On Longhorns and Lowriders

We had family in from out-of-town last weekend. Texas was having gorgeous weather, so we all opted to take a wander over to the Stockyards in Fort Worth. I’d recommend this to anyone for a slice of Americana that has been nicely preserved. It does slew slightly over to touristy, but in so doing, allows you to get a cup of bougie locally roasted coffee and sit on the sidewalk outside of a hundred-year-old building with original wood floors and watch the world go by.

I’ve missed the simple act of being out and seeing people over the past couple of years. Not necessarily interacting but enjoying the diversity of a crowd.

This was a decidedly diverse crowd.

The Stockyards has a rodeo arena built in 1907 as well as a few long blocks of restaurants, attractions, and western-wear shops that connect to the vast areas where the drovers used to park their cattle on the long journey up from lower Texas up to the railhead in Kansas on the Chisholm trail. Back in the day, this place was the last “civilized” outpost on the trail, a place to get a real bed, a real bath, and a real good time with the women-folk.

Between the 1880s and the 1950s, the Stockyards grew to become the largest livestock-trading center in the Southwest. It was the place to get your horses and mules during the First World War, with Allied military officers from all over the world purchasing their animals there for the war effort. It became so prosperous they dubbed it “The Wall Street of the West.” It thrived all the way up into the 1950s, so the place had a good run.

It’s thriving again due to some infrastructure investments. Just like days of yore, when cowboy culture and commerce intersected, the place attracts all kinds, from packs of Harley riders to Hasidic Jewish kids on a sightseeing tour, to Trump touters to 70s-era hippies, and of course cowboys. There was a stock show in town, so there were plenty of authentic folks wearing broken in boots and big belt buckles they’d earned being the best at something on the Rodeo circuit.

There’s a mix of shopping; high-end stores in mule alley and at the far end, a whole indoor section of smaller stores that are priced a little less. You can get new dinnerware if you’d like.

For authentic boots and belts, go to Leddy’s on the corner of Exchange and Main.

Highlights of our stroll down this historic street included visiting the statue of this Bulldogger fella, Bill Pickett, who figured out if he leapt from his horse and caught a steer by the horns, twisted the steer’s neck around and bit its lip, he could bring it down in record time.

If someone did that to me, I’d fall over too.

He interestingly did not die doing this, instead meeting his end being kicked in the head by a horse. They didn’t mention if he was trying to bite it at the time. In 1972, Pickett became the first black cowboy to be inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Lisa Perry is the sculptress who created this wonderful bronze


The other highlight, besides plain old people watching and admiring the architecture of the old buildings, is the Longhorn herd. We’ve seen the cattle drive down the street before, but it’s always fun and worth it to do it again. We also trotted over to the pens to see them at leisure, drinking water, and enjoying the sun. There are sixteen of them, and what we noticed this time is that all of their horns grew in unique ways. They were quite graceful moving around each other and things. The man who owned them said that on long drives, the cattle get up behind slower brethren and nestle a horn behind their backside to help push them along. I will say they move at a good clip on the “drive” down the street and seem to enjoy the walk.

We capped off our day in Fort Worth at the charming Bearded Lady for drinks and nibbles. They allow dogs on the outside patio and have heat lamps for chilly evenings. Nice, diverse music plays and the waiters are the perfect mix of laid back and attentive. Get the fried pickles and roasted Brussels sprouts. Your mouth will be happy that you did.

On Death and Taxes and a Weekend Trip to Fort Worth

“Mom, I can hear you sighing through my noise-cancelling headphones and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.” For those not in the know, the latter is a psychedelic rock, head-banging sort of band, so my sighs must have been hefty indeed.

Sighing is a stress-reliever in my tool belt that gets frequent use. As opposed to say, stabbing people in the eye with a fork, or dunking my head in a tub of water and screaming until I cannot scream any more. We are probably all glad I sigh a lot.

