Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another update to tell about a few new experiences. On Monday, I went with 7 TG neighbours to partake in Winter Texan Appreciation Day in Progresso Mexico. Don declined the adventure since he had been there in February when I was in Arizona and didn't want to go again. Even with scary reports of drug cartel problems in the Rio Grande Valley, the Mexican border towns rely on Winter Texans coming over the border to go to the dentists, buy their medications, eat and shop. This was the day they show their appreciation and the main street of Progresso was closed to traffic and 5 stages with entertainment were set up and there were many giveaways of bags, hats and pins. Winter Texans love anything that is free so lots of people came over to enjoy the day. We started with a Mexican breakfast in a little cafe on the side street. Luckily one of our group could speak Spanish to help us out. The rest of the morning we spent shopping and getting pinned with little advertising things. Lots of police presence around. We had a little refreshment at a local cafe - for the 8 of us - no charge because one of our party bought their medications at the pharmacy connected to it. On to lunch at a bakery/pharmacy/retaurant/pub with live music we could dance to. Then back to the main street to buy our last supplies and back over the border bridge - showed our passports, paid duty on liquor and home by 3 PM.

On Tuesday I had another new adventure by going to a Ropa warehouse - used clothing that comes from ? in great big bales that people climb on and sort through for things they may want and then pay for the pound for what they want. You were old clothes that you can was after you get back and you should have a shower as well. One of the TG ladies I was with was collecting baby clothes and old sheets and tablecloths that she takes to her church group back home. The baby clothes are cleaned and repaired and given to poor families. The sheets and tablecloths are used for quilts for charity too. Her 4 garbage bags of lout cost here less than $9. I got some t-shirts for Katie's sculture work and a few other things for a cost of 20 cents a pound so the adventure cost less that $4.

That evening I went to a concert of the McAllen Symphonic Band. Incorporated in 1974, McAllen Symphonic Band is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide cultural entertainment to the community and an outlet for local musicians who enjoy rehearsing and performing a variety of music. This concert was called "Water Music" and included selections from Pirates of Penzance, Titanic, The Little Mermaid and Handel's Water Music. There were about 75 musicians on stage, young and old and many were music teachers and band directors. The concert was very enjoyable.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Into Kingsville - a town that grew thanks to the King Family (mostly Henrietta and her grandson Bob) bringing the railroad to the area so they could ship their cattle and other products. The Kings donated an acre of land to any church that wanted to come to the town. They also donated land for schools. Our first stop was at the King Ranch Saddle Shop. Beautiful expensive things - complete with lots of stuffed animals and a working saddle shop. Check out their products at

Back on the bus to be transported over to the John E. Conner Museum at the Texas A&M Kingsville. It contained the Graves Peeler Hall of Horns (trophy game mounts collected by an amazing, hunter, rancher and lawman, and the saviour of the Texas Longhorn.) It also had historica exhibits and a temporary exhibit of quilts from the Kingsville Saturday Quilters.
Back on the bus and returned to Trophy Gardens by 5:30 PM after starting out at 6:45 AM - good day - lots of learning.
Back to the King Ranch trip. On the 2 hour coach trip on the way to the ranch we had a local historian - Helen Myers - give us the history of the ranch and area. When we reached the ranch, a Ranch historian (retired teacher) boarded our bus and told us lots of info on our hour bus tour of the Ranch itself. The picture on the left is their business center which was originally their general store for the families that lived on the ranch. The first home on the property was a 2 room mud hut that Richard King brought his young bride Henrietta home to. A second home was built but burnt down in 1912 and the 3rd home was built on the original site. Henrietta King instructed the architect to design a house that anybody would be comfortable walking into wearing boots. Driving by the front door of the Ranchhouse you see Peacocks and Peahens at the front door. These have always been on the property from early days because Henrietta was afraid of rattlesnakes and peacocks will attack and kill rattlesnakes. Henrietta was a teacher (at age 17) from Brownsville and taught their 5 children (3 girls and 2 boys)and the ranch family children to Grade 8. The King children were sent to boarding school in St Louis Missouri for high school. The 2 oldest girls married men from St Louis, one of the boys wanted to be a farmer rather than a rancher so his parents set him up on a farm, the other son died of pneumonia at age 19 and the youngest daughter (Alice) came home to the ranch. She married a lawyer - Klieberg in 1886 and they ran the ranch for years. Henrietta lived to 93 and lived on the ranch all those years. Richard King died at age 60 from stomach cancer in 1885. Alice and her husband had 5 children and their son "Mr Bob" ran the ranch from age 24 to the end of his life. This picture on the right is of the carriage house - it has been in Ford commercials - lots of F-150 Ford King Ranch trucks to be seen. Another thing they showed us were "bump gates" so the drivers don't have to get out of their trucks to open gates on the Ranch - they work on a swinging spindle in the middle. The cowboys still use horses when they round up cattle in the mesquite tree brush areas - where the cattle pasture in the summer heat.

There was a bulldozer at work clearing mesquite bush because these were originally grasslands but due to the imported Mexican cattle grazing mesquite trees resulted - the mesquite trees are not native to Texas and are very difficult to kill because 2/3rds of the tree are the roots. The wood is super hard but very beautiful and now being used on expensive floors and furniture.

