Friday, December 28, 2007

Rural Texas is Alive and Well

I am continuing to follow my muse on this holiday vacation. This morning, with nothing particular in mind, I decided to go on a FindaGrave mission to Bateman Cemetery near Red Rock and then head back to Bastrop for a thorough car cleaning. On an impulse, I looked to see if there were any other FindaGrave requests open that would fit into my plans. There was a request open for some Cottle graves in Fayette County near LaGrange. Not exactly on my way, but then what are muses for anyway? I decided I would drive a big circle in the country. It was a beautiful day for a country drive.

The turn for the Fayette County cemetery just happened to be at the same crossroads where the Weikel Bakery is located, so I made my first stop and picked up some breakfast rolls for Mother. The little gift store that is located adjacent to the bakery is never open when I'm there, but the sign said it would be opening that day in just about 5 minutes. So, I sat and drank a cup of coffee, ate half a peanut butter cookie, and then checked out the little store. It was a delight and I purchased several things before I got back on my schedule.

The drive down to Pin Oak Cemetery is through rolling green pasture land. I love the Fayette County country, land of the Round Top Antique Fair (though this was the opposite end of the county from that). The German and Czech settlers knew a good thing when they saw it and proceeded to make it better through generations of farming. The cemetery turned out to be about 1-1/2 miles down a single lane road that had not seen much traffic lately. When I came to the cemetery gate and left the car, there was silence. Nothing could be seen except the cemetery and trees.

The cemetery itself is quite large, but there weren't that many graves. Within the cemetery fence were sub-fenced plots; somewhat like several cemeteries inside one big cemetery. One family would be buried within its own fence and then there would be a large open area before you came to the next little fenced off family plot. I enjoyed the walk in the crisp, cold air. I did not find the graves I was looking for. I enjoyed the second walk around the cemetery. I did not find the graves. By the third time around, I realized that a good number of flat stones had toppled over and were lying flush with the ground, making them difficult to spot. I enjoyed the third walk around the cemetery, this time cutting through the middle open areas. I did not find the graves.

I made an announcement to the silence "if you want me to find you, you had better speak up now!". I made a fourth trek around the cemetery, walking different paths from before. I did not find the graves, but I did find a few interesting stones for unknown soldiers who had died in the area many, many years ago.

By the end of the fourth circuit, I decided the stones were either buried under grass or had deteriorated beyond recognition. I don't regret the trip in the least, because I had a good time being the only soul alive in the middle of a remote area.

A mossy tree in the middle of Pin Oak cemetery.

I decided it would be no fun to retrace my route to LaGrange, so I consulted my Roads of Texas mapbook and figured out a route to Red Rock that would expose me to maximum country road travel. I first made my way to Flatonia, which definitely needs some exploring on another day (antique stores!), then turned north on Highway 95 and drove to Cistern.

Cistern is where my great-grandfather Elmo Hodge was born, so I decided to make a tour of the little burg. I spotted a sign to the Cistern cemeteries, so I drove down the little road and took a few pictures, then spotted another cemetery in the distance and made another stop. Another consult of the mapbook and I found a little road that would take me to Jeddo and McMahan.

This was an inspired choice. The road is perfect rural Texas travel. Just hilly and curvy enough to be interesting without requiring extra caution, lined on either side by green pastures full of picturesque cows and horses, and every so often a great farm house. I've decided that I would love to find an old (but sound) farm house in which to spend my retirement years. One could do worse than retire to rural Fayette County.

In due time, I reached the Bateman cemetery. These graves were easy to locate, so that stop was a success. Back to Bastrop, lunch, a brief stop at Starbucks and then back home. I barely beat the UPS man there. He was delivering my official Christmas present to me - a set of Royal Doulton Old Country Roses flatware. I wasted no time in opening the package and enjoying a fresh look at this indulgence. The cats wasted no time in exploring the package it came in.

A brief dog walk later and we are ready to pile into a big chair with my current genealogical mystery book and take it easy for the rest of the day.

I love driving in the country. Thank God there are parts of Texas where you can still find quality country to enjoy, with lovely old farmhouses and no hideous subdivisions in sight.


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