Everyone was excited as the evening came. The five volunteer couples plus Libby and Barney Hulett (Libby is the curator at the LBJ ranch and Barney was LBJ's pilot) arrived at the ranch house at 6:00 p.m. and gathered in the president's former office which is now used as a reception room. Mrs. Johnson entered after all had gathered and her relaxed manner immediately put everyone at ease. Drinks, and hors d’oeuvres were served while conversation flowed easily. She wanted to know where each couple was from and reminisced about every state mentioned. Bob and Eleanor Peck, from upstate New York and Ted and Joanne Hinton, from Missouri stay and work at the boyhood home unit of the park in Johnson City. The volunteers who live and work on the ranch unit are Jim and Bonnie Anderson, full- timers from Colorado, Liz and Don Ryding, full-timers from Montana and Ron and Barb Hofmeister, full-timers from Michigan. At the mention of Michigan, Mrs. Johnson commented that she had stayed on Mackinac Island and said how much she loved it. She specifically remembered the Grand Hotel and the long front porch.
Mrs. Johnson signed Barb's copy of A White House Diary. Barb told of how she had searched all over for it --- finally finding it in a used book store in San Francisco. Barb added that she had wanted the book to help in her research before volunteering here and found it very interesting and helpful. The inscription reads: "For Barbara who will recognize sights and names in these pages. Lady Bird Johnson, LBJ Ranch". Barb said, "It is such a honor to have an autographed copy of her book and I shall cherish it and the memory of dinner with her forever."
Conversation was lively and the volunteer program was discussed as well as work in the park which included tour bus drivers, birth place guides and researchers at park headquarters in Johnson City. Mrs. Johnson expressed surprise at how many take the tour even in bad weather. When asked if she ever minded tour busses going by her house (the Texas White House) all day long, every day of the year, she said, she doesn't. She finds it amazing that so many are interested and enjoys knowing they care. If the opportunity arises, she likes to wave to the visitors. The volunteers all told her that the visitors always ask about her and are thrilled when they see her.
Dinner was served in the beautiful dinning room with lighted candles in candelabras on the table. Mrs. Johnson suggested that spouses not sit together. All were able to converse easily with Mrs. Johnson who was seated at the head of the table. After Mrs. Johnson offered a lovely prayer, toasts were made. It happened to be Texas Independence Day (when Texas got their independence from Mexico) so Mrs. Johnson offered a toast to that. Don Ryding followed with a charming toast to Mrs. Johnson. Dinner was served buffet style and consisted of: King Ranch chicken; refried beans; chili; tamales and Texas wine). Two waiters tended to drinks and brought serving dishes around for refills. Dessert was a delicious buttermilk pie which everyone but Mrs. Johnson ate. She stated that she was dieting. Barb was pleased that she had just printed the recipe for King Ranch Chicken in the March issue of the newsletter. It is a very popular dish in Texas.
After dinner the group gathered in Mrs. Johnson's favorite sitting room where a fire had been started in the fireplace. It's in the original part of the ranch house that was built by a German immigrant in 1895. The room is cozy and Mrs. Johnson made herself comfortable with a foot stool. The room has beautiful paintings (many are gifts of state that the park service will retain in future years). There is only one picture of a person. It is a picture of Sam Rayburn, former Speaker of the House, the mentor and close friend of the Johnson's. It was obvious that Mrs. Johnson had held a deep affection for Speaker Rayburn. She talked of him and another friend, Senator Richard Russell of Georgia. She was sad that the Russell friendship had cooled in later years due to LBJ's strong advocacy for civil rights. Barb asked her if looking back, she might have wished for a more private life. She said that there were certainly a lot of bad times, but on balance she felt that it was worth it. She particularly was grateful for the opportunity to travel, especially when LBJ was vice-president. She loves to travel and still does a lot of it. She is looking forward to a trip to Italy this summer and described the area where she will be staying with Luci. She would dearly love to get Lynda away for aweek, but her political demands as Senator Robb's wife are making it difficult to schedule. She said that she loves England and is hoping to get back there also.
Mrs. Johnson was in an expansive mood and told the story about collecting arrow heads when they first moved to the ranch in 1952. She was aware that they existed in the area and wanted a collection which she would then have the university identify. She offered both Lynda and Luci a dollar for each one they could find. She was puzzled why Lynda was collecting so many until she discovered that Lynda was paying her friends 50 cents a piece for them while turning a nice profit. She laughed when Ron asked her where Lynda got that skill from.
