Ruby's Winding Road
President Johnson and the Texas Hill Country
On our way home from Austin, Texas earlier this spring we passed a road sign on U.S. 290 indicating we were coming upon the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (Johnson City District) in Johnson City, Texas. While we had heard of the park before, it hadn't really occurred to us we were heading right toward it. We looked at one another and both decided we should stop. So, that's what we did.
Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th President of the United States. He was born, raised and lived in the Texas Hill Country. His family ranch and area history have become a part of Texas State and National Historical Districts. We didn't realize how much there was to see until the day we visited the area. We learned quite a bit that day.
It was nearing lunchtime when we stopped, so our plan was to eat a quick sandwich, check out the Visitor Center and then move on. We had our lunch and headed over to the Visitor Center. As you would expect, no pups allowed in the building. No biggie. One person goes in and the other plays with the pup outside; then we switch.
The Visitor Center was a small building, but there were several interesting exhibits about President and Mrs. Johnson. They were the type of displays about his presidency we expected to see. What we didn't expect was to emerge from the Visitor Center with a paper map full of pen marks, highlighter streaks and recommendations from staff about what to see next. Wow.
We studied the map for a bit and started walking. There was an entire Johnson Settlement to explore. During a 45-minute outdoor stroll we learned the history of the Johnson family dating back to President Johnson's grandparents. There were cabins, barns, water tanks and some long-horn cattle mooing around. We kept walking and eventually made it to President Johnson's boyhood home. We didn't go inside as Covid-19 protocols didn't allow, but we did peek into the windows of the little house. We also sat on the front porch swing to enjoy a warm spring breeze. We learned Johnson lived in the home from the time he was five until age 28.
Once we were back at our van, we looked over our marked up, highlighted map. We found there was Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site (Ranch District) in Stonewall, Texas about 15 miles away. Onward we traveled. Upon arriving, we went into the Visitor Center and emerged with another map. It, too, was full of pen marks, highlighter streaks and notes from the staff. They recommended we go on a walk to visit the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. So, we did.
The farm provides a glimpse into the lives of German farming families who made their home on the land in the mid-1800s. That land is now included as part of the State Park. We were welcomed at the farm by a very large turkey who let out a loud, confident gobble. Good thing our pup was leashed, as that gobble sent our dog airborne and then scattering in the dust. She hadn't seen a turkey before. Funny. We also saw chickens, goats, cows, peacocks and a variety other critters. There was a house, garden, barn and blacksmith shop. From there we headed back to our van and looked over the map. There was more to see.
We received a free driving permit for the LBJ Ranch while at the State Park, so we traveled down the road to President and Mrs. Johnson's ranch and home known as the Texas White House. When we arrived at the Visitor Center, we parked on what had been the taxiway for President Johnson's presidential airplane. Cool. Even cooler was the Lockheed JetStar airplane parked behind us. That plane carried President Johnson to and from his ranch while he served as U.S. Vice President and President. We climbed the stairs to the plane door and looked through a glass to view the inside. Okay, it's an old plane, but still kind of neat. From there we went inside the Visitor Center. There were several displays including a room full of gifts that President Johnson would provide to guests while he was United States President. In their original boxes and unused were Stetson Hats, pens, ashtrays, toys and a variety of other trinkets. Interesting. There was a podium with the presidential seal on the front. Yes, we stood behind it and pretended to be important for a moment.
While tours of the inside of Johnson's ranch home were not available due to Covid-19 protocols, we walked around the outside of the home. It was large, but not huge. We found a swinging bench attached to a very large tree limb and sat for a while to take in the view. It was peaceful.
President and Mrs. Johnson are buried at the ranch, along with several of their close family members. Their family cemetery is at the entrance to the ranch property.
Several hours after our initial stop in Johnson City we had run out of pen marks and highlighted streaks on our map. It had been an eventful day full of surprises. We didn't travel as far as we had planned that day, but we took time to wander. That's the whole point at this stage in our lives. It's time for us to just look around. You never know what you'll find.
To learn more about the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site visit tpwd.texas.gov. To learn more about the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park log onto the nps.gov.
Thanks for reading our blog and be sure to subscribe for free so you don't miss a post. We'll be wandering around some more and will catch you again soon.