Back home at our local Texas Hill Country breakfast cafe, we overheard some of the truckers and travelers laughing at the number of electric cars they’ve seen along Interstate Highway 10.
Many were abandoned, waiting for help or waiting in line behind others to charge their lithium batteries.
“As I passed one near Fort Stockton, the radio was playing Willie Nelson’s ‘On the Road Again,'” a friend coming back from a Colorado trip grinned. “I started singing along, ‘Stuck on the road again.’ That’s how obvious it was.”
“Now get this,” he observed. “The guy was standing outside in the wide open spaces by himself wearing a mask practically in the middle of nowhere. He had California license plates so I figured he was on his way to Austin!”
One of the most fascinating attributes of being married to Dodie is her love of nature. Moving back home to Texas after 38 years (besides to marry me) was an opportunity to rejoin her roots and surroundings–especially in the beautiful Hill Country.
Although she grew to like the deserts of Arizona, Dodie missed clouds. Even today, she looks and just beams as she enjoys them.
We were fortunate that a friend, a fellow McCollum High School classmate, and his family drove all the way across much of the Lone Star State to preside over our wedding on December 5, 2019 in Boerne.
Not long after, Pastor Jack Comer of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Bridge City, Texas offered this message one particular day when I needed it.
“Yesterday, upon receiving news and prayer requests, I went to the back patio that we have and begin to pray for these people that had these special needs.”
“My prayer was simple but sincere, asking our Lord to let these know that He loved them and cared. I prayed that they might have a peace and might know of His presence, along with their various needs might be met.”
“I prayed also for their family members and for the struggles and concern that they had as well. When I finished praying, even though my heart was heavy, I felt an emotion that said, ‘God would be there for these.’”
“Now not to sound unspiritual, I then began to watch the clouds. Yes, I’m a cloud watcher. There are times when I just like to sit and watch the movement of the clouds and also try to see what images I can find.”
“Yesterday I saw a little lamb, a bunny rabbit and a cocker spaniel dog. Of course I saw a monster or two, but that may be due to a childish mind. (LOL).”
“Some of these clouds were darker than others and some were moving quicker than others. And every once in a while I would see the blue sky behind the cloud. In fact, I know that there is blue sky behind the clouds, even if I didn’t see it.”
“I think there is a spiritual lesson there, not that we have to spiritualize everything. But we have clouds in our life. (troubles, inconveniences, sickness, hardships) Some are much darker than others. But on the other side of the cloud, there is blue sky. Perhaps Paul understood this, when he wrote:
‘For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 2 Cor. 4:17′”
Just 30-minutes northwest of San Antonio International Airport is the beautiful Texas Hill Country, Boerne, Texas, where I raised my family.
It has been discovered by Hollywood for years as the city offers a picturesque vintage backdrop featuring turn-of-the-century architecture nestled in its thriving business district filled with modern boutiques, breweries, and restaurants that are ready to serve.
Their bustling downtown, the Hill Country Mile, is a colorful canvas of quaint shops flanked by winding pedestrian paths and parks situated along the gorgeous Cibolo Creek. At its heart, Boerne is anchored by a 170-year-old traditional Main Plaza, complete with a historic gazebo and surrounded by heritage Oaks.
Boerne is one of now over 150 communities across the state in the Film Friendly Texas program, including the neighboring cities of Kerrville, Fredericksburg, Blanco, Bandera, and San Antonio.
The Film Friendly Texas program provides ongoing training and guidance on media industry standards and best practices to help communities accommodate media production for film and TV. Film Friendly Certified Communities are trained to match local businesses with production-related needs and services while creating jobs for Texas-based crew members and residents.
Some notable productions filmed in Boerne over the years, including 1973’s The Sugarland Express starring Goldie Hawn; 1997’s The Newton Boys, starring Matthew McConaughey and Ethan Hawke; and 1999’s All the Pretty Horses, starring Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz.
Just minutes west of Boerne on Highway 46 is Enchanted Springs Ranch.
Enchanted Springs Ranch began as a Hollywood movie set in 2001 and has been a preferred filming location for over 20 years. The ranch features a large-scale Old West town that is perfect for filming movies, commercials, TV shows and music videos. The ranch is listed as an approved filming venue with the San Antonio Film Commission and works closely with the Austin Film Commission.
Texas-based TV travel programs like The Daytripper and YOLO TX have also filmed in and around Boerne.
In the summer of 2022, San Marcos–home to Texas State University–announced the construction of a $267 million, 820,000-square-foot TV, film and virtual production studio.
City officials billed it as a studio set to bring in more than 1,400 industry jobs to the community.
“The multiuse project, located at the entrance of the La Cima master-planned community, will also feature modern lifestyle and collaborative workplace amenities, headlined by post-production facilities, a 50-seat screening theater and a full-service restaurant and coffee shop,” Hill Country Group said. “Twenty-five acres will be reserved for vendor and commercial space built to serve both the studio and surrounding community.”
MOVIES FILMED IN HILL COUNTRY
Some movies made in the Texas Hill Country region include (note movies I have appeared in are designated with “*” symbol):
Half a block from the pristine Medina River in the beautiful Hill Country is the quaint First Baptist Church of Medina, Texas.
Over the years I have been a member of the Bellaire Baptist and Thousand Oaks Baptist Churches in San Antonio (where my two oldest children attended Awana and Sunday services). In 1994 I moved up IH-10 West and joined First Baptist Church of Boerne, Texas.
