For “Travel Tuesday”, let’s visit Luling, TX, in the Texas Hill Country Region of TX.
“The Texas Hill Country is one of the most beautiful regions in the country. Rolling hills, spring fed rivers and lakes, diverse art and music offerings, specialty shopping, and the state's capital city make the Hill Country a favorite destination for Texans and out-of-state visitors alike. Discover the beauty of the Texas Hill Country Region.”
“Once known as "the toughest town in Texas", Luling was established in 1874 as the far western stop of the Sunset Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The developing importance of the town as a cattle-raising center, combined with the importance of the railroad as a shipping point, allowed the town to grow and prosper. Being the northern terminus of a freight road to Chihuahua, Mexico added to its stature. As the cattle drives to the railroad head decreased, Luling survived by turning to its rich soil and hardy folk. Luling came to be known throughout the region as an agriculture center with cotton, corn, and turkeys as its principal products.
Cotton ruled the local economy until the momentous year of 1922. On August 9th of that year, Edgar B. Davis' Rafael Rios No.1 blew in, opening an oilfield 12 miles long and 2 miles wide. The Rios No. 1 proved to be a part of one of the most significant fields discovered in the Southwest. Thousands of oil field workers descended upon the little community. They filled every available room and constructed a tent city, called Rag Town, along the railroad tracks. By 1924, the field was producing 11 million barrels of oil per year.
Almost overnight, the town of Luling went from a population of 500 to 5,000 people. Tents filled every vacant area as roughnecks and their families set-up housekeeping. Work was hard and living even harder, but the dream that unfolded was a microcosm of Texas history-a time when a community of farmers and their families responded to the coming of the railroad, only to have their lives changed forever by the discovery of oil.”
“Rich in history, Luling is home to the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum, located in the historic Walker Brothers building downtown.
The museum pays tribute to Luling’s rich cultural heritage and the important role that oil played in the development of the area. Researchers come from around the country to the Luling Public Library that houses the award winning Historical Research Center, funded and operated by the Caldwell County Genealogical & Historical Society.”
More at: http://www.lulingcc.org/history.htm
Watermelon Thump and Water Tower
“So just how did the annual Watermelon "Thump" get started in Luling, in summer inferno southeastern Texas?
We imagine the sweltering pre-air conditioning populace cleverly turning the local watermelon crop into personal cooling systems -- refreshing liquid fruit helmets with carved eye- and mouth-holes. On the street, they'd spit watermelon seeds at one another in friendly greeting....
This isn't what happened. But they're pretty strange in Luling. And it's hot.
Entering town from the interstate, the first thing a visitor will notice is an impressive watermelon water tower, poking up 154 feet from a melon patch (or perhaps just a municipal patch). The horizontal green and light yellow stripes, combined with the shape of the 56 ft. diameter storage tank, creates a good watermelon effect.
The center of this rural town of about 5,000 lies along railroad tracks where oil field workers first pitched their tents. Old oil pump jacks around town have been decorated with goofy plywood paintings of animals and characters -- a cow jumping over the moon, a shark, and a yokel eating a big slice of watermelon. Many of the wells are still active, sucking away on people's lawns, in parks and behind businesses. The Central Texas Oil Patch Museum was created a few years ago to chronicle the boom years in Luling.
In 1954, the principal of the elementary school dreamt up an annual festival to celebrate and promote the local watermelon industry. A naming contest led a high school kid to flash on the brilliant name: Thump*. For over half a century, the town has held the Thump, featuring music and events, a seed spitting competition (ready to break the 70-ft. distance barrier any day now), and an affable competition between growers over who has produced the largest watermelon.
The Championship Melon auction is where the farmers roll out their super-sized "black diamond" watermelons -- 50+ lbs., and winners have been known to plump up to over 80 lbs. (as recorded in 1962 by the biggest bruiser in the history of the Thump).
A Watermelon Thump Queen is crowned each year, and rides in the parade. The Watermelon Thump is held the last weekend in June.”
* Tipster Tom Stradt explains why you would thump a watermelon: "Basically, you test the ripeness of a melon by flicking the husk with your index finger. If you get a somewhat hollow sound from the melon, it is ripe. Now the earliest local grown watermelons in Texas begin to ripen after the first week in June, so the 'Thump' is a harvest festival of sorts, marking the availability of ripe watermelons."
A Seed-Spitting, Watermelon-Thumping Good Time
Celebrate Luling's quirky Watermelon Thump as it turns 60
Photo by Mickie Bailey
“Looking back on it now, there was a little bit of genius at work from the get-go of the annual Luling Watermelon Thump. When it first began 60 years ago, the idea was to do something humans have been doing since time immemorial: Celebrate the bounty provided by a bumper crop. In the case of Luling, a small town about 60 miles northeast of San Antonio, that simply meant throwing a party to rejoice about the huge watermelons the area produced.