Today King Ranch is far more than cattle and horse ranching and is still owned by the descendants of Richard King.
Oil was discovered on the property and Exxon Mobile has a natural gas plant on the property.
Cotton is grown and they have one of the largest cotton gins.
They have 2 large sod farms - a leader and innovator growing high quality turfgrass sod for commercial and residential applications - in Florida.
They are the largest citrus growers in Florida - they are Tropicana and Minute Maid
King Ranch owns 90,000 acres in Florida.
They grow sugar cane and process powdered sugar.
They own a John Deere dealership in Texas, a horse farm in Tennessee and another farm in Pennsylvania and ranches in other locations in the world - Argentina, Brazil, Australia.
King Ranch offers one of the best hunting areas of South Texas - includes limited Nilgai (African antelop) hunts.
King Ranch is also a leader in wildlife management quail, white-tailed deer, wild turkey with Nature tours available. We saw alligators swimming and they have to harvest these non natives due to overpopulation.
It was all very impressive and then we went for lunch at a buffett in Kingsville. I am going to start a new post for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Time to catch up again. What have we been doing for the last 10 days? Just enjoying the Texas sunshine. Last Wednesday we did meet our friend Thery King and her cousin Wanda for a lovely lunch at Pirate's Landing in Port Isabel. Last night we played "Night Golf" - a scramble with glow in the dark balls - it was fun with 45 people out. Sorry to say cousin Don and Maureen left this morning for Winnipeg and we will miss their company here at Trophy Gardens.

Today I was off on an adventure to King Ranch - a 2 hour bus trip north of us. The King Ranch is the largest family owned ranch in Texas - 825,000 acres. I wanted to tour this ranch because we have a Ford "King Ranch" pick-up truck and have passed the ranch on our way to the Rio Grande Valley for 2 winters now. So here is some info on the King Ranch.
Captain Richard King (1824-1885) , a Rio Grande Steamboat Captain bought 2 Spanish land grants on the Santa Gertrudis Creek and founded the legendary King Ranch in 1853. He bought Longhorn cattle from Mexico and battled droughts and cattle thieves to build a profitable ranch. Note the famous "running W" brand used by the King Ranch. Santa Gertrudis beef cattle were developed here in 1920 from Brahman cattle ( 3/8th) from India and English Shorthorns (5/8th) - a dark red hide which protects the cattle from sunburn and the first American produced breed of beef cattle. Later came the Santa Cruz beef cattle. Today they have 60,000 cattle - 30,000 breeding stock and 30,000 for market each year. the cattle and horses are sold to a buyer. There is a herd of Longhorn cattle on the ranch. Longhorn cattle are well suited for the climate and conditions of Texas but are too lean for the beef market - their colourful hides and horns are more valuable.
There are also cinnamon colored quarter horses and thoroughbreds - famous for the horse "Assault" who won the Triple Crown in 1946 - only Texas horse to do this. There is a horse cemetary for its famous horses - about 7 stones are in view. The horses were buried head, heart and hoof.
There are about 100 families involved in the running of the Ranch - some who have been involved for 7 generations. When Richard King purchased cattle from the villagers of Cruillas, Mexico, he wisely offered them work and a place to live if they helped him move the cattle north and continues to work with him on the ranch. These rugged, hardworking men became known as los kinenos, or King's people. Some of the families live on the ranch in a small subdivision of houses called The Colony.
On the property is the Ranchhouse - 32,000 square foot house that has 17 bedrooms and 19 bathrooms, a diningroom table that holds 40 to 50 diners - now run as a hotel for King Ranch corporate personnel.
The Corporate Centre of the King Ranch businesses is in Houston.
There was a dairy operation (Jersey cattle) on site until 1953 - used for supplying milk for the ranch's families.
(Bedtime - more info to add tomorrow)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Time to get back on track with this blog. So the sad update on golf is that Canada lost the tournament to the USA and then this past Wednesday it was Winter Ranch (the RV Park beside us) and Trophy Garden Challenge (our park) and we lost again. Maureen and I attended a 90 minute seminar from golf guru "Steve" ( that preachers to the recreational golfer at a nearby hotel ballroom. It was entertaining and we are hoping it helps our games. (It isn't showing so far?)

So what else have we done - besides golf and potluck dinners? Don and I went on a little bus trip to a Rio Grande River Cruise last Monday. We had an hour ride on the Rio Grande River - saw the damage on the riverfront properties from the flooding of the river last fall. The river stayed elevated for 33 days. We had a delicious lunch at the Riverside Grill where our cruise started and ended. The Border Patrol presence is certainly seen. We saw their lookout tower right beside this RV Park right on the river. I am sure it gives the residents some excitment at times.
Today, Maureen, Gail and I went to see "Man of La Mancha" A Musical Play at the University of Texas in Edinburg. It was very enjoyable and the actors were very talented.
Tomorrow is the Bike Club's Picnic at a local park. Some RVers have already left to go home and more take off each day. By the end of this month, the place will be alot emptier.
Almost forgot to mention I won $5 at Bingo on Friday night. I taught the weekly craft class on Friday - the Art of Zentangle - structured doodling. Got to keep busy.