My youngest children attended preschool, Vacation Bible School and church services in Boerne. I moved back to San Antonio in 2007. Because I traveled so much, often I attended services at different churches and denominations across Texas: Waco, Corsicana, Breckenridge, Del Rio, Harlingen, Corpus Christi, Houston, Austin and so forth.
When Dodie (who lived in Arizona almost 40 years) and I married at the Boerne First Baptist Church in 2019, we soon moved to Medina.
Most recently we joined the First Baptist Church of Medina after over a year attending regularly. We absolutely love the community and Church Family here. Dodie is even on the Praise Team and can be seen singing in front each Sunday.
If you ever find yourself out this way (motorcycling the Twisted Sister, hunting, visiting Garner or Lost Maples State Park) on a Sunday, come by and visit our church. Maybe, afterwards you may feel like buying Dodie and me an ice cream cone at the Apple Store Patio Cafe (Hint. Hint.)
One of the reasons we love and decided to join the church is because of our interim pastor, Brother David Kimberly (pictured here between Dodie and me) who has been inspiring us with over 50 years of preaching experience and vigor.
Here is a recent devotional from Brother David:
Do you believe God gives divine appointments? Years ago as a student at Hardin -Simmons University I worked as a switchboard operator for Hendricks Memorial Hospital in Abilene, Texas. It wasn’t real busy that evening when a call came in that 3 men had been involved in an oil well explosion west of town.
The ambulances arrived with the men who were said to have been badly burned. As I sat there through my shift I couldn’t get these men and their wives off my mind.
Earlier I had seen the wives of two of the men, getting on the elevator going up to ICU, where their husbands had been taken from the ER.
As my shift was winding down God began to impress on me that I should go and pray with and offer comfort to the wives of the burned men.
Getting off the elevator I was uncertain how to proceed, so I introduced myself to the ladies. We talked a few minutes, I shared that God impressed me to come up and pray with them.
They told me that their husbands were burned over 50% of their bodies, and would not be able to be moved to a burn unit for several weeks.
I asked them if they would like to go down to the hospital Chapel and have prayer. They said “Yes.” We entered the Chapel and they walked down to the front. I had stopped about half way down when one of the wives turned looking straight at me asked, “Do you believe God will hear and answer our prayers?”
“Yes ma’am, because that’s why I am here.” Standing right where we were I believe the Holy Spirit took over as we prayed. After I had finished praying I saw the wives to the elevator and said good night, and they went back to the ICU waiting room.
The next day my shift began at 4:00p.m. and as I was coming into the hospital I met the wives and they said, “David, God answered our prayer and our husbands are being air flighted to the burn unit at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio. We praised God right there and thanked Him.
Suffering hits all people including you and me.
Out of the suffering in our own lives we can offer comfort, encouragement, prayer, and our presence to strangers in the ICU, grocery store, at a locker in your school, or wherever God leads. I challenge you to ask the Father to guide you to a suffering soul today.
Read Matthew 7: 7-8. Bro. David.
‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.’ ~Jesus
Please note each Sunday at 11:11 a.m. (CST) CleverJourneys posts an inspirational devotional or “What Does the Bible Say About…?” article.
50th Anniversary will be on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022 at John T. Floores Country Store & Dance Hall in Helotes, Texas. 3-7 p.m.
Admired by fiercely loyal fans, The Drugstore Cowboys have brought their electric energy to venues throughout the US and Europe.
The south side of San Antonio, in the neighborhoods surrounding McCollum and Harlandale high schools, are the childhood homes of many notable people in Country, Funk, Soul and Tejano Music.
Legendary Country Music DJ Hall of Famer and everybody’s “Cousin” Jerry King went to Harlandale in the 1960s. I can remember when King, along with other DJs and musicians, played with the likes of Willie Nelson and George Jones at a charity basketball matchup at the McCollum gym in the late 1960s.
During the 1972-73 school year Nashville recording artist Johnny Bush played on stage at the McCollum Auditorium. Country.
Down on Harding Blvd., a talented local newspaper country music and entertainment writer, John Goodspeed, served as an early inspiration for me.
The late Emilio Navaira, from the McCollum Class of 1980, was a Mexican-American musician who performed country and Tejano music nationally. His classmate from the year ahead of him, Yolanda Saldívar, is the convicted murderer of Latin music superstar Selena, and is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison.
Especially in the late 70s and early 80s many of us would go watch Horizon perform. Southsiders Charlie, John, and Geoff Boggess joined classmate Freddy Carrillo and others (T-Bo Gonzalez, Bill Dudley, Larry Scott and Sahara Greer come to mind) and actually opened for the Commodores. The story goes they were offered to go on the road with Cool and the Gang but turned them down.
Through the years, southsider singers and musicians continued to play venues and dances as far away as Europe, on television and especially throughout the Lone Star State.
Some of the more enduring included Rex Allen McNeil, Walter “Tooter” Ripps, Ray Morris, Randy Potts, Lonnie Castleman, John Marsh, Leonard Wong, and the rockers, The Toman Brothers, Randy and Russell—and who could forget R
In the fall of 1972, 17-year-old McCollum senior Dub Robinson had organized a country trio and began playing around a little bit. He went to go see Willie Nelson at the John T. Floore Country Store northwest of San Antonio in the foothills of the Hill Country town of Helotes.
Nelson was to perform as a trio with drummer Paul English and Bee Spears on bass. The steel player didn’t show.
“I watched Willie play that gut string guitar and it didn’t lose anything,” Robinson remembers. Since age 12, Robinson had played professionally across South Texas, but on this night he was particularly inspired.
