Dateline: February 25, 2013

Over the years I’ve visited various areas of the Texas Hill Country as an escape from the crowds, noise and  disarray of big cities. Even  when I was a country dweller, the backroads and pig trails of our diverse state called my roaming nature to snoop through the out of the way little towns and whistlestops looking for something fresh to pique my interest.

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When I was in my thirties (quite awhile back), a friend and his business partner leased a ranch for hunting on Hackberry Road in the canyon country of the east fork of the Nueces River. Back then the beautiful flowing Nueces wound back and forth across the road which twists and turns it’s way through the river canyon and mountains between Ranch Road 335 and Hwy. 41 where it comes back on top about 5 or 6 miles or so from the intersection of State Highways 41 and 83. I used to love the drive which was punctuated by sightings of Blackbuck Antelope, Fallow, Axis, and Sika deer, Aoudad, and Mouflon, Corsican and Barbado sheep. Wild turkey and native Whitetail deer rounded out the free roaming wildlife. The exotics had escaped from high fenced hunting ranches and proliferated in this cedar and rock infested area of the state.

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Back down Ranch Road 335 between Barksdale and the turn off to Jo Jan Van there are giraffe and camel and sable to be seen  and Las Palmas Ranch is guarded by  white walls topped by jagged shards of colored bottles imbedded along the top edge. The mailbox reads Gleannloch Farmes which, in my youth, was the Houston Arabian horse operation for millionaire Tom McNair. Herds of deer, both native and exotic roam along the river bottom under the pecan trees lining that section of the Nueces.

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I drove through the area as a diversion on Saturday afternoon and was saddened to see the negative impact drought has taken on the river and countryside. Winter is never pretty in this area of Texas and drough conditions certainly add to the melancholy brought on by a dreary view.

I  stayed in a room with a bath attached to Boots and Buckles Dance Hall in Camp Wood by a common wall and uncommon owner named Barbara who is a retired educator and an area native.017 1024x768

I enjoyed the companionship of multiple and varied personalities of which Camp Wood has an abundance. Everyone in Camp Wood is inter-related it seems and even the livestock seemed to share kinship with the townsfolk. There were several females who were, in my day, subject to make a chihuahua break a logging chain trying to follow them home. These country fried chicks were no more inclined to speak kindly of of each other regardless of familial association than broom jockeys in more metropolitan areas  but they do it in such a cornbread and black-eyed pea way that it sounds like imparting family history rather than slandering the competition.

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There was the usual smattering of local pickers and talent impersonators who preened and crowed to any and all that they thought might be impressed with a minor chord accompanied by an alley cat howl.  Musicians are by nature two steps due south of center and lack of notoriety due to small venues and  mediocre talent can be overcome by inflated self esteem and super powerful amplification. YeeHaw!!! If your ears can stand it and you’ll buy the beer and act sorta of impressed, these fine examples of backwoods bangers and twangers can be counted on to provide a few hours of entertainment and occasionally a tune worth a trip around the dance floor as well as regaling you with stories of their “been there and done that” musical accomplishments.

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I drank SEVERAL cold beers and one shot of Crown and tried my dangdest to mate my wrinkled bottom to a high back bar stool which was almost made for me.

On Saturday afternoon I drifted up Ranch Road 337 to the northside of town to chew on a rib or 5 from Two Fat Boys BBQ whose owner (and the only Fat Boy still involved) is a Santa Claus look alike with the moniker of “Chug” and a rather sunny disposition. My brother and I had sampled his wares and chatted with him for an hour several months previously and found both he and his bbq to our liking. The sides aren’t all that great but Chug is generous with the meat portions which make up for any deficiencies in the veggies.

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We visited and I took his photo and that of one of his “helpers” who stole the “Photogenic” title from Chug. Fact is she was a real cutie and mature enough to win a wink from yours truly.

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Chug offered me the use of a piece of fishing water and I accepted for a future date when it wasn’t so windy. He has a RV park and campground across the street from the river and it is for sale and kinda cool and managed by a double throwdown stand-in for a heartbreaker who shakes hands in a firm and honest fashion.


There are a couple of cafe/restaurants if you’re not hungry for Q. One of them is Casa Falcone which seems to do a good business and run by friendly folks and the other is Casa Sifuentes which is small but tidy and  has free chips and salsa.

The town overall is kinda punchy and inviting but as with everything else in Texas these days has a downside. Plenty of redneck yard art ( trash, junk and garbage) is eagerly waiting to be seen by passersby and  casual observers.

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The locals say that there are an abundance of meth labs in the surrounding rural locales and that the law has been keeping busy busting the lab rats who run them which must explain the fact that there actually were a few donuts for sale which hadn’t been scarfed up by the constabulary.  All in all, Camp Wood and the river there is worth a peek.

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That’s my opinion for what it’s worth. Taking everything into consideration, I still love this area of Texas and the characters who inhabit it. I will return, soon!

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