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Hill_country_culture
Feature
Long may she wave
Kerrville businesses proudly display state flag

No one really knows who designed the Texas Lone Star flag. Opinions vary. Our extensive research on the flag’s designer led us to Brett Derbes, Ph.D., director of research and managing editor of the Handbook of Texas to set the record straight.

Brett’s summation is noted in the Handbook of Texas Online that states, “In 1989, the Texas legislature celebrated the sesquicentennial of the Lone Star flag by incorrectly recognizing Dr. Charles B. Stewart as the flag’s designer and also incorrectly recognizing Thomas Barnett, Sterling C. Robertson, Thomas J. Gazley and Richard Ellis, Lorenzo de Zavala and William B. Scates, the 1836 flag committee, as the 1839 committee that approved the design for the Lone Star flag. The legislature corrected these mistakes in 1992 by acknowledging that the actual designer of the Lone Star flag is unknown and by recognizing senators William Wharton and Oliver Jones (two of the four Congressional committee members who introduced the bill) for their efforts in adopting the flag.”

The identity of the “Betsy Ross” of Texas may never be known, but it’s a fact that this iconic flag, the last of the six flags to have flown over Texas, is flown with pride seemingly everywhere.

Arguably it might be considered the most publicly displayed flag in the country. Locally, it’s hard to find a street without at least one Texas flag hanging alongside the U.S. flag at public buildings, private residences, auto dealerships, realtors and banks.

Local Pride

Texas and American flags front the Community First National Bank, and Justin Foster, the bank’s VP, explained the company’s decision to display them.

“Here at Community First National Bank, we choose to fly the Texas flag due to a tremendous sense of pride in our state. For me, personally, flying the Texas flag reminds me of the struggles and sacrifices of those who fought at the Alamo, Goliad and San Jacinto. It reminds me that being a Texan carries a certain moral code and you need to stand up for what you believe in and for what is right. My family has been in Texas since the early 1800s, and these values are what carried them forward and helped them grow and prosper. Whether you were born here or just got here as quickly as you could, being a Texan isn’t just where you live; it’s a way of life.”

American and Texas flags also hang at Barb’s Flower Barn at the junction of Francisco Lemos and Water streets.

“We fly the flags because we are proud Texans and Americans,” said owner Barbara Walker. “My husband is a Marine. My dad has been working on Texas ranches all his life. In fact, the ranch we live on has been in the family for four generations.”

Visitors to Schreiner University will also see a Texas flag on campus. Toby Appleton, marketing and communications manager, explains the significance of displaying the flag. “At Schreiner University, we fly the Lone Star flag proudly in the center of our campus. Named after Texas Ranger and “Father of the Texas Hill Country” Capt. Charles Schreiner, Schreiner University is uniquely Texan and a product of the soil in which it was born. In 1923, the vision of Capt. Schreiner and the Presbytery of West Texas created the maverick institution known today as Schreiner University. A Schreiner student’s story is one of hope and achievement, just like the great state of Texas we call home.”

Whether at a business or a residence, those who raise the Texas flag do so with a keen sense of honor. Perhaps Mitzi Burton, general manager of Billy Gene’s Restaurant, said it best in a few succinct words: “We’re just proud to be Texans.”


Hill_country_culture
Sweet & Savory
Traveling tastes
From a land of exploration, cattle drives and pioneers comes a road-ready style of cooking — the beloved chuck wagon

Long before the urban sprawl in San Antonio and the Hill Country became a favorite tourist destination, thousands of cowboys drove longhorns out of San Antonio toward Waco and Fort Worth. The great Texas cattle drives started in the 1860s to supply the growing demand for beef after the Civil War. From about 1865, cowboys herded over five million cattle to markets to the north while cementing the image of Texas and the legendary cowboys we admire today. The two most famous trails starting in Texas were the Chisholm Trail and the Goodnight-Loving Trail. The Chisholm trail brushed the Hill Country region as they drove herds to the Kansas stockyards where they were shipped via train across America.

From these trails was born what we know today as the chuck wagon, invented by Charles Goodnight. Charles moved to Texas in 1846 when he was 10 with his mother and stepfather, Hiram Daugherty. In 1857, Goodnight joined the Texas Rangers, then became a cattle rancher in the Texas Panhandle.

In the early days, it was a cowboy’s responsibility to come up with his meals and to make do with what he had. In 1866, Goodnight realized hiring good cowboys willing to spend long and dangerous weeks on a trail drive would require finding a way to feed them well. Goodnight wanted a way to have a mobile kitchen to feed and keep his hands happy. He modified the Studebaker wagon, a durable army-surplus wagon, sturdy enough to handle the rugged trails. He added a “chuck box” to the back of the wagon with drawers and shelves for storage space and a hinged lid to provide a flat working surface. A water barrel was also attached to the wagon and canvas was hung underneath to carry firewood. It was also outfitted to hold the cowboy’s personal effects and bedrolls.