Barb asked her about the flood of 1952 (shortly after they bought the ranch) and if she was scared because she was home alone with Luci & Lynda (LBJ was in Washington). She said it was a very scary time and told the story about LBJ's cousin Oreole who lived just down the road. Oreole had lost many of her furnishings and walked through deep water to get to the ranch house for refuge. The water did get up into the yard, but not into the ranch house. She still has a vivid memory of large trees being carried down the raging river like toothpicks. The Pedernales River still leaves its banks, but not as bad since dams have been built.
At nine o'clock, Libby noted that Mrs. Johnson was getting a little
tired. That was the signal for the evening to end. Mrs. Johnson who just
turned 80 years young this past December 22, certainly doesn't look or
act her age. All who attended commented on her vitality and keen mind.
She remembered dates, events and details as if they had happened yesterday.
Liz Ryding said, "I was surprised with the hominess and simplicity of the
home." Ron said, "Her sincere interest in each of us was something
that impressed me. It was a wonderful evening."
Can you believe it, several of the park visitors have been upset with the rangers because the wild flowers were late this year. I guess they think that all you have to do is turn on a TV dial.
It's nice to be wanted. Rocky Mountain National Park and Bandolier National Monument want us as volunteers this summer. Unfortunately our schedule doesn't allow it.
As I write this, it's four years to the day that we began full-timing. I'm sure that the next four years will pass just as quickly.
Speaking of anniversaries, it is just 25 years ago that President Johnson announced that he would not run again. That was March 31, 1968. Enter Richard Nixon.
I sure miss pulling April fool jokes on daughter Marty. It got to be quite a game between us.
On April 1st I told my tour bus passengers that I would swing by Fredricksburg and buy them a good German lunch. It took them a little while to realize that it was April fools day.
Baseball prediction. The Detroit Tigers will finish the season this
We wake up in the morning to the cheerful sound of birds and the cattle are often grazing just outside our fence. We are about 4 miles from state route 290 on a narrow ranch road which winds its way up and through the ranch. It is very quiet here --- except for the songs of many different birds, the rustling of the leaves on the live oak tree under which we sit or the occasional mooing of the cattle. This is the highest part of the LBJ ranch --- the part that LBJ loved the best. We can see the whole valley all around us and we feel honored to be able to set here for the three months that we volunteer.
When we returned this year, we felt like we were returning home. I guess sitting still for three months --- the longest we have stayed in one spot since we started full-timing --- could do that to you. We didn't have to prepare for our jobs this year --- it was still there in our heads and just needed a quick refresher which only took a day.
Our work week (four days) starts on Wednesday. We try to get up at 6:00 a.m. if it is not raining. I put the coffee on, turn on the hot water heater and we dress for our walk. We are usually out the door by 6:15 and after a little stretching are on our way. The day is just breaking and the air is fresh. There are many roads we can walk here. Part of the fun is deciding where to walk. In any direction, it is easy to walk 1 ½ to 2 miles. We see cattle, antelope and sheep on our way. Our walk is anywhere from three to four miles in length and gets us back to our house by 7:00 or a little after. The coffee is ready, we turn on Good Morning America for a few minutes to rest before getting ready for work.
When we are scheduled to drive busses, we need to be at the bus barn (a 5 minute walk from home) by 9:15. Ron likes to drive into Stonewall (4 ½ miles each way) first to get a newspaper and check on mail. Each bus driver has to check out his/her bus --- start the engine, check such things as the tires, turn signals, radio, doors, microphone, tape player and so on. The check out takes about 15 minutes and the drive to the visitor center takes 15 minutes or so (the busses don't go very fast).
Now that it is the busy time here, they run four or five busses each day. The first always leaves the visitor center at 10:00 a.m. and the last leaves at 4:00 p.m. In-between, the tour coordinator sends out the busses as the traffic warrants. We have seen busses go out every 15 minutes and at other times only every 1 ½ hours. Bus 1 (usually a ranger) needs to be down at the visitor center by 9:45. .
