Mother’s Day in the Texas Hill Country During COVID-19

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Bankersmith TX dancehall, complete with chickens

We started Mother’s Day with another wonderful morning at Emma’s Ranch in the Texas Hill Country.  I got up early and walked into the kitchen to spot deer just outside the window.  It just gave me a warm feeling inside.  After everyone was up, we spent time outside; with each outing Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Maggie’s dog) wanders just a bit farther from the barndamium.  We all shared in the breakfast-making duties.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Morning deer as seen through the kitchen window (and screen) at the J&J Crossing Ranch in the Texas Hill Country.

The shops open up at 11am on Sundays and we are heading back into Fredericksburg then.  Mass wasn’t an option today, since large group activities are still restricted due to the virus.  Odd since everyone walks around Fredericksburg with no mask on; capacities in the buildings are limited to 25%.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Original hospital for the German community in Fredericksburg, Texas. Now a restaurant and gift store.

There are less people walking around town today.  I suspect many made a day trip into Fredericksburg yesterday and today are at home enjoying Mother’s Day with their families.  The restaurants did have a lot of people celebrating with lunch/brunch.  We found a wonderful store with outdoor apparel and great walking shoes; I bought four pairs.  Sydney, the young saleswoman at Parts Unknown, was very helpful.  She is graduating from high school at the end of this month.  Her class is small enough that they will actually be able to hold a graduation ceremony, although the number of people she can invite is limited to two.  She is one of the lucky ones; most graduation ceremonies can’t take place this spring due to large group restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

Another favorite shop was the Rustic Star, a home accessories store.  They had wonderful woven baskets, very colorful.  They also had high end artificial floral items and great examples of the table arrangements you could make with them.  You can see them on their Facebook page.  I already have the trays they were using, so I got some of the flowers and greenery to make arrangements for my house.  It will be a fun project while my outside activities remain limited.  The Rustic Star was the only shop we went into that required masks-good for them.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. When not drinking the Texas wines, Maggie enjoyed a Lone Star, the National Beer of Texas and her grandfather’s favorite.

At some point, I put on a pair of my new walking shoes.  I didn’t buy that much in town, but we did a lot of looking and covered a lot of ground.  We ended our time in Fredericksburg back at the Grape Creek Tasting Room.  I passed on another tasting-Emma gets two free ones each day.  Emma and Maggie enjoyed another round and we bought some more wine to take home with us.  Maggie even joined their club.  She can get shipments in Washington, D.C. where she goes to school.  Not every state allows wine shipments.

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If Fred could wear a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19, then so could Natasha.

Afterwards, I drove back to the ranch giving another wave to masked Fred.  Our hope was to stop for a late lunch at Alamo Springs and try one of their famous burgers.  Unfortunately it was 3:35 (most of the shops in town close at 3 pm on Sunday), and Alamo Springs had closed at 2 pm.  Bummer.  They had lots of outside tables.  Emma said this was new.  Don’t know if it is to accommodate larger crowds or in response to the spacing requirements that have come out of social distancing.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Dawn and dusk were the best times to spot deer on the J&J Crossing Ranch.

Back at the ranch, Emma and I decided to spend some time outside.  Even though today is warmer, the breeze at the higher elevation where the barndamium is located means it was cool and comfortable on the porch.  Eventually, we decided it was a good day for a nap.  It is Mother’s Day after all and Rocky would want me to enjoy a nap if I had the chance.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Interior of the Dancehall at Bankersmith TX

They woke me up in time to go to Bankersmith, TX for the drive-in movie.  As a child, I went to drive-in movies at a theater in my hometown of Victoria, Texas.  Usually priced by car, the five of us would pack into the station wagon with food and drinks my mom had prepared for us.  We lived modestly and even though there was a concession stand, it was more economical to bring your own snacks.  It was a double feature.  You put a speaker on your car window.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The backyard at Bankersmith TX

These theaters had two screens, so you parked in the direction of the movie you wanted to see.  My daddy loved Westerns, musicals and Disney movies, so that is usually what we saw.  More than once my brother was caught watching the movie playing from the other direction.  Didn’t matter that he couldn’t hear what was being said; it was the pictures he was interested in.  I’ll say no more.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The “drive-in” movie in Bankersmith TX.

The “drive-in” at Bankersmith was a homemade set-up.  A frame of  2x4s was covered in a sheet and secured atop a metal trailer.  Bingo, a screen.  None of this inflatable stuff.  You parked in their parking lot, packed as close together as possible.  If you had a hatch-back or pick-up, you backed in and sat in the back or the bed.  Since we were in a sedan, we had to get there early for a front row “seat”.  No worries-there is free music, games, a bar, and food to keep us happy until the movie begins.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The ice house at Bankersmith TX.