Chuck wagon food typically included easy-to-preserve items like potatoes, salted meats, coffee, dried fruit, flour, sugar and sourdough starter. Contrary to popular Western films, beans weren’t cooked often due to how long they took to prepare. Food would also be gathered as they traveled. There was no fresh fruit, vegetables or eggs available, and the meat was culled from the herd. If the cook had the time and was in a good mood, he would make fruit hand pies for dessert or an apple cobbler. On cattle drives, it was common for the cook who ran the wagon to be second in authority only to the “trail boss.” He would often act as a cook, barber, dentist and banker.

Cooking was done in Dutch ovens hanging over a fire or to the side using hot coals around them or on the lid, depending on what they were cooking. A cobbler would need coals on top to properly cook the crust of a cobbler, while a stew would be mainly cooked from the bottom. Cast iron skillets and large metal coffee pots were also essential cooking equipment. The only crockery on the trail would have been the crock which held the cook’s sourdough starter. It was wrapped in burlap and stowed safely until the next camp was made. Every cowboy knew not to mess with the crock because that was what would give them hot delicious rolls for supper. Lard was carried in covered tins for the base to make pie dough.

I had the privilege of seeing a vintage chuck wagon, circa the late 1800s, owned by Mel Ellenwood in Comfort, Texas. The chuck wagon was purchased in the Fort Worth area by Mel to use for his Cowboy Chuck wagon catering business. He has an extensive collection of Dutch ovens and a wealth of knowledge about the daily life of a chuck wagon cook. Mel has been offering a “taste” of the cowboy life for more than 40 years and has loved every minute of it. His favorite cowboy saying, “Go ahead and eat with your fingers, the food is clean.”

Want to try your hand at chuck wagon cooking? Lard-only pie crust is one of the flakiest crusts you can make. My mother, who comes from a long line of ranchers, only used lard in pie crust, and her pies were always in high demand from family and friends during round-ups.


Hill_country_culture
Feature
Style and grace
Despite changing social mores, Southern courtesy endures through generations

Mindy Wendele is no stranger to many in the area. She was born in Kerrville and is a proud fourth-generation resident of Kerr County and a sixth-generation Texan. She has been a respected member of the community and workforce, including stints held as director of business programs for the city of Kerrville and, most recently, executive director of Families and Literacy. Her latest endeavor is an entrepreneurial startup, Social Graces by Mindy Wendele, an etiquette consulting firm centered on helping people build confidence and kindness.

We sat down with this gracious lady to discuss how etiquette has changed over the last 100 years — since the days of her grandparents and great-grandparents.

“First off, no matter what their social or economic standing, our forefathers and mothers took pride in their personal appearance, their manners and social protocols,” Mindy said. “They knew that first impressions had to be positive, and by developing proper behavioral skills, they and their children would be prepared to handle most any situation. Throughout the ages, youngsters have been taught at a very young age to show respect for their elders. Ma’am and sir flow naturally, as do please and thank you.”

The evolution of greetings

As for greetings and introductions, things have changed. It has always been proper behavior to offer a firm handshake or even a light hug.

Mindy noted that, in 2020, “We’ve had to replace those greetings with other mechanisms. I do recommend strong eye contact and a slight lean-in toward the person you are meeting.”

As far as mask etiquette goes, “When circumstances permit you to remove your mask, fold it into itself and stow it away in a shirt pocket, folio or purse.”

Proper communication

With regard to communication skills, Mindy noted how accepted practices have changed in both social and business environments.

“Not too many years ago, all invitations to weddings, parties or someone’s home for dinner were handwritten by the host — most likely the woman of the house. Likewise, a written response to accept or decline was expected. In today’s world, although invites should still be printed and mailed for specialty events and occasions, many people opt to invite via email or text for casual gatherings or meetups, which is totally acceptable. As for business meetings, it is often the norm to use electronic programming done through Zoom or Go To Meeting apps for business or group gatherings.”

She said that what has not changed is the need to RSVP — no matter how the invitation is received.

“Some things should stay at a level of formality. Business manners still leave a powerful impression on those we encounter, no matter if the meeting is in person or online.”

She also sees the need to dress properly for meetings — even the online kind.

“It is still imperative that you dress the part. Even if you choose to wear shorts and flip-flops, dress properly from the waist up for those online meetings. The message you send in a non-office setting should reflect the same business atmosphere as you would in a corporate office.”

Dress codes through the ages

Mindy recalled the early ’60s, when she watched her father dress to go to the Arcadia Theatre.

