Category Archives: Texas

The Oldest General Store in Texas

If you grew up in the rural South, you probably have at least one of these country stores tucked away in your memory.

For me it was Hughes Grocery near my grandparents house in Clay County, Mississippi. I remember the red Coca Cola chest cooler, the driveway paved with nearly as many bottle caps as gravel.

For many in Harrison County, Texas, that store is T.C. Lindsey & Co. General Store in Jonesville,  a curve in a country road just two miles from busy Interstate 20. The store has been around for 170 years, making it the oldest continuously-operating general store in Texas.

After bicycling the hilly roads of East Texas the other day, I stopped in to see if it looked the same as it did when I first visited 32 years ago.

I didn’t need any overalls, Lodge cast iron skillets or Raggedy Ann dolls (three major categories at the store), but I couldn’t pass up the No. 1 seller—hoop Wisconsin cheddar cheese sliced with a 100-year-old cutter.

Cheese at T.C. Lindsey General Store
Store manager Jon Miller slices hoop cheese.

T.C. Lindsey & Co. General Store is still jam packed with inventory, although the family is keeping it open for the memories rather than for profit.

I also came away with a couple of micro-brewed root beers . There is an extensive selection of vintage soft drinks and as many varieties of Spam as I have seen. Penny (well, nickel) candy. Honey and sorghum molasses from nearby farms. Bulk Spanish peanuts farmed 70 miles up the road in Naples, Texas.

You can get sun bonnets, kerosene lamp supplies and shoes from the 1970s, but many of the items are not for sale such as the rare 1896 wringer washing machine and the last cotton bale ginned in the area in 1973. The store just started taking credit cards a year ago.

It is such an iconic place that movies and TV shows have filmed there, most notably the 1985 TV movie remake of The Long Hot Summer bringing Don Johnson, Cybill Shepherd and Ava Gardner to Jonesville. One day, a limousine rolled up with Lady Bird Johnson, who came in to buy Cracker Jacks of all things. Her father ran a similar store in nearby Karnack.

A favorite tale is when an employee showed up for work drunk one day. At that time, coffins were sold upstairs. There was also a sofa upstairs, where the employee passed out. He was placed inside one of the coffins as a prank.

He never arrived at work drunk again..

Learn more about the store by watching this Texas Bucket List segment.

T.C. Lindsey & Co will be celebrating 170 years of operation with a birthday cake and bluegrass band on Nov. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Can’t make that?.Another good time to stop by is Dec. 9 for its annual Christmas Open House from 11 a.m. to 2 pm.

T.C. Lindsey & Co. is located at 2293 FM Road 134, about 26 miles west of Shreveport. Take exit 633 off of Interstate 20. 

 

 

 

Going the Extra Mile for Peaches This Summer

Most summers we make a trek or two over to Mitcham Farms in Ruston, Louisiana for their delicious peaches.

It’s usually in mid-July when the freestone peaches are in their prime. But with this year’s mild winter and lack of chill hours for the  trees, Mitcham’s has already exhausted their supply for the season.

Ditto  other places I checked–Ed Lester in Coushatta, Frierson Orchards and several orchards in Texas.

No more peaches this year.

So I expanded my research and found Efurd Orchards  just south of Pittsburg, Texas. The bad news is that it is an hour and 45 minute-drive from my house. The good news is the Efurds expect to have plenty of peaches through early September, and the drive makes an interesting road trip through the Piney Woods of East Texas.

Efurds is a entertaining destination farm stand with a whole lot more than peaches and preserves. When we were there mid-week, the place was a abuzz with daytrippers and peach questers wandering around the vintage vehicles on the grounds, meandering around the antique artifacts in the open-air market and lining up at the homemade ice cream counter.

Click on any photo to launch photo gallery

Oh, yeah and loading up on peaches.  On that day, juicy Red Contenders were ripe; this week, Redskins are expected. Customers not only were buying pecks of peaches, but tomatoes, watermelons, peas and any fruit or vegetable that grows in East Texas.

Owner Greg Efurd and his daughter were busy at the cash register and chatting with customers. They explained that the 20 varieties of peaches they planted allowed them enough diversity to have peaches when many others don’t.

