Cock-a-doodle-doo from Lockhart, Texas
After my wonderful time in Houston being shown around by my good friend Doug Harris, I headed to my next destination in the state of Texas. My GPS led me to the middle of nowhere in rural farmland Texas where I will be staying alone for the next few days. Well, not entirely alone: this area has loads of coral snakes and if they bite you, you can die. Oh, and my new neighbours are apparently deaf so they wouldn’t even be able to hear my death screams if I ever crossed a hungry snake looking to taste my delicate Danish skin. Quite a welcome, right?
SSSSSNAKES IN LOCKHART
Mary and Charlie own this charming country house in rural Lockhart, a small city south of Austin. They’re going away for a few days and need someone to take care of their cats, house, and plants. So, they asked me to be their trusted house-sitter.
While showing me around and giving me strict instructions on what to do and where everything is, they also tell me a bit about the dangers out here in the countryside of Texas. They have some animals roaming around that I’m not used to from when I lived in the countryside of Denmark. Like coral snakes when you step out the door, Mary tells me.
“When you walk out the door, be sure to always look out as we have had to kill coral snakes on two separate occasions right here on our porch. They are very, very poisonous. They have tiny mouths, so they have to get you real’ good for it to be dangerous, but still, be careful. And they’re very pretty: black, red, and yellow.”
Pretty is one way to describe them. This guy on YouTube describes them as “…the most venomous snake in the United States and they have a very potent neurotoxin, more potent than any of the rattlesnakes around Texas, and you can die by the paralysis of your diaphragm: basically, you suffocate to death”. Delightful.
Well, no big deal for Mary and Charlie apparently, as they “just kill them” sweet Mary says very casually. Charley adds that I can just leave them alone or kill them too if I want to… “that’s what the shovel is for.”
During all this, I was thinking to myself: “I’ve never killed a coral snake before, and I don’t really want to start my coral snake-killing spree now. And I wonder how long I will have to live if I get bitten living out here all by myself?”.
But they are pretty, very small, and they must bite me in a soft spot of skin like my hand or my bare feet. Thank God there aren’t any bigger, more dangerous snakes around here. Oh, there are?
“There are also rattlesnakes around here and cayotes,” says Charley.
Oh, great. Rattlesnakes. Even though Mary tries to calm me down by saying that they haven’t encountered one in ages. To which Charlie was quick to remind her that he killed one only two months prior…
This is truly an interesting place with interesting animals around. So, we step inside, and they show me around the house where the only animals are cute cats…and a few spiders. I introduced myself to their cats that I was going to be taking care of before my hosts guide me through what I need to know about keeping everything going.
Charlie then takes me for a walk outside and tells me which plants out there I need to water and how much. I was listening and paying attention…but mostly looking down on the ground to make sure I wasn’t stepping on a coral snake or any other dangerous creature.
Charlie tells me more about the dangers:
“Coral snakes are very poisonous. And rattlesnakes are too but not as much, and they tend to warn you before striking. They have a strike distance that is the length of their body. Be sure to listen out for their tail rattle. We also have raccoons. They can be very mean, especially if you corner them. They look cute but I wouldn’t want to corner a mom with her babies. They sometimes come to visit us on our front porch”.
SOUTH OF WEIRD
Remember the unofficial slogan for Austin: “Keep Austin Weird”? Well, Lockhart is about 30 miles south of Austin, so locals like Charlie say they live “about 30 miles south of weird”. In fact, Charlie even has a t-shirt that has this slogan on it, but with the ‘weird’ spelt incorrectly. Weird.
LOCKHART IS THE BBQ CAPITAL
Before I met up with Mary and Charlie at their country home, they took me to an amazing BBQ restaurant. Yes, Lockhart is known as the Barbecue Capital of Texas. And it’s official, something the Texas Legislature proclaimed them as in 1999. Whenever I told anyone in Texas that I was going to Lockhart their faces lit up and they started talking about barbecue.
Lockhart is home to four famous barbecue joints: Kreuz Market, Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail BBQ, and the place we went to, Smitty’s Market. Locals suggest you arrive armed with your appetite, good friends, and plenty of napkins. Mary tells me that it is frowned upon to eat your BBQ here with a knife and fork, and no sauce. You should eat it instead with your hands and with bread.
As soon as we walked inside, I felt like I was walking into history. Actually, one of the competitors, Kreuz Market, was located at this spot before they moved to its current location. And it was the sister of the owner of Kreuz that opened Smitty’s Market after they had a family disagreement.
But it is quite remarkable that this city has so many incredible barbecue joints for such a small place.
