Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wacko's in Waco

The history of the Rangers goes back to before Texas became a state, as a matter of fact they were first formed in 1823, when Texas was still part of Mexico, to protect the settlers from Indian attacks and there has been some form of Rangers ever since.
The museum covers from the very beginning to modern times. They have a 45 minute film which was done by the History Channel and gives you a great history of the Rangers.
I'm just going to post some pictures with notes on this one. If you have ten minutes the following link is a good read about the Rangers:
Texas Rangers

Click on the picture above, it's not great but it's the best I could do. These are the Texas Rangers of today, all 135 of them to cover a State that contains 268,601 square miles. In comparison the precinct house I worked out of in Detroit covered 29 square miles and we had 240 cops assigned there.

The Rangers like to fancy their firearms up just a little bit, here's a few examples.

Some just a little fancier then others & a little longer.

What do you get the Ranger that saved your kidnapped 5 year old daughter, why a thank you 45 cal automatic.

The very first Texas Ranger Badge.

Two rifles that were used to Kill Bonnie & Clyde.

Picture of the Retired Rangers that chased down Bonnie & Clyde

Texas Ranger and the Lone Star State

Texas Rangers on Patrol in 1896

Cameron Park Zoo
As we walked from the parking area to the entrance of the Zoo all you could hear was a loud screaming, after hearing it for about ten minutes we found out that it was coming from the Gibbon Monkey, which sits in the top of a tree and spend the morning screaming until around noon. He does this to mark his territory or else to give all the early visitors a headache, this is a short video of one doing his morning thing, turn on the sound and cover your ears.

Here is another video of a Coral Snake winding his way around and through a plant, this is the most movement that we've every seen out of a snake and especially one so colorful. Remember the saying "Red next to Yellow will kill a fellow, Red next to Black is a friend of Jack", that way you wont pick up the wrong type of snake to play with.

Hang in there with us, this is the last video, the only thing I've ever see a Galapagos Tortoise move was his head but as soon as we walked up this one decided to run across the enclosure for us, well if you can call this running, this is actual speed.

OK now a little about the Zoo, this zoo is set up probably better then any other one we've been to, instead of having to decide which section you want to go to first like most zoo's this one you have two choices, left or right, just follow the trails and you will see the entire zoo. Other then the above videos I think our favorite, which I've never seen before, was the Night House, here everything was lite by black lights so you could see the night creatures, bats, raccoons, owls and such moving around and doing things. The bats were flying around and eating from some hanging bananas, one small owl had a mouse that he was ripping apart to eat.

We got to the Zoo right at noon and there were three school bus's and about thirty cars with parents just leaving, so there were maybe 50 to 75 people in the entire zoo with us.

This is a white Diamondback Rattler, it's not a true Albino Diamondback because it doesn't have the pink Eyes. But he sure has a mean look on his face

Loved the Owls with the black lite.

This giraffe had cleaned all the leafs off of the trees around him so he had to start kneeing to get the feed on the ground

We were this close to the big cat but there was a thick piece of glass between us.

Ever have a real bad hair day.


We stumbled across a place called Heritage Village, we thought that it was going to be a little like Greenfield Village, but it turned out to be a bunch of old time buildings with, grain mill, blacksmith shop, general store, diner, and such and they were trying to sell you their wares at inflated prices, so we just walked around the gardens and building.

I'm a Pepper, she's a Pepper wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too.

Gee! Guess where we went today, that's right the Dr Pepper Museum, which is located in the original Bottle plant building. It was OK but unless you're a confirmed Dr Pepper nut like Cathy is, you probably don't need to go. There were two floors of displays and a few interesting facts about Dr Pepper but we found the most entertaining thing there was a 30 minute film showing their commercials from probably around the 1960's to the present. That brought back a lot of memories and a lot of laughs (forgot how funny some of them were). After that we drove over to the First Street Cemetery and walked around in the cold wind looking at all the old graves and stones.

This is why they always had the 10-2-4 on their bottles and signs.

Go ahead and sing along with Barry, you know you want to.

