Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market

The Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market

by Celia Hayes

It’s one of my habits – established when we lived in Athens in the early 1980s – going to the local street or farmer’s market. It was the custom of the country that every neighborhood had a day of the week, when a three or four-block length of one of the main streets in the suburb would be blocked off, and the local vendors and farmers would set up two rows of booths and sell to the community, beginning just before dawn and continuing through midday. It was usually seasonal fruits and vegetables, and each little booth pretty much specialized in one item – lemons, or artichokes on long stalks, or potatoes with patches of the damp soil they had been grown in still clinging to them. There was an egg-vendor, who sold the eggs in cones made up of newspaper, and a storekeeper with a larger trailer who had a variety of dried beans and macaroni, and often a crate of live snails, rustling and clicking their shells together. All was absolutely fresh, straight from the farm and cheaper than cheap.

I’ve always hoped that our farmer’s markets here could duplicate that experience; and the goods are fresh and straight from the farm, but alas, not as inexpensive as they were in Greece. The farmer’s markets here do have their advantages though; the one held every Sunday morning save Easter in the parking lot of the Quarry Market is a perfect example; as half the venders seem to do the traditional fruits and vegetables, the other half a wide assortment of prepared gourmet foods. [Curious though, I didn’t find the Quarry Market on the GoTexan Farmers Market list. (They probably should be listed.)] Cheese and chocolates and pies, oh, my! Imagine a pie made with fruit or nuts from Nanette Watson’s Frio Farm, with their own eggs, butter churned by Nanette herself, and with her very own home-brewed flavoring extracts. That is a piece of pie that it is a delight to savor.

We cruised the two rows of booths – threatened rain didn’t seem to hamper turnout at all, though there were some vendors on the Quarry Market Farmer’s Market list who didn’t seem to be there because of it. Most everyone had samples on offer – and scrumptious they were. La Panadaria’s chocolate bread was absolutely scrumptious, and the chocolate samples from High Street Chocolate were out of this world. Peggy at High Street (she lives in Comfort, of course) is adventurous with flavoring, too – she has one flavor of chocolate, called Spicy Aztec which features … well, red pepper, among others. That is a chocolate with an interesting burn, which sneaks up on you. My favorite is a thin expresso-flavored chocolate, which I believe would be absolutely divine as the chocolate element in gourmet chocolate-chip ice cream … and if Peggy could work with Nanette at Frio Farm, and combine home-made ice-cream from Frio Farm’s eggs, cream and vanilla … I believe they would have something which would make Ben and Jerry’s finest taste like something from Tasty-Freeze.

The final booth that we visited was – I think – the Lemonade Company, purveyors of fresh-squeezed lemonade and orange juice. The scent of the oranges teased me from three booths away. There is nothing so evocative to someone who grew up in Southern California as the scent of fresh oranges and lemons – and the sublime flavor of the juice freshly squeezed. Nothing like it in the world, and it has spoiled me ever since for supermarket orange juice. And that was my Sunday morning – yours?

Jams and Preserves A Specialty Shop in Fredericksburg

A Little Local Home Grown Company

by Celia Hayes

So, I came to San Antonio for my final tour of Air Force duty in 1995 – but I think it took a little while for me to discover Fredericksburg, and the lovely, tasty specialty food products put out by Fischer and Wieser, of Fredericksburg in the Hill Country. It is in my mind that for the first couple of years, Fredericksburg was the only place that you could buy them anyway. Certainly all the little gourmet food outlets along Main Street had a good selection of Fischer & Wieser jams and preserves. There was an annex to Das Peach Haus in a teeny former residence near to the Nimitz Museum, which is where we usually bought those items which took our fancy.

Looking at the company website, it appears that was about the time that Case Fischer developed the Roasted Raspberry Chipotle sauce, which in movie parlance, was a tiny little local biasness’s First Big Break. Roasted Raspberry Chipotle is magnificent, by the way, but at first it must have seemed to be one of the weirdest concoctions ever proposed. Smoked Mexican chipotle peppers … and runny raspberry jam? Together? Hoooo-kay… But it put Fischer & Wieser – and chipotle peppers on the map. (For my money, the best thing on grilled shrimp is the ginger-habanero sauce, though. After driving past Das Peach Haus every time we came in to Fredericksburg by the road from Comfort – we finally stopped and went inside, and realized that – oh, my, it is bigger than it looks! There are little patches of landscaped garden all around, shaded by a grove of pine trees. And there are resident cats, too – always a good indication of quality, no matter if the product is books, garden stuff … or gourmet foods.