MARY ON LOCKHART
“It’s small, with a population of only 14,000. It’s a very Hispanic town, with families being here for generations. We have a fancy courthouse that have been used in many movies and series because it looks mid-century”.
FACTS ABOUT LOCKHART
- The city of Lockhart is named after Byrd Lockhart, an assistant surveyor (someone who takes measurements and maps an area). Reportedly he was the first Anglo to set foot in Caldwell County in the 1800s.
- Lockhart was the victory site for the Texans over the Comanche at the Battle of Plum Creek in 1840. In fact, Lockhart was originally called Plum Creek, but the name was later changed to Lockhart.
- The Caldwell County Courthouse is absolutely stunning, and you may recognise it from being featured in various TV shows and films (Waiting for Guffman, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Faculty, Transformers, and the HBO series The Leftovers.
- And one final thing: it’s got nothing to do with Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter (I checked).
HOME ALONE IN LOCKHART
Mary and Charlie left for their vacation, and I had the house and the cats to myself for the next 10 days. I’ve housesat before but in case you haven’t heard listened to those previous episodes or are wondering what housesitting is, let me quickly explain.
It’s where people like Mary and Charlie let someone stay in their home for a few days/weeks/months while they go on holiday or something and get ‘housesitters’ like me to look after their pets, water their plants, provide general upkeep, etc. In this case, we found each other on TrustedHousesitters.com.
There’s a mutual agreement that I get to stay in the house while they are away in exchange for doing a few things. In this case, it’s taking care of their cats and making sure that their plants are alive when they come back. No money changes hands. They get someone to look after their house, pets, and plants, and I get a place to stay for free. They even gave me the keys to their car and their truck.
And a car is handy because we’re in the countryside down a dirt road, five miles southeast of Lockhart.
BUNCH OF COCKS
The next morning, like eeeeaaaarrrllyyyy in the morning, I was woken up by the delightful, sweet melodies of LOUD COCKS cock-a-doodle-doo-ing. The neighbours of Mary and Charley breed cocks for cockfighting, despite it being illegal in this state. So, they breed them, train them like miniature gladiators, then truck them to a nearby state where people place bets on which cock will win. Charming.
And the cocks don’t only cock in the morning: it’s an ALL DAY affair which the neighbours don’t mind because, well, they’re deaf.
I fed the cats and then headed two hours north to visit another good friend, Paul Weyland, a Texan whom I also know from the radio industry. In fact, Doug, Paul, and I met in Mumbai a few years back when we all were speakers at a conference. And like Doug, Paul is also an amazing public speaker and an interesting man. So, I just had to pay him a visit now that I was here in Texas.
Paul’s house is quite unique: so special, in fact, that it has been featured in Dwell, a popular website for unique house designs.
“I lived in walking distance to the big park where Austin City Limits music festival is held. We had a house that was maybe 4min by car to downtown and we got tired of the traffic and the city. So, we sold it and moved to the lakehouse which was handed down to me by my grandfather. We only used it as a holiday home but soon we realised that it would be a perfect place to live, with its lovely and quaint community that is still close to Austin but far from the maddening crowd. We started to renovate the house but realised that we had to completely demolish and rebuild due to structural implications, but we wanted to include elements of the old house”.
After a quick tour of the beautiful house on the edge of Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, he takes me for a drive around this beautifully idyllic area. But he hasn’t always lived here: when I met him, he lived in Austin.
Paul drives me to Sandy Mountain to experience the incredible view of the lake and the neighbourhood. Paul shows me his house from up here. It takes roughly a day’s drive to visit each place along the lake, but 6 hours if you go from one end to the other without stopping. It is a man-made reservoir with a dam at either end that generates electricity. This area used to be Comanche land, Paul tells me.
Paul informs me about the history of the Comanches in the area, how they preferred to raid the European settlers than farm for themselves. He tells me that when he lived in Europe for 3 years, some people would talk to him about Europe experiencing “American problems” – referring to the migrant surges. But Paul uses this as an opportunity to inform his ‘friend’ that the USA was founded by the bravest and most religious Europeans…
Paul tells me that as a natural-born American, his heritage is Scottish, German, Alsace-Lorraine (between France and Germany) and some other mixes, including Native American. In response, I joked that as a Dane, I am 100% Viking…
Well, since my drive with Paul I actually had a Heritage DNA test taken and found out that I am only 98% Scandinavian…the remaining 2% is either Greek or Southern Italian. I must say that I was a bit surprised how that had ended up in my bloodline. But then, it might just be due to the Vikings raping and pillaging their way through the Mediterranean Sea back in the day who then brought something back to Denmark from there that just got watered down throughout history. If only I knew…
I’ll continue my drive and chat with Paul Weyland in the next episode.
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My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See you.
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