Final Note for Waco, if you've never been here the reason that you go Wacko is the way the streets are set up, they all run NE to SW or NW to SE, so you can't drive across town east to west without zigzaging and making 300 turns. Then they have five lane streets with 4 lanes running one direction and only one lane running the other, very few traffic lights but a illion 4 way stop intersections.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

tippecanoe and TYLER TEXAS too

Camp Ford, Tyler Texas

Built as a Civil War POW Prison it was originally 3.5 acres in size with a 16 foot tall stockade walls and held about 650 prisoners. In March 1864 the Commander was told that another 3000 prisoners were en-route to the prison and that he was to enlarge it to handle this number. They did this by cutting all the logs in the stockade fence down to 6 foot and using the other part of the log to expand the walls, this enabled them to enclose 10 acres to handle the extra prisoners. The funny part about his is that a group of prisoners had been working for a few months on a tunnel and they were very close to being out side the prison walls. After the enlargement their tunnel took them to the middle of the new enclosure.
Camp Ford also had the distinction of having the most Naval POW's of any prison during the Civil War, the last prisoners were marched out of the prison in March of 1865 at which point is was abandon.

East Texas Oil Field Museum in Kilgore

At the start of 1930 the population of Kilgore was just about 500, and the town was destined to become another ghost town. Then oil wildcatter Columbus M. "Dad" Joiner came to town from Oklahoma, he convinced a few people to put up some money and Daisy Bradford to let him drill for oil on her property. He had picked three different drill locations, so with a bunch of second hand and broken down equipment he started drilling, the first two sites were dry holes, while towing the derrick on skids to the third site the skids broke down so he decided to drill right were it sat.
On October 3, 1930, the well known as the Daisy Bradford #3 hit oil and marked the discovery of the East Texas Oilfield, word spread and almost over night wildcatters and oil companies from across the USA made there way to Kilgore. Later when he had some money from the gusher he went back to the original third site and with new equipment he drilled a "DRY HOLE". By 1935 this little town of 500 had increased to over 12,000, with more then 1,100 oil wells within the city limits, giving one area in downtown the nickname "the worlds richest acre".
Today only 80 reproduction oil derricks dot the downtown area of Kilgore which they decorate during the Christmas season as they did with the originals.
So it makes sense that they would locate the East Texas Oil Museum here in Kilgore. When you first enter the museum it doesn't appear to be much, but after you view a short introductory film and step through the doors into Boomtown you'll change your mind. Boomtown is set up as a typical street during the mid 1930's with all the stores, businesses, and traffic. The movie theater still shows movies, of course they only show one and that's about how Kilgore became a boomtown, but don't miss it, it has a surprise ending, also one of the store fronts has an elevator which once you get in and close the doors it takes you on a ride 3500 feet down and explains the different rock formations and how oil is formed and found.
One very interesting think we found out is that during World War Two, they built and pipeline that started in Kilgore and traveled 1,400 miles to the New Jersey shoreline to supply the military with the oil they needed to fight the war.

Once we finished up with the museum we walked two blocks across the campus of Kilgore College to visit the Rangerettes Museum, what is a Rangerette, I don't know but there was a huge photo of a pretty cowgirl on the front of the building so I figured we better go and find out, and we did. I am now a Rangerettes groupie.
In 1939 the Dean of the college decided that he need a plan to draw more females to the college, and also something that would keep the fans in their seats during half time at the football games, rather then ducking under the bleachers to sip on the contents of their little hip flask. So started the Rangerettes.
The Rangerettes are now the world's best know collegiate drill team, dressed in little red,white and blue cowgirl outfits, they manage to keep people in their seats where ever they go. They have preformed all across the U.S.A., have been on several world tours and many Presidential Inaugurations, they have preformed at every Cotton Bowl since 1951 and are the only organization to be invited back to perform at the East-West Shrine Bowl.
Again this museum is on the small side but is very interesting, the guide there was a student at the college and graduated in 1940 so she missed out on being a Rangerette but her little sister was one, her son was a manager for the Rangerettes and also married one, her second son married a Rangerette, her daughter was a Rangerette, as was her grand daughter, do you see where this is going. It's like my dad played football for Ohio State or University of Michigan and I'm going to play for them too. Once the Rangerettes get into your family bloodline they're there forever.
While Cathy was talking with the guide I watched a DVD on the Rangerettes stage show, which they only do for four days in April every year, I would have bought a copy but they didn't have any there, but if you want a little glimpse of what they are like you can check out this amateur video on Youtube.

How do you end a great day, by having some of the best BBQ in Texas, it doesn't look like much and it wasn't, uneven floors, seating for about 10, no two chairs matched, the table was wobbly and the room was filled with the delicious eye watering smell of smoked meat, who could ask for anything more, that alone made the trip worthwhile. We ordered the combo plate, first he put on the ribs, then the brisket, then the pork and finally the sausage, with it all piled nice and high he covered it with their special BBQ sauce, aside of potato salad and beans with bread and onions, throw in a bottomless mug of sweet tea and you're ready to sit down and eat. Did I mention that all of this was only $8.00 a head, tax included. Owned by the same family for the past 50 years, mother to son and now the grandson is getting ready to take over.