He called his drummer, Robert “Cotton” Payne, and his bassist, Tommy McKay the next day and proclaimed that if they could be a hundredth as good as Nelson was, they might have a chance.
They knew their taste in music was a blend of country, rock, and blues. McKay suggested the perfect name for their new band. It described the kind of “cowboy” who didn’t want to get his boots dirty.
I’ve followed Dub and other fellow McCollum Cowboys classmates over the years. He continues to be a favorite.
At a ten year class reunion in 1983 at the downtown El Tropicano Hotel Ballroom, Dub and his band honored his classmates as we danced in memories of “old times.” I was particularly honored. I knew the band was good, but when I was called over during a break, he asked me what Elvis song I was going to sing later that evening.
I suggested “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hearbreak Hotel,” and “Hound Dog.”
He grinned, and with guitar in hand, said, “Okay. Let me hear you sing them.”
I only had to belt out a sentence or a few words of each. He immediately knew what key and chords to play.
Later, when some of our classmates were literally pulling my pants off while singing, I looked back at Dub. He was grinning big time. He and his band never missed a lick. I tried my best not to also. It remains a fun and wonderful memory in my heart.
In 2011, while interviewing George Strait and Ray Benson at a fundraiser for wounded veterans at Tapatio Springs outside of Boerne, Texas, Strait said something that reminded me of Dub.
“When everyone thinks of Asleep at the Wheel, they think of Ray.”
That’s exactly how I feel about the Drug Store Cowboys. When I think of them, I think of Dub Robinson.
Dub just announced the band will be celebrating their 50th anniversary with a new CD. What are his thoughts?
In his own creative words, the songwriter, musician and singer posted:
Originally, McKay lasted about a year and a half and Randy Toman, (who now performs with his brother Russell), became the bassist for 13 years.
They became the touring band for country stars Gary Stewart and Stoney Edwards. The Drugstore Cowboys also backed Johnny Rodriguez, Freddy Fender, Johnny Bush and Gene Watson.
Other artists they shared the stage with or even backed up include Nelson, Merle Haggard, Mel Tillis, Frenchy Burke, Greg Allman, David Allen Cole, Charlie Daniels, the Mavericks, Jerry Jeff Walker, and even Asleep At The Wheel.
“They joined Stewart, who was known for such hits as “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles),” when his backing band could not make a gig at the old Kicker’s Palace,” Goodspeed once reported. “The owner told Stewart they knew all his songs and he gave them a try. Stewart hired them and they toured coast to coast. Robinson quit after four years.”
“I didn’t want to be somebody’s backup band the rest of my life,” he said. “I’m a songwriter first and wanted to do my own thing.”
In 50 years, at least that many musicians have played in The Drugstore Cowboys.
Some of the members went on to play for the Bellamy Brothers, Janie Fricke, Bill Anderson, and Judas Priest.
“I believe it’s all about the song. It’s a lot of work running a band, but I do it just to play my music the way I want to hear it,” Dub said.
A city slicker from Austin rode his horse into Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World, and stopped at a saloon for a drink. Unfortunately, the local wranglers always had a habit of picking on strangers, especially from Austin. When he finished his drink, he found his horse had been stolen.
He goes back into the bar, handily flips his gun into the air, catches it above his head without even looking and fires a shot into the ceiling.
“WHICH ONE OF YOU SIDEWINDERS STOLE MY HORSE?” he yelled with surprising forcefulness. No one answered.
“ALL RIGHT, I’M GONNA HAVE ANOTHER BEER, AND IF MY HOSS AIN’T BACK OUTSIDE BY THE TIME I FINNISH, I’M GONNA DO WHAT I DUN IN SAN MARCOS! AND I DON’T LIKE TO HAVE TO DO WHAT I DUN IN SAN MARCOS!”
Some of the locals shifted restlessly. He had another beer, walked outside, and his horse is back! He saddles-up and starts to ride out of town. The bartender wanders out of the bar and asks, “Say partner, before you go…what happened in San Marcos?”
The cowboy turned back and said, “I had to walk home.”
While President Donald J. Trump was in office and things were going well for farmers and ranchers, legendary calf roper Tex Kent decided it was finally time for a new truck.
The 20-year-old truck he had patched and repaired for the past 10 years was so well used that his sweet wife finally refused to ride in it with him to town. Since it had been some time since he had bought a truck, the rancher contacted a friend, of a friend, of a friend that worked at a big city dealership.
Kent called the truck dealer to find out he could get a basic new truck for around $30,000. He deciphered his return on investment and payment amounts with his banker and decided he would drive in to the city the next week to select a new pickup that his sweet wife would be proud to ride in.
Kent arrived at the dealership to meet the salesman that was refered to him by his friends’, friend’s, friend.
“So what type of truck do you need?” the dealer asked as he shook his hand.
Kent replied, “Just a basic ranch truck, nothing too fancy.”
The salesman then started asking some questions, “Do you need four-wheel-drive? Do you need a 3/4 ton truck to pull your trailer? Do you want an automatic transmission? Do you want air-conditioning? Do you need a towing package and a grill guard? Do you want oversized trailer mirrors? Do you need a tool-box for your tools? Do you need floor mats for your muddy feet? Do you want a king-cab so you can keep your records, receipts, and coat clean and dry?
Kent pulled out his red bandana, wiped his brow, then blowed his nose and interrupted, “Sir these are all things a rancher needs on a basic ranch work truck!‘
The salesman replied, “Well they may be standard to you, but they aren’t to Ford Motor Company.”