But the peach orchard which was the genesis of the company has been around since the Wieser family bought the property in the 1920s, and their son Mark opened a roadside fruit stand in 1969. There are a lot of seasonal roadside fruit stands on the main roads leading to Fredericksburg, and the Peach Haus was just one of them. The family sold fresh peaches, of course, and home-made peach preserves. Mark Wieser also taught school – and one of his students often helped out at peach harvesting time. Case Fischer was so keen on the possibilities of a specialty-food, development, marketing and entrepreneurship, that he went off to college and studied all that … and when he came home to Fredericksburg, he teamed up with his old teacher, and set about innovating, creating and producing quality foods; sauces for meats and pastas, mustards, jams and preserves, pie filling, salad dressing and dips.

And instead of just keeping it a local thing, Fischer & Wieser went national. Within a couple of years, I didn’t have to make the long drive up to Fredericksburg for some Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce – it and other products were on the shelves at the local HEB – even my own local, which usually is a little light on the gourmet goods. Even better – they are available in military commissaries and on Amazon.com. Not bad for a tiny local enterprise which started as a roadside fruit stand. Yes, indeedy – they did build that business.

But look out for the Ghost Pepper BBQ sauce … more than a quarter of a teaspoon can be lethal. I think it’s made for people who think straight Tabasco is just too darned bland.

Texas Tea

South Texas Oil

I can’t say that I was very surprised to find out from various online sources last week that Texas is pumping so much oil from the Eagle Ford Shale formation in South Texas (among other oil-rich shale formations, some of which are not quite as well-along as far as drilling goes) that if it were an independent country, it would be one of the top fifteen oil producers. I am not one who follows this kind of thing, religiously – although where I grew up in Southern California, I remember seeing many a small rocking-horse pumpjacks scattered here and there, nodding busily away in the bean-fields and citrus orchards in Camarillo, or along the highways and back roads. It was just one of those things in the background. I don’t know if there are many pumpjacks left in So-Cal now. Probably not, although they are at least as unlovely as wind turbines and probably don’t kill nearly as many birds. I lament the loss of the place where I grew up, by the way; a place of citrus groves, and lonely hills, a rural, blue-collar and working-class kind of place, where you could drive in a single afternoon from a palm-tree desert to a pine tree covered mountain-top frosted in snow. Alas, it seems that the wealthy coastal enclaves drive California now, to the ruination of the places which I remember so fondly.

But I like to think of Texas as a massive producer of oil and gasoline, especially when the stuff gets to be north of $3.00 a gallon. And I should have so known that the boom was big, and doing good for South Texas, just by simple observation over the time that I have lived here, especially since I began to write historical fiction and taking long road trips – towards Beeville and Goliad and Port Lavaca and all – especially to Goliad, which we have done for a good few years now. It once was, going down 181, through Poth and Karnes City and Kenedy, or by other routes through Smiley or Stockdale and Nixon to other destinations. Four or five years ago, many of the little towns along the way appeared as if they were dying on the vine. There were so many crumbling storefronts – and the ones open for some kind of business presented a more forlorn aspect than the ones which had given up the ghost and boarded up entirely. Weekday or weekend – such towns were deserted by mid-afternoon. Even the parking lot of the Walmart in Kenedy was all but deserted the first couple of times we drove past.

We first began noticing the changes along about Christmas 2010, driving down to Goliad to take part in Christmas on the Square. Suddenly – there were oilfield developments, truck parks and wells, dotted here and there among the pastures and brushlands; newly paved and graveled, lit up boldly at night. There was a little more traffic on the roads and the small towns didn’t look nearly so forlorn. The crumbling motel suddenly was rehabbed, and a number of new cabin-style units added to the row of existing roomettes. There were lights in the café, new vehicles parked out front, and on the edge of town there were several new RV parks – which, since there were no golf-courses, lakes or riverfront amusements – were obviously for workers rather than vacationers. New housing developments were going in, outside of Karnes City and Poth – and the Walmart parking lot was full. We remarked on this, to some old friends in Goliad – long-time residents, who confirmed our observations. There were neighbors and residents who owned country acreage who had been scraping by on a shoestring for decades – and now they had regular and generous checks for leasing their land.

On the whole, this is a good thing – and a good thing to know that this new oil boom has bought some prosperity to places that hadn’t seen much of it lately. I’d much rather that some of what I pay at the pump for unleaded is going right back here to Texas.

