2017 Trip Two: Tour of Texas April 8-9

Fort Worth Texas Sunday April 9

Above: An early photo of the stockyards; Below some of the remaining cattle pens

Saturday April 8
Saturday was a tourist type day. The Stockyards area of Fort Worth is a historical area, focused on the old stockyards. History buffs probably recall there were major stockyards in Chicago, Omaha, Fort Worth and South Saint Paul MN. Only Fort Worth has really maintained a vestige of the old buildings.

Here in Fort Worth, after the Civil War cattle were herded from the ranching communities to railheads, locations where the cattle were loaded onto train cars and shipped east to be slaughtered. Fort Worth had business leaders who realized the future was not in shipping the cattle but in producing the beef here. Swift and Armour, two of the major beef processing companies, were attracted here in the early 1900s and built plants across the street from each other.

One interesting story about the stockyards is that financial struggles were causing concerns about its ability to survive in the early 1890s. A Boston investor came out to check the situation. He observed cattle pens that were full and figured this was a great investment. He bought in and provided financial security. However, the pens were abnormally full due to wet weather and a railroad strike that limited the ability to move cattle out. The data for the Boston investor was bad, but the investment proved strong.

During WWII, meat rationing and price controls led to some black market meat production, particularly at smaller plants around the country. After WWII, the demand for meat exploded and the small plants started to grow. The stockyards in Chicago, Omaha, South St. Paul, and Fort Worth now had older facilities and found it hard to compete. By 1971, the last plant here had closed.

The Livestock Exchange

Several of the buildings still exist. The Exchange Building where stock were sold. The Coliseum, where livestock auctions were held (site of our Friday night rodeo). The Livery, where horses were stabled. The Railroad Station, where trains came in. The pens, where stock were kept until slaughtered. The old hotel where people slept when here on business.

A few of the activiites occurring in the Stockyards district

The historical district runs an active tourist program. Rides in buggies, stagecoaches, etc are offered. Horseback rides are available. People dressed in period dress walk the streets and talk to people. Several cowboys are riding horses down the Main Street so little, and big, kids can pet the horses and get their pictures taken with the horse and cowboy. Twice a day, the cowboys drive about a dozen longhorn cattle from the pens down the Main Street for tourists to see and take pictures. So we played the tourist and just took it easy.

Longhorn cattle

We toured the buildings. We went through a small museum. We shopped and actually bought a few items. We people watched. We took pictures. We ate lunch at a small,less-touristy cafe. We sat and relaxed. We viewed the Longhorns at their pens.

Saturday evening we made 5:00 PM Palm Sunday service and went out to eat with our Evergreen hosts and some friends at a local barbecue restaurant. Tall tales were told and promises made not to spread them around. Sorry.

Sunday, April 9
The United States has had only two father-son combinations as President. The Adams and the Bushes. Last week we visited the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library (the 41st). Today, Sunday, we visited the Presidential Library for George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States. It is at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. SMU is the host; Laura Bush went to SMU and the Bushes live in Dallas.

At the George W Bush Presidential Library at SMU in Dallas

Bush was President from 2001 to 2009. He was President during the 9/11 tragedy, the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, and the Financial Crisis of 2008. As do most Presidential Libraries, there is a replica of the Oval Office. The displays are more technically savvy, the print on the exhibits is large and easy to read. The exhibit did a decent job of summarizing the Bush Presidency.

What we did find lacking in the library, was information about George Bush before he became President. No information on his time as Governor, nothing about his one failed attempt to become a U.S. Congressperson, extremely little about his business career, and relatively light on college and military. Still, it was two hours well spent. Other people seemed to agree; this library was much busier than the library for Bush 41. Bush 43 Library has only been open for four years; so far the numbers show twice the attendance for Bush 41. Of course, Bush 43 is in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area; Bush 41 is located in College Station with a metro area population less than 1/10 of DFW.

One of the Frederic Remington paintings at Sid RIchardson museum in Fort Worth

After the library and lunch, we visited another western art museum. Sid Richardson was an independent oil driller/explorer who struck it rich and lost it all several times. Finally, he found consistent success in West Texas and became extremely wealth. The Sid Richardson Museum is in downtown Fort Worth and focuses on western art, similar to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. This is an excellent gallery, full of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell and a few others. The gallery is relatively small, less than fifty works of art on display. Of particular value is the gallery brochure which each visitor receives. The brochure identifies each piece of art, describes its strong points, when it was painted, etc. A visitor to this free museum can walk around the gallery and read about each painting with ease from this brochure.

Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth

Our final stop was to Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth. Sundance Square is an integral part of the revitalization of the downtown. We sat in the square and watched the children play in the splash fountains. Downtown has a vibrant combination of historic and new buildings created by a coalition of political and civic leaders.

We wrap our evenings discussing all sorts of topics with our Evergreen hosts.

Ed and Chris

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