Published on my other blog: My Hill Country Life.
This is not a post about THAT kind of welfare. This is a post about one of my new favorite places in the Texas Hill Country. Go figure.
It’s got winding roads, horse dotted hills, shady streams, sophisticated transplants from the cities, and rednecks. I never imagined that parts of Texas would remind me so much of my old home, Virginia!
My original intention was to spend an afternoon in Fredericksburg, a city about 30 minutes north of Welfare, but that is for another day. Diverted, on impulse, I took the Welfare exit off I-10, and drove under the speed limit for miles on Welfare-Waring Road, taking in the views, the smells, the sounds; waving the Suburbans and Pick-ups around so I wouldn’t have to rush through the landscape.
The word “welfare” of course, having such negative connotations, can make a person pause before heading that direction. Don’t worry, it’s Texas! This Welfare is easy to escape. No need to take the Turnaround.
Right off the exit is a place all its own. Smittyville Country Store is the main attraction, surrounded by quaint bungalows, a town square of sorts and a lovely park. If Cracker Barrel is your thing, you’ll adore the Smittyville Country Store and cafe. I had a veggie sandwich, which I would normally prefer on a wrap instead of bread, and the potato chips were straight out of a bag. But at $5.95, on the road to Welfare, who’s complaining?
Ironically my server was anything but “country”, all blinged out with a Cache t-shirt, rhinestones on all appendages: ankles, wrists, and head. She said that’s how she always dresses, because she just likes to, and why not? Well, exactly. She was busy arranging Christmas decorations in-between serving. You can never be too early.
Here’s the funny-sad part. Here I am, trying to support people near Welfare, so I buy a couple of Texas themed Christmas ornaments, hoping to stimulate the economy, grow jobs, etc. Feeling satisfied I did my part, I notice that the tags say “Made in China.” YOU”VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.
OK, oh well…. The park was peaceful, and Jesus still reigns, with a place to give thanks that we live in Texas, the greatest place on Earth.
Just up the road from Smittyville, is one of the area’s favorite destinations. I hear tell people come from miles around to eat at PoPo restaurant, which I plan to visit later with my guy because the sign looks really cool.
Next door is the Nelson City Dance Hall and Party Ranch, which has to be the most awesome setting for a party in the middle of nowhere, hands down, where-ever, because most of the day I couldn’t tell where Smittyville/Nelson City/Welfare/Waring ended and began. Where’s Nelson City? (That’s why I simply refer to all of it as Welfare). The Party Ranch, sadly, was all locked up so I couldn’t wander about, but I got tons of pictures. Check them out on the Flickr photostream.
Back on the road I headed towards what I hoped would be a marker that would say, without equivocation that I had finally arrived in Welfare. If there is one, it would be Welfare Cafe, the other almost-famous spot that locals and tourists flock to. The Cafe claims to be located in “Downtown Welfare” but to my untrained eyes, I pretty much have determined that the Welfare Cafe IS downtown Welfare. Also, the cafe does not look like your average soup kitchen. I can’t say for sure though….. it was closed at 2:00 when I dropped by and saw that its hours were 4-9pm on Thursdays. Not that I could have afforded much on the menu anyway. That’s why they call it Welfare.
Further along my journey, I became intrigued by the simple and perfect farms and barns along the road. It was almost like taking pictures of paintings.
Past windmills, streams, blooming bushes and ranches….I came across a woman tending the entry to her horse farm. I asked her if there was a town ahead, not knowing if I had already blinked and missed Waring. “Oh yes…. about a mile ahead. If you can call it a town…there’s a place to get hamburgers. And a post office. And rednecks, if you like those.”
Well, yes, I do, I even love rednecks on a lazy, beautiful fall afternoon.
Coming into Waring, it wasn’t much, but it was not bleach-white-boring (unlike Blanco, sorry.) The small country store had a sign lit up that simply said: SHUT. But across the street, the General Store was open for business.
The General Store was the brainchild of Don Strange – that Don Strange – the one who owns the adventure ranch (with zip lining) on Welfare-Waring Road, where Miranda Lambert got married to Blake Shelton! For years it was an antique shop, but it has been thriving as a Saloon/Store/Happening Place for awhile now. On Wednesdays from 6-9 it features a $25 Steak night with a 10 oz piece of meat, stuff to go with it, and music from up and coming stars.
The guy at the counter told me I should check out the river half-mile down the road, if that far. During the rainy season (?) the General Store offers kayaking tours. This is where I ended my journey up Welfare-Waring road, because it was so perfect, I didn’t think that I’d find anything else to top it.
I was mistaken. On the way back home I ran into some loose livestock. Beware of hungry sheep in Welfare. They’re all over the place!
Check out my Photostream on Flickr