Monday, November 9, 2020



Fall of the year always sets my mind on the past. I’m not sure why. Autumn is my favorite time of year and I grow nostalgic remembering all the good times. One of my favorite things to do is immerse myself in my surroundings, especially the history. I guess as I get older, I am more aware of the fragility of time. Time passes and we forget so much of it. I want to be remembered and I want to remember. So, I’m constantly digging into the history of local places. What went on here? Who lived there? What were their lives like? I tend to use some of these facts I learn in my books in one way or the other. So, one of the highlights of my life are day trips I take for research purposes. I don’t mix with people; I just drive and look. Sometimes I park to take a picture, but for the most part I’m just observing the world from the car window. I’m not complaining, I take the dogs and a few cold drinks and have a good time. Sometimes we even grab a burger and stop to have a picnic. Before I go, however, I dig online or in books to learn as much history and background about a place as I can.

I’m so lucky to live where I do, surrounded by such beauty. I’ve set books from Central Texas to South Louisiana. I’ve often said I can drive in any direction and soon I’ll pass the locale where one of my characters ‘lives’. There are times when I just have to fight myself from turning down the road to go for a visit. Unfortunately, when I get there – the house isn’t there, and neither is the character. Oh well, they live quite well in my imagination.

This trip, I ventured down south of Austin. passing through Kerrville where the McCoy’s Tebow Ranch and so many of my Hell Yeah! Series are located. Next, I headed into the area where I envisioned the HILL COUNTRY HEART SERIES – UNCHAINED MELODY, SCARLET FEVER, and BOBBY DOES DALLAS – taking   place near Lost Maples State Park. I also took a shortcut through the Cowboy Capital of the World, Bandera, Texas, where Jacob McCoy’s best friend, Bowie Travis Malone (WELCOME TO MY WORLD), lives near the old army camp where a herd of camels was kept during the Civil War. The plan was for the US Army to replace horses with camels – but that idea went over like a lead balloon. Here’s a picture of a mural depicting that scene – courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Nevertheless, those camels made their mark in the area. Bowie keeps some at his ranch to celebrate the history of the place and there are even tales of ghost camels still roaming the canyonlands.    

Truthfully, today’s trip was just as much about traveling down memory lane as it was scoping out new locales. Before I left, I learned some neat stuff. Vanderpool, a town near my first destination of Lost Maples State Park was originally known as Bugscuffle. Hahahahaha! I love stuff like that. I also learned that Dale Evans was from Uvalde, TX another stopping spot on my journey. Do you remember Dale? Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

She was such a cowgirl icon – and married to cowboy Roy Rogers. Roy was her third husband. He took her raccoon hunting on their honeymoon. When they married, he was a widower with three little children. He wasn’t her first husband, however. She eloped when she was fourteen and had a son at 15. When she went to Hollywood at 28, they talked her into pretending she was 21 and that her 13-year old son was her little brother. Wow. She and Roy made 28 films together. Trigger, Roy’s horse, made 88 films – and he usually got top billing over Dale. I wonder how she felt about that.

Now, on to Lost Maples, the first place where I’ll get out and walk around. I have been here many times and when I show you a few photos, you’ll know why. Hold on…look at these.

This area is the only place in the South sporting a stand of Bigtooth Maples, honest to God maple syrup producing maples. They are a remnant of the last ice age, maintained by the many springs in the Sabinal Canyon. I love to walk through the leaves next to the Sabinal River and lift my face to smell the clean, chilly air. If I close my eyes, I can imagine the Comanche camped all around, or Longhorns being herded through to catch up with the cattle drives. At least I kept my eyes open enough to keep from falling down. Ha! Good times.

Just before I left the park, I found myself at Llama Rock. I was waiting for the ghost children to show up and giggle. People report feeling them touch you on the lower back and hearing them laugh. That’s all well and good until they choose to push – I would love to feel their little hands touching me, but I don’t want to go over the side. As you can tell – I survived.