Once you find out what time your first run is, you pull the bus up to the loading area, help load the bus, chit chat with the visitors a few minutes, make safety announcements and take off. The 10 mile tour takes 1 1/2 hours. It starts at the state park, travels Ranch Road #1 for a mile, crosses the Pedernales River, enters the National Park and stops briefly at the Junction school where LBJ started school at the age of four. The next stop is the LBJ birthplace where the visitors get off the bus to tour the home. After touring the home, the passengers pay their respects at the Johnson family cemetary where LBJ is buried then continue the tour of the ranch which includes the grandparents farmhouse, the ranch house (the former Texas White House) and the ranch proper with all the cattle etc.
All the while we are driving the bus, we are imparting information to the 59 passengers --- details of Johnson's early childhood, political years and retirement. Our goal is to help people better understand the 36th president of the United States.
After each run, we find out when our next tour will be. Often it is so busy that we just unload one bus, pull up to the loading area and take off again without a break. We do get somewhat of a break while the visitors are touring the birth place though.
We have done as many as four tours in one day, but usually only do two or three. If we are the last bus, we don't get home till near 6:00 p.m. Those of you who are still working know how fast an evening goes ---what with fixing dinner and so on. No time for adventure. We do enjoy our visits with our volunteer neighbors in the evenings.
When we work at the birth place, we need to be there (2½ miles away) by 9:00 a.m. After opening up the house and barn, putting up the flag, wheeling a wheelchair to the gate and so on, it is nearly time for the first bus to pull up. When the visitors arrive at the front of the house, we give them a short 5 minute introduction, then show them through the house. It takes about 20 minutes for each group to get through the house and grounds. In busy times, when busses are running every 15 minutes or every 1/2 hour, you can imagine there is not much chance to rest at that job. The last tour arrives at the house at about 4:20 p.m. and by the time they are gone and the house is closed up, it is usually 5:00 p.m. before we leave.
Ron and I both like driving the buses best. Being with a group for the 1 ½ hour tour allows us to get to know the group a little better. So far this year Ron and I have conducted 119 tours.
We are off Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Sunday is busy with church, laundry
and grocery shopping. We usually don't get home from Fredricksburg until
late afternoon. We reserved Monday and Tuesday for sightseeing but haven't
done any of that yet. Something always seems to get in the way --- motorhome
washing, personal care (hair cuts, fingernails,
A Part of The LBJ State Park in Stonewall, Texas
Part of the charm of the LBJ National and State Parks here in Stonewall, Texas is the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm which is just down the road from the Visitor Center. There is a 5 minute nature walk from the Visitor Center to the farm. It is like a walk back in time. As you approach the farm at the rear of the barnyard, you will recognize the sounds and smells of the farm. The cows, chickens, sheep are here, there and everywhere.
I went to the farm early one morning--- long before all the visitors converged on the little farm. I wanted to take a few pictures and talk with the rangers without taking away from the visitors enjoyment. It was quiet. As I walked from the parking lot and through the front gate, I noticed how neat the garden was. I remembered seeing them plow the garden in February using a work horse and plow. Now rows made recently were just beginning to show life. The chickens were underfoot as I made my way through the barnyard on the way to the kitchen.
Mary Wieners who has worked at the farm for four years, dressed in a long
dress with full apron. She was busy skimming cream from the fresh milk.
The milk nearly filled an enameled pan which reminded me of a dish pan.
Mary explained that the cream would be saved until there was enough for
churning. The milk would be left out for a few days until it curdled and
then it would be made into cheese. She had already built a fire in the
cook stove, had bread rising, had gathered about one and one half dozen
eggs from the hens and was about ready to begin making peach cobbler. A
Mason jar of canned peaches stood ready on the counter. Mary explained
that she tries to fix lunch before the big rush of visitors arrive. Not
so they can eat, (the food isn't shared with the visitors), but so it is
out of the way and she can visit and answer questions. Typical lunch fare
is a roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, bread and dessert. Today
In addition to the meal preparation every day, the women feed the animals twice, sweep, dust, and clean the hen house, barn and water troughs. An extra job is added on Monday. It is always wash day and galvanized tubs are set out. The scrub board and knuckles both get used. Don't forget the butter, cheese, soap and candle making which has to be done often. Seasonally there is canning and slaughtering to be done.