“My Dad wore a neatly-pressed suit, tie, hat and polished shoes. The same attire would be used for church and social celebrations. Most men wore hats, whether in urban or rural settings, and they were taught to remove their hats and stow them accordingly. Women would not dream of wearing anything less than a fitted dress or suit with hosiery and heels.”

Attire is now more relaxed, she noted.

“It’s common to see jeans and crisp shirts at church and social settings, and in the business world, we’ve become accustomed to the practice of Casual Fridays. The criteria, however, is always to be neat and clean.”

Dining — then and now

Social practices differ at the dining table as well.

“A hundred years ago, it was acceptable to place a cigar and matchbox on the table,” Mindy said, “but that practice went by the wayside decades ago. We have different criteria now. It is unacceptable to place your cellphone on the table or to even have it turned on while dining. Stow it away in a pocket or handbag, but never on the table.”

As for the table itself, “Your table settings and decor should always be a complement to the meal. I remember my mother setting a beautiful table with our good china, silverware and stemware. She had saved for years to get a perfect set of 12 place settings, but we only used it for special occasions. Don’t do that; haul it out and enjoy it every day.”

Never out of style

Mindy feels the time is right to advocate for improved manners.

“From time to time, I’ve witnessed a lack of common courtesy. Everyone should realize that little things count, including opening doors, giving up your seat to an older person, making good eye contact and being attentive. Be kind.”

Her company, Social Graces by Mindy Wendele “provides group training for corporate and small business and one-on-one preparation for university students entering the job market. For the younger set, we provide age-appropriate tips and training through classes and cotillions. All services are tailor-made for the client.”


Hill_country_culture
Feature
Horned history
How a Texas cattleman created the species that defines the state

The longhorn has become synonymous with Texas history and pride. Growing up, when I would travel outside of the state, I was often asked things like: do you have a horse, a longhorn, a ranch, an oil well? Are you surrounded by bluebonnets? People see these things as a part of who we are as Texans. The funny thing is, apart from being surrounded by bluebonnets in the spring, I have none of these things. However, we as a family have the honor of the Texas longhorn being a part of our family history. My husband, Greg Richards, is the great-nephew of Milby Butler — the man credited with breeding what is known today as the Texas longhorn.

The George Washington Butler family came by ox train as pioneers to live between Houston and Galveston in 1855. Milby was 9 at the time. They lived in the grassy lowlands of Texas. It is believed that they were the first family to settle in the area that would later be known as League City. George served as postmaster in League City and as Galveston County’s commissioner for six years. He also built the very first school in League City on his own land to be used by his children and neighbors.

George was a lifelong cattleman credited with bringing Brahman cattle to Texas around 1883. Despite George’s encouragement of his sons to pursue other careers, being a cattleman was in his son Milby’s blood.

About 1908, the OT cattle brand was passed on to Milby from his father. The “OT” brand is one of the most famous cattle brands in Texas history; it covers hundreds of thousands of longhorns. George Washington Butler, was actually called “Mr. Otee.”

Milby was born Jan. 31, 1889, and died Oct. 16, 1971, and was one of six children. His sister, Mary Butler Singletary, was Greg’s great-grandmother.

Back in 1923, Milby developed the strain of the now iconic Texas longhorn, often referred to as the “True Texas Longhorn.” The double twist in the horns of the females of this breed are one of the most distinct and widely known characteristics of the Butler longhorn. Milby always carefully handpicked his cows and the sire bull that he believed would yield the best length and double corkscrew. He always used white and roan bulls to sire with. The herd was originally red and brown, but as a result of breeding white bulls to solid cows, the color became mostly white with red ears. They were considered to be larger in frame than most other southeast Texas cattle.

His identifiable line of Butler longhorns can be traced back in an unbroken bloodline to the native big horned cattle of East Texas and the Texas Gulf Coast. In 1960, his longhorn bull “Classic” sold for $1 million at the Houston Livestock show.

“You can study longhorns all of your life,” Milby once said, “but you can never truly know the animals. I just like the cattle and respect them; I don’t claim to know a lot about longhorns.” Despite his claim to not be an expert, he is widely known as the most influential breeder in the history of the longhorn.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the longhorns were on the verge of extinction. Thanks to the efforts of seven pioneer breeders and a wildlife refuge, they are flourishing again today. The Butler breeders of today are helping to carry on this iconic tradition for future generations.

The Butler family donated the first mascot, Bevo, to the University of Texas in 1958.

They were also tasked with supplying the herd of cattle needed in the filming of the 1960 version of “The Alamo,” starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett. They used a herd of longhorn but, as a joke, slipped one zebu, a hump-backed species originating in South Asia, into the herd. She can be seen among her long-horned compatriots in one of the scenes.