October 12-26, 2011: A Trip to Florida
September 24 - October 1, 2011: A Trip to New England
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October 4-5, 2011
My First Trip to DeLeon, TX

 

It has been about seven weeks since Fred's bypass operation, and it is time for him to go down to DeLeon to visit his mother. But, according to his cardiologist and surgeon, he is not yet ready to drive a vehicle. So I am finally going to get the chance to visit DeLeon, see his mother's house and, perhaps, even meet her in person. I have talked to her on the phone before, but I have never been with Fred to DeLeon.

Our plan is to drive down to DeLeon this morning (Tuesday), stopping so Fred can do his usual shopping for the things he knows his mother needs. Then we'll drive to DeLeon and out to his mother's house. I will drop him off with everything he has brought for her and then go back into town to stay at the DeLeon Inn. I'll be on my own until Wednesday afternoon, when I'll pick him up again. We'll drive back to Dallas via Cleburne where we'll have supper with Nina, Fred's stepmother.

 

Getting to DeLeon


From our house in Dallas, we drove down Inwood towards I-30, making a side trip to the Kroger grocery store on Cedar Springs to pick up the groceries Fred's mom needs. When we got to I-30, we headed west, all the way to the other side of Fort Worth where I-30 ends as it merges into I-20. We continued west almost to Ranger, Texas, but turned south on Texas 16 to DeLeon.

North of DeLeon, Fred took me on a side trip to stop briefly at his Aunt Charlotte's house. I have met her a number of times in connection with her daughter's hospitalization in Dallas earlier this year. She is quite a nice person, and it was nice to stop and see where she lived- as Fred has talked about her often.


Just north of DeLeon itself, Texas Highway 16 merges with Texas Highway 6 and both enter the north side of the town as the same road. Just north of downtown DeLeon, they split again, with Highway 6 continuing over towards Stephenville while Highway 16 turns south to go through the middle of town and then south towards Commanche, Texas.

We took Highway 16 south, and about five miles south of town turned off to the east on FM 2318 which heads over towards Lake Proctor.

We traveled about two miles on FM 2318 before we came to the intersection with County Road 424. This county road is a dirt road, and from here to Fred's Mom's house there won't be any pavement.


We headed north on the county road, with pecan orchards on both sides of us. As I'll find out later, pecans are big business around here. About a mile along, another, smaller dirt road turned off to our right- and it is at this intersection that Mrs. Nabors' mailbox is located. We drove east then north and then, very briefly, east again, until we came to Mrs. Nabors' actual driveway and I could see her house in person for the first time.


We pulled in to the driveway and drove Fred's RAV4 right up to the carport. Here, I stayed by the vehicle while Fred started unloading stuff and taking it into the house.

Fred has described his mother's house to me numerous times, and I have seen some of the pictures he has taken of it on his trips down here. Since I have known him, he has made perhaps 250 trips down here- once a month at least. But it was really neat to see the house for myself.


While Fred was unloading everything, I thought I would make a movie of the house and its surroundings, so I stood behind the RAV4 and panned 360 degrees around to show the house, the yard and the pecan orchards across the driveway. You can watch this movie with the player at left.

I am well aware of the very, very private nature of Fred's mom, and so I was fully prepared not to actually see her before I left. But, perhaps because I have talked to her before, when Fred asked her if she would like to come to the front door so I could pay my respects, she acquiesced. I put my camera down and said hello and chatted for a moment with her. It was nice to see her in person after all these years of being best friends with her son.

When Fred was all unloaded, I took my leave and headed back to DeLeon with the RAV4. Fred will call me tomorrow when it is time to come back and pick him up, but, for now, I have an opportunity to explore DeLeon and some of the surrounding countryside.

 

At the DeLeon Inn

When I left Fred at his mom's, I drove back into DeLeon to check in to the room I'd reserved at the DeLeon Inn.


The DeLeon Inn is a small motel- perhaps fifteen rooms all told. But it had everything I needed- including Internet access. It was located on Highway 6/16 on the north side of town, and you can see it in the aerial view below:

I got a room in the long building at the back (south) of the motel property, put all my stuff in it, and then headed out to drive down to Commanche, about fifteen miles south, just to see what the countryside looked like.

But since I had to drive right through downtown DeLeon, I thought I would stop and walk around for a bit and see what there was here.

 

The Town of DeLeon

In this section, I'd like to put the photos I took of the town of DeLeon as I drove through on my way down to Commanche. A bit later on, we'll take a walk around town, but for now, we'll just look at what you can see along the main street through town- Texas Street (Highway 16).