We were going to spend Saturday at the 75th Annual Texas Rose Parade but something's came up and we were unable to attend, maybe next year, so we'll tour the Rose Gardens Monday instead.

American's Rose Capital
Today we went over to the Tyler Rose Garden, it covers 22-acres and is the nation's largest rose showcase, there are close to 500 different varieties of roses and 38,000 rose bushes planted here. As I mentioned before we missed the Rose Festival during the weekend which was probably a good thing because we had the entire gardens to ourselves today. As it turns out they prune back all the roses in September so that they will be in full bloom for the festival and that means for us too.
We've never seen so many roses, every size and color that you could think of, we spent about two hours walking around and I think we still missed a lot of areas.
We loved the names that were given to some, Betty Boop, Good n Plenty, Sexy Rexy, it took some thought as to were to plant the different bushes, for example the Abe Lincoln was planted right next to the Queen Elizabeth, but for some reason the John F Kennedy was planted about a 100 yards away form the Marilyn Monroe Rose.
I took a ton of pictures but it's one of those places that you just have to see in person.

But as everybody knows, there is only one rose in Texas and that's

Ever have one of those days that just starts out normal and then something happens to make it a real big WOW day, we had one of those today. It's our last day in the Tyler area, so we figured that we would just run over to the Historical Aeronautical Military Museum, give it a quick look and come home to pack things up. We entered the museum and after about ten minutes a short little old guy came up to us and introduced himself as one of the volunteers and said that if we didn't mind he would just walk along with us and try to answer any questions we might have. We said sure and started looking at some of the displays, then Cathy asked him what his favorite display was and he said "step right down here and I'll tell you about the Naval Aviators". After a few minutes we noticed that the name on his name tag matched the one that was on the uniform that was on display, yep, it was his favorite because it was him. Lt. Comm. Leo "Smoky" Sabota, he joined the Navy when he was 17 and became a carrier pilot getting his wings the day the war ended in Europe, but as he pointed out we had another one a few years later called Korea. During Korea he flew a Corsair and was CO of an all-weather night squadron, which means they always took off and landed on the carrier in the dark, during Korea he flew off of the Carriers Leytei, Intrepid and Valley Forge. He was also the first Navy pilot to fly 100 missions during the Berlin Air Lift. After the air lift he went back to fighters and continued up through the Vietnam era jets. After retired from the Navy he got his Doctorate and was a professor teaching Political Science at a small collage out west for 25 years before settling in Tyler Texas. We spent about 3 hours with him talking about his life and career and could have talked for another 3 hours. I couldn't even start to repeat the stories he told us, out of the 6 volunteers that were there today we hit the jackpot with Leo. Almost forgot the first trainer that Leo flew was a Bi-plane.

Even without Leo the museum is well worth the time to visit, there are about 15 different fighter on display outside on the tarmac and about 24 different displays inside. They had a great section on the woman pilots through out the wars, from the WASP which were only allowed to fly non-combat, normally ferrying the planes from base to base, to Jill "Raggz" Long and her 60 combat missions in A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog) in Afghanistan & Kosovo.

The story behind the picture of the Knight and Devil is that on the eve of the World War One ending, two soldiers got a little bit drunk celebrating, they decided that they wanted a souvenir so they went outside to the airfield and cut the side out of one of the fighter planes (bi-wing and made with a canvas skin) they rolled it up and brought it home where it was put away and forgotten about for about 90 years until some relative unrolled it and figured that it was probably something the museum would like to have. A little research on the Internet and they found pictures of the original plane.

Time to get home and pack up for tomorrow we head to Waco.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Living in HOPE...Hope, Arkansas that is

Going to spend a few days in Hope, Arkansas just to see what's in the area.

Today we drove about 8 miles north to the little city of Old Washington, pop. 148 people, Old Washington is very unique in that the 90% of the city is a restored state park museum, the city is restored to how was between 1824 -1889.

