2017 Trip Two: Tour of Texas April 14

Kerrville Texas Friday April 14

The LBJ Ranch-The Texas White House

I admit it. Texas “Hill Country” is hilly, hillier than the eastern portion around Ennis and Waco. The Balcones Fault Zone that we briefly discussed in yesterday’s post about the Meadows Center in San Marcos did its job. The fault zone runs from Del Rio by the Rio Grande northeast towards Dallas. Today’s drive showcased hills, escarpments, and valleys. Roads have dips where flooding occurs during heavy rains. Those flat lands closer to the Gulf are gone.

Driving around the Texas Hill Country

Our drive today was 200 miles north from San Antonio to Johnson City and then southwest to Kerrville-with a few back and forths for exploratory purposes. Motorcycles were out in greater numbers than previously seen. Wildflowers were not as extensive as a week ago but still present and profuse periodically. Cattle and sheep were frequent. This is supposed to be an area where peaches grow but we were not able to identify any orchards. The large number of vineyards and wineries did catch us by surprise although we did not stop at any. The day was normally cloudy so outdoor pictures are not vibrant, but at least it did not rain.

LBJ, Lyndon Baines Johnson, our 36th President, was our primary target for the day. We spent hours visiting his birthplace, his boyhood home, his grave, and his ranch-the Texas White House. All three are located in the Texas Hill Country within twenty miles of each other. People of my generation identify Johnson with the Vietnam War and while the displays cover this, our blog post will list a few other facts of his life and Presidential career. Such as the fact that LBJ spent over 25% of his time as President working at the Texas White House.

LBJ’s mother, Rebekah, went to college and received a degree in journalism (so did Lady Bird). Very unusual for a woman at that point in history. Education was important to her, one of the reasons the family moved from the countryside where he was born into Johnson City where the schools were better. Rebekah tutored him also, and concentrated on debate and elocution, two traits that would aid him greatly in his political career.

LBJ’s boyhood home in Johnson City Texas

LBJ’s father served for 12 years in the Texas Legislature and Lyndon learned political skills from him. LBJ visited him while the Legislature was in session and went out on the campaign trail with his father. His father would meet constituents at home but Rebekah made him hold many meetings outdoors on the porch due to the smoking and cussing that occurred. LBJ’s bedroom abutted the porch, though, so his informal education in politics was not hampered.

Early in LBJ’s career in Congress, he had promised his constituents that they would get electricity in Johnson City. Recognize that electricity was not universal, in fact, most rural areas did not have electricity. It was too expensive for electrical companies to set up power plants and run wires for less populated communities. During the Depression, FDR and Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act to allow for the formation of electrical cooperatives in rural areas. The federal government would provide and guarantee loans for that purpose but REA regulations set minimum population levels that Johnson City did not meet. LBJ was not able to convince the REA administrator to waive the requirements so he went directly to FDR who granted a waiver just for the Johnson City area.

Where LBJ signed the education bill, on a picnic table outside his one room school house with his first teacher by his side.

During Johnson’s five-year stint as President, over 1000 pieces of legislation were passed. Only during Franklin Roosevelt’s twelve years was a greater number of bills made into law. LBJ’s time as Minority Senate Leader and then Majority Senate Leader put him in a rare position to get legislation passed. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was signed into law by LBJ sitting at a picnic table outside the first school he attended with his first teacher by his side.

One has to wonder how LBJ would operate today. He sold his legislation to conservatives on giving a helping hand so people can improve themselves. Today, we seem to be in a mood to not do anything for people but to make them improve all on their own, despite poor schools, broken families, poverty, ill-health, etc. We could use his political skills today and his concern for helping people.

We had lunch in Hye TX, a small unincorporated community where the cafe is housed with the post office. At this post office in 1965, LBJ’s Postmaster General was sworn in. Down the road ten miles, we had a snack of peach ice cream at a small cafe/gift store/fruit stand.

On our drive to our hotel in Kerrville, we stopped in Luckenbach. Luckenbach, I believe, exists solely as a place where an establishment acts as a general store, bar, and dance hall. During the afternoon, free music flows. An eclectic gathering of locals, tourists, bikers, and VW drivers were in the crowd. (Evidently the Texas VW Classic is happening in Fredericksburg this weekend.)

Video of Luckenbach Texas

Ed and Chris

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