Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Turnaround: Austin to Fredericksburg via LBJ

Friday marked the start of the final stage of this trip, our return. It was a short travel day, as our destination was first the Johnson birthplace and Settlement in Johnson City and then fifteen miles on, the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall

There’s not much more to say about Johnson and our response to him. We were both surprised about the intensity of our feelings toward the man after all this time and how they have changed. It’s not just nostalgia for our youth but a different appreciation of the times after almost half a century. In addition this is my first engagement with the popular historical interpretation of a president. In the past I have studied characters like FDR and Herbert Hoover as an historian, as I have also studied Johnson; but this time I am approaching him more as a layperson and I have to say that  the National Archives and Park Service presentation of him as both a leader and a man by has been most effective, at least for me.

We began at the birthplace and settlement which were presented on a much more casual scale than the ranch later would be.

As he got older, Johnson delighted, it seems, in recreating relics from his past, so that this house restoration/reconstruction, as is the birthplace on the ranch

Early cabin built by San Ealy Johnson, Sr (LBJ's grandfather). Later he moved to the ranch and this was used as a headquarters for his cattle business.
The courthouse in Johnson City, rather modest compared to many in the area
The ranch, however, is a national historic site and a state park, a bit more heavily visited and a bit more formal. But what did come through was that for both LBJ and Lady Bird, this was home. Sadly I did not get any images of the “Western White House." The title obscures the fact that in reality this house was home after 1951, and their presence is almost palpable. The park service does not permit interior photography and ours was the last tour of the day and we were hurried out so I did not even get to snap the exterior
The one room school LBJ attended as a boy
The recreated birthplace, used as a guest house
Each year Johnson bought a brand new Lincoln convertible, always in white with tan top and leather interior
This, the 1934 Ford "Ranch Car" modified for ranch use and including a full wet bar.

We spent the evening in nearby Fredericksburg, a charming ersatz Deutsch village of the kind that dot the midwestern landscape (think Frankenmuth in Michigan). I was disappointed not to have gotten the keys to the city being a Frederic, but so it goes. We had a great German dinner and a nice stroll through town at twilight.

 Saturday we strike westward along secondary roads, our destination Carlsbad, New Mexico.

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