I was the first one in the door when they opened. It was cold and misty, but I had to stop to examine several large bronze statues outside. This one was entitled "Wind and Rain", which was appropriate for the day.
I was met inside by an enthusiastic bunch and given a thorough introduction by one of the docents before I was turned loose in the galleries to explore on my own. Most of the collection currently on display is on loan from a private collection and all I can say is the Sims couple has great taste in western art. There were bronzes, alabaster sculptures, wood sculptures, and a multitude of oil and watercolor paintings. The collection is fabulous and I was enthralled for a full hour as I examined three large rooms full of western themed art.
I've always loved western art, so this was right down my alley. I did come to the realization that, while I like all of it, I am partial to the depictions of cowboys at work and at rest. I can appreciate a scene with an Indian village, but I melt when I see a picture of a cowboy on his horse, wading through a stream and being followed by the faithful dog. I like the pictures of old western towns with their rustic buildings, but I love the cowboy sitting with his tin plate balanced on his lap while he eats. I like the Texas hill country scenes with bluebonnets and Indian paint brushes splashing color from corner to corner, but I love the pictures where the cowboy sits on his horse atop a bluff, watching over the herd of cattle.
I just love cowboys. I loved the display of well-worn saddles that lined the hall down to the restrooms. I loved the leather chaps thrown across one of those saddles. I always think of my great-grandfather Burl Mason, probably the only authentic cowboy in my ancestry, when I see these tools of the American cowboy. I am so glad I can claim an honest to goodness cowboy in my family tree.
In addition to the wonderful art, one room was devoted to a childrens' exhibit that was great fun. Interspersed with large reproductions of the diary entries of a pioneer child, the story was told of a family's move west by Conestoga wagon. The exhibit encouraged kids to touch and feel, to calculate and weigh the supplies to be packed in the chest, to climb inside a wagon and crawl inside a teepee. It told the story from the departure at Independence, Missouri, to a temporary layover at a fort where supplies could be replenished, to an encounter with Indians and finally to their new home on the west coast of California. It was very well done.
I had to go back and re-examine my favorite pictures and sculptures before I left. By far, my favorite of the sculptures spoke to my love of miniatures. It was a bronze, but the mood was comical instead of serious. On the left of the piece sat an old tin lizzy, with the hood up. Spread all around it were various parts and tools where someone had in vain tried to repair it, but it was obvious there was no fixing it this time. On the right side stood a sorrowful cowboy shielding his eyes and stretching out his hand with a pistol pointed at the ailing vehicle as he prepared to put it out of its misery. I would love to have tucked that piece under my coat and taken it home. I may just have to use the idea in a vignette.
From the museum, I made my way to the local history center where I spent a couple of hours exploring their stacks and I found a few items to make the stop worthwhile.
Kerrville has been a surprise. I've always pictured it as a sleepy little hill country town, but it is a bustling place. The traffic is constant and they have every convenience of a large town, including two of most fast-food joints and one of every well-known restaurant chain. They have a full retinue of the required HEB, WalMart, Lowe's, Home Depot, McCoy's and even a Big Lots!. There is a college, a hospital or two, and all in all it appears to be a very self-sufficient little town.
We were both tired at the end of our respective days, and we decided that we needed a good margarita to help us unwind, so we headed to a little Mexican food place we had spotted when we arrived. We had no idea that we were headed to what must be one of the most popular restaurants in town. The parking lot was packed and there was a 20-minute wait for a table. We headed for the bar and took care of the margarita issue while we were waiting.
The restaurant was wonderful. The interior is lined with the facades of a small Mexican town - specifically San Antonio in its early days. The focal point was a wonderful reproduction of the Alamo. My cell phone did not do it justice, but maybe this will give you the idea.
The ceiling was full of twinkling lights and everyone was enjoying themselves. The food was wonderful. We are tired but happy. A great second day to our most excellent hill country adventure.