I walked out to the barn and found Bruce Thiele preparing to feed one of the cows. He had already milked them both. He takes care of the garden and routine maintenance. Fences are always needing attention. We walked out to the garden and he showed me where they will plant everything. They usually get two plantings. The vegetables they grow are canned and last the whole year. Slaughter time is a busy time. The sausage has to be made and meats are put in the smoke house then packed into lard. Besides the house and barn, there are several buildings to maintain. Bruce has worked for the State Park since 1973. The farm opened two years after he was hired and he has been very much a part of the farm since then. I asked him if he kind of thought of it as his own. He just smiled. He has his own ranch and raises sheep and cattle. He does not plant a garden at home though. "One garden is enough", he said.
I found LeRoy Pehl sharpening an ax and that reminded me of all the extra jobs one had to do in the "good ole days". Chopping wood is a daily task when the cook stove is a wood burner.
There are about seven regular employees at the farm and nearly as many volunteers who work about one day a week. Usually only three or four are on duty at the farm each day and the rangers occasionally work in the LBJ visitor center. All admit that working the farm is the best part of their job. Maybe it is because of the strong German community here, but most, if not all of the farm workers are of German ancestry and speak the language to varying degrees. That seems to add to the authenticity of this old German farm.
A visit to the farm is nostalgic for some of the old farmers who come
this way and a brand new experience for the many school children who visit.
Mary said that the rangers often visit local schools and demonstrate such
things as butter making in classrooms. They do this for the children who
can't get to the farm. The farm is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and
there is no charge for admission. You will be missing something special
if you are in this area and don't take the time to stroll around this serene,
early 1900's, German farm.
by RonOur federal and local politicians of both parties have conditioned us to believe that citizens of this country are to blame for the national debt crisis. We have heard that someone has to pay for the services that the government provides and our political representatives are only doing what we demand of them. It is true that we ask government to provide services that governments traditionally provide and have learned to expect them. If we then follow their premise, the resulting conclusion is that we have to increase revenue or reduce services. Don't buy this false logic.
Government expenditures don't always provide goods and services. Much of our tax dollar goes for overhead and ill perceived projects that do nothing for its citizens. Having said that, it's easy to give examples as we have seen them in one of the poorest federal bureaucracies, namely the National Park Service. With out question the park service is low on the totem pole when federal dollars are handed out. This is understandable when considering other national priorities such as national defense, health, education and welfare. It would then make sense to guard and protect the limited resources available to the park service consistent with what those of us with limited incomes do. Unfortunately that is not the case.
On Saturday, March 13 the LBJ National Historic Park hosted 66 members (congressmen and staff) of the House Ways and Means Committee from Washington DC. They needed to get a first hand view of the park and how it operated. Hogwash! It was snowing in Washington and the weather was nice here. They were later entertained at the LBJ ranch house. They were conducted around the ranch by rangers who are being asked to take 8 weeks of unpaid leave in order to balance the budget. These rangers barely make a living wage without the forced furlough. If the trip was necessary, did it take 66 people? I think not. Considering airfares, per diem, chartered buses, and our staff time it's not hard to compute an expense cost to you and me of over $100,000.
Now it's true that park funds were not expended for the trip, but it all comes out of the large pot, from which the national park service gets it's meager share.
It gets worse. On Wednesday, March 17, 160 members from the Denver service center (yes, 160) visited the park and toured the ranch. They were later entertained at a barbeque held at the LBJ hangar. They also toured the new headquarters and visitor center. It is my understanding that this group takes tours all over the country to view new facilities. I wonder when they work or better yet why they're needed. They must be pretty important because this park was in a big dither getting ready for these big shots. No, I don't know where you can apply for one of their jobs.
Now about your visitor center. I know that the present one is very small and inadequate and that the park rents office space from the post office, but is an eight and a half million dollar visitor center really necessary for this small national historic park? The original plans called for a mere five million dollar center, but the cost has escalated. Either way, that money would sure pay a lot of rangers salaries or maybe keep the ones they have from having to take an eight week unpaid furlough.
Does this bother you? If so, send a copy of this newsletter to
your congressman --- but he or she is probably out on one of these field
trips (?) too.