Texas Governor Lauches Chicago Ads

Gov. Perry Launches Chicago Ads

Monday, April 15, 2013  •  Austin, Texas  •  Press Release

As part of his ongoing efforts to spur competition between states and recruit jobs and employers to Texas, Gov. Rick Perry is taking his message of low taxes, predictable regulations, fair courts and a skilled workforce to employers in Chicago with a week-long web and print ad buy in Crain’s Chicago Business Journal and on chicagobusiness.com. Paid for by TexasOne, the $38,450 mixed media advertising buy includes a two-day takeover of the website, email marketing and a full page ad in Monday’s edition of Crain’s Chicago Business Journal.

The governor’s latest business recruitment efforts coincide with a new, Illinois-targeted section on Texas Wide Open for Business, and come just two months after Gov. Perry launched a radio ad inviting California business owners to check out Texas’ strong jobs climate.

TexasOne is a public-private partnership that markets Texas nationally and internationally as a prime business destination.

To view the Texas web ads, please visit Chicago Business.

Texas Neighorly Christmas Goodies

Christmas Goodies Neighborhood Style

by Celia Hayes

 

I know, I am trying as hard as I can to get into the Christmas mood – an uphill fight, since I have been sidelined most days by the Cold From Hell. This is the cold that I developed after Thanksgiving, which sends me coughing persistently as if I am about to hack up a large piece of lung. It saps about three-quarters of my energy, and an equal portion of my interest in life, the universe and everything … including Christmas. The good thing is that I got just about all of my Christmas shopping done, thanks to the internet and a nicely-timed and generous payment for some work accomplished … so, on to gifts intended for two good friends. At the estate auction in Fredericksburg this summer, one of our winning bids was for an envelope of pen and ink prints of various local scenes. Nothing especially valuable, I don’t think, but nicely matted (thank you, Hobby Lobby) and framed (thank you, Thrift Town) they will make something personal and attractive … and what the heck, something new to look at on the walls is always appreciated.

Which means that the final gift-giving obligation is to those of our neighbors whom we hold in especial esteem; we went through the standard Christmas cookie selection, and then the small-brick-of-fruitcake several cycles ago. We experimented last year with flavored oil and vinegar, including in the basket one little roundel of home-made cheese and a baguette of home-baked bread, which mostly worked out well, so this year – edible goodies again.

I took a firm stand with my daughter, though – no expensive containers for the goodies; this time, we are using a plain small paper shopping bag, and instead of tissue paper, some gingham-check patterned paper napkins. These we found at the Dollar Tree a couple of months ago – and since I was already thinking ahead, we bought them at once. And my mother’s Christmas basket of Spanish goodies came generously padded in a large round basket with simply heaps of crinkled paper excelsior, which is still perfectly good and useable, and we’re supposed to recycle anyway and have you seen how much it would cost to buy new crinkled paper excelsior, even at the Dollar Tree? And I don’t want to go to a store anyway – I’m sick, people!

So – into the bags will go a selection of the pickles, relishes and jams that we made over this summer, from seasonal fruits and vegetables; the pickled okra came out absolutely amazing, and so did the mixed garden vegetable pickles – what they call in Italy giardiniera. Strawberries – holy moly, did we have strawberries. I’ve lost track of how many; strawberry jam, strawberry preserves. I made the most luscious pickled pineapple spears, over the summer; flavored with cinnamon, allspice, ginger and other spices; as my daughter said admiringly, “They taste like Christmas in your mouth.” We have figs to offer, too – thanks to the bounteously producing fig trees in the neighborhood, we have on hand whole preserved figs, fig jam and fig preserves… I think the difference mainly between jam and preserves is that the latter is rather lumpier – but anyway, our neighbors will benefit from the bounty, too.

And that will be (cough) our Christmas (cough-cough) gift to our neighbors. (Cough-cough-COUGH!) Hopefully that, and not the Cold From Hell.

Merry Christmas!

Texas King Cotton

When Cotton Was King

by Celia Hayes

Amazingly enough, cotton once was king in this part of Texas, even though one thinks more of cattle ranches rather than large-scale cotton production. By the mid 1700s, the Spanish missions established at the headwaters of the San Antonio River produced several thousand pounds of cotton fiber annually, which was spun and woven into cloth for local consumption. The climate was just right to grow cotton, all through the Rio Grande Valley and other more or less temperate regions. Once the threat of Indian raids diminished after the Civil War, and railways opened up access to distant markets, cotton agriculture thrived all across Texas – mostly on a share-cropped basis, where a landowner contracted with an otherwise landless tenant laborer to cultivate and harvest in exchange for a share of the resulting crop.

