American Soup

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We canceled our Netflix effective yesterday and will pick up Amazon after our trip down south starting next week to visit friends, family and children.

We don’t watch much commercial TV, so I was watching programs about “American” arts, crafts, etc. on PBS.  

The many cultures that have melded to make America the culturally diverse nation we are have brought many wonderful artistic gifts with them.  I could list them, but to better understand, I recommend looking for the shows.

My point, however, is that all these wonderful cultures have made us rich in beauty.  Rich in music.  Rich in craftsmanship.  These cultures have other distinguishing qualities in common…strong family values and strong cultural values.  Over the centuries they have woven together to make us unique and united and all genuine Americans.  We are not African Americans, French Americans, Irish Americans or Native Americans, we are simply American.  Each culture has enriched our nation with the gifts each nationality brought into the mix.

Think about some of the top three or four events celebrated here annually:  St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year, etc.  

I’m saying all this because it struck me as I watched these programs is that 99% of us came for a better life. I’m aware some were brought here by force and some were invaded, but we are all NOW AMERICAN.  We aren’t here to takeover.

Unfortunately, some coming in over the last several decades have come to takeover.  They believe it is their destiny and duty.  That, beloved, is not dramatic news reported by a conspiratorial, radical group.  

We are the United States of America, many colors, many cultures, many hopes for our children.  

We have always taken in the refugees escaping tyrants, and immigrants.  We still do, everyday.  We are, at least, most of us, those very refugees and immigrants.

Let us be good and wise protectors of this wonderful culture soup called America. There are many mindsets ready to destroy this gift we call America.

Texas Hill Country – December 2014

On our route through Texas in December, 2014, we stopped and spend a week with Leonard’s Brother and Sister. Ken Long and wife, Tomoko (a transplant from Japan) and Anna Martin. We both wish they lived or we lived closer. They live in the Wimberley/Austin area of the great (country) of Texas.

(L to R) Ken, Anna & Leonard

(L to R) Ken, Anna & Leonard

When we left, I had notes of all we saw and did, but lost them in transit. I had to ask Ken to reconstruct this for me, so I am finally getting it down to share with you all.

From our visit with them we stopped off at Big Bend National Park on our way to meet Leonard’s other Sister, Martha Harriman (w/husband Del) for Christmas in California.

I actually did a couple of blogs, which you can find in the archives dated December, 2014 about our visit in Texas to The Harry Ransom Center in Austin. They have the largest collection of memorabilia from the movie, Gone With The Wind and our visit to Dick’s Classic Car Museum.

 

Dick’s Classic Car Museum in San Marcos, TX is another of those acres and acres, but under roof. He has cars I have never seen before, cars I have never heard of and some that are probably the last in existence. I took pictures of the hood ornaments while Sweet Husband captured digital pictures of the actual cars.

Our days were filled with warm visits, long walks, a gourmet meal prepared by Anna in Austin and a few uniquely Texas activities. I will do my best to do the visit and the area justice with just a few words and pictures.

Leonard and Ken played both Duplicate Bridge and Poker, coming in second in the first event and poorly in the second. Tomoko took me to her Texas Line Dancing Class. I actually used to be able to do that kind of thing – someone stole my balance, coordination and breath in the last few years.

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Tomoko treated us to a traditional Shabu Sahbu dinner. It is like fondue, only different. It is cooked on the table in a ceramic hibachi. Tomoko is an award winning cook, fun to watch, impossible to compete with.

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We drove to the little town of Fredericksburg, TX to eat at Hondo’s famous, “Boot Skootin’ Bar”. I felt like we were in a John Belushi movie. As it happened it was the same evening as their Christmas Parade.

On our way home we drove through Johnson City, TX to see their famous Christmas Light display – literally every tree and building is covered in lights – millions.

Wimberley has a monthly Market Day where you can buy handmade items, junk, crafts, food, clothing and probably live critters…acres and acres. It would take two full days to see it all. We purchased a piece of needle work from a booth who sells items made by children in an orphanage in Viet Nam. All the proceeds go to support the orphanage.

