Visiting the Middle of Nowhere or What I Did on My Memorial Day Weekend

I must admit I’ve been to my share of desolate places and small towns. This didn’t, however, prepare me for my latest adventure to West Texas and a 20,000 acre ranch right outside of Dryden, Texas, population: 11.


And, there’s no public restroom in Dryden, so don’t even ask. Well, you can ask, but the answer is a resounding “no.”


Meeting other members of the Rock Art Foundation and our guide out of San Antonio, we set off to Meyers Springs Ranch, home of Fort Myers and a National Historic Landmark. Bouncing down a series of dusty roads, and scaring off a couple of jack rabbits, we arrived at Fort Myers, the remnants of the only fort occupied by the Seminole Negro Scouts. Their job was to defend the nearby Meyers Springs from the native peoples, thus helping drive the indigenous Native Americans off this land. We then drove to a scenic overlook, peering down on a rejuvenated solar-powered windmill, and spotted the pictograph panel with native drawings dating back some 4,000 years.


After lunch, we trekked to a canyon near Meyers Springs, where we were treated to a sweet sighting of a mother hummingbird tending her eggs. Bidding adieu to our tour guide and traveling companions, we bounced our way back to Dryden and then headed for Del Rio. Looking for a cup of coffee, we stopped in Langtry to discover the Judge Roy Bean Museum and adjacent cactus garden. This museum houses one of the best collections of Texas Department of Transportation brochures I have ever seen! I collected at least 40 brochures, watched the panoramic stories of the “Only Law West of the Pecos,” learned of the Judge’s unrequited infatuation with Lily Langtry, for whom he named the town, and enjoyed the cactus garden right up until the moment a torrential thunderstorm sent my companion and I racing indoors and then to our car.


We never did find that cup of coffee, as the town closes up at 5:00 and we showed up at 5:15. Nevertheless, we were full of stories of West Texas at the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth and happily headed back to civilization. Tags: Dryden, Fort Myers, Judge Roy Bean, Lily Langtry, Meyers Springs Ranch, National Historic Landmark, Rock Art Foundation, Seminole Negro Scouts, Texas Department of Transportation

Katherine Flies Again

I took the leap last night, packaged up the cover to my Katherine Stinson book, wrote the letter and will be sending the book off today for its third printing!

What precipitated this move, you may ask? I’ll tell you. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of reprinting the book for some time now as I’ve sold out the first two printings, and I’m still getting requests for the book. Heck, I’ve been buying them used off and Ebay and then reselling them. But, a really, really wonderful email yesterday convinced me it’s time to dust them off and get them back into print.

2010 is the centennial anniversary of aviation in Texas. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum here in Austin is hosting an exhibit on Texas aviation in the summer of 2010. And, the curator of the exhibit sent me an email asking me if I’d lend her documents, photos, etc. on Katherine as she wants to feature KS in the exhibit. Which means, in part, the museum gift shop will want to have copies of my books to sell. Which means they need to be able to buy copies of the book. Which means there needs to *be* copies of the book for them to buy.

See where I’m going with this? So, today Debster will be making a stop by her local post office to mail this missive, the precursor to getting Katherine back in print again. I don’t know who’s more excited, me or her! Let me know if you’d like to order a signed copy of the third edition, I’m starting my list of pre-orders now!

Katherine Stinson Didn’t Plan on Being a Pilot

We know this because when Katherine was born, aviation as we know it hadn’t yet been invented. Katherine came to flying musically. A fantastic musician, Katherine won a piano in her city’s competition. One day, her music teacher told her it was time for Katherine to go study music in Europe, as Katherine’s teacher reached the limit of what she was able to teach Katherine. Excited, Katherine ran home to tell her mother the news. Emma Stinson, divorced with four children, was not as excited as her eldest daughter.

Although Emma ran the City Directory in Fort Payne, Alabama, Katherine’s birthplace, she didn’t have the extra money to spend on flying lessons. Telling her daughter this, Katherine’s eyes fell, fell right to the newspaper laying on the living room coffee table where the headlines screamed, “Barnstormers earn $1000 a day!” Snatching up the paper, Katherine told her mother, “That’s how I’ll get to Europe, I’ll learn to fly!” Thus, the career of the fourth woman in the United States to earn her pilot’s license, in 1912, was born.

If it hadn’t been for that knock on the door, the Alamo would be no more…

Adina de Zavala, a fifth-generation Texan whose great-grandfather fought in the Battle of San Jacinto, spent all her spare time working to preserve historic Texas missions. Adina was horrified when she found out that the site of the Alamo was about to be sold to a businessman with plans to tear it down and build a hotel. As it was, all that remained of the site where the famous battle took place was the mission’s small chapel building. Adina, a woman of small means but big dreams, headed over to the Hotel Menge, where she heard a prominent Texas philanthropist and his wife were staying. Questioning the bell man, Adina discovered to her dismay that the couple left for Europe the day before. She was a day late!

The bell man, seeing how upset Adina was, asked her why she wanted to see the couple. Adina explained her predicament. The bellman said another young women, twenty-three year-old Clara Driscoll was also a guest at the hotel and might be willing to help her. Adina knocked on Clara’s door and explained her dilemma. Clara was so impressed with Adina’s passion for historic preservation, an interest Clara shared, that Clara agreed to help Adina. Clara sat down and wrote out a check for $5000 as a down payment for what would eventually be a $63,000 promissory note to the Hug0-Smeltzer Company, the owners of the property on which the Alamo resided. Clara saved the Alamo. She bought it!

The Second Battle of the Alamo

Remember the Alamo! The battle cry is ingrained in Texas school children’s heads starting in the fourth grade. Images of lines in the sand being drawn, brave Texans crossing the line, those too weak to stand being carried over on stretchers, all pledging to give their lives rather than surrender to Santa Anna.

While much is made of the glory of the gallons of blood spilled in an attempt to defend the Mission, seldom is the story of the second battle of the Alamo told. This second battle, although waged quietly in the early 20th century, allowed us to still have the remnants of the earlier Mission and an actual building and grounds left to remember. And, like most of the historical memorabilia preserved in Texas, we owe its preservation to two women, one with the historical knowledge to know to fight for the Alamo, and one with the money.