MMAP, Wilderness Ridge, Smithville & Surrounding Areas, TX

Our time at Wilderness Ridge has come to an end. We have thoroughly enjoyed the Texas hospitality the last couple of months.
The guys hung up the valances after making wood holders for the tree branch rods
They really came out looking nice and gave a more homey look to the dining room!
The ladies finished their other projects, painting the bunkbeds
and “Chaplains Room” bathroom and cabinet.
The Chaplains Room rug was cleaned, and fantastic, like new valances for that room and the guest house were installed. by the guys as well.  We found both on ladies day out at the Goodwill! But not just any Goodwill… it is where things are sent when they  don’t sell in the local stores.  It was large, with several bins, everything $1.39 per pound. Interesting experience.

The guys finished up their projects:  Paul finished up his electrical commitment, the shed by the pool was completed,

 and the shower house tile and plumbing was completed.

We enjoyed the steakhouse meal along with the fellowship!

Smithville, TX, for those of you who are unfamiliar with such information, is home to the Guinness World Record Largest Gingerbread Man!   This is the cookie sheet they used to make him!

Right up my alley, right?  They earned the distinction when the baked cookie weighing 1308 lb, 8 oz, standing 20 ft tall, was baked on the cookie sheet on display at the city park on Dec. 2, 2006.
 750 lb of flour, 49 gallons of molasses, and 72 dozen eggs were used  to make the cookie!
It has some pretty intriquing homes

including the one used in the movie “Hope Floats”
and the Extreme Makeover house built for a single volunteer firefighter, after she lost her home to the fires that destroyed the camp.

Balstrop is a larger town, where we headed for supplies.  Having Lowes and Walmart,  it is to the east of the camp about 8 miles.  I don’t know why, but we did not really drive around to see the town itself.
It is located right next to the Colorado River, 
The ladies went to Giddings one day to get material for quilting projects.  Of course, I don’t sew that much, but being here has got me started again, so now I am committed…. I bought some material to make some things.  The town is not that large, but has several fabric stores.  It also has some features that make it stand out.

It is also known for the train depots, but we were not in that area of the town.

La Grange was our destination on the second weekend.

We first visited Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery, a state historic site. 
The impressive monument honors those killed in the 1800’s battles for Texas independence, and the tomb holds the remains of some of the heros who died in those battles.
On March 25, 1843, 176 men were captured during the Mexican war.  They were told one tenth would be executed.  They all drew a bean from a pot with 159 white beans and seventeen black beans.  Those who drew the black beans  were able to write home, then were shot at sunset.  One faked death and escaped only to be shot three days later.  The other sixteen were returned here for burial in 1848.
The bluff offers beautiful views of the valley.
By taking a short walk, we were able to see the home of one of the first breweries in Texas.  Heinrich Kreische, a German immigrant, purchased the land that included 172 acres and  the monument (which he maintained the rest of his life) in 1849.  He was a master stonemason.

In 1860, he began building the brewery in the ravine below his house where there was a stream.  


He would raise this banner when the brew was ready!
By 1879 he was the third largest brewing operation in the state.  He died in 1882, which, along with modernization of the industry, contributed to the brewery closing in 1884.
It was a beautiful site to visit, and we thoroughly enjoyed the trail walks through the area!
We visited the old jail in Balstrop, which was  used from 1883-1985.

which had a small, quilt display of a dozen quilts made by one person.

While Paul got his hair cut, I walked around the town square, admiring the buildings.

And the old historic muster oak tree, a living memorial to the many soldiers who gathered there to sign up and go off to war.
For ladies day out, the camp manager’s wife, Sandy, took us to visit Austin capitol building, 
had lunch, then on to shopping.
The capitol building was very impressive.  We timed it right and were able to have a guided tour.

They even had the “eyes of Texas” in the shape of the lone star for their chandeliers!
They have the original Texas flag on display.
They have added underground offices to the existing site, which was quite impressive as well.

Our time in Texas has been fun, and we would not mind visiting again……there is still more to see!

MMAP February 2013, Smithville, TX

This month, we are working at a camp, Wilderness Ridge, that burned during the fires in 2010 near Austin, Tx.  It reminded us of how Julian looked after the fires there!

All but two structures burned….

The Gazebo at the lake

and the eating pavilion were the only structures that survived.

And they were on the opposite sides of the camp!

The fire must have been moving fast.  It is strange what does and does not burn.  This tractor has one tire that did not burn!  

They saved what was left of the melted engine block from a four-wheeler to show how hot the fire was!
There were plenty of RV sites, and along with MMAPers, a group of NOMADS were parked here as well.  They are helping in the community.
Just two miles down the road, the camp is leasing another campground, which they are upgrading so they can resume their schedule of camps, until they can rebuild. 
The main ministry and vision for the camp is to encourage boys to become responsible young men.  They have built a couple of villages that have four sleeping shelters with bunk beds.
The job Paul was assigned was running the electrical underground to each of the villages, the pool shed and shower house.

