2017 Trip Two: Tour of Texas April 4

Waco TX. Tuesday April 4

Lake Waco formed by damming the Bosque River

From mammoths to poetry to Dr Pepper to cupcakes. What a varied and delightful day! We started out with rye bread French toast, new to us but very tasty. It will have to be added on to our list for home breakfast options.

In 2015, the Waco Mammoth site was added as a National Historical Monument. Maybe you have not heard of mammoths in Texas before? We had not. Woolly mammoths up north during the glaciers, yes, but non-woolly mammoths? In 1978 two men discovered an unusual bone in a creek bed near the Bosque River outside Waco. Okay, let’s be honest. It was two teenage guys trespassing along a creek bed but given the discovery, it seems the trespassing part is downplayed. Momma, sometimes your teenage boys doing wrong do right.

The two boys took the bone to museum staff over at Baylor University. They identified it as a femur of a Colombian mammoth. Colombian mammoths were huge; more than 14 feet in height and up to 20,000 pounds. This is 2-4 feet higher and up to 8,000 pounds more than a wooly mammoth. It is also much bigger than current African or Asian elephants.

The dig site showing an artist rendering of a mammoth-actual size and the nursery herd along with the bones still in place down below.

Once Baylor identified the femur, they spent 20 years excavating the site. Baylor identified a nursery herd of mammoths (females and their young) and they probably all died together around 65,000 years ago. Other mammoth bones have been discovered in the same area, having died 10,000 years after the nursery herd. This must have been a popular area; bones of Western camels (remember our Museum visit in Nebraska earlier on this trip?), saber tooth cat, dwarf antelope, and giant tortoise have been excavated. 24 separate mammoths have been identified over the years. Further excavations are on hold pending more money.

Close in look of the in place bones

Most bones are stored at Baylor but the NPS site has a climate controlled exhibit building where a visitor can observe bones still in place, partially excavated. A guide gives a 45 minute tour and does a great job of explaining the history and identifying the bones and tusks, etc. We met a dad from Columbia MD who was taking a slow drive to San Francisco to deliver to his daughter the oar she had been presented at graduation from the crew team. I guess she had finally moved into a place that could hold an oar of that length. One of the rangers on duty was originally from MN so we shared stories.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin stained glass window-on a Browning poem

After the mammoths, we went to Baylor but not for more bones. Instead we viewed the largest collection of secular stained glass in the world. The Armstrong Browning Library is named after Professor Armstrong who taught English at Baylor from 1912 to 1952 (He was 79 when he retired.) and after Elizabeth and Robert Browning. Armstrong was a Browning scholar and collector. The Brownings, if you do not know, are a husband and wife couple who were English poets of the Victorian era.

When the library was being built in the 1950s, they called it “The Most Beautiful Literary Shrine in the World and it is owned by Baptists!” Baylor is a Baptist university; at 16,000 students it is the largest Baptist owned university in the world. The library is beautiful. It is more a repository for the Browning collection than a major working library of the school. Few students were using it for study but music recitals and practices are held here due to the wonderful acoustics in the McLean Foyer of Meditation.

Stained Glass window by Willet at Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor

We came primarily to see the stained glass. Distinct styles are presented in the various major rooms of the library, spread over the basement and three additional floors. One of the stained glass artists/makers is the company of Willet Stained Glass which has a location in Red Wing Minnesota.

The Dr Pepper museum in Waco, the change in brick coloration indicates where the Waco tornado of the 1950s damaged the building

Lunch was a local staple, the Health Camp. Nothing healthy here, burgers, hot dogs, shakes, fries, etc. Then it was on to more sugar, the Dr Pepper Museum. Dr Pepper originated in Waco at a local drug store. One of the pharmacists mixed various tastes together, 23 in total, and it became Dr Pepper. The HQ for Dr Pepper is now in Dallas and it is part of a larger food conglomerate, Cadbury-Schweppes. Over the years, it has had financial difficulties and Cadbury Schweppes now markets Dr Pepper with Snapple, 7-UP, and other beverages.

The Dr Pepper museum showcases the history of the beverage, the tie-in with Waco, various leaders of the company, the bottling process, and marketing efforts. Chris and I spent 20 minutes watching old TV commercials for Dr Pepper and Diet Dr Pepper. We realized we could not recall ever seeing any of the commercials before coming here. Either our memory is weak, they ran when we were not watching TV, or the ads were not shown in our part of the country. In any event, we found the commercials humorous. We also realized it had been decades, or never, since we had a Dr Pepper. We stopped at a convenience store and shared one. Not too bad.

The Magnolia store and silos related to the HGTV show of Chip and JoJo Gains

After Dr Pepper, our steps took us over to a new experience for us. Chip and JoJo Gains have a TV show on HGTV that is evidently a big hit. News to us-our Evergreen host told us about it this morning. The Gains are based in Waco and their store, Magnolia, and show draw big crowds. It took us 20 minutes waiting in line to buy two of the cupcakes for sale at their bakery. The store selling their items is crowded with an outdoor seating area and play yard for kids-and parents of kids. Cars are parked for blocks. A trolley and Baylor buses stop here on a regular basis. But we did not even find a post card that interested us in the store. The cupcakes are another story; we just ate them. Wunderbar!

Vaquero and cattle-Mexicans were the original cowboys of the West.

Last experiences of the day were outdoors. It was just an excellent day to be outside. We walked over the suspension bridge crossing the Brazos river in downtown Waco. The Chisholm cattle trail went through Waco and there ae sculptures recalling that period at the west end of the bridge. Then it was a walk up to the dam on the Bosque River creating Lake Waco outside of downtown. Crossing the suspension bridge and looking down at the Brazos River it struck me how brown, brown, brown all of the rivers in Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and Texas have been. Not that Minnesota rivers are pure, but the deep, deep brown of all of these southern rivers was unnerving. How can one enjoy them?

Our healthy diet for the day

We wrapped up with dinner at another local staple, Uncle Dan’s where we shared a huge stuffed, baked potato.

Ed and Chris Tuesday April 4

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