Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Waco, Texas

Waco is a city in Texas we had heard little about except for the 1993 federal and Texas law enforcement and military siege on a religious group called the Branch Davidians.  It lasted 51 days and resulted in the deaths of 76 people.  Not a stellar moment in our country's history.

Recently, however, we have been watching a show on HGTV called "Fixer Uppers" about a couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, who live in Waco and have been involved in home makeovers for the past few years.  The show is wildly popular and the town of Waco is presented in a totally different light so we decided to stop and check it out.   Waco is a city on the Brazos River halfway between Dallas and Austin with a population of 125,000 people which makes it only a few thousand less than the population of Columbia, SC.  It is also the home of Baylor University.

Baylor University is the largest private Baptist university in the world and the oldest continuously operating university in Texas.  The campus is 1,000 acres located on the banks of the Brazos River.

Baylor University's McLane Stadium, their new home for the Baylor Bears. 

It is also home to the Armstrong Browning Library which is a 19th century research center dedicated to the study of the lives and works of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  The library houses the world's largest collection of Browning material and other rare 19th-century books, manuscripts, and works of art.  

Dr. A.J. Armstrong, founder of the Armstrong Browning Library, became interested in Robert Browning when he was a young man and began to collect books and articles associated with Browning.  Armstrong became chairman of the Baylor English Department and spent the rest of his life seeking and acquiring everything concerning the poet.  The Armstrong Browning Library opened in 1951.

The Brownings had one son, Robert Wiedeman Browning, known as Pen, who lived in Italy and became a sculptor and an artist. Pen Browning died in 1912 without leaving a will and his effects were sold in London by Sothebys.  Dr. Armstrong was able to acquire a copy of the 161-page illustrated sale catalogue with a record of the buyers. This served as his starting point to either beg or purchase every Browning item he could find.   

Elizabeth Barrett Browning salon.

There are many portraits in the library of Robert Browning at different stages of his life but we were unable to find a single portrait of his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

We asked a young man who was working there about portraits of Elizabeth Browning and he said she was quite shy and would not pose for any portraits.  They had one sketch of her and this sculpture which might have been completed by her son.

There are many beautiful pieces of furniture owned by the Brownings in the library.  

And throughout the library magnificent stained glass windows.

Paintings by Pen Browning are also in the library including this depiction of the head of John the Baptist. 

While in Waco we visited the Dr. Pepper museum since this is where the soft drink, Dr. Pepper, began.

The Meyer Dumore Junior Bottle Washer, ca. 1930, could wash 24-120 bottles per minute requiring only one operator.

There was a lot of old equipment on display but not much detail as to what it did.

There were also a lot of old soda bottles.

In the 1920's a doctor at Columbia University conducted a study on the human body's fatigue.  He determined a person's blood sugar is at its lowest around 10:30, 2:30, and 4:30 leaving him feeling tired and hungry.  The Dr. Pepper Company was using an advertising agency that decided to use the study  and created a slogan, "Drink a Bite to Eat at 10, 2, and 4".  The slogan gained new meaning during World War II, when the United States rationed sugar because it was a major ingredient in explosives. To save itself from being rationed, the Dr. Pepper Company  created  a book titled, The "Liquid Bite", which explained how sugar is an energy booster and was therefore needed by the soldiers.  Based on the efforts of the Dr. Pepper Company and others, carbonated  beverages were declared "essential to war" and reclassified as a food by Congress.

This horse is one of the more popular objects in the museum.  Created as a special event at Neiman-Marcus, the body is made from Dr Pepper bottle caps with red grout in between and the mane and tail are made of sliced aluminum Dr Pepper cans. 

The RV park we stayed at  was outside Waco on a farm.  There were lots of sheep and goats and we were allowed to take the pups on trails all over the farm which gave them much needed exercise.

Wool from the sheep where they rubbed against the gates.

And this big, old boy was out guarding his herd.
Waco is a city that sprawls.  There are many sections to it and other small towns that have grown into it.  We never did see the nicer subdivision that shows the grand homes on the lead-in to the HGTV show, "Fixer Uppers", but we did see much of the town.

The largest building in Waco is ALICO which is an insurance company.  It towers over all the other buildings.

And, of course, we had to check out the Magnolia Market which is a shop owned by the stars of "Fixer Upper".

When we went into the store it was like a feeding frenzy.  It wasn't very large and they didn't have a great deal of inventory but people were grabbing everything they could find because they had seen the shop on the TV show.  

Many of the decorations are the same that Joanna Gaines uses to decorate the homes they fix up.  It was a little too country kitchen for us so we left.

Downtown Waco has many nice walking trails along the Brazos River so we took the pups for a hike.

We found some very different looking birds along the water.

The town is growing quickly and there were apartment buildings and restaurants along the waterway.

Along the waterway we found  this climb to higher elevation called Jacob's Ladder so we went up it to get some better views.  

From a distance you can see a rock formation which is called Lover's Leap.  Not sure if anyone has used it for that reason.

Horses were also allowed in the park and along the trails.

Even saw a lady walking a baby sheep.

While in Waco we stopped at Valley Mills Vineyard for a wine tasting.  We thought this was an inspirational sign !

We also met Becca Boer who was our hostess for the wine tasting.  While talking with her we found out she was a fellow Montanan which thrilled the Captain.  Becca is starting her graduate work in English and hopes to be a fiction writer someday.  Remember that name!  Her husband is also completing graduate work at Baylor.  

Downtown has a wonderful Waco Suspension Bridge that was built in 1870 and has been restored as a walking bridge over the Brazos River.  

Years ago the bridge was used to drive cattle to market and this was how they got the steers over the water.

The park in front of the suspension bridge has statues depicting the cattle being driven to market.

Kids loved climbing on the steer.

Unfortunately, the birds like the statues, too.
Desi didn't realize what the statues were and almost jumped out of his skin when he got too close. 

And that's it for Waco, Texas, our last stop in this great state.  We will be moving on to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to see what that's all about.  While we were in Texas I saw this sign I wanted to share with you since we are so close to the holiday. What more could one want. Peace!

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