The Efurds have been growing peaches since 1972 and now have about 15,000 trees spread out on 150 acres. They also grow other produce. It’s especially busy in the spring when strawberries are getting ripe and the fall harvest season when the stand is ablaze with pumpkins and colorful mums.

There are several routes to take from Shreveport, each with its own interesting diversion. We exited Interstate 20 onto U.S. Highway 80 east of Marshall and followed state highway 154 through the woods, stopping at the Bear Creek Smokehouse company store to stock up on their local sausages and bacon. We ate hamburgers at Swanner’s, in Gilmer and bought a yellow-meated watermelon at the cute Lineberger Produce on U.S. 271 heading toward Efurds.

Lineberger was selling peaches too. Further up the road we  found  McPeak Orchards, itself a nice stop with peaches and a good bit of produce.

Click on any photo to launch photo gallery

After Efurd’s, we wandered a few miles north of Pittsburg to get a look at the gargantuan  Bo Pilgrim bust, which sits atop a gazebo at the Pilgrim’s poultry distribution center. Pilgrim is Pittsburg’s most famous resident. He once headed the nation’s largest poultry operation. Pilgrim’s is now owned by a Brazilian company but Bo Pilgrim’s presence is seen everywhere in Pittsburg,

Along the way, we passed a few more homespun garden produce  stands; some in covered sheds; others spread out on folding tables in the front yard.

Texas isn’t lacking in “trails” to entice road trips. There’s bluebonnet trails, barbecue trails, wine trails, even presidential trails (LBJ, the Bushes and JFK Museum).

But I think we’ve just added our own peach trail to that list.

Efurd’s is on U.S. Highway 271 three miles of south of Pittsburg and is currently open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. While in Pittsburg, you may want to check out some of these places below, although the vineyards and the museum are only open Thursdays and weekends and the hot link place is closed Sundays. Check the websites for specific hours of operation.

Los Pinos Vineyards: One of 19 wineries on the East Texas Piney Woods Wine Trail, this one is just 2.5 miles away from Efurd Orchards on County Road 1334.

Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum: This is actually two museums — Depot Museum with a life-size replica of the Ezekiel Airship, a local flying invention that predated the Wright Brothers’ first flight; and Farmstead Museum, with historic buildings and demonstrations by people dressed in period costumes.

Pittsburg Hot Links: The hot links is a food item peculiar to this slice of East Texas. They are typically served in a bowl  with saltines, cheese, onions and pickle slices . The Pittsburg Hot Links restaurant is in downtown Pittsburg.

Efurd Orchards

Presidential Libraries Are Worth Visiting

I trace my fascination with presidents with a couple of childhood events. I was in first grade and home sick that November Friday when Walter Cronkite cut into As the World Turns with the tragic news that JFK had been assassinated.

The next year I was home for two weeks with the flu just after my mother bought a set of World Book encyclopedias. Bored, with no videos and only two channels on TV, I began memorizing the presidents in order and the state capitals as well.

Since it’s President’s Day, I’m remembering some of my visits to presidential libraries. My love for presidential history and my tendency to prefer museums showcasing narrow topics (rather than the massive Smithsonian) are reasons why I find presidential libraries so appealing.

I have been to four of them – Bush 41 & 43, Clinton & LBJ and came away with new appreciation for their service, even for the ones I didn’t care for politically. When visiting comprehensive museums such as the Smithsonian, I am overwhelmed, but I can manage presidential libraries since they focus on only four to eight years of history. There are only 13 official ones administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Texas has three of them.

Here are my brief takeaways from the four that I have visited:

George W. Bush, Southern Methodist University, Dallas: I thought the 9/11 exhibit especially touching with details of the President’s, Vice President’s and first lady’s schedules during that time. The $16 admission is a bit pricey compared to the other libraries visited in the $7-$10 price range.

Since this was the museum we visited most recently, I remember more details about the whole trip. On the day we visited the museum. We opted not to eat at “43,” the museum’s restaurant and went to Rise!, a great soufflé place about three miles away. Rise! has presidential tie-ins as we were seated at the  “Bush” table,  the 43rd president’s regular table evidenced by family signatures on the underside. George W, then the former president, was eating a crab soufflé at this table when advisors called to say Osama bin laden had been killed. Another regular Rise patron is Chandler Roosevelt Lindsley, granddaughter of Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt, who lives in the Dallas area. You can purchase her cookie booklet there.