Just twenty-eight miles south is Garner State Park – this is one of the places I’m looking at for future reference. It doesn’t have the maples, but it sure is pretty. Look and see.

Talk about fall color!! Almost as good as Vermont. Garner State Park sits on the Frio River. It isn’t famous for its maples, but it has cypress, oaks, persimmons and many others – lots of pretty water too.

Garner State Park is named after John Nance Gardner, otherwise known as Cactus Jack. He was Speaker of the House from 1931 to 1933 and the 32nd Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt. His nickname came from his zealous support for the prickly pear to be the state flower of Texas. Thankfully – the bluebonnet came out on top. Although…I can get the cactus to grow in my yard, but the bluebonnets are hard to get to seed. Even more interesting, is the fact that Cactus Jack ran for County Judge of Uvalde County, where Garner State Park is located. His opponent was a woman, Marinette Rheiner, a local rancher’s daughter. Interestingly enough, this was in 1893, long before women were given the right to vote. Now, he won – but she still held the upper hand. Marinette married Cactus Jack and became the 2nd lady of the United States. I guess, that’s a case of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’. 

Jack Garner was the first VP to ever really make the position one of power. He pushed Roosevelt’s New Deal through Congress – this was the legislation that created the REA, bringing electricity to rural America. Before that, only 2 percent of Texas farms had electricity. Let’s take a look at this couple at the inauguration in Washington D.C., photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

While I was at Garner State Park, I spoke to one of the Rangers, asking if this park had any ghost stories like the one at Lost Maples. I love to add things like this to my stories. The ranger told me yes, it did. I pestered him until he sat down on a bench and filled me in. Here we go…

Somewhere around 1905, a family named Juarez lived in a house near the Frio River. There were two beautiful girls in the family. The oldest was named Juanita and the youngest was named Maria. Her fondest dream was to find a man to love and settle down near her parents and have a family.

Juanita married first, a man named Gregorio, and became pregnant right away. Maria was happy for her sister, but envious also. She couldn’t wait until she could find someone to love.

One day, while visiting neighbors, Maria was swept off her feet by Anselmo Tobar, a ranch hand. They would secretly meet to walk hand in hand along the Frio at night. After a month or so, Anselmo proposed and Maria said yes. When she confided in her sister, Juanita’s husband wasn’t happy. Unbeknownst to Maria, Gregorio was in love with her. He found Maria alone and confessed how he felt, telling her he would leave Juanita and run off with Maria. Much to his dismay, she refused, saying Anselmo was the only man she loved.

Devastated, Gregorio took to hiding along the banks of the Frio to see Maria meet her lover. When they came near him one night, he stepped out to confront them, ranting with crazed eyes. Anselmo tried to protect her, but Gregorio pulled a gun and shot her in the chest. Blood from her pierced heart poured out on the rocky shores of the Frio.

The Ranger told me that if I would walk along the Frio at night, I might see Maria as she haunts the park, seeking the peace and love that she’d long been denied. I told him I’d get my camera and be back soon!

By the time I returned home, I was tuckered. The trip was successful, however. I’d seen some beautiful places that would spark my imagination and serve as inspiration for coming books. All in all – not a bad day’s work.

Thanks for listening to me ramble - - Sable. 




Julie Lence said...

Fantastic blog, Sable!! Gorgeous colors along the rivers, and what a sad tale about Maria. I, too, like to get a feel for the land and imagine characters in old farm houses and the din of townsfolk in old towns. Thank you for sharing and happy exploring.

GiniRifkin said...

Dear Sable: Great post, the colors are amazing, you sure do have it all in Texas. Enjoyed the historical info, nostalgia and sad ghost story. Always a fan of Dale Evens, was her horse's name Buttercup? Sounds like she found her hero in the end.

Very fun post, thank you.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Thanks for the guided journey, Sable! Enjoyed it.