I haven't much experience with small towns in Texas, but I would guess that DeLeon is fairly typical. The town was laid out in April 1881 by surveying crews of the Texas Central Railway and lots were first auctioned that July. DeLeon was incorporated for the second time in 1899. By 1918, the population was over 1,000. That year, oil was discovered north of De Leon and a boom lasted for about two years, when the population rose to 5,000. Since World War II De Leon's population has stabilized at around 2,500.

Ranching dominated the area until the 1890s, when cotton became the primary crop. When the boll weevil began to make inroads to the area after 1910, farmers began to plant the small Spanish peanut. That quickly became the dominate crop and in 1913, the De Leon Peanut Company was organized. Over time, De Leon and Comanche County became the leading peanut producing county in the U.S. Most of the peanuts went into candy and Nabisco eventually purchased the De Leon Peanut Company. In the last two decades peanut production has dropped dramatically.

De Leon boast one of the oldest festivals in Texas, the De Leon Peach and Melon Festival, which had its beginnings in 1914 and is now celebrated during the first full week in August. The current watermelon seed spitting distance record as recongnized by the Guinness Book of World Records of 78 feet 6 inches was set at the 1995 festival. Among De Leon's unique events is the only paid appearance by Elvis Presley in which he sang only gospel music; it occurred in 1955. The town motto is "Busiest Town, Friendliest People."


At right are thumbnails for a few other pictures I took here in downtown DeLeon; click on them to have a look at this typical Texas small town.


On the side of one of the corner buildings downtown, someone had painted a large mural, incorporating the town's motto. The street wasn't wide enough for me to get back far enough to get the whole thing in, so I took four pictures and stitched them together. You can have a look at the entire mural using the slider viewer at left. Just use the horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the window to go back and forth.

I drove on down to Commanche to see what that town was like, and stopped at the grocery store to get some snacks and stuff while I was there. On the way back into town, I passed what Fred later told me was a new sign that was recently put up on the south side of town: Welcome to De Leon, Texas.

I went back to the DeLeon Inn for a bit, and then headed out for a walk through town.

I walked through a significant portion of the town of DeLeon, basically just wandering wherever it looked interesting. You might like to follow me, or at least see where I went, so I've drawn my route on an aerial view of the main part of town. You can use the scrollable window below to follow me as I go from the motel to the cemetery and then back through town to the motel again:

Fred had suggested that I walk to the DeLeon Cemetery so that I could see the Nabors family area. So I consulted Google Maps, got the general location, and headed off in that direction.

 

The DeLeon Cemetery: The Nabors Clan

I zig-zagged through some streets northwest of the motel to head then southwest to the cemetery. When I came to the northern boundary of the cemetery grounds, I found that there was a marker at the entrance that would help someone find a particular plot. Basically, the marker was just a list of people buried in the cemetery. When I looked at the list, I was looking for Fred's father, Sexton Verdette Nabors, and I found him- but I also found a number of other members of the Nabors clan in different areas of the cemetery. Consulting the diagram that accompanied the list, I headed off south through the cemetery towards the spot indicated.


I had a little trouble finding the plot, but eventually came on it from the back and then walked around to the front.

The headstone you see at left is for Fred's dad, Sexton V. Nabors, who died just about six months after I met Fred. I remember the event clearly; it was a bad time for Fred. The other spot is reserved to Fred's stepmother, Nina (whom we will be visiting tomorrow). It is a very nice, very tasteful marker.


The two adjacent markers were for Fred's aunt, Rodger Fae, and his uncle, Thomas- both siblings of his father.


I made a movie of the area around the Nabors family plot, and panning around the entire cemetery. You can watch that movie with the player at right. Fred also told me that there were some other interesting markers in the cemetery, so I wandered around and found most of them. He later supplied the backstories for them. Click on the thumbnails below to see these markers and read their stories:

I left the cemetery by walking southeast through it heading back towards the center of town.

 

The Cats of DeLeon

When I left the cemetery grounds, I was walking along a residential street- small town simple homes. There weren't a lot of people about, but what I did start to notice were all the cats.


The first couple that I saw ran away from me when I tried to get close, but then I came across one very similar to Tyger laying in someone's front yard near the street. I knelt down to see if I could entice it to come closer, but all it did was sit up and look at me for a bit. A few houses further down the street, I found yet another cat, this one similar to the one that only sat and looked at me. It needed almost no enticing to come right up to me, so I rewarded it by a bit of scratching and petting. It was very friendly and very inquisitive. Click on the thumbnail images at left to see the pictures I took of both these cats.