Bankersmith TX is right on Old Hwy 9, the first paved road between Comfort and Fredericksburg.  The J&J Crossing Ranch is also on Hwy 9, so we were very close.   The ice house (known as Bankersmith TX) is located in Bankersmith, Texas,  a ghost town near the border of Kendall and Gillespie Counties.  The town was founded 1913 when a rail stop was secured at this location.  The town was named for Temple Smith, the banker who financed the railroad.  (He was known locally as-yes, you got it- Banker Smith.)  In the early 1940s the railroad abandoned this section of the rail line.  The town reached its peak population of 50 in the 1920s when there was a store, dancehall, lumberyard, and a post office.

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Goat Yoga at Bankersmith. Photo curtesy of Bankersmith TX.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The dancehall at Bankersmith TX.

I love the logo for the ice house and dance hall, Bankersmith TX, population 0.  I need one of those t-shirts.  After securing our prime location for the drive-in movie (we had stopped in earlier in the day and asked about what time to arrive), we went into the field behind the ice house.   The movie starts at 8:20 and it was recommended to us that we arrive between 7 and 7:30.  Sundays are a lot less crowded than Fridays or Saturdays.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. This old bus at Bankersmith TX served the dual purpose of being a goat playground with an entrance on one side and the stage backdrop on the other side.

You can’t miss the yard entrance, it is right next to an old passenger bus which is part of the goat pen on one side.  (Yes, they do goat yoga.)  On the opposite side, the side panel of the bus becomes the the backdrop of the “stage” (simply a wooden platform).  People sat on picnic tables around the yard.  We assumed the interior of the ice house was closed, but we were wrong.  Inside is a large room with the bar along one wall.  The toilets are off of this room.  From the yard, you walk through a smaller room with a pool table in it to reach the bar.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The bar at Bankersmith TX opened to the outside on this raised platform. Musicians played on the platform to the left.

The other side of the bar is open to a raised outdoor platform and that is where we ordered our dinner and drinks.  Local musicians sat on the platform playing for tips.  There was corn hole on the lawn and a children’s playground set.  Since the county has had only one case of COVID-19 everyone acted as if things were normal.  You might even forget for a while…but then you realize how incredibly risky it was to let the children crawl all over the playground equipment.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Our table in the yard at Bankersmith TX. Coming from an urban environment we are a little more COVID-19 cautious and chose the most isolated table. As you see, Maggie’s dog, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, was able to join us for the evening.

We had a great meal of pulled pork, fries, and Dr. Pepper.  Maggie opted for a Lone Star, the national beer of Texas.  Her grandfather “Pa” would have been so proud.  Longneck Lone Stars were his favorite beer-and he loved his beer!  Fitz (Maggie’s dog) was with us and was quite the hit with all the children.  He sat and took it all in, happy to not be left at home.

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There is a sequel headed our way, but we saw the original Top Gun at the “drive-in” movie parking lot at Bankersmith TX.

Afterwards, we sat in the car and enjoyed the film, Top Gun.  About now you are putting your aviator glasses on and bobbing you head to Danger Zone.  You can go up to the bar all night.  Regular menu service ends at 8 pm, but they have a special movie night menu with popcorn, candy, and drinks.  You can keep your tab open through the movie.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. A chicken dinner, or rather dinner with the chickens.  I had a lot of fun taking pictures at Bankersmith TX, but this one of the chickens on the table was my favorite.

Leaving the parking lot at the end of the movie wasn’t too bad, but we did watch a few cars come pretty close to knocking over the projector in the hurry to get out.  The drive back to the ranch was tough on an unfamiliar road with no lights, but we made it.  We did a little packing before heading to bed.  Contractors are coming in the morning to work on the 60-day punch list, so we want to be gone before then.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Moulton, Texas

It was a foggy morning, but most had burned off by the time we left the ranch at 8:30 am.   In addition to the gas stop, lunch stop, and necessary stop, we are taking a detour by Moulton, Texas.  My daddy is buried there and we always stop by the cemetery when we pass through this part of Texas.  Both sets of his grandparents had farms in Moulton and he happily spent his summers there during his childhood.  We knew that he would want to return; I am sure he is at peace listening to the chicken and cows.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The outdoor pavilion at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Moulton, Texas was set up appropriately spaced for Mother’s Day Mass.

We stopped by and saw the new covered pavilion at St. Joseph’s.  It has been open less than three years.  I have been going to the church feasts since I was a child.  Rocky too has rarely missed the annual event.  He went for the first time when he was only nine months old.  The pavilion was still set up for yesterday’s Mother’s Day Mass, with chairs appropriately spaced apart.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Miniature donkey farm, Moulton, Texas

Driving out of Moulton we saw a miniature donkey farm and some of the residents hunting for shade near the fence line.  After that it was back to Houston and the reality of COVID-19.  Happy Mother’s Day.  Stay safe and healthy during these unprecedented times.

–Natasha

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Bankersmith, Texas dancehall, complete with chickens

About travelbynatasha

I am a retired attorney who loves to travel. Several years ago I began working on a Century Club membership achieved by traveling to 100 "foreign" countries. Today, at 49 years of age the count is at 82. Many were visited on land based trips. Some were cruise ports. Some were dive sites. Most have been fascinating.
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