A friend of mine contacted me and asked if I would mind taking a look at a little book she has come out with entitled, Unexpected Texas. Admittedly, my time in Texas was not something I would care to repeat. Yet I found myself remembering some of the things I did enjoy. Browsing through Tui’s delightful little book some of the special little treasurers that are so exquisitely “Texas” popped into my mind.
Tui begins with just a hint of the lesser known aspects of Texas history. It did not all start and end at the Alamo! There is a deep and rich history that includes a sizable German immigrant community throughout the state (primarily from pre-World War I Germany), a strong Spanish and Mexican influence (it was part of Spain at one point), a bit of French influence (likewise), a fierce independence (it was a separate nation for awhile), and its own celebration of Emancipation.
Tui’s book focuses on places and events in and around the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. I lived in the area for several years and I sincerely feel she has picked some of the best examples of Texan quirkiness and general cultural interest. And, she’s right. There is a bank and a church in every town of any size. She doesn’t mention it but you need a road map to know if you are in a dry county or not and at least one town is split down main street. Texan’s can be the friendliest, or the most aloof (I never figured out the code on that one). Here are a few quick notes on some of her discoveries.
Tui’s description of Antique Alley took me back to a number of pleasant bits and pieces. It sounded very much like First Mondays in Canton (east of Dallas and a bit north of Athens). Yep, people with everything from card tables to the latest in motor homes. Crafts, imports, garage sales, and some of the most fascinating antiques you’ll find anywhere. Whole “towns” that spring up overnight for a few days or a week, trade like any carnival or traveling show, and then off they all go – somewhere over the horizon.
Speaking of Antiques, the “German town” area in hill country is a great place to visit for a number of reasons. First, Texas hill country is beautiful. New Braunfels, Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and Boerne are all German heritage communities with wonderful October fests and antique shops that market pieces that go as far back as immigration. Tui explains that the Texas-German dialect has developed rather differently than the mother tongue and in as many different ways as there were immigrants. The speaking of German became a misdemeanor in some places in Texas during WWII. Many Germans were sent to internment camps. This derailed the preservation of a unique dialect and many of those who still speak it are in their 60s. Hans Boas has created the Texas German Dialect Archive in an effort to preserve this piece of history.
Another stop on Tui’s tour is Archer City. Tiny little Texas county seat (Pop. Less than 1,800) with a lovely courthouse and one of the most famous bookstores in the country; Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up. Should you be among the uninitiated, Mr. McMurtry is the author of many books including Lonesome Dove. This is a huge book store with a stock of some 200,000 books shelved in 4 buildings which take up a full city block. Homey, well decorated, and with a stock ranging from collectors’ editions to used book treasures with budget prices, it is a fascinating place to explore the written word.
Little cubby holes, interesting activities, and even a buried space alien. Tui leads you through a number of day trips and describes the world in gentle humor. Who knows, her narrative may inspire you to look at your own home town in a different way and discover unexpected treasures right under your nose!
Tui Snider is a freelance writer and travel blogger specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cultural traditions, and quirky travel destinations. Her articles and photos have appeared in BMIbaby, easyJet, Wizzit, Click, Ling, PlanetEye Traveler, iStopover, SkyEurope, and North Texas Farm and Ranch magazines, among others. She also wrote the shopping chapter for the “Time Out Naples: Capri, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast 2010” travel guidebook. Unexpected Texas is her first book.
For Tui, travel is a mindset. Her motto is “Even home is a travel destination,” and she believes that “The world is only boring if you take everyone else’s word for it.” She has worn a lot of hats in her life – literally – and is especially fond of berets. Her first book, Unexpected Texas is a guide to offbeat and overlooked places within easy reach of the Dallas – Fort Worth region of North Texas.
You can find Tui all around the web. Feel free to say hi:
For visitors to my site, Tui has selected the following prizes:A paperback of the book, an Unexpected Texas notebook,and a bag of sea salt dark chocolate caramel candy. The latter is a nod to the ancient sea that created the salt mines for Grand Saline! She wanted a tie-in with something historical for this stop on the tour.