East Texas — The Setting
Beyond the Preconceptions
When folks think of Texas, they think of broad plains, cactus, and big skies. These land features are there, but this is just one of several striking landscapes. You can find the Staked Plains and Palo Duro canyon in the north, the hill country near the capital Austin, semi-tropical palm trees and citrus groves in far south McAllen, the Gulf Coast of Texas with its 70-mile ecologically rich barrier island, Padre Island, and the farms with rich black soil in Central Texas, and yes, the deserts and mountains of Far West Texas.
Piney Woods & Lakes
One of my very favorite areas is East Texas with its piney woods and large lakes. The extensive Piney Woods is the equivalent in size to the forests of the New England states combined. My husband and I lived there for two years, 1978-1980, and this area and this time are the setting for A Thing of Beauty. You will find tall Loblolly pines with huge cones and in spring delicate blooming dogwoods here. History is rich in this region. Some of the earliest Texas settlements were in East Texas: Nacogdoches and its early Spanish fort and Washington-on-the Brazos, the first capital of the Republic of Texas. The Big Thicket, now a Natural Reserve, once covered millions of acres and its remote, mysterious portions were unexplored for decades. The Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation in the Big Thicket shares the culture of Texas earliest residents at their June Pow Wow. Yes, you will see horses and cattle here — this is Texas. Oil and gas and lumber are still vital parts of the local economy. Tyler, Texas is the Rose Capital of the World and boasts the 14-acre Municipal Rose garden, and, in October, the Tyler Rose Festival. From spring through fall, one can buy beautiful cut roses from roadside vendors.
We found East Texas food outstanding, from Cajun to Barbeque to catfish and hushpuppies. At the House of Pies in the historic steamboat port of Jefferson, you will find delicious cornbread sandwiches and pies made from scratch.
Warm & Loving People
My seminary student husband and I were warmly welcomed and loved in our small country church, where I received an astounding variety of childcare advice from dear older ladies. When he could, my husband enjoyed fishing the farm “tanks” and East Texas lakes. Folks here shared their time, their hospitality, their rich, red tomatoes, and sweet, sweet iced tea. Upon visiting there a few years back, we saw a unique and welcoming sign for a cowboy church. The name of the congregation? “Bar None.”
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