Bananas Foster Souffle at Rise!

Also, you can include a trip to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas to learn more about the John F. Kennedy assassination.

Daughter Mary Grace poses by the Presidential limousine at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library on the Texas A&M campus.

George H.W. Bush, Texas A&M University, library in College Station covers the Gulf war, but it was the Bushes public service and their time in China with the CIA that I found most fascinating. A good time to go is in May when the drive leading to the library is surrounded by Texas bluebonnets.

LBJ, University of Texas, library in Austin featured a life-sized mechanical LBJ wearing a cowboy hat sharing folksy stories when I visited 10 years ago. That exhibit has since been replaced by LBJ in a suit in the Oval Office. I haven’t seen it, but I think the former captures his persona better.

Bill Clinton, Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas: The middle of the first floor has an interesting timeline of important events during the time of the Clinton administration, 1993-2001, with the daily schedule of Clinton’s almost 3,000 days in office. Press the appropriate button, and you get “a day in the life.”  The museum gives great views of downtown Little Rock and the Arkansas River. Through April 2, there’s an exhibit on Beatlemania!

Downtown Little Rock view from Clinton library

Ulysses S. Grant Library at Mississippi State!

Presidential  libraries are 21st century creations, but some earlier presidents have foundations that administer birthplaces, libraries and museums. In an ironic move, Mississippi State University is now home to the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library. Yes, you read that right, a former Confederate state houses the library of the former general of the Union army. After a complicated and fascinating dispute that is still in litigation, a MSU history professor had the Grant papers and artifacts moved from Southern Illinois University to MSU in 2012. Read more here.

Harry S. Truman

A couple of years ago we were traveling and found our hotel in Independence, Mo, just outside Kansas City, and the home of Harry S. Truman.

Truman Walked the Streets
Truman Walked the Streets

There wasn’t enough time to visit the presidential library. However, I loved seeing the silhouette signs around town of Truman to depict how he walked everywhere. I’m also amazed at how just spending 30 minutes in a place where a president lived lived piqued my interest in the Truman administration – so much that I downloaded David McCullough’s wonderful biography of the 33rd president.

A Bit of Presidential Trivia

I’m still fascinated by this information I picked up on a trip to Washington, D.C. last May. Two grandsons of our 10th president, John Tyler, are still living! Read more here.

So on this President’s Day, I think I’ll forgo the furniture store sales and read up on one of the presidents. Can anyone suggest a book or a movie?

Kickstands and Wedding Plans-Bridal Gown Shopping

Saying yes to THE dress means having to say no to some wonderful dresses and a wonderful bridal boutique.

In planning a wedding, there are a lot of side stories that don’t get shared in the Sunday newspaper write-up or even in the reception toasts.

My older daughter, Claire, is getting married in April, and we spent last weekend bridal gown shopping.  I’ve got to say we have more pictures of that experience than we have from my entire wedding and honeymoon .

In fact, we have more photos from the places where we did not buy than from my wedding. On that note, I want to give a shoutout to Bridal Boutique in Lewisville, Texas for their customer service.

The bride ended up buying a gown elsewhere and is thrilled with her choice. But she was momentarily sad that Bridal Boutique didn’t get the sale and Carol, our consultant, didn’t get the commission.

I’m enjoying learning about the bridal industry, and Bridal Boutique is the poster child for customer service. For starters, you walk in and a chalkboard lettering welcomes the brides with appointments –25 on the Saturday we were there — by name and wedding date.

Soon after check-in, your party is offered champagne. The consultant brings in the gowns that match your style and Pinterest postings. The consultant seems genuinely interested in the bride, the engagement ring, how she met the groom, how the proposal went and how the lighting in the wedding and reception venue will be. The store manager swings by a couple of times with more words of welcome and more champagne.