Their discussion about what was needed on a basic ranch truck went on for several more minutes and finally the salesman said, “I have three trucks on the lot that are just what you need. Do you want a white one, a blue one, or a brown one?”
Cowboy Kent replied, “I don’t really care that much, but I don’t think I want brown, and the white one will show all of the mud and dirt, so I will go with the red one.”
The salesman said, “Ok Let’s take it for a test drive.”
While out on the test drive the salesman said, “You know I would really like to have 10 or 12 cows myself. What does a basic cow sell for these days?’
Kent scratched his head and replied well cows are sort of like trucks, an average cow, or the basic model as you might call them, sells for around $1,000.”
Kent really enjoyed the test drive and the visit with his new acquaintance. Everything was fine until they got back to the dealership to fill out the paperwork. He started signing sheet after sheet and finally asked, “So what is the total cost of this truck?
The sales man replied, “$44,860”
“What?” Kent pulled out his bandana again, wiped his brow but didn’t bother with his nose, “I thought the basic truck sold for around $30,000?”
The salesman replied, “Well we added considerable extras to the basic model, 4×4, automatic transmission, air-conditioning, 3/4 ton suspension, heavy-duty breaks and cooling, extra-large mirrors, toolbox, heavy duty towing package, and floor mats.”
Well, Kent was not at all happy. He felt that he had been mislead, but he had already invested a day, really liked the truck, and wanted to please his wife, so he bought it.
About a year later, after Biden had swindled his way into office and the price of gas, ranching, and food had skyrocketed, the salesman called Kent up to see how he liked his truck, and then asked if he had any cows for sale?
Kent pulled his MAGA cap off, wiped his brow and got a twinkle in his eye. It was payback time. He replied, “Sure I have some cows for sale. Come take a look at them later this week.”
The salesman really enjoyed riding through the pasture with Kent in his nice truck looking at various cows. He was as tickled as he had finally saved up enough to live out his childhood dream of being a real cowboy. He told Kent, “I’ll take 10 of them!”
Kent, had noticed the car dealer was wearing a blue “Build Back Better” cap and figured this city slicker was a Democrat. He looked the liberal in the eye and said,”Ok that will be $44,860!”
The salesman said, “What? I thought that cows sold for $1,000?”
Kent replied, “That was for the basic model, these cows come with considerable extras!” And he handed the salesman the following sheet that he had his sweet wife make up the night before on their home computer:
Basic Cow with Options
🔹Basic cow $999
🔹Shipping and handling $85
🔹Self-propelled, auto-steer forage finder $969
🔹Extra-large capacity stomach $379
🔹Genuine cowhide upholstery $179
🔹Two tone exterior $142
🔹Heavy duty forage choppers $189
🔹Four spigot/high-output milk system $159
🔹Automatic fly-swatter $88
🔹Automatic fertilizer attachment $139
🔹4 x 4 traction drive assembly $884
🔹Ranch brand leather-work $69
🔹Rancher’s Suggested List Price $4,286
🔹Ownership Transfer fee: $200
Total Price: (Including options)$4,486
“For ten basic cows,” Kent smiles. “That adds up to $44,860.”
It’s no secret Bidenflation has forced millions to seek out ways to reduce food, travel and living expenses.
In 2020, we moved to a rural area in the Texas Hill Country away from congestion, traffic and rising crime. We have no regrets about living a far less expensive and peaceful life. It allows us to work and write from home or on occasional road trips.
Due to the high cost of just about everything, including rentals and housing, more Americans are:
🔹Living in RVs and Campers.
🔹Using tents instead of hotel rooms.
🔹Taking “staycations” and limiting travel closer to home.
🔹Working remotely on the internet from home instead of commuting to and from a work location.
🔹Becoming Digital Nomads, wandering the country taking miscellaneous work and temporary employment.
In 2022, the United States should break records with over 305 million internet users within its borders, which accounts for this rise in numbers of digital nomads and remote workers all over the country.
Unfortunately, as practical as this may sound, these remote workers and digital nomads, along with over 25 million Americans, continue to struggle with slow internet speeds and lack access to high-speed internet facilities due to the rural locations they may find themselves in.
Slow internet speeds can affect work deliverables, hamper productivity, and even jeopardize employability, especially if the job requires high internet speeds for effectiveness.
These tips may improve your internet connection if you are living in a rural area, are on the road, or just camping out.
Tips for Rural Residents
Turn off your router for some time. Giving your router a break can help refresh your internet connection and improve your speed issues. Doing this daily stimulates your internet connection, especially when experiencing a lag. This fix won’t take your speeds to NASA levels, but it should help.
What’s your Data Capacity? A data cap may be responsible for slowing your home speeds. Your ISP allocates the amount of data you can use every month. Once exceeded, your internet speed drops drastically. The cap limit is outlined in your bill.
Move your Router. Where is your router positioned? That may be why your internet speed sucks. Moving the position of your router to a higher point or more central location in your home will ensure the Wifi signal from your router reaches every corner of your building. With most wireless modems, the closer you are, the higher your internet speed.
Get Wired. Ditch wireless connections and get wired to eliminate any lags in speed you may be experiencing. Many people don’t know this, but cabled connections like Ethernet are safer, more reliable, and faster than most wireless connections.
Ads are a Drag. Literally. Every time you are online, you see ads. It’s everywhere, on every website; you can’t escape it. Or can you? Ads slow down your internet speeds, especially those heavy, annoying auto-play videos. You can fix this by installing an ad blocker in your browsers.