As I walked through the neighborhood, turning left then right again to get over to Texas Street, I must have seen a dozen more cats. Some looked like pets- well-cared for or on porches and such, but some looked like general neighborhood cats. None seemed to be starving or feral, though. For the rest of the afternoon I wondered why I'd seen so many cats (and, thinking back on it, oddly enough, absolutely no dogs). I didn't get a partial answer to that question until I was buying a Subway sandwich for dinner and happened to inquire about the cats. The lady making my sandwich explained that the current mayor, a cat person, had seen fit to enforce all the city regulations about dogs wandering loose, but had resisted efforts to implement similar restrictions for cats. Let's hope the cats can vote.

 

The Signs of DeLeon

I got back over to the main street and headed north, going down and across the tracks of the old Texas Central Railroad and in front of the DeLeon train station. There were some interesting signs on the street-side wall of the station that you might be interested in. Just click on the links below to read them:

Texas Historical Commission Marker: The Texas Central Railroad
Railroad Families
Railroad Employees
DeLeon's Railroading Families and Pioneers

I noticed pretty quickly after I left the cemetery that one of the more interesting (and sometimes funny) things about DeLeon seemed to be their attraction to odd signs. Some were just that- rare (at least for us city folk). But others were funny in other ways. So I started taking pictures of them, and by the end of the day I had quite a collection. Click on the thumbnails below and you'll see what I mean:


Towards the end of my walk, I stopped at the local Subway to get a sandwich for dinner, and I went back to the DeLeon Inn to download all my pictures and work on this narrative.  

At the DeLeon Library

The next morning I spent in my room until it was time to check out. I had some lunch and then went over to the DeLeon Public Library to wait for Fred to call.


The people at the library (both of them) were quite nice and allowed me to move a table over to a corner and set up my laptop so I could work on stuff while I waited for Fred.

Along about three o'clock, he called to tell me he was ready to be picked up, so I packed up my own stuff and was just about to head out when a display of new books by the front window caught my eye. I took a picture of it, and you can see it at left. I think this picture sums up DeLeon more accurately that any picture I've taken so far.

I drove back out to Fred's mom's place and picked him up, and then he began his directions to Nina's house by having me drive right back through downtown DeLeon and back to Texas Highway 3.

 

Dinner with Nina and Our Return to Dallas

Fred's directions to get me to Cleburne were pretty easy.


From downtown DeLeon, we took Texas Highway 6 over to the somewhat larger town of Dublin. There, we picked up US 377/67 northeast to the even larger town of Stephenville. Our friend Jay's mother lives in Stephenville, and I see it a lot on the news and weather reports because there is a major radar/Doppler installation there. We continued east on US 67 past Glen Rose, a place that I need to visit sometime; Fred's been there and there is good hiking there. Eventually, Highway 67 came into Cleburne and we stayed on the business portion of the highway to head into town.


Business Highway 67 turned into Henderson Street, and on the west side of town we turned north on McAnear Street, eventually turning right onto Princeton Place. Nina's House was about a quarter-mile down on the right:


When we got to Nina's house, we just pulled into the driveway to greet her and Fred's nephews Garet and Nathan, who were playing in the front yard.


I had seen both Nathan (Troy's oldest son) and Garet before, but it has been a few years. Both of them have grown substantially, and Nathan is looking more like a teenager and less like the kid I remembered. They were climbing the big tree in the front yard and another tree out back. The four of us visited for a while, and then we went over to the Cotton Patch Cafe back out on Henderson Street where Fred bought us all dinner.

Nina had been watching the kids while Melinda (Fred's brother Troy's wife) was at work. Nina is often called on to perform sitting chores; I think she likes it but the kids can be a lot to handle. We had just about finished eating when Troy came by the restaurant to get the kids and take them to their Bible study class and then home.

Nina, Fred and I returned to her house where she served us a delicious strawberry-rhubarb pie that she had baked while we were gone. We visited for a while and then Fred and I headed home. Now I know my way to Nina's house, for Henderson Street simply continued east to I-35W which we took north to Fort Worth. From there, we took 121 and the Airport Freeway to get back over to Dallas (although I-30 is just as good) and back to my house.

I enjoyed my trip to DeLeon. After hearing about it for so very many years, and after seeing Fred off for a trip down there more times than I can count, it was really something for me to see it in person. Now I can visualize the route he takes and where he goes, and that's good.

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October 12-26, 2011: A Trip to Florida
September 24 - October 1, 2011: A Trip to New England
Return to the Index for 2011