Obviously, this year’s thump—June 27-30—is special because it’s a milestone birthday. But the kind of party Luling will throw reflects just how far the event has come. It began as a small town affair—a good reason for folks to get together for a bit of fun.
Since the introduction of alcohol in the 1970s, which allowed for a beer garden, and the construction of a large pavilion complex in the 1990s, the thump has been drawing crowds from San Antonio, Austin, Houston and even Dallas.
This year, besides the requisite seed-spitting and largest-melon contests, the pavilion and stages will serve as a venue for some high-quality musicians, including Randy Rogers Band and the Turnpike Troubadours. “We’ve really upgraded the music,” promises Nickells. “You can’t see much better music in Texas.” Not surprisingly, there will be an emphasis on the past this June, with a performance on the final day of the thump by The Moods, a band formed in Luling 50 years ago.
If you think you have the skills to take home the seed-spitting crown, you’ll have to be both talented and lucky. There’s such demand to enter the contest that a lottery was instituted to select competitors. If you want to take home one of the massive melons that gave birth to the thump, bring your wallet. The price tag on some of the watermelons has reached as high as $22,500. With that kind of number, it’s safe to say the Luling Watermelon Thump has officially hit the big time.”
If You Go
“Stay: For a little pampering, go to the Francis-Ainsworth House Bed and Breakfast. francisainsworthhouse.com
Eat: Popular for its BBQ and sausages, Luling City Market draws visitors from out of town, even when they’re not attending the Watermelon Thump. lulingcitymarket.com
Do: If you’ve had your fill of watermelon, head to the banks of the San Marcos River for a tour of the Zedler Mill, which provides a glimpse of Texas from the early days. zedlermill.com "
Luling Zedler Mill Paddling Trail
“Located on the San Marcos River near the city of Luling, this six-mile river trail can be floated in two to four hours. Paddlers will enjoy a gentle family-friendly ride on this quiet river lined with beautiful trees and wildlife.”
“The Luling Paddling trail, on the scenic San Marcos river between Austin and San Antonio, takes paddlers for a gentle ride past the historic Zedler Mill. Canoe and kayak rentals are available.”
Events and traditions
“The Luling Watermelon Thump is held each year during the last full weekend in June. It is a big celebration for the locals and draws many people from out of town as well. A favorite activity associated with the 'Thump' is the watermelon seed spitting contest.
Luling is also home to Night In Old Luling, held in October. It features games, food, booths, and a scarecrow contest.
Some of the oil pump jacks along the main streets of Luling are decorated with whimsical characters, such as a girl eating a watermelon.
The Luling Dry Tri. is an annual event held in September. It is an athletic contest comprising three consecutive events: biking 12 miles, running 3.23 miles and paddling 6 miles. A no swim triathlon (Dry Tri.) where anyone may participate either solo, as a two-person tag-team or three-person relay team. Benefits the Luling Police and Fire Departments.”
On This Day:
Indians defeat Custer at Little Big Horn, Jun 25, 1876:
“Determined to resist the efforts of the U.S. Army to force them onto reservations, Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse wipe out Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and much of his 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
The Battle of the Little Big Horn was the Indians' greatest victory and the army's worst defeat in the long and bloody Plains Indian War. The Indians were not allowed to revel in the victory for long, however. The massacre of Custer and his 7th Cavalry outraged many Americans and only confirmed the image of the bloodthirsty Indians in their minds, and the government became more determined to destroy or tame the hostile Indians. The army redoubled its efforts and drove home the war with a vengeful fury. Within five years, almost all of the Sioux and Cheyenne would be confined to reservations. Crazy Horse was killed in 1877 after leaving the reservation without permission. Sitting Bull was shot and killed three years later in 1890 by a Lakota policeman.”
Korean War begins, Jun 25, 1950:
“Armed forces from communist North Korea smash into South Korea, setting off the Korean War. The United States, acting under the auspices of the United Nations, quickly sprang to the defense of South Korea and fought a bloody and frustrating war for the next three years.”
My back was still hurting when Misty and I went to get Jay, but we had our walk down there, anyway. When I reminded Jay that I had said that I wanted to go to a chiropractor, he had forgotten, and said he would stay home. I came back here, and changed into different clothes as I had called around and got a 10.30 appointment. Not with the chiropractor that I saw on Friday, as he isn’t open on Mondays. My appointment with him isn’t until Wednesday, and I couldn’t put up with it that long.
Leaving here at 9.00, I thought that if I got there early, I might get seen earlier. As I started to get in the van, I realized that I didn’t have shooting pains in my back anymore. It had suddenly snapped itself back in. I bent over and turned from side to side to check it, and it didn’t hurt, though it was still tender. Oh! I could twist again!
What a relief! I changed back into work clothes and went to get Jay, who really wanted to work.
I called the chiropractor to cancel the 10.30 appointment. Jay, Ray and I did some more work on the lattice fence. We made and hung the lattice gate, and a couple more lattice panels. So that blind Misty can’t wander off, each noon when we quit, we have to temporarily tack up a some panels in the spaces each day.