Scan regularly for Viruses and Malware. Viruses and malware may also be responsible for your crawling internet speeds. Install software that scan your device and connections for viruses and malware, set it up to scan regularly, and you should be fine.
Tips for Campers
Stay centered. Or as close to the center of the camp as you possibly can. The range for RV parks and Campground Wifi signals, thanks to FCC regulations, is limited to just under 300 feet. The closer you are to the camp router, which is often set up in the center of the camp, the better your internet connection.
The less green, the better. Dense trees, foliage, and even high walls can reduce your internet connection quality. For the signal to get to you uninterrupted, you must ensure you are not being obstructed by greenery or other natural or artificial fixtures. Set up your camp in an open space to improve your connection quality.
Upgrade your receiver. A Wi-Fi reception booster or antenna can improve your internet connection and reduce lags. Both instruments can receive and upgrade your internet signals on all your devices. They are easy to install and set up, and you should get sorted out quickly.
Look before you Camp. Different RV parks and Camps use different ISPs for internet access. Do some research before you camp in that park or hotspot. Check reviews for internet speeds and plan accordingly.
Tips for RVers
Choose your equipment carefully. The right equipment can mean the difference between consistent high internet speeds and slower speeds. Pick the right cellular equipment for your needs, the more powerful your router, the more powerful your internet connection will be.
X marks the Spot. Using a coverage map will help you navigate areas with spotty coverage and keep you informed about signal strength so you are never caught in the lurch. These maps are not always accurate but are still great tools for planning your travels.
Avoid Congestions. Areas with many internet users can experience low internet speeds due to heavy data traffic. Congested areas like festivals, concerts, and even football games have tended to experience an overload on the internet infrastructure, resulting in slow connection speeds.
Less is good: The fewer devices connected to your network, the better. Make sure your devices are connected to the devices you are using at the moment. It is easy to lose track of background devices, leading to an increased lag in your internet speed as they update regularly.
Nestled snugly in the Texas Hill Country, between Kerrville and the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” Bandera, is the delightful Camp Verde Store and Restaurant.
Today, near our home, Dodie and I enjoy passing through historical Bandera Pass to see bison, zebra and exotic wildlife on our way to dine at the site of the old fort, situated on Camp Verde Creek.
Known far and wide as Old Camp Verde, it was here, on July 8, 1856, the noted camel post was established by the U.S. government.
War Department records explained the camp was located “On the north bank of Rio Verde, or Verde Creek, a branch of the Guadalupe River, half a mile west of old Johnson Road, leading from San Antonio to Fort Terret; about four miles from Fort Ives; about 55 miles, direct course, northwest of San Antonio, but about 65 miles leading from San Antonio, through Fredericksburg to Forts Mason, McCavett, and Concho.”
When the camels first arrived from overseas, they entered in Indianola, Texas. The herd was driven to San Antonio grazing along the route, in about 14 days.
They were kept in the “headwaters of San Pedro” creek for a few days and then moved out to the ranch of Major Howard on the Medina River, twelve miles from San Antonio, where they were kept until they moved to their permanent home in Camp Verde on August 26 and 27, 1856.
Old Spanish maps identified this as “Verde Arroyo” (Green Creek). Before the thirty-three camels arrived in 1856, a sketch had been drawn of an Eastern caravansary in Asia Minor. This drawing was used to construct a detailed reproduction at Camp Verde.
The camels were used to transport supplies and dispatched to Forts Martin Scott, Concho, Griffen, Phantom Hill, Inge, Clark, Lancaster, Hudson, Stockton, Davis, Quitman, Bliss and other forts in West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
What was formerly the officers’ barracks is where the store and restaurant is. On March 26, 1910, the headquarters abode was destroyed by fire, which took the life of Tom Blair.
The camp was continuously garrisoned until March 7, 1861, when U.S. troops surrendered the post to the Confederates, and withdrew. After the Civil War, the post was reoccupied by Federal troops on November 30, 1866, and finally abandoned on November 30, 1869.
It was rebuilt by W.H. Bonnell as an exact replica using the stone structure that survived the fire.
History shows that camels roamed the Bandera hills and many pioneers in this area actually herded them.
🔹Amasa Clark, who died at his home near Bandera at age 102, herded camels. Among his possessions was a pair of pillows made from camel’s hair, which he sheared from the animals he tended.
🔹Jim Walker, who died in 1945, owned a bell worn by the lead camel at his time working there during the Civil War.
🔹Andy Jones, a pioneer citizen of Bandera who died in the mid 1940s, often saw droves of camels miles away from the old fort. When Camp Verde was handed back to the Federal Government after the Civil War, the original 32 camels had grown to a herd of over 100, under the care of the Confederate troops.
“When I was a boy on my father’s ranch, the government kept a lot of camels at Camp Verde,” Jones said. One day we hobbled three of our horses and turned them loose near the house, and fourteen of those old camels came lumbering along.”
“The horses took fright at the sight of them, and we did not see those horses for many days,” he continued. “My brother and I penned the camels, all of them being gentle except for one.”
“We roped the wild one, but never wanted to rope another,” he recalled. “For the old humpbacked villain slobbered all over us, and the slobber made us deathly sick. However, we had a jolly time with those camels, when we got rid of the foul, sickening slobber, and we often rode broncos and wild steers, we rode camels too…They could easily travel one hundred miles a day. The Indians seemed to be afraid of the camels, and of course never attempted to steal any of them.”
