Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Lyndon Baines Johnson Ranch

We left the cider company in Hye and were aiming to get to Fredericksburg, a town a half hour away along Highway 290 and the unofficial center of the Hill Country. Five minutes on the road and we came to a halt- again. A solitary sign invited us to check out the 36th President's ranch, known informally as the Texas White House.
Lyndon Johnson and his wife Ladybird were devoted to the Texas countryside where he grew up and where he liked to return as often as he could. The state has created a separate park next to the national historic site so the two parks, both free to visit, sit on opposite banks fo the Pedernales River which runs through the middle.

In the state park side e came across ball moss which a helpful sign explained is related to the pineapple, I kid you not. It is described as epiphyte which is what Spanish moss is also, a parasite basically but living off the air, not the host plant. There you have it.
They also have a 19th century demonstration farm operated by state park rangers living the life of German settlers. We kept going as farming is not our thing but we could see form the road they are pretty good at running a vegetable garden.
Bison are a big draw and the herd here crosses either side of the river. The state park notes professional hunters destroyed the herds on the Great Plains killing 30 million beasts. Nowadays happily the herds are being brought back but the great open ranges for them are gone.
The state park is actually quite large with a number of pull outs, picnic areas and trail heads. I can imagine in summer the huge live oaks provide welcome shade. On a 65 degree winter day they were what I would call picturesque. With all the driving we're doing we didn't need to worry about our 400 watts of solar on the roof topping off the batteries. A couple of hours deriving and our 600 amp lithium battery bank is fully charged by our twin alternators.
I was busy chasing the statue of the President while Rusty led Layne toward the park road and the Pedernales River.
The statue apparently catches President Johnson in a typical gesture pointing to the river which was the center of his home in Texas.
You can see why he liked it here and in a minute we'll cross the river and check out his ranch.
Rusty could wander anywhere with us, very civilized, except inside the buildings as usual.  He didn't seem to mind.
There are no wildflowers in December but there were always reminders of the founders of this collection of fields and prairies.
The national historic site respects the entry sticker the state provides (for free) on the other side of the river and there wasn't anyone there to check us in. We crossed several cattle guards as we drove through the ranch which is how cows are kept in their various pastures. But inside the fences they roam totally freely. 
And have right of way.
This is a real ranch, please note.
Layne loved the calves here they are, a bunch of teenagers at lunch.

And there were deer too. I don't think cattle guards faze them.
The ranch is on a slope rising above the river valley. Interestingly the top of the ridge is... just more fields! You get to the top and among the many pull outs you can stop and read little blurbs about farming in the President's day.
The dark green in the distance is the normal ground cover in the Hill Country, dark leaved live oak trees, rolling to the horizon and beyond.
You drive yourself through the ranch on the single lane road, past private residences, park volunteers living in their RVs on the property and of course past the animals wandering loose.
LBJ was fond of his western image and he liked to play the country hick during his political career, but everyone who came up against him said he was a consummate politician always working to make a deal to further his agenda.
Any plane the President rides on gets the "Air Force One" call sign and the plane that brought the 36th President to his ranch is now stored on site not far from the paved landing strip on the ranch. 
Rangers are doing an exterior tour of the Texas White House and people were gathering but decided to keep going.
It was a lovely sunny day on the ranch and we left the cattle doing their thing in fields planted specially to feed them.

Back on Highway 290 we settled in for a drive to Fredericksburg 20 minutes to the west. We passed breweries and wineries and wondered what a German town in the American west might look like.