The cause of this particular bout of impressive sighing was the torture of doing the taxes. I was in the midst of collecting all the receipts and totting them up and then putting them in appropriately marked envelopes so I could then correctly fill in the form our tax accountant sends us yearly. Piles of receipts and printed-off documents from my “keep me” file on my computer subsume whatever part of the house I commandeer for this task, and everyone knows to just leave me alone until I’m done. It’s a chore I loathe, one that must be scheduled with myself in advance on the calendar like a trip to the dentist. An entire 24-hour period is devoted to doing this one thing. On that awful day, it requires a stern personally-directed scold that it IS happening today, no backpedaling. Then I gird myself and sigh my way through it. Thank goodness for our calm, competent tax fella we’ve used for the past 17 years. I write him appreciation notes along with our checks. I’d take him baked goods if we lived closer.

My mind drifts as I sort through the detritus of a year of living and turn it into little numbers that go into little boxes on a form. This year brought a bit of musing about death. A nice woman in our apartment complex died just a few days ago. Janie’s porch had the disappointing view of the building’s parking lot near my car space. I often saw her in my coming and going. We’d say hello, and chat about inconsequential things. She was kind and considerate and remembered my children’s names. Janie died in her sleep. The cops had to break in her door when she didn’t answer on a welfare check instigated by her neighbor a couple days later. The hole is still in her door, a daily reminder that we are not guaranteed anything in this life except the leaving of it. And taxes of course. And sighing.

Conversely, I didn’t sigh much at all on our recent belated 27th Anniversary jaunt to Ft. Worth, except when we learned that the advance tickets we’d purchased to see the “Queen Nefertari*” exhibit were not timed, and that members of the Kimball always just walk in ahead of the rest of us plebian rabble. We got to the museum when it opened at 10am, and stood in line for nearly two hours before gaining entry. Museumgoers are oh-so-polite but everyone in that line was pissed, and I wasn’t the only sigh-er. I know it’s partially due to Covid and also probably an efficient way to get more people to join as members. I thought about it, but was too irritated at that point to give the Kimball any more money. Yes, the exhibit was worth it, no I won’t go back to another exhibit there until they change this policy.

Other than that, we had a ball, stayed downtown in a nice hotel, and walked a lot. My favorite amble was at the Botanical Gardens. They have the most enormous Koi fish in various ponds throughout various garden habitats ranging from a giant conservatory with jungle vegetation to an Italianate parterre to an extensive Japanese-themed area complete with pagodas and arched bridges. We arrived as it opened too and even on a lovely Saturday morning it was uncrowded. We particularly liked the giant living sculptures that looked like giant Chia pets.

The Water Gardens in downtown Ft. Worth were also a nice diversion, as were the plaques outlining the city’s history. Ft. Worth was a happening place in its heyday. The start of the Chisholm cattle trail was here, as was the western-most stop on the train that could take you back East if you couldn’t take any more rootin’-tootin’ cowboys. From Ft. Worth it was stagecoach only further into the west – next stop, Yuma, AZ some 1500 miles away. Can you imagine? The place was ripe with ornate hotels and plenty of saloons. Butch and Sundance had their picture taken here, along with the rest of the gang.

Doc Holliday was a regular at a local bar. Walking around the downtown area is a recommend from me. It was extra fun on this trip, as the National Cheerleading Convention was in town. It was fun dodging batches of gals and the occasional guy in bright uniforms hauling pom-poms and banners, practicing tosses and high kicks at the stoplights. Their moms and coaches were with them. They were intense and very focused, having flopped over that line of too much coffee and Lululemon.

Lots of good eats in Ft. Worth. Magnolia street on the south side of the city is an up-and-coming hipster strip with coffee roasters and bakeries and other assorted stores, including a glass-blowing place that gives classes. We had a great Mexican meal at Salsa Limon which has other locations too. Great guac. Our favorite eating place over the weekend was a fun little mom-and-pop breakfast joint called the Montgomery Street Cafe that had been on location since 1948. Still family-run, it boasts freshly made cinnamon rolls on Saturdays. The cheese omelets had cheese all the way through to the edges, not just glopped in the middle, a pet peeve of mine. The line out the door to get in is worth the wait, and unlike the Kimball, I will certainly go back to this place again.