Recent sightings of black bears in the western parts of the Texas Hill Country could indicate the dry hot conditions in the Lone Star State are causing wildlife to venture into wider migration patterns.
From April through June, rare bear sightings have occurred near Carta Valley, Barksdale, Camp Wood, west of Ingram, south of Tarpley, Asherton, Alpine, Fort Davis and Mount Livermore.
On June 20th, a black bear was sighted swimming near the shoreline of Lake Amistad.
In the past year, bears have also been observed not only on the lake, but near Fort Stockton, north of Laredo, and in nearby regions.
While no one is sure how many bears currently live in Texas, experts agree that wildfires in Mexico, as well as drought conditions in other regions, have likely caused bears to migrate to new areas, including many parts of Texas.
Michael Janis, Trans-Pecos district leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), said dry conditions are likely sending bears looking for food. Breeding season also moved bears around.
The conservation efforts in bordering states over the last 20 years have also led to bears crossing back into Texas, especially during the summer mating season, according to TPWD.
Most of these animals wandering further into Texas are young, transient males in search of food and other bears. Males have much larger home ranges than females, and sub-adults can travel many miles to set up a new one.
To those not aware of bears, some people become quite alarmed when they hear about sightings. However, out of approximately 36,000 people in the U.S. who are bitten annually by wildlife, black bears rank 5th behind rodents, venomous snakes, skunks, and foxes respectively.
In West Texas where Big Bend National Park (BBNP) has had more than 6,592 bear/human encounters since 1950, only 2.5 percent of those encounters were classified as aggressive interactions. Most of those occurred when the bear made contact with property containing human food. There has never been a black bear attack recorded in BBNP.
When Border Patrol agents discovered a young black bear in a tree in north Laredo last July, it likely came from Mexico, noted Eric Garza, wildlife biologist with TPWD.
Not long after, residents of SpinTech – Myers Ranch caught a strange image on a game camera. Maybe it was an overgrown wild hog, but most believe it was a bear:
TPWD is recording more road kills of black bears between Laredo and Zapata over the decade. Garza notes they were likely males dispersing from Mexico also.
“Zapata itself probably hasn’t seen any historic sightings simply because of the lake. It’s hard for them to swim across the lake, especially when it’s up,” said Garza. “This particular animal probably came across where the water is a lot lower. Not where it’s a lake but where it’s still a river.”
In a 2011 Starr County encounter, Garza notes the bear became habituated to residents, picking up scraps of food and eating out of trash cans. In those instances the bears need to be trapped and relocated away from humans, pet food and trash.
“The first thing we need to know is any conflicts between black bears and people can be avoided very, very easily,” Garza explained. “And the easiest way to avoid any conflicts is to make sure and not leave trash out for bears to get into, and really any wildlife to get into. Don’t leave pet food out. Bring that in and secure it. Don’t leave small livestock animals like rabbits or poultry.”
Late 2021 and early 2022, TPWD biologists were monitoring multiple black bear sightings near the North Double Diamond community south of Alpine.
It is believed the bear may displaying behavior typical of hyperphagia (excessive or extreme hunger). Reports suggested that the bear were attracted to and searching for easily accessible food sources (i.e. pet food, wildlife feeders, livestock feed, etc.).
In June, 2021, Big Bend National Park camper Valerie King took photos of a black bear in the Basin Campground:
TPWD indicates anyone encountering a black bear in a camping area should immediately deploy aversive conditioning by creating loud noises (shout, handclap, air horns, car alarm, sirens, or bang pots and pans) to startle the bear. Once the bear leaves, report the encounter to your District Biologist or TPWD Game Warden.
It is critical that the Department is able to monitor any on-going situations with full extent of known black bear encounters.
In the 1800s, black bear lived through every ecosystem in Texas but has long been hunted down and migrated away from settlements and eventually, cities. In 2009, a black bear that wandered onto a Mernard County (Central Texas) cattle ranch was the first ever confirmed in this century in that part of the state, according to Capt. Alan Teague, a TPWD game warden.
A Liberty County judge reputedly slaughtered 200 bears in the late 19th century, a pursuit that earned Lewis Hightower the handle “the Bear-Hunting Judge,” according to the Handbook of Texas Online.
“I practice law for recreation,” Hightower would say, “and hunt bear for a livin’.”
By the 1950s, black bears were eradicated from Texas, experts say.
The state made bear hunting illegal in 1983. That decade, they began crossing from northern Mexico into the southern reaches of West Texas.
For the past 20 years, a small population has bred there, mostly in the region’s rugged mountains. Today, some biologists believe there may be as many as 100.
But bears in Texas recently have been on the move, staging an unprecedented return to regions such as the Edwards Plateau, Piney Woods and South Texas Plains, according to Nathan Garner, another TPWD biologist.
Texas lists the black bear as threatened. The penalty for shooting one is a Class C misdemeanor and a fine of $500, plus a civil restitution of $11,907.50.
One of the most bizzare encounters was in 2017, when a black bear was sighted in a neighborhood between New Braunfels and Spring Branch. The alleged black bear, weighing as much as 350 lbs., ran in front of a vehicle in the early morning hours.
According to TPWD, there were 61 Black Bear sightings in 14 counties in 2018-2019. State mammologist Jonah Evans said sightings tend to increase in the fall because the bears are foraging food and trying “fatten up” before hibernating for the winter.
Transient bears from New Mexico are also occasionally reported in the Panhandle counties of Dallam, Hartley and Oldham, according to TPWD district leader Brad Simpson.