This 'N That
I got to witness the birth of a calf last week. What an experience!! I was working at the birthplace when we heard one of the bus drivers radio that a cow was giving birth just down the road. I was working with Terry (one of the rangers) and she insisted that I take the time and go. She said that she would "hold down the fort" for both of us. I am so glad that she insisted that I go. Thanks Terry.
Speaking of nature, we have a bird here that is the best alarm clock. Every morning --- real early (and earlier every day) this little Titmouse goes on and on with his call. And he hangs around all day. We had to cover our side view mirrors because he would fight with the bird he saw in there. All day long this fight would go on. He's a cute little pest.
With this big new house, I have more housework to do. I think I forgot about that when we were buying. But I would not go back to our 24 foot Mallard for all the money in the world. This is truly like an apartment and very comfortable.
One of the things I really enjoy having in our new house is a toaster. Funny how such little things can bring so much pleasure. I did not have a toaster in the Mallard because there wasn't enough room and it was one of the first things we purchased to add to the Bounder.
I love the microwave too but need some microwave type dishes. I have plenty in storage. Before the garage sale, I will pick out a few to keep. I hope I won't find too many things to put into the Bounder. Just because we have the room is no excuse to carry "stuff".
One of the things I really want --- especially since we spend so much time in the west — is a pair of cowboy boots. My problem is that I wear an odd size. No one makes 9 ½ AA cowboy boots. I wonder if I would want them so badly if I could have them easily. At the rodeo we saw that SAS makes custom boots which start at $500. I don't want them that bad.
Our good friends the Rydings who are volunteers here are lots of fun to be with. Don has decided that he will write a book about his life as a Lutheran minister. I love the title --- "It wasn't my idea". Oh, and the stories he has to tell. We must keep pushing him like all of you pushed us. His book will be interesting, amazing, humorous and a joy I am sure.
Speaking of the book. We are almost out of the original printing --- thanks to all of you. We are getting ready for the second printing which we will revise a tiny bit. We want to correct all the mistakes (typos) and change the cover and title. We will also add a little about buying the Bounder and add a chapter on single full-timers. The original will be a collectors prize so if you don't have a copy, you might want to take this opportunity to order one.
Do any of you get the newspaper Out West? Chuck Woodbury has been written up in lots of publications and is quite popular. He just left a message on our answering service that he would like to sell our book in his paper. We will be shipping books out to him right away.
The San Antonio Express and the Austin American Statesman newspapers are doing stories on us and full-timing. We will let you know how the stories turn out. Both indicated that they will be Sunday feature stories.
Did you read that we are going to go to my least favorite place (Branson, Missouri) when we leave here? We got information about a Bounder Rally that is being held there from May 8 to May 13. It is the Bounder fellowship that I wanted to experience. The fact that it is being held in Branson and early in May just made it easy for us to attend. We are through here on May 2 and Branson is on the way back to Michigan. I promise to be a good reporter and will have an open mind on all the goings on there. Maybe I will like it after all.
I love roller coasters and have been wanting to ride the big, super fast, wooden coaster that just opened last year in San Antonio at Fiesta Texas amusement park. Ron doesn't like them so we are going to the park with my cousin Mary and her family. She and I will do the coaster (front seat --- hands up?) and we will enjoy all the entertainment through out the park. There is so much there that it will make a good story complete with photos.
The wildflowers flowers are out. Ron and his mom took a ride from here west to Fredricksburg than north to Llano. From there they drove southeast to Marble Falls then Johnson City and back to Stonewall. Both Ron and his mom said the flowers were like carpets along the sides of the road. "Exquisite" is the word they used. I can't wait to see them too. I remember last year at this time --- oh so beautiful.
Just when I have been writing about how quiet it is here, the older calfs got separated (weaned) from their mothers and the crying and carrying on was awful. My oh my!!! What hollering. They tell us that in one or two days, they will quiet down.
If you are interested in any back issues of Movin' On, please drop us
a note and we will send you the itemized list and order form.
TEXAS TRIVIA QUIZ
1. How many miles long is the Texas coastline?
a) 300 b) 367 c) 586
2. How many square miles are there in Texas?
3. What Texas town in known for uniquely names streets such as This Way, That way, and Any Way?
4. In 1967 Lyndon B Johnson appointed what Texan to the office of Attorney General?
5. Where were Teddy Roosevelt's famous Rough Riders trained?
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