Thursday started out with some rain showers in the morning, but they didn’t last long. After lunch, we decided to take a drive up to the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch and Historic Park, and it turned out to be a beautiful day.
We started out in the Visitor Center, where we picked up our permit & CD for the driving tour of LBJ Ranch. We talked to the Ranger and volunteer working in the gift shop about their volunteer program. We had seen two of the volunteer campsites as we drove in, and they looked pretty nice. We’ll keep this one in mind for a future volunteering gig. We also talked to the volunteers at the Living History Farm, and when Nicolas found out that they bake bread every day, he decided that he definitely wants to volunteer here!
The Visitor Center contained historical artifacts from the Germans who settled the area, as well as the native Indians and Mexicans.
Ranches in this area of Texas have buffalo, as well as cattle,
and there seems to be cowhide everywhere you look.
The first stop on the driving tour is the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, and it’s just a short walk from the Visitor Center to the farm, so we decided to take the walking path. As we set off across the field, several deer jumped out of the woods in front of us.
We walked past the Texas Longhorn enclosure,
along a dry creek bed leading down to the Pedernales River,
past several native plant species,
until we arrived at the Sauer Beckmann Living History Farm. The Sauer Family started this farm, building the first log cabin and stone structure. The Beckmann Family were the 2nd owners of the farm, and lived on the property until it was donated as part of the LBJ Historic Park.
The farm is maintained in the condition it was in around 1915, and volunteers work on the farm in the same way the family did at the time. They gather eggs, milk the cow, butcher 1 steer and 1 hog annually, and can vegetables and fruits that they grow on the property.
We walked through the barnyard first, visiting with the animals and studying the various tools in the barn.
From the barn, we walked over to the house, where we learned the history of the farm from one of the volunteers.
In the kitchen, another volunteer told us how they use the fresh cow’s milk to make cheese, and butter, and cottage cheese. She also explained that they save all their eggshells, roast them in the oven, and then grind them into a fine mixture that they feed to the chickens to provide calcium for their diet – this helps them produce eggs with hard shells. In some areas of the country, they use oyster shells instead.
After a quick pit stop,
we left the farm and began our driving tour of LBJ Ranch.
We crossed the Pedernales River and entered the Ranch.
The first stop on the drive was Junction School, the one-room schoolhouse that LBJ attended as a young child.
Four-year old Lyndon learned to read at this one-room school located near his home. He returned as President 53 years later to sign the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
From the schoolhouse, we continued our drive and stopped at the reconstructed LBJ Birthplace.
On August 27, 1908, the first child of Sam and Rebekah Johnson was born at this site and named Lyndon James. The house was rebuilt by the President in 1964 to be used as a guest house.
Bryce tried ringing the dinner bell, but somebody had removed the ringer . . .
We continued on, and the next stop was the Johnson Family Cemetery.
Generations of Johnsons are buried in this family plot where the 36th President was laid to rest on January 25, 1973.
Leaving the cemetery, we approached the house, but first we would drive through the Ranch, which is still being maintained as a working cattle ranch.
As we drove around the northern edge of the property, we saw the herd of Herefords, and we also saw the campsites for the National Park Service resident volunteers.
They have a couple of really nice campsites at the back of the ranch – I could live here for awhile!
Our next stop was the show barn, which had been built for the care and training of cattle, and continues to serve as the center for present day ranching operations.
In the barn, we saw several cattle resting, and this adorable little guy!
There were also a group of baby goats who really liked Nicolas and Bryce!
They especially found Bryce’s shoelaces interesting!
From the barn, we followed the airstrip to the hangar located just behind the house.
According to the CD, President Johnson would leave Air Force One behind at the Austin Airport, and then complete his trip to the ranch on a small jet he referred to as “Air Force 1/2”, which is on display outside the hangar.
We entered the hangar and purchased our tickets to tour the “Texas White House”. While we waited for our tour we explored the hangar, checking out the various cars on display.
According to the sign in front of this amphicar, the President would take unsuspecting guests for a ride around the ranch in this car, and would suddenly plunge it into the Pedernales River, shouting that he had lost control and the brakes weren’t working! What a jokester!
I told him he needs a box to stand on!!
When it was time for our tour, we gathered in front of the house with our Ranger Guide.
This is the “West Wing” of the house, and it is the room where the President and several staff members would work while at the ranch. Our guide told us that he spent about 25% of his time on the ranch while he was in office, and frequently met with congressmen, senators and foreign dignitaries right here.
We weren’t allowed to take any photographs inside, but we did hear lots of interesting stories about the President and the family. The inside of the house is still in the same condition it was when he was in office, including furniture, artwork, books and clothes!
We learned that he had 3 televisions set side-by-side in both the family room and his bedroom, so that he could always have all three networks on at once. No remote controls back then!!
The home was large – 6 bedrooms upstairs (2 for the daughters, one for the cook & her husband, and 3 guest rooms), and an entire wing on the 1st floor for the President and Mrs. Johnson. It wasn’t extravagant, though, and we were told that Mrs. Johnson made sure that everyone felt welcome and at-home when they were there.
The front of the house overlooked the Pedernales River,
and many “Texas-style” BBQs were held under the shade of the huge Live Oak. On the east end of the house, there was the swimming pool,
and around back we saw one of the daughter’s 18th birthday presents!
The back of the house was as pretty as the front,
and signaled the end of our guided tour.
We really enjoyed our visit, and the insight into a US President that we didn’t really know too much about!
We were starving by the time we left, and it was close to 5pm so we didn’t stop at the sites in Johnson City, and just made our way east to the Salt Lick BBQ. I had read about this place on another blog, and heard about it from a friend at work, so we were anxious to try it . . . and we brought our own drinks!
There was music playing on the porch when we arrived,
and that walk past the grill on the way to our table had our mouths watering immediately!
We knew Tom was the only one who would eat the side dishes – beans, potato salad and cole slaw – so he ordered the brisket plate, and we ordered ribs and sausage by the pound to go with it. We eagerly anticipated our dinner,
We had bread and homemade dill pickles to go with our dinner, and everything was great!
After we finished our dinner, we walked around to check out the gardens,
and the Wine Cellar – although we were too full to taste any wine!
It was a very full and interesting day, and the sun was setting as we finally made our way home!