Behind the scenes, Bridal Boutique has adapted well to technology and warranted this article in Entrepreneur magazine. Apparently, they are doing a lot of things right. Bridal Boutique opened in 1990 in Lewisville, 25 miles north of Dallas. It has expanded several times, taking in what was once a bank and a Masonic Hall downtown. In fact the entire town of Lewisville has embraced the wedding industry–there’s a bakery, wedding rental business, alterations, separate shop for bridesmaids and mother of the brides, even a wedding chapel in its historic old Main Street.

As I am learning there is money to be made in this industry, I am particularly interested in small town bridal gown destinations. Although Lewisville is a fast-growing Dallas suburb, it’s old downtown has small-town charm. We didn’t make it to Brinkley, a town of little more than 3,000 in Arkansas, but many friends have and walked away with a gown from Low’s there. Low’s opened in 1977 when a pharmacist’s wife began selling a few gowns upstairs above the drug store. It’s now housed in  a restored railroad hotel and sells more than 5,000 gowns a year (The Lewisville store,  no small volume store, sells 1,500 a year)

Claire ended up finding the perfect dress in a nice boutique but the  the decor looked more like the waiting room at H&R Block than the fairy-tale like baroque furnishings of the Lewisville store. And the customer service was lacking.

Out of respect for the bride, I’ll save pictures of the dress until the wedding day. Suffice it to say she looks stunning. It was the  right choice, but we’ll always remember the place in Lewisville, Texas where she didn’t say “yes.”

 

 

Let Us Talk About Lettuce

I’ve become so interested in growing lettuce that I recently took a trip to Doodley Dee’s, a USDA certified organic aquaponics produce farm in Harrison County, Texas, just over the state line from Shreveport.

You can find their romaine lettuce in salads at Shreveport’s Wine Country, but most all of their produce goes to public school cafeterias in a Texas Farms to School program. Doodley Dee’s does not  operate a farm stand, but they expect to sell their lettuce to Whole Foods when it opens in Shreveport this fall. I intend to buy some.

Farmer Kevin Schmidt explains aquaponics farming
Farmer Kevin Schmidt explains aquaponics farming

Aquaponics is a system of raising fish  — koi in the case of Doodley Dee’s — and using its waste to fertilize the plants, which are grown in water rather than in the field. Farmer Kevin Schmidt, who operates Doodley Dee’s, says aquaponics is eight times more efficient than growing produce in the field.

I’m not getting into aquaponics or commercial production, but I was looking for ideas on growing more lettuce and creating a small rain barrel system. (Doodley Dee’s has an elaborate setup of water wheels, ponds, canals and barrels to capture just about every inch of rain that falls on its property).

Romaine lettuce at Doodley Dee's
Romaine lettuce at Doodley Dee’s

You don’t see much lettuce at the farmer’s market (doesn’t grow well in the summer around here). But with the cooler weather this week, I’m getting itchy to plant the organic lettuce seeds that I bought recently. After consulting with the LSU AgCenter, I’ll wait until next month.

My seeds are ready for planting, but I'll wait until September
My seeds are ready for planting, but I’ll wait until September

We removed our withered tomato plants over the weekend, and the garden spot is bare save for a few herbs and pepper plants. Last winter, I had good luck growing arugula and butter crunch lettuce, so I’m going to give them a try again this fall.

We eat a lot of salads so I’ll use all of what I grow in the garden, buy more at the store and get some Doodley Dee’s when Whole Foods opens (a Mississippi company called Salad Days has a nice assortment of lettuce in the Jackson WF).

I’m glad to discover that lettuce can be grown locally, in a commercial operation like Doodley Dee’s or even in my own backyard garden.

Doodley Dee’s Farm website.  Tomatoes and other vegetables are also grown on the farm, and a food forest with fruit trees is also under development.  There’s an event venue for meetings, weddings, etc. Check out his YouTube videos on the aquaponics process.

Want to grow your own lettuce? Here’s some helpful information.

LSU AgCenter article on growing lettuce

LSU AgCenter video on growing and how to harvest lettuce

Southern Living article on growing lettuce

 

 

 

Tour a College Campus on a Bicycle

If you have a child going off to college this month, chances are you’ll be hauling a bicycle as well as dorm décor to campus. You may want to rethink the bicycle.