And cotton grew well – very well indeed, although actual physical relics of it having done so around San Antonio are sparse and most usually in ruins. Before the Civil War it was almost axiomatic that intensive cultivation of cotton speedily exhausted the most fertile soil – but that wasn’t what killed the cotton fields around San Antonio. The not-quite-unexpected disaster came with the arrival of the boll weevil plague – an insect pest which slowly began moving north from Mexico late in the 19th century and hit the American cotton-growing belt in the 1920s. The boll weevil and the stock market crash of 1920 sent local cotton producers into a tail-spin … and by the time efficient pesticides were applied to cotton fields after WWII, many growers and those who made a living from processing the cotton harvest had moved on to other crops – or other means of making a living.

Since the 1920s, suburbia has reached into the vicinity of formerly San Antonio and New Braunfels agricultural lands, but there are some still-existing or repurposed remains. The most noticeable are the ruins of industrial cotton ‘gins’ – ‘gin’ being a shortening of ‘engine’ – that mechanical device developed to efficiently and economically separate the cotton fibers from the seeds. There are three that I know of, although there are probably many more. The most famous that I know is the building in Gruene which now houses the Gristmill Restaurant. Indeed, Gruene was a whole little town built upon the cotton industry. When it all went to nothing in the 1920s, Gruene became stuck in a lovely and preservative kind of stasis, just as it was built in the late 19th and early 20th century. Now it is a destination on the north margin of New Braunfels – and well worth the visit.

The second old cotton gin is out in the fields on the southern fringe of New Braunfels – a little town now a crossroads of secondary roads. It used to be called Comal … and there, in a grove of pecan trees are the yellow-brick ruins and tall chimney stack, along with a brief row of stores which were the center of lively rural life at the same time as Gruene. And in the gentle valley of the Sister Creek there is a third building – a frame one, this time – which also housed a cotton gin, and now serves as the showroom for Sister Creek Winery.

There is still cotton in Texas fields, though; a couple of years ago, I took some pictures of cotton growing near Winters, just south of Abilene – and last year, we spotted huge trailer-truck sized cotton bales just outside Lockhart, at the edge of the parking lot at the Kreuz Market. Cotton – perhaps not king any longer, but still a haunting presence.

Ye Kendall Inn

Boerne – Ye Kendall Inn

by Celia Hayes

So, we were off to Boerne again last Friday, rejoicing in the rain that had fallen the night before – this time so that I could do a talk on the Civil War in the Hill Country for a local chapter of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Quite a few of the members are transplanted Texans, courtesy of military service – so the series of events in the years 1860-65 in the Hill Country were new to them and interesting.

To me, the nice part of the meeting was that it took place at Ye Kendall Inn, in the modern-but-decorated-to- look-old Halle – the conference center, which is just one of the ramble of buildings – many of them historic and fascinating in themselves – in back of the pillared and porticoed main building. The Kendall Inn has been in the hospitality business since the earliest days of settlements in the Hill Country. It owes much to a convenient location; on a low eminence overlooking a particularly scenic bend of Cibolo Creek, right on Boerne’s pecan-tree lined central square, where a local market is held on the second Saturday of every month.

The oldest part of the Inn began as a private residence – a mansion, really – built by a family named Reed, in the 1850s. It was built of native stone, with walls twenty inches thick, and in the traditional Southern Colonial style, with a wide porch all across the front, and a long gallery on the second floor. The Reeds and other neighbors were in the habit of renting spare bedrooms to travelers and visitors, since there was no other accommodation for them. Some years after the Civil War, what became the structure was purchased by one Colonel Henry King, who served in the Texas state legislature, while his wife ran the Inn.

By then, Boerne was one of the places where local cattle ranchers assembled large herds for the long trek north to the rail-served stockyards in Kansas. After the Kings tenure, the original building was sold again, to a pair of hoteliers from Dallas, who renamed it the Boerne Hotel, and expanded the building, adding a pair of galleried wings on either side. They hoped to cater to those who came to restore their health in the mild climate of the Hill Country, and to wealthy San Antonio residents who came to escape the dreadful summer heat in those days before air conditioning. One of the biggest local boosters was a pair of doctors; William Kingsbury and Ferdinand Herff, who lauded the efficacy of the local hot springs and the clear air.

