with fried okra, pinto beans, slaw, and potato salad. Wow! Mouth-watering, mesquite-smoked meats so tender it cut with a fork. Great with sliced onions, dill pickles, or jalapeño peppers! Cut okra battered and fried with tender loving care and the slaw and potato salad prepared to perfection.
The service was quick and friendly and the Smolik’s folks said “ya’ll come back” as we walked out the door. And we have since, bringing others with us.
Michael and Gail Smolik run a well-oiled operation with excellent and dedicated employees like Mary, who’s been serving up Smolik’s barbecue with a smile since 1997. John Rodriguez says working with the Smolik’s is fun. He’s been with them three years now and plans to stay because, he says, “Mike and Gail are good people and I like working with them.”
And Smolik’s Smokehouse is clean throughout, something a lot of other BBQ joints aren’t. The self-serve coffee and soda dispensers are continually being wiped clean. If you like fresh coffee like me, they’ll make you a fresh pot. And, boy, is it good!
If you want two-fisted Texas barbecue dished up plentiful with a smile, then stop in at Somlik’s Smokehouse next time you make that trip down to Corpus or Padre Island. Michael and Gail Smolik are opening another store at I-37 and Hwy 359 so folks can easily see it off the interstate. Mike Smolik says he will keep the present barbecue place open. It’s located on San Patricio Street right across from the Mathis Middle School.
Smolik’s Smokehouse is open
daily, except Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., then Monday’s when they close at 2 p.m. and Saturday’s when they’re open to 8 p.m. Tell 'em Hud sent you!
After you’ve chowed down on some of Smolik’s bodacious brisket, fall-off the bone ribs, sausage with an attitude, and all the trimmings, then give the Texas Monthly a call. Those poor misinformed folks need to know what real Texas barbecue is.
"No Name Waltz" from Westphalia, Texas
Driving up from the South Texas Valley recently, I ventured off Interstate 35 at Temple onto Highway 53 which curves into the shortest state highway in Texas, Highway 320. Somewhere along that road, before you get to the little town of Lott, is a German farming community where a popular waltz originated right after World War II.
It was one of those "wild hair" moments begging my attention, so I followed my impulse to see what lay down the road. A quick call to BJ before I lost cell connection let her know I would be home a little late. She was good with that, knowing my curiosity for discovery.
Long time ago my mother used to spin a 78 rpm record on a now defunct Blue Bonnet label, a waltz she loved to dance by. A fiddler by the name of Cotton Collins played it in a dance hall among these corn fields back in 1946. After a dance, Collins and the dance band met with the dance hall owner to divy up the evening's proceeds. Collins commented the crowd sure liked his "No Name Waltz." The owner suggested to Collins he call it the "Westphalia Waltz" after the little community. He did, and the name stuck and became quite popular.
I pulled my trusted Nikon 300 with assortment of lenses out to get pictures of Westphalia to share with our readers. You can see them below. Also, I found a video clip on You Tube of some fellows playing the Westphalia Waltz. Click on it, and let it play while you watch the slide show. It puts you back in time when the melodies represented a simpler and less complicated way of life.
BJ and I plan to be at Westphalia next weekend. Seems the second weekend in October Westphalia puts on an annual homecoming and picnic that draws upwards to 5,000 people. I'll be sampling the fried chicken and sausage among other things. And like most of those who come, we'll hang around into the evening to enjoy the ambiance of a town the German immigrants named back in the early 1880's in honor of Westphalia Province in Germany.
Stay tuned. We'll have more to say about Westphalia and a few more photos to share.
Westphalia German Farm Country in Falls County. Photos by Hud
Texas has a rich history. Native Indian, Spanish, Mexican, Tejano, German, Irish, Anglo-American, French and many other ethnic groups mix to make Texas a culturally diverse State. The American Southwest, which includes Texas, is just as diverse. We will explore cultural contributions by each ethnic group in this section of HistoryRaven.
Clausewitz, in his book On War, said, "Everything is very simple in War, but the simplest thing is difficult." This is Clausewitz's way of saying War is not a cookie cutter thing. In this section of HistoryRaven we will explore this very interesting Clausewitz concept.
"I have always strenuously supported the Right of every man to his opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.
"The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall."
Quote of the Month
No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.