It was good to end the week in a different city seeing different things than our norm. The time away from the sameness of getting through the days along with the added ooompf of tax day and losing Janie was much needed. Here’s hoping you have a weekend getaway in your future. In the interim, I recommend a few good, gusty sighs to tide you over.

*is it just me, or are you also dismayed that they had to give serious consideration to the name of this exhibit? Her actual Egyptian name is Nefertiti, but, you know it has that tit word in there, so they RENAMED the exhibit to avoid the – oh I cannot help myself –  tittering about the name. Really? Is this how lowbrow we have all become? 

Of Fleas and Fine Art

“This is the worst flea season Dallas has ever had.”  Not what you want to hear from your vet. Not in your first summer in Dallas.  We had resigned ourselves to hot, but an abundance of blood sucking bugs as well is beyond the pale.  Craig said its our version of the plague of locusts.  He was only partially kidding. We do seem to be marching through the biblical cannon of disasters. We had the earthquake in Los Angeles, flood in Johnson City, fire here in Dallas, and now mini-locusts.  Hyperbole, I know, but we are certainly feeling Job-esque.  I hate bugs. Back in my college days In Chicago, my friend Jane and I sublet an 3rd floor walk-up apartment from some guys in the theatre department. Our third roommate was a hold-over of theirs and he was just weird.  Jane and I didn’t see much of him, but he had terrible habits, like leaving frozen meat out on the kitchen counter to thaw.  Coming home from a play rehearsal late one night, I entered from the back stoop and flicked on the kitchen light. The whole room – floor, countertops, cabinets – MOVED as at least a million huge cockroaches fled from the raw rotting meat feast they had been enjoying. I don’t think Jane and I stayed much longer after that. I’ve had a thing about bugs in my house ever since. 

This situation is not as bad, but it’s still bugs. I’d rather live in alternate world where the sudden appearance of tiny jumping things in my living space are figments of my imagination, or as Scrooge said, “an undigested bit of beef”. No such luck. To stay ahead of the buggers, we vacuum daily, and spray all the furniture and carpets with lovely botanical oils that kill fleas. The house is super clean and smells good.  That’s an upside.  The vet claims it’s just the environment we are in, and really nothing can be done except be vigilant until the next cold snap puts the little jumpers* to sleep.  The dog is fine, she has gobbled up a pill and is flea-free.  She also gets to be nicely groomed as we use the flea comb on her after each walk, and she gets extra baths.  She likes both of those activities so the dog is probably thrilled with flea season.  Conversely, my husband and I are skeeved out for about 70% of our waking moments, and are washing and drying everything on HOT.  It’s time consuming and annoying, but we’re determined not to be brought down by this current act of the dreadful bad patch of 2017.   So fleas beware, if you cross our threshold you are dead, dead, dead. And your little eggs too.

We’ve brought our oldest son Steven into the battle of the bugs with us, and he was good-natured enough to help out and get us ahead of the curve with it these past few days.  By way of apology, we took him and ourselves to the delightful Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth.  It’s fantastic, reminded me architecturally of the “new” Getty in LA.  The museum is free all the time, as is the parking.  That’s what an oil fortune well-invested will get you.  My thanks to Amon Carter for this treasure. There is a massive collection of art by Remington and Russell, gorgeous paintings and bronzes and whimsically illustrated letters. Remington was a terrible speller, but sure could draw. The detail of the bronzes up close is amazing, as are the differences between sand cast and lost wax techniques. Paintings by John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Bierstadt, Georgia O’Keeffe and many other works are housed here as well. We loved it. The featured image is Sargent’s portrait of Edwin Booth in his advancing years. I wonder how hard it was to continue his acting career after his younger brother shot the president? The man in this painting looks haunted to me, and the dying embers in the fire make me think of a once-bright career dimmed and going out. While in Fort Worth, we rounded out our soul-satisfying day by going to In-And-Out Burger for lunch.  I always get the vegetarian, while the boys had “animal style” double doubles, and we shared the fries.  A delightful day all in all.  And when we returned home, we vacuumed, sprayed, and washed our clothes.  Again.

*I wanted to use a different word here, which also ends in ers.  But I didn’t.