Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
The founding of Fredericksburg, Texas, came about in 1846 owing to German influence, and you may still hear Texas German-a dialect spoken by the original settlers — in the streets.
There is a sign at the Pioneer Museum that greets you in German, “Willkommen,” or welcome. More than 12 percent of the population speaks Texas German today. You will also hear a lot of Spanish (14 percent), but English (72 percent) is largely spoken in this historic enclave where tourists come throughout the year, being drawn to history, weather (except in late summer), and wine. Many find their way to Boot Ranch, a highly regarded golf layout designed by the 1983 PGA champion, Hal Sutton.
This is the peach-growing capital of Texas, which ranks ninth in peach production in the U.S. Fredericksburg’s Enchanted Rock takes up 640 acres and is second in size only to Georgia’s Stone Mountain. In Fredericksburg, you are in the heart of the Texas Hill Country where many escape congestion in the city for a laidback lifestyle, immersed in a landscape that is as Western as you could imagine. Just up the road is where Lyndon Johnson’s clan migrated from Maxeys, Ga., to begin a new life.
German pioneers, led by Baron Otfried Han Freiherr von Meusebach, settled here in 1846, making peace with the Comanche Indians. Life was rugged. Life was hard, but history suggests that it was good. Perhaps that is why many prefer to retire here. There are festivals and attractions, a main street so wide you could taxi a Boeing 747 through town. There are beckoning shops and restaurants, accented by warm greetings and generous smiles everywhere you turn.
It is a town where one visit is not enough. You immediately sense that you want to return to the place where there are roadsides that proclaim, “Don’t Mess With Texas.” That has to do with avoiding the trashing of the roadsides, an outgrowth of the wildflower campaign of Lady Bird Johnson. Texas is one Southern state where roadside trash has not become an abomination, as it has in Georgia for example. What state is more littered than my beloved home state? There are billboards in Texas — but not one every first down like it is on Interstate 75. How does Texas keep its roadsides clean? “Well,” my friend Roger Cameron said after a reflective pause, “Texans just have pride in their state. It is important to us not to litter the countryside.”
Roger, a Midwesterner from Iowa, who was a recruiter of junior military officers for Fortune 500 companies, is an avid quail hunter. We met at a quail hunt in Albany. “You should come to Fredericksburg,” he said. “It is a special place.” Making the drive out to Roger and Rene’s ranch allowed for an exposure to a couple of brindled long horn cattle. It made you feel passionately Western, identifying with Gene Autry’s tune “Back in the Saddle Again.” I immediately began scanning the countryside for “the lowly jimson weed.” There is something real about those lyrics and Autry’s calming voice.
When Roger isn’t bringing down an elusive Bob White, he takes time to play golf. Hard work, which was his companion for years, should be linked with the outdoors in his view. There is nothing like a bird dog on a point and the rush that comes with the anticipation of a covey rise from the brush. With a seasoned eye and keen marksmanship, there is that joyful merging of shot and feathers. Supper’s on the ground.
As I took leave of a place that enriched all emotions, I thought of Georgia’s historical connection to Texas. Joanna Troutman, of Crawford Country, in response to an appeal for aid to the Texas cause, designed and made a flag of white silk with a blue five-pointed star, which became the Texas flag. Her flag accompanied a Georgia battalion which made its way West for the Texas Revolution.
Johanna, peaches, quail and a giant piece of granite made me feel very much at home — except for the absence of roadside trash.
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.