Then the piece de resistance was our liquor tour. This was an all day, totally unforgettable adventure.

First stop was a small micro-brewery called Real Ale Brewery. One simply drives up, pays one small fee and gets to stand there and “taste” their ale for as long as you like. We tasted one of each they had available, but knowing we had a full day of tasting we limited our time with these kind folks (BTW: everyone, but us, wore cowboy boots and Stetsons.) Their ale was quite good.

To clean our palate, we stopped at Golden Orchards (Peach orchard) and enjoyed some homemade peach ice cream – yum! Somewhere in this route we passed the Lyndon B. Johnson ranch and Presidential Library – we didn’t stop – just saying.

Peach Icecream

Stop three was Garrison Brothers Bourbon Distillery. In theory I understood that one cannot call their product “Bourbon” unless it is actually made in Kentucky. Texas, I believe thinks they can trump Kentucky, so they call it BOURBON. Don’t mess with Texas, as the saying goes.

We took a short and interesting tour of the distillery and were given a “taste” and our very own glass to keep at the end of the tour (I gave mine to my son, Tony, for his shot glass collection).

The distillery is so small that when they are ready to bottle their product (after ageing) they invite locals to come in to “volunteer” to help. They take home a bottle for their trouble. While there Ken signed up for the next event. He thought it would look good on his resume.

Final stop was at a vineyard and winery called Pedernales Cellars for a “tasting”. Here we also walked away with our very own glass to keep for sentimental reasons. The wine was excellent. I was surprised at the number of vineyards in the hill country of Texas, but they all make a fine wine according my Ken.

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I highly recommend a tour of this part of true Texas, I wish I could recommend Ken and Tomoko as personal tour guides, but not everyone rates this degree of grace.

I’m In Love with Buffalo Bill Cody

Cody, Wyoming was the first stop we made in Wyoming going from South Dakota to Yellowstone.  We (me, Leonard and my grand-wonder Aubrey) met our friend Tee-Gie Hamilton and her three precious grandchildren in Keystone, SD.  After three days of “playing” at Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park and soooooooooooo much more, we headed out toward Yellowstone.  We got as far as Cody, WY – totally exhausted.  We drove over the pass allowing the grands to actually play in snow at the top of the pass.  This is a rare opportunity for children from south Louisiana…and quite a wonderful sight to see.

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We got to see very little of Cody on this first trip because our goal was to spend the day showing the grands as much of Yellowstone as is possible in a day and where we were to work.  The bridge between Grant Village (where we were to work) and Old Faithful (our main goal) was completely closed, so the grands didn’t get to see it, but did enjoy Yellowstone Falls, the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, falls and Mammoth Springs before driving up to our friend’s home in Livingston, MT for a few days of rest.  We put the grands on a flight home to New Orleans from Bozeman on June 2nd (sniff).

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Our first day trip on our first day off was to Cody.  We (Tee-Gie, me and Leonard) packed our lunch and headed to The Center of the West Museum.  This is a must see stop, I would give it a minimum of two days, we had one.  This is just a tiny sample of the incredible western art (eye candy) available at this wonderful museum.

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We made a brief stop at the Cody Reservoir Dam, created for irrigation on the Shoshone River.  We went to the Irma Hotel for supper before heading back to Yellowstone.

Yes, the water up here is emerald green...I am used to brown.

Yes, the water up here is emerald green…I am used to brown.

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The Hotel was built by Bill Cody for his daughter, Irma and is still quite the show piece.  The bar in the salon is made of Rose Wood given to Bill Cody as a gift by Queen Victoria.

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After Leonard and I left Yellowstone for the summer we headed back to Cody for another afternoon at the museum and dinner at the Irma Hotel after a Wild West show done by local volunteers to raise money for local children’s charity done in the street next to the Irma Hotel. These volunteers portrayed Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Wild Bill Hitchcock.

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After dinner we enjoyed a true Cowboy Music Show featuring Dan Miller, his youngest daughter Hannah, Wendy Corr and Ed Cook – well worth the time and money (which was reasonable).  http://cowboymusicrevue.com/about-the-band  Check out more information on the band on this link.  So very talented.

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