Before the San Antonio & Aransas Pass railroad line reached Boerne in 1887, those visitors arrived on the stage – which stopped at the hotel, after a seven-hour journey from San Antonio. For the remainder of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th, Boerne was a mecca for those wanting to recover their health, or just to spend a lively and fashionable summer in the Hills. For all of that time, the Kendall Inn was one of the main centers of social activity. Now, having become one of what my daughter calls ‘a bedroom slipper of San Antonio’ the Kendall Inn is still a destination, with a wine shop, a very fine restaurant and grill, a spa … and of course, it is still a hotel.

The Cibolo Creek Flows Through Boerne

A River Flows Through It

Click photos to enlarge

 

As the Riverwalk of San Antonio is such an ornament to the city and such a popular tourist attraction (only second after the Alamo) that one of the nicknames for our fair town is ‘The River City’ you’d think that any municipal organization possessing the necessary attribute – a permanent body of water deeper than a puddle in, or flowing through downtown – would have been been seen as a gift and an opportunity to do something like it. Maybe not cheek by cheek eateries and boutiques – but at least a pleasant string park, paralleling the river bank can this be created, for the benefit of the residents, the enriching of those retail establishments lucky to overlook it, and the sheer aesthetic pleasure of visitors to such a blessed community.

And so has the community of Boerne done, for a number of blocks paralleling River Road, on either side of Main Street. There is a generous paved trail, some added landscaping and stone work, paralleling the northern bank of Cibolo Creek as it runs through town. It seems that back in the day, Cibolo Creek was just as prone to overflow its banks and flood out parts of Boerne – just as the San Antonio River did, although on a much grander scale. We had noticed the new construction being done on the park, once we discovered Route 46/River Road; the back way between San Antonio and Boerne. So, last weekend we took advantage of slightly cooler temperatures to make a return trip to Boerne, as my daughter had her eye on certain items at the Squirrel’s Nest Resale Shop. The Squirrel’s Nest benefits Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation – an organization that everyone in this part of Texas ought to know about and support, since they are the go-to people when you find an injured, distressed and otherwise out-of-place wild animal or bird.

We had lunch at the Bear Moon Café – which was quite good; everything is made in-house and the servings are generous. Then we walked around a bit, and checked out some of the shops. This was not so much for what was in them, a lot of which was terribly high-end and pricy, but rather to look at the buildings themselves, many of which are historic old houses and business premises, and enormously charming in that respect. They were built for Texas, in the days before air conditioning, and some of them even before electrification: small rooms which opened into other rooms, or a central hall, with high ceilings, and tall windows. Usually there was a wide, shaded porch across the front, and if two-storied, those rooms on the upper floor also opened onto a verandah..

The Riverside Park already seems to be popular; we saw one family eating a picnic lunch, and a number of others settled in with fishing gear, sending their hooks into the lazy green water. The ducks and geese had all sought out shady places, on the opposite bank, though. The only other water critters we saw were turtles; and we didn’t realize at first that they were turtles. I thought their heads sticking up above the surface were just lengths of broken branch, until the heads vanished below the water, and there was a soup-bowl sized turtle, just dimly seen, diving down into deeper water.

All in all, a lovely afternoon in the Hill Country. That was my Saturday – and yours?

Okra

The Way of the Okra

Although I have only one huge okra plant, and a couple of others which have produced intermittently and spasmodically, individual okes (is that the singular of okra, like meese should be the singular of moose?) my garden just doesn’t seem to produced sufficient of them in a short period of time to make a decent batch of okra pickles on any given day. At least, not enough to be worth firing up the canning kettle. It’s really not worth heating up the kitchen in my San Antonio home unless there are at least three quarts or six pints in contention … and my okra plants just aren’t that prolific. So I cheated – I went and bought two pounds of okra at the Indian market (cunningly disguised as a gas station on the corner of 410 and Starcrest) and added into it the gleanings of the last week or so and made a batch of spicy okra pickles from a recipe that I found on the interned and amended. Oddly enough, we like okra as pickles, in gumbo and even breaded and deep-fried, in which format it is as addictive as popcorn although somewhat more fattening … but okra on it’s own … that is a vegetable that needs work.

Basically, make a pickling brine from 2 ⅔ cup cider vinegar and 1 ½ cup water, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and when it comes to a simmer, either add to it, or steep in a tea-ball, 2 Tbsp. pickling spices.