Others built the pool shed
and laid tile in the shower house.

The women made valances for the dining hall

and painted bunkbeds

as well as one of the bathrooms.
And periodically, a few of us walked the two miles back to the rigs at lunchtime.
And of course, we ate……we had a weiner roast one evening, and a baked potato bar for valentines day, (both of which I forgot the camera! If I get pictures from someone else, will post) and went to a great steakhouse “down the road aways” in Winchester.
As usual, the first two weeks went very fast!  We only have one more week, then we will head home for a few months.

MMAPing and Rubbernecking Continues

After we left Scottsville, we stopped at Henderson to see their historic museum.  It was well worth the stop, with some very interesting displays.  
Buildings had been moved onto the site to reflect the beginnings of the town:
The Cotton gin,
the railroad station
the broom factory, the first in Texas to be run by a black blind man
a printer shop and a general store

All had very interesting displays inside, and lots of outside displays as well.

The only outhouse (a three-seater) having the distinction of having historical designation in the state of Texas was built on this site, matching the home that was built here in 1908.
We stayed a couple of days at the Fairview Lake State Park.  We were the only rig there other than the host!  It was a little chilly, but we  just looking out the window and enjoyed the view, read, and Paul caught up on paperwork… which, for some reason he postpones while at home ;).

The park ranger came by about 6 pm the first night to let us know there was extreme weather alert until 6:30, with hail and high winds.  There was some wind and no hail, so it was not bad…. I think it moved on to Tennessee, since they had the warnings at 3 am.
We arrived at our February job-site on Thursday, late afternoon.
What a dose of nostalgia we got.  In the fall of 2011, 16 buildings at the camp were burned down.  It was reminiscent of our time in Julian when the fires took so many homes.
The gazebo at the lake was one of two remaining structures.  The fire did not come up to the shoreline.
It will be a slow process, and the state is requesting they allow the land to rest a bit prior to rebuilding.  Some things can’t wait though!

The camp has leased a site for their campers about two miles down the road. There are lots of  jobs to do there to bring it to the standards and requirements the camp wants to continue to maintain.  There are also some needs at the original camp.  
Right now NOMADS, a Methodist group of volunteers, are using the campground as their base here as well. 
They have been and are continuing to help rebuild homes in the area.
The camp personnel have made setting up the RV campground a priority to accommodate the volunteers, and have rebuilt and expanded the existing one at the original camp.  They have just finished two more rows, accommodating eight more campers, where we are.  In fact an independent volunteer was still grading when we arrived!
More on the work will come next week, because we will start on Monday.
While home has some snow (I missed it!), we are enjoying 75 degree weather here.  I hate to miss rubbernecking the first weekend, because sometimes we are too tired once we get working.   We took the opportunity on Saturday to check out an area south of here,  and the town of Schulenburg.   Like so many, it is built up along the railroad tracks and cotton was king during the early years.
Schulenburg is a quaint town, with some neat brick buildings.  All have their own personalities, with brick designs distinguishing each;

On the way, we went through Swiss Alps, which attracted the Swiss immigrants.  Guess the green meadows reminded them of home… surely the low hills did not!

This is the “Official Home of the Painted Churches”.  There are several churches that were built and painted to reflect the European churches.  They had painted faux marble pillars, as well as designs and florals on the walls and ceilings.
We found four of them:
High Hill was settled by Austrians.  Todays St Mary’s Catholic Church was the third built on the site given to the church in 1868.  The faux paint made the pillars appear marble and  the designs were very european.  This is considered to be the “Queen” of the painted churches.

Praha was settled by Czech-Moravian and the church was established in 1855.  The present stone church was dedicated in 1895 as The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The ceiling was painted y a famous Swiss artist and has never been repainted.

The property has three small stone structures with memorial to three parish servicemen in each, who lost their lives during World War II.  

In addition, the cemetery has a monument honoring the nine young men.
Dubina was settled by Czech families in 1856. They worshipped in a log cabin until 1877 when the parish church was built. It was enlarged in 1890, only to be destroyed by a storm  in 1909.  The present church was built in 1912 and decorated with stenciling, which was covered up and then redone in 1952.  The silver stars painted on the ceiling made this church stand out!

Ammannsville was settled in 1870.  The cornerstone for the church was first laid in 1890.  In 1909, it also was destroyed by a storm.  Eight years after completion of the second church, the church burned to the foundation.  Parishioners rushed inside to save some of the statutes, which are still present in the church today.  The third and present church was started in 1917.  It is said the painting was done by a European drifter.

These were unexpected jewels to see.  Something I did not expect to see in Texas.  On our drive, we passed through lots of farmland.  We were told these small communities (did not come up on GPS, by the way) were quite large when these churches were built, with as many as 3000 population in Ammannsville.
Back to work on Monday, with a crew of 5 other couples.  Prior to coming here, we had not met any of them.
We look forward to helping this camp, hoping to get them further along in their mission to serve young men.