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Gone to Texas, part Deux

If you missed the first part (how could you let that happen?), it is to be found here.

Thursday was sight-seeing day with the older 2/3 of my various and sundry children. We went into town to go to Fort Mason and look it over, and ran into a nice gentleman who was working on some renovations and exhibits, and who told us a bit about it. He expressed surprise that we’d driven all the way from Delaware, and then realized that they didn’t have any Delawareans in the visitor book and became very excited to have checked that item off his bucket list. After that, we drove into the town square and visited a small museum that containing a large Kettner family tree in it, including mention of yours truly. After that we headed down to a larger museum in the old town grammar school, where we were immediately accosted by an elderly gentleman who had apparently been waiting for just this moment for decades. I think he actually brushed cobwebs off himself as he stood. I was able to use the excuse of corralling the children to escape him, but poor Sarah was trapped listening to his spiel for well over 20 minutes, long after the kids and I had gone outside to run around and burn off some energy. (There was a small playground with a large walking track, at least 1/8 of a mile, and I told Charles I’d time him running it, which was a stroke of genius.)

We had lunch at a small burger place in town and then headed back to the ranch to relax for a bit. The afternoon we spent swimming at Fred and Joan’s, and then they fed us fajitas and beer. Pretty fantastic way to spend an evening.

Sarah’s cousins Deborah and Jill, who had been in town with their kids to visit with us, needed to head back to their homes in West Texas and New Mexico, but they stopped by on Friday morning to say goodbye. After that Sarah and her mom went into town for a bit of knick-knack shopping, after which we did some more swimming and napping. That evening, Grandpa and Charles and I drove down to the Eckert James River Bat Cave to watch the millions of bats emerge and fly off into the evening sky; there are pictures below, and a totally choice video that’s kinda Zapruder-esque:

The bats emerge every evening, somewhere around sundown, from roughly May to September (when they migrate to their winter residences south of the border). If I recall correctly there are between 2 and 8 million of them, depending on time of year; the site is essentially a “maternity ward,” full of pregnant females and their pups. As the evening wears on, you start to see “scouts” come out, lone bats that appear to judge the conditions (temperature, sunlight, availability of bugs), and they’ll fly back to apparently report to the others. After a few minutes the entire roost will emerge in one long tornado stream. The vortex of the spinning stream of bats sucks air out of the cave, and along with it an unbelievable ammonia smell from the guano, which coats the floor of the cave to a depth of several inches.

On Saturday we arose fairly early to head to Fredericksburg, a nearby town that is the historic center of the large German migration to Texas in the 19th century. Sarah’s dad edited a book of his ancestor’s letters home to Germany, and he gave a short talk to some interested history nerds in the Vereins Kirche, the original town church, now a museum. After that we walked the streets of Fredericksburg a bit, and went to a spectacular Mexican restaurant named Hilda’s.

Josephine fell asleep in the car on the way back to Mason, and she was in dire need of the nap, so I dropped off the rest of the family and drove around Mason County a bit to snap some pictures, below. After that, we spent the afternoon packing and preparing to drive to Waco the next day. I did get an opportunity to fire Grandpa’s hunting rifle, and I continue to be a good shot. I’ve decided I need a hunting rifle and an opportunity to use it. We had chicken fried steak at the Walnut Creek Cafe in town, and then I had a brief chance to go wander around with my .22 rifle and hunt jackrabbits, but saw nothing but deer.

We didn’t get on the road the next day until close to noon, but did so and headed roughly northeast towards Waco. The sky grew ominous, and sure enough, after we stopped for gas and snacks, opened up with a torrential downpour that actually had us turning the blinkers on and driving about 25mph on a 70mph roadway. I couldn’t see more than 25 feet in front of me. Eventually I noticed that the sky to the north seemed lighter, so I turned off in that direction and waited for the GPS to catch up. It took us a little while to wend our way around the north side of Waco but we eventually arrived at Mamaw and Papaw’s at around 3:30pm.

We spent the rest of the evening visiting with the family, but I really want to share the recipe for a blackberry buckle that Sarah’s Aunt Donna made that consists of three ingredients:
Vanilla Cake Mix (one box)
Frozen blackberries (2 bags)
Sprite (one can)
Stir it together in a baking dish and throw it in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes and then wonder why nobody ever thought of it before.

On Monday, we needed to get the crazy out of Charles and Josephine, so we decided to wander into downtown Waco and see the sights. First we stopped by Baylor University to see the bear enclosure, but the only bear was asleep inside her den and barely (bearly?) visible. We wandered through the Baylor bookstore but decided the only way we’d spend $35 on a ballcap was if we were Baylor Alumni, wealthy, and drunk.

After that we decided to go to the Cameron Park Zoo, which I highly recommend. As members of the Brandywine Zoo, they let us in free, and when we went to buy some hot dogs from a vendor towards closing time, she gave them to us for free because otherwise they’d just throw them out. We got to see a bunch of extremely awesome animals (including lions, gibbons, tigers, and elephants), and had a nice snack, for the price of two ice cream sandwiches.

On Tuesday we visited with some church friends of Mamaw and Papaw, and then we took Josephine and Charles to the Mayborn Museum on the Baylor campus, which is a great hands-on experience for kids. Lots of buttons to push, dials to spin, things to draw on, trains to operate, cars to drive, etc. It’s like the Delaware Children’s Museum, except cheaper and bigger (obviously the University helps subsidize some of the cost, and I suspect they have a substantial endowment that the DCM can’t hope to have). After that, we had dinner at a “Catfish King,” a cafeteria-style seafood joint, where I ate enough seafood to make my burps taste like mercury.

Next time: a few more days in Waco, and the trip back to La Casa.

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