That comes from someone who has been around for six to eight move-out days in May and seen the racks full of abandoned bikes. Big schools like LSU have regular bike auctions to at least try to make some money on impounding so many of them.

I have a freshman Schwinn in my garage now that’s never been ridden. What I will suggest is pack up your own bicycle and explore a college campus on two wheels – one your child or younger sibling is attending, your alma mater or one near you.

If you can go early in the morning to beat the heat, August is a great month to bicycle a campus in the quiet before fall semester begins. School breaks – spring, fall and Christmas, also are good times.

Or you can do as my husband and I did a few years ago and choose a busier time. In our case, it was Game Day at Texas A&M, one of the largest campuses in the country.

“Are you kidding?” I asked when he suggested it. We were the only ones on bicycles that day, but It turned out to be a great ride. We got to watch the Corps of Cadets march to the stadium, ride around the academic buildings in peace and sample some of the Game Day atmosphere.

Bicycling at Texas A&M
Daughter Mary Grace riding on beautiful (and quiet) day after Thanksgiving ride on A&M campus

Take some time and explore a campus on two wheels. It doesn’t matter if the college is large or small, I promise you’ll discover something new.

I frequently bicycle around LSU Shreveport, a place where I worked for more than 15 years, and see things that I never noticed driving to work.

A campus doesn’t have to be on this “bike friendly” list to enjoy, but if you are looking for one that fits that description, check this list out.

Sunday bicycle ride LSU Shreveport
Seen on a Sunday springtime bicycle ride through LSU Shreveport

Small Town Bicycling: Jefferson, Texas

I’ve cycled on city streets,  rural roads and traffic-free paths in urban and rural settings. But the cycling I like best is riding the streets of a small town.

I like quiet streets, where your bike is transportation  — from the bed & breakfast to the library, to the bakery for lunch, to the grocery store and to church.

When I moved to Shreveport more than 30 years ago, people told me about the east Texas town of Jefferson, an hour away. It has been a favorite bicycling destination ever since. Jefferson is similar to my hometown of Aberdeen, Mississippi, as it was once was a prosperous river port that was bypassed by the early railroads.

Jefferson eventually got a railroad, but not before other Texas rail cities grew faster. Thankfully, must of homes and historic buildings from Jefferson’s heyday have been preserved. At least 70 or so are on the National and Texas historic registers.

Downtown is filled with antique shops, restaurants and an old-timey general store. The downtown district is entirely walkable too, but on a bicycle you can pedal along the side streets and see more of the historic homes. There are antebellum Greek Revivals, gingerbread Victorian mansions and cottages, Italianates and just about every architectural design.

Jefferson isn’t as affluent as Fredericksburg  or other tourist towns you might find over in the Texas Hill Country. But Jefferson has an interesting blend of historic charm, eccentric personalities and authentic everyday experiences you would expect in a southern town of about 2,000 people trying to make it in today’s world.

And as a former newspaper person, I’m amused that Jefferson’s weekly newspaper is the Jefferson Jimplecute. The name is an acronym for the paper’s motto: Joining Industry, Manufacturing, Planting, Labor, Energy, Capital (in) Unity Together Everlastingly. But I like the legend that a former publisher dropped the type tray, and the letters that spilled out spelled “Jimblecute.”

Jefferson is full of those kinds of stories that you can hear over breakfast at the B&B, on the ghost tour or over a 5-cent cup of coffee at the Jefferson General Store.

Here’s a photo gallery taken from two recent  trips. Click on the photos to learn more about the places. We recently went on a sleepy July day, but if you go to jefferson-texas.com you can learn about special events throughout the year when the town is more alive.

A few of the bed & breakfast homes may have bicycles  to use, but you need to plan on bringing your own. You also can expand your sightseeing options by taking a carriage ride, riverboat ride on the scenic Big Cypress Bayou or a steam train during special events. 

If you’re looking for another nearby town to bicycle around, I’d recommend Marshall just 17 miles away. There’s a wonderful old downtown department store that has been renovated into shops. You can read about it here.

And if you are more of a road cyclist, USA Today has some suggested routes around Jefferson and nearby Caddo Lake in its Travel section.