I used another net-recipe for pickling spice, which called for 2 Tbsp. mustard seeds, 2 Tbsp. whole allspice, 2 teasp coriander seeds, the same of cloves, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and the same of dried red pepper flakes, a crumbled bay leaf and a two-inch length of cinnamon stick. This makes more than needed for a single batch, so save the remainder for the next batch.

Meanwhile, pack the raw okra into 2 hot and sterilized 1-quart jars, and tuck in among the packed oke pods in each jar, 2-3 peeled and lightly crushed garlic cloves, 2-3 dried chili pods (I used ripe red jalapeno and paprika pods from my garden) and two or three small bay leaves … I have a small bay tree in the garden, so again … from my garden. It helps to pack the first layer of okra in the jar with the wide end down, and then wedge the next layer into it pointy end down, and distribute the garlic cloves, the pepper pods and the bay leaves as they fit. Fill the jars with okra and all until just below the point on the jar where the threaded rim begins, then pour in the hot brine and process at least 20 minutes in boiling water, as per the usual canning instructions.

This week, one of our dinners included a salad – of halved fresh garden tomatoes and sliced segments of home-pickled okra, adorned with crumbles of feta cheese and fresh parsley – again from the garden – and splashed with some olive oil. Alas, the olive is not home-grown from my own tree. That will take … a good few more decades.

Road Trip to Bergheim Texas

Road Trip: Bergheim

by Celia Hayes

The name ‘bergheim’ means – if I remember my several years of high school and college German correctly – ‘mountain home’. Strictly speaking, although the beating urban heart of Bergheim, Texas, is not anywhere near a mountain that I would recognize as such, (having lived at the foot of the Wasatch Range in Utah, or from living in the foothills of California’s San Gabriels) it is pleasingly situated at the top of a substantial rise in the Hill Country, and a pleasant drive north from San Antonio. Especially, if you take 46 to get there; either east from Boerne, or west from Bulverde; the road rambles through rolling country, sparsely scattered with small ranches and housing developments, groves of trees, campgrounds and resorts oriented towards the Guadalupe River.

And there, right in the middle of it is the 109-year general store and post-office, housed in a cut-limestone building with a classic 19th-century bedstead front. It is, as nearly as we could see, the only retail outlet on the road, save for a gas station quickie mart and a Subway about a block away at the intersection with FM 3351. Who lives in the area – and there are residents, and visitors who come for tubing and canoeing on the Guadalupe – who want to drive ten or fifteen miles in either direction for a quart or milk, some potatoes, a link of cured sausage, a pair of jeans, a six-pack of beer, some crawfish bait or a pair of pliers, when the sudden need for such arrives in the middle of a busy weekend. Very few people actually do, even in these days of big-box stores and instant-overnight-Fedex delivery. And when that shopping trip meant a couple of hours in a wheezing Model A Ford, or in a horse and buggy … well, this is why general stores still exist in the wide-open back-country of flyover states like Texas, and why they have come to carry an amazingly eccentric variety of items.

Someone once expressed a need for a certain item, the storekeeper stocked it, and other customers purchased it … and there you go, which is how the owner of the local hardware store explained it to me. Alas, his enterprise is now defunct, having been swamped by suburbia and then put into competition with Lowe’s/Home Depot. A pity, because it was one of the few places that you could easily find an expert to explain the finer points of refinishing a bathtub or replacing a garbage disposal. Which is not to say that there aren’t experts at Lowe’s/Home Despot; they’re just much harder to find, especially on holiday weekends.

Anyway, the Bergheim General Store is a bit like going back in time to what a general mercantile was, a hundred and more years ago: a little bit of everything, and everything in it’s place, everything densely-packed on the shelves, and the aisles narrow, the whole place erratically lit, not a shred of commercial décor save the lighted beer signs and nothing about it reflecting conventional retail wisdom about well-lit, wide aisles and the favored products at eye-level or on the endcaps. Nope: it’s where it is at the Bergheim General Store, and efficient use is made of limited space. Four generations of the same family have been in charge of it since 1903.

Aside from having electricity and air conditioning introduced sometime in the last 190 years, the inside is pretty much as it was when built: plain narrow-board floors, plain whitewashed/painted stone walls. And the front door stoop is of cut stone; over the years, it has worn into a gentle valley in the middle from all the customers coming in and out of the store. I noticed this often in Europe, mostly in places hundreds of years old, or a doorway made of soft stone. This is not something I have seen much in the US, certainly not much in Texas, where there are only a double-handful of stone-built structures older than statehood itself. It’s worth a drive into the country to see – that, and what lies inside.