The Southwest Trail/Military Road ran right through the center of town and any pioneers heading for Texas had to pass through this way, making it a very large center for commercial or profession assistance en route. This is where you picked up anything that you were going to need in Texas, the population increased until it became the county seat for Hempstead County. In 1863 when Little Rock fell to the Union forces Old Washington became the Confederate Capitol of Arkansas. When the railroad by passed Old Washington in 1874 the city's 15 minutes of fame were over. Fires in 1875 & 1883 destroyed almost the entire business district and pretty much brought an end to the town. Around 1930, Arkansas decided to rebuild the Confederate Capitol, over the years different foundations started restoring the old buildings and in 1973 the state made it a state park.

Enough history, we pulled into town about 11am and saw that they had a tour leaving at 11:30 so we signed up for that, there are over 40 restored buildings and the tour takes you to eight of them, each week or so they change what buildings are included in the tour so every time you come you see something new and different. Also very clever for them to do this because you have to keep coming back to see the entire town and paying for the tours.

Our tour included 4 different homes of notable citizens, the Courthouse, The print Museum, the Williams Tavern (more on this later) and the Edwards weapon museum. As I said the tour started at 11:30 and we visited the Crouch House (1859), the
outside of the house is entirely
restored but the main room inside
they restored the left half of the room and left the right side the way it was so you could see the difference, the rest of the rooms all had some part of the room left so that you could see what was behind the wall and the type of construction that was used.

Remember Williams Tavern, well everybody in the park including the guides take a lunch break from 12noon to 12:30, so what do the seven people that are on the tour do, go tour the Tavern and have lunch while you're doing it. Everyone was in period costume so we enjoyed an 1832 style lunch until it was time to meet up with guide and resume our tour.

The Print Museum was where the Washington telegraph was printed, there were about 12 different types of early printing press on display and the curator operated a few of them to show the difference in speed between the different era's. Mind your P's & Q's, this saying was started in the printing business, since they would grab the letters from the letter box and the P's & Q's were exact opposites, especially when you where looking at a reversed letter they had to be very careful of what they grabbed, so mind your P's & Q's. Another tidbit while I'm on a roll, capital letters were keep in the upper letter case and non-capital letters were keep in the lower letter case, hence upper and lower case letters.

The Gun Museum has approximately 300 to 400 weapons on display, covering everything from the 1500's to modern day.

We really wanted to tour the Blacksmith Shop, but it's opening day for bow season for deer and the blacksmith is a big hunter. This is the blacksmith shop (owned by James Black) that made the famous "Bowie Knife", Jim Bowie stopped by the shop one day and told the smithy what type of knife he wanted made up, he then went to Little Rock and returned a month later on his way to Texas, and the Alamo, the blacksmith had made two knifes one exactly like Bowie wanted and another that was the same but had a double edge, he told Bowie to take which ever one he wanted, Bowie took the modified one.

When Bowie ordered the knife he told James Black that he wanted something large enough and with enough heft to it that it would take a man's head off in one swipe, apparently he got what he asked for, for a few months later when he was in Texas three men who had been hired to kill him attacked him in a saloon, he killed all three with the knife and one was almost decapitated. Once the story spread the blacksmith was over run with orders for the great Bowie knife, unfortunately the blacksmith was disabled a little while later and was unable to make anymore Bowie knifes. Everybody has an idea of what the knife looked like but the original was lost at the Alamo and none of the others (made by this blacksmith) have been located. This blacksmiths knifes were said to be so special because he had discovered the secret of making Damascus Steel, but that's another story.

The tour is very well done, every building had a person in character for that time and building to tell you about the history of the building and town. Our $8 tour (not including lunch) ended up taking close to 4 and a half hours, they do offer a shorter tour with just 2 or 3 buildings if you don't have the time for the full tour.

There are three different U.S. Champion trees in the park, this is the Magnolia Tree, there was also a Pecan and a Catalpa.

In Search of Diamonds and the easy life:

Today we became "Diamond Hunters" not very good ones but we tried. For years we have been wanting to go to the only diamond mine in the USA, it's a state park in Arkansas. They plow up about 38 acres of land and you just walk around and pick up the diamonds that are lying in the dirt at your feet, at least that's what we thought. After paying our $6.50 a head to get into the park we ran to the plowed fields to find our fortune in brilliant gems, we did make a fantastic discovery, that after walking around in the mud with your heads down looking for the find of the year it's almost impossible to straighten your neck out again. Looks like the grand kids are going to have to work their way through collage, sorry.

I'm sneaking this in because I forgot to add it to the Arkansas National Guard information, I've never seen or heard of this before and found it very funny and interesting.

German Prisoner of War Class Ring

POW's were allowed to purchase these class rings from salesman that traveled from base to base.