Saturday, July 13, 2013

Spring Ho

"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. 

Spring Ho is the annual community festival of Lampasas, taking its name from the cluster of seven mineral springs which gave life to the Hill Country community during the 1850s. Launched in 1972, the week-long festival attracts thousands of tourists to Lampasas each July. Scheduled this year from July 8-14, Spring Ho's 2013 theme is "Saddles, Spurs & Springs: It's a Texas Thing." Events include a parade, a county fair, a carnival, talent contest, beauty pageant, musical entertainments, barbeque cookoff, pet parade, diaper derby, dances, 10K and one-mile runs, horseshoe competition, washer pitching, children's events, and three days of arts and crafts booths alongside the picturesque walkway flanking Sulphur Spring Creek. 

This year's cowboy theme resulted in an invitation to me to bring a program at the Lampasas Public Library on my most recent book, West Texas Cattle Kingdom. The chairman of the library board is Sheryl Hausmann, a longtime friend and, until her retirement a few years ago, proprietor of a local bookstore. Through the years Sheryl has staged several signings for my books, and she felt that a program and signing for West Texas Cattle Kingdom would be an appropriate event for this years's Spring Ho, as well as a welcome fundraiser for the library. The afternoon event was publicized as an air-conditioned respite from the July heat, complete with cold bottled water. 

My wife Karon drove with me to the Hill Country. In Lampasas we met my sister, Judy O'Neal Smith, at the new, $3 million LFD fire station. For 25 years early in the 20th century, our grandfather, Will Standard, was the only paid fireman of the Lampasas Volunteer Fire Department, and our mother grew up in the fire house. Just inside the entrance of the new station is a photo of Will driving a horse-drawn fire wagon, part of a fine heritage display maintained by the LFD. Then I was treated to a tour of the splendid new two-story facility. 

Bill with Sheryl Hausmann
At the library, head librarian Shanda Subia and her staff arranged a seating area while I set up a book display table and program props. When the crowd arrived Shanda and Sheryl, who provided cowboy decorations, had to deal with the happy problem of an overflow audience. The crowd included former students and colleagues of mine from the 1960s, when I was a rookie teacher/coach at Lampasas Junior High School for three years. I'm privileged  to have a number of friends at Lampasas, as well as relatives. The crowd was warm and receptive. 

Sheryl asked me to present a program about the book. West Texas Cattle Kingdom is an Arcadia publication. Arcadia, based in Charleston, South Carolina, has produced more than 8,000 titles, mostly about towns and cities, or universities (academic communities), or military bases (military communities). But in recent years Arcadia has begun publishing topical works, such as my book on East Texas in World War II. Every Arcadia book is 128 pages long, with more than 200 photos and a price of $21.99. Following a two-page introduction, usually an overview of the book, the rest of the topic must be related through photographs and captions. When an Arcadia acquisition editor approached me about putting together a book about Texas cowboys, trail drives, great ranches and ranchers, and longhorn cattle and mustangs, I leaped at the opportunity to apply the Arcadia treatment to the iconic story of the range cattle industry.

During the program I discussed each of the above topics, along with Hispanic origins, Texas cattle towns (Tascosa, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Amarillo, Channing, etc.). trouble on the range (rustling, range wars - including the Horrell-Higgins Feud of Lampasas County, 800,000,000 prairie dogs, etc.) and cultural reflections (rodeos, movies such as Red River, Giant, Lonesome Dove, and such Texas Singing Cowboys as Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, and cowgirl Dale Evans). I illustrated the program with spurs, boots, hats, enlarged photos, and miscellaneous other artifacts. The program was well received, and afterward there was a lively book signing.

Our visit to Lampasas concluded at my sister's house where my niece, Molly Smith, prepared a Tex-Mex dinner suitable to the occasion (the Texas culinary trinity is Tex-Mex, barbeque, and chicken-fried steak with cream gravy). The table was beautifully decorated with a Texas theme. And following a delicious meal, the State Historian was treated to a large piece of his sister's signature chocolate pie.

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