Sunday, May 6, 2012

Brownwood, Texas

The next and final stop on our trip was Lake Brownwood State Park, located about 20 miles north of Brownwood. After spending 4 nights in a commercial park in a town, we were looking forward to some time in a park.

We were up fairly early on Monday, April 16. Although we didn't have a long drive, we wanted to get to the park as early as possible in order to get a good spot.

We headed north on US 87 out of Fredericksburg. We crossed the San Saba River about 20 or 25 miles out of town. For the 10 miles or so between the river and Mason, we saw good stands of wildflowers, probably the best we had seen thus far.

Mason is a lovely little Hill Country town. In a way, it is a smaller, less known version of Fredericksburg. It was settled largely by German immigrants, many of whom were talented stone masons who were instrumental in the construction of numerous buildings in the area, including Fort Concho in nearby San Angelo. Like many other towns along the edge of the frontier, a military post was established here. Fort Mason was located on a hill in the southern part of present day Mason in 1851.

Mason was the site of the famous "Hoo Doo War", which could basically be described as a feud between German ranchers and ex-Confederate soldiers. Johnny Ringo, who would later face off against the Earp brothers in Tombstone, Arizona, was involved in the feud.

The most famous native son of Mason is Fred Gipson, the author of Old Yeller and Savage Sam. The story lines and settings came straight out of the rugged countryside of Mason County, which was located on the Comanche frontier.

Today, Mason is a quiet community with a beautiful courthouse and some sturdy stone houses that reflect their German builders. Ranching and farming dominate the landscape, but the downtown area has some interesting businesses to attract the tourist passing through. Sounds like another trip to me.

Next town was Brady, which touts itself as the geographical center of Texas. Brady is a bustling community of about 5,500 people. We stopped briefly at the Walmart as we entered town to replenish our supplies. We've passed through Brady off and on for over 20 years but have never really spent any time there. There is a lake on the west side of town I've always wanted to see, but have never taken the time to do so.

After our stop, we got back on the road, taking US 377 the remaining 40 or so miles to Brownwood.

Brownwood, the home of Howard Payne University, is another of those places we've passed through for years. We've spent the night there many times in our travels across Texas, but we've never taken the time to do the tourist thing. One place we've always wanted to stop is Underwoods Cafeteria. Underwoods is sort of a legend in the area, and we've promised ourselves we would stop one day. On a recent trip through town, we planned to stop; however, on arrival we discovered it was closed on that day of the week. This time, however, it was open, and we enjoyed it.

Underwoods doesn't serve the best food around, but they do serve some good, homestyle food. There are basically half a dozen or so meats on the menu, and you select the one you want. I opted for German sausage while Donna had a hankering for fried chicken. After that selection, then you get unlimited side dishes. I had mashed potatoes, corn, and chile beans, and all were good. Cobbler is also included; from the selections of apple, peach, and blueberry, I chose the apple, and that was an excellent choice. Service is excellent, and our drink glasses were kept full and the warm yeast bread kept coming. It was a good day.

After the meal, we stopped for gasoline, then headed to the park.

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