David and Jane after a hot July bicycle ride
David and Jane after a hot July bicycle ride

 

 

Tomatoes Day 21: The Tomatoes and Bushel Baskets of Jacksonville, Texas

We have frequently driven through Jacksonville, Texas, on our way to visit family in Texas and, later, our daughters at Texas A&M in College Station.

We miss going through Jacksonville, where the brown, stoned-fenced football stadium is called the Tomato Bowl. Jacksonville is known for its sweet tomatoes, and there’s a festival the second Saturday in June to celebrate the crop. No worry that you missed it. If you are in Shreveport you can buy Jacksonville tomatoes at the Shreveport Farmers Market.

But in addition to tomatoes, Jacksonville is known as the home of the Texas Basket Company, which has been around since 1919. You’ve seen their bushel and peck baskets with handles at farmer’s markets and supermarket produce sections. Many of our Texas trips included a stop at the Texas Basket Company seconds yard to find bargains. There is also a gift shop. Texas Basket Company is the largest commercial basket manufacturer of its kind in the United States. More here.

I like looking agrarian taking one of those baskets to pick blueberries or just gather tomatoes and cucumbers from my own backyard.

Jacksonville is 115 miles southwest of Shreveport. The Texas Basket Company is at 100 Myrtle Drive just off U.S.  79  as you enter town. The gift shop is closed Sundays.

Tomatoes Day 20: Maters, Taters and Skwash in Lindale, Texas

On my way to pick up a bicycle in Mineola, Texas, last month, I passed Duck Creek Produce on U.S. 69 north of Lindale. The phonetic spelling of vegetables got my attention, and I had to stop.

Apparently, it’s creative marketing that has attracted not only highway passengers but notables such as comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who posted about it on his Facebook page. You can read more about Duck Creek Produce here.

On different days the sign may tout Qcomeburs or Hallopinyos.

In the photo above I was trying to figure out the sign. Does it say “Lois Aggie Onion?” I wondered. No, it was  straightforward. The “1015 Aggie Onion” is a super sweet onion developed by a Texas A&M horticulture professor.

We bought some and also picked up a jar of peppers and some jelly.  We passed on the tomatoes because we have plenty in our backyard, but they looked good. Much of the produce is grown on a farm right behind the stand.

Owner Jack Roach, who has farmed the area for more than 40 years, didn’t want his picture made. And, frankly I found the “No Change” sign a little off-putting. We made sure we had the exact amount for our purchases.

No change
No change

But judging from the phonetic signs (including this one near the check out — any one item $1), I’d say Farmer Jack must have a friendly side with a sense of humor.

Lindale Any One (756 x 803)

Austin: Whole Foods, Farmers Market and Veloway Snake Crossing!

Carrots at Austin Farmers Market

A quick  trip to Austin, TX on our way back from a wedding proved to be more farmstand than kickstand. The flagship Whole Food Store in downtown Austin is a vacation destination in itself for this small town girl who grew up grocery shopping at places like Piggly Wiggly and Jitney Jungle.

After leaving Whole Foods with a supply of chia seeds and lentil chips but still feeling like country bumpkins, we checked out the downtown farmers market on Guadalupe, where you can buy hibiscus tea and support humanitarian work in Africa, get juice from Drink Daily Greens and help those battling breast cancer or buy some purple artichoke flowers, which seemed to be everywhere.

After enough munching to sustain us to the next meal, my husband and I stopped in a bike shop and were directed to the Austin Veloway for the best in local cycling.

Located in southwest Austin adjacent to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the veloway is far from downtown Austin culture and seemed to attract a mix of suburban families with bikes and rollerblades and semi-pro cyclists perfecting their speed on the 3.1-mile loop. No pedestrians or joggers are allowed on the veloway.

 

Veloway Sign     Snake Crossing

The asphalt path is 23-feet wide so there is enough room for everybody but after riding the loop again and again, we quickly became bored and moved on. The wildflowers were lovely but there is little shade. It’s mostly flat with a steep hill in the last mile called Mt. Everest. It comes suddenly after a sharp turn but there is a warning sign to help you build up speed. There’s also a “Caution: Rattlesnake Crossing” sign. I appreciated the warning but fortunately we saw no snakes.

Austin is a great city to revisit & next time we’ll explore more bicycling options.