A study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management documents 63 people killed in 59 incidents by non-captive black bears between 1900-2009.
Of special note is this quote:
“We judged that the bear involved acted as a predator in 88 percent of fatal incidents. Adult or subadult male bears were involved in 92 percent of fatal predatory incidents, reflecting biological and behavioral differences between male and female bears. That most fatal black bear attacks were predatory and were carried out by one bear shows that females with young are not the most dangerous black bears.”
🔹Black bears mate during the months of June and July. This might account for some of the sightings in the Texas Hill Country, as bears travel to find a mate during the summer months.
🔹State biologists believe that female black bears in Texas hibernate while males do not.
🔹The young are born in January or February, while the mother is “hibernating.” She normally gives birth to two-to-three cubs every two years.
🔹Louisiana Black Bear sightings have been increasing in recent years so it’s possible they are making a comeback in Eastern Texas too.
🔹Louisiana is home to the Louisiana Black Bear, a subspecies of of the American Black Bear. There’s an estimated 750-1000 bears living in the state, but they can also be found in the neighboring states of Texas, Mississippi, and possibly even Southern Arkansas.
🔹Aside from the Louisiana Bear, both the Mexican Black Bear and the New Mexico Black Bear are found in western Texas in low numbers and are also on the state endangered species list.
NEW MEXICO MIGRATION
🔹The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish estimates that there are approximately 5,000-6,000 Black Bears living in all 14.6 million forested acres of New Mexico. There have been strict hunting regulations in place since 1927 in the state to help control the population of Black Bears in the state.
🔹In the early 20th century Grizzly Bears were common in the state, but now only the American Black Bear remain. They are also the state animal of New Mexico.
🔹Black Bears in Arkansas thrive in three places; the Ozark Highlands area, the Ouachita National Forest, and the lower White River basin. Pre-settlement there was thought to be over 50,000 bears in Arkansas, but dwindled down to just 50 bears in the 1930s. Thanks to conservation efforts and the importation of Black Bears from other areas, Arkansas is believed to have over 5,000 Black Bears now.
CAN INJURE WHEN PROVOKED
“The Black Bear is a stocky, large animal, one of the largest mammals in North America. Adults reach a length of 5 to 6 feet, height at the shoulder of 2 to 3 feet, and weigh 200-300 pounds,” notes information from Texas Park and Wildlife Department. “Although called a ‘black’ bear, colors can range from black to the occasional cinnamon brown. Front claws are generally longer than hind claws. The fur is long and coarse. Although appealing and generally harmless, Black Bears can injure humans when provoked and should be treated with caution.”
At least two subspecies of Black Bear are thought to occur in Texas: the Mexican Black Bear and the New Mexico Black Bear. Both are found in West Texas in desert scrub or woodland habitats within scattered mountain ranges, predominantly the Chisos and Guadalupe Mountains. Both subspecies are state-listed as endangered in Texas.
Colleen Olfenbuttel, the Wildlife Commission’s black bear and furbearer biologist, offers some advice about how to co-exist with black bears.
“Most bears that wander into a residential area will quickly retreat to their natural habitat, particularly if no food source is around,” Olfenbuttel said. “Bears have adapted to living near people; now it’s up to us to adapt to living near bears.”
BearWise has six Basics the public can use to prevent potential conflicts and live responsibly with bears:
• Never feed or approach a bear. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs.
• Secure food, garbage and recycling. Place trash outside as late as possible on the morning of trash pick-up — not the night before.
• Remove bird feeders when bears are active. Birdseed, other grains and hummingbird feeders have high calorie content making them very attractive to bears.
• Never leave pet food outdoors.
• Clean and store grills.
• Alert neighbors to bear activity.
“While these young bears (usually May-August), typically males, may appear to be wandering aimlessly around, they are not necessarily lost,” Olfenbuttel said. “Most are simply exploring their new surroundings and will move on, particularly if they are left alone and there is no food around.”
Unlike brown bears, black bears are omnivorous creatures that rarely pose a threat to humans, pets, or livestock. Like any large mammal, however, humans must take steps to be aware and coexist with black bears.
Black bears diet is very much like a raccoon’s.
🔹Up to 80 percent of their diet is plant matter, and they often scavenge the rest from carcasses of dead animals.
🔹In many circumstances, they will hunt for insects and worms for the “meat based” part of their diet.
🔹They have been known to kill larger mammals and even livestock. This is occurs mostly during late spring and early summer, when bears become active after hibernating, and juveniles “leave home.” This is when food requirements are high, and bears will find the most nutritious food they can.
🔹If there is a lack of fruits, berries, and other plant matter, they may feed on other animals.
Signs of black bears
If you suspect bears in your area, pay careful attention to signs such as, tracks, scat, and territorial markings on trees. Although you may not see the animal, the evidence of their presence is usually clear. Take pictures of suspected bear sign using a ruler or other standard item for scale and send them to your local biologist for interpretation.
Bear tracks stand out and are unlike any other you might encounter. Bears use their teeth and claws to mark trees or other surfaces to mark territory.
If you encounter a bear, TPWD offers this advice:
If a bear regularly visits your deer stand, scare it with rocks, a slingshot or air horn.
If you encounter a bear at close range, talk in a calm manner while backing away slowly. Do not make direct eye contact
Do not run. Running can trigger a bear’s chase instinct.
Stand your ground and raise your arms if a bear approaches you, making yourself appear larger. Yell at the bear to scare it off.
Fight back aggressively with anything available if attacked. Let bears know that you are not an easy prey. Do not play dead.
In 2020, defying lockdowns and wearing masks, we took a 32 day roadtrip from the Texas Hill Country to Washington DC and back.
Our first stop was near Fort Hood in a central Killeen Texas neighborhood. If the walls of the circa 1950 ranch-style house at 605 Oakhill Drive could talk, they’d sing!
It’s a nice house but doesn’t have any visual features that dramatically set it apart from the other homes in the area not far from Conder Park. It’s a one-story, brick home with a rather large mailbox out front.
As big Elvis Presley fans, we thought there might be a landmark sign designating it as the house the most famous entertainer in history lived while going through Army training.
At the height of his early fame, the Army drafted Elvis in 1958, and at the Memphis induction center, he received his shots, his buzz cut, and his orders. On March 28, he and others were sent by military bus to Fort Hood, the Second Armored Division, General George S. Patton’s “Hell on Wheels” wild bunch.
Enroute the new troops stopped for a restaurant lunch break in Hillsboro causing “a small riot” when teenage customers recognized him.
Elvis didn’t want any special treatment offered. His desire was to be just another G.I. His fellow soldiers saw that in him and Elvis became one of the guys.
Private Simon Vega recalled, “I thought he was gonna get special treatment but he did KP, guard duty, everything, just like us.”
When basic training was completed, the Army allowed soldiers to live off base as long as they had dependents living in the area. It was not long before Elvis’ parents, grandmother, and a friend traveled to Killeen where they found a three-bedroom home to rent from Chester Crawford, an attorney who charged an outrageous $700 a month.
Soon crowds began showing up on Oakhill Drive to catch a glimpse of Elvis. It was common for him to stand outside and talk to fans for hours. Occasionally, he detoured through neighbors’ backyards to avoid the crowds, and according to neighbor Janie Sullivan, the clothesline in their yard once caught Elvis and the dog bit him.
Not everyone was thrilled by Elvis’ presence in the neighborhood. Some Oak Hill residents called the police to complain about the clouds of dust stirred up by the cars and the carnival-like atmosphere.
While completing an additional ten weeks of advanced tank training, Elvis had to take emergency leave to fly to Memphis to be with his mother, Gladys, who had returned home to be hospitalized. She died two days later on August 14.
After his mother’s funeral, Elvis returned and put in long days at Fort Hood learning to be a tanker. During his final days at Fort Hood, large crowds gathered outside his house, and some nights a hundred people kept vigil. The last night, on September 19, 1958, Elvis and his gang gathered at the home to make the drive to the troop train that would take him and 1,360 other G.I.s to Brooklyn to sail for Germany.
Biographers and friends reported that Elvis’ time at Fort Hood and in the Army was among the happiest of his life. For a time, he was almost “just another soldier.” Everyone agreed that Elvis was a good soldier, one of the best in the company.
His longtime girlfriend, Anita Wood, said, “he had finally found himself.”
Elvis said later, “I learned a lot about people in the Army. I never lived with other people before and had a chance to find out how they think.”
In 1958, longtime Killeen resident Edith Carlile lived four doors down from the house Pvt. Elvis Presley lived in with his parents, Vernon and Gladys. Presley rented the home for seven months from a local lawyer when he was stationed at Fort Hood.
“The street was extremely crowded with cars going by,” said Carlile, who lived next door to the house Presley lived in before she passed away a few years ago. “People were standing in the yard, wanting to touch him, kiss him.”
Carlile was a mother of four at the time, and wasn’t really into the rock ’n’ roll music that Presley is famous for.
“I’m not a fan of music of that age,” Carlile told a local news reporter, adding she was more into the tunes of the big band era.
Her children did get autographs from Presley, but Carlile said she threw the signed pieces of paper away years later.
She said the rock ’n’ roll king dated a few of the local girls when he was here, and his presence made a big impact, especially in the Oakhill Drive neighborhood, which in 1958 was home to lawyers, business owners and other upper-middle class families.
More than 64 years later, the house is still standing, and although it’s aged, the outside doesn’t look dramatically different from when Presley lived there.
Surprisingly, more recent owners of the Presley’s rental house indicated they didn’t even know the house had once been lived in by Presley when they bought it some years ago.
To this day Elvis fans regularly pop by the house to take a video, some puctures or inquire about the former home of the King.
Some drive hundreds of miles to do so. Others want to peep inside or look at the backyard.
Although there has been updated renovations (exterior windows and roof) owners are reluctant to offer details.
In November 2006, the 2,400-square-foot house was placed for purchase on eBay.
The owner at the time, Myka Allen-Johnson, a sales representative for CenTex Homes, said she wanted to sell the home to someone who would understand the historical significance.
“I didn’t buy the house with the intention of selling it on eBay,” Allen-Johnson told the Killeen Daily Herald in 2006. “I just don’t want people to forget that he lived here in Killeen.”
Penny Love was 3 or 4 years old and lived around the corner in 1958. She recalls her family seeing Presley sneak through her backyard to avoid the crowd that waited out front. She said she would sometimes sit on Presley’s father, Vernon’s lap on the front porch.
The community has missed out on any significant tourism and marketing opportunities over the years. In August 1958, Presley fans petitioned the Killeen City Council to change the name of Oakhill Drive to Presley Drive, bringing nationwide publicity to the area. Today, however, Oakhill is still the name of the street.
The owner said she allows Presley fans to take a quick picture of the front of the house. But those who try to pry closer are not totally welcome.
The backyard has a steep incline, she said, which can be dangerous, and a German shepherd patrols back there, too.