Beaumont, Texas was lots of fun, and very interesting. So settle in, cause’ this is a long one… First up – Roadside Oddities.
HAPPY HALF WIT. This statue, modeled after Alfred E. Neuman, is the “spokesperson” for Ken’s Mufflers.
What, me worry ????
I see the resemblance – do you?
Next up –
SPINDLE TOP – GLADYS CITY BOOMTOWN GUSHER
People long believed that oil might be under “Spindletop Hill.” In August 1892, the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company was formed to drill and find out. The company drilled many dry holes and ran into trouble, as the money for drilling started to run out, with no oil to show for it. Captain Anthony F. Lucas, the leading expert in the U.S. on salt dome formations, made a lease agreement in 1899 with the Gladys City Company. Lucas continued drilling and on January 10, 1901, at a depth of 1,139 ft, what is known as the Lucas Gusher or the Lucas Geyser blew oil over 150 feet in the air at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day. It took nine days before the well was brought under control. Spindletop was the largest gusher the world had seen to date. Beaumont turned into an oil-fueled boomtown.
It’s population of 10,000 rose to 50,000 in three months, and eventually rose to 60,000. By the end of 1902, more than 500 companies had been formed and 285 wells were in operation, and the Gulf Coast turned into a major oil region.
This isn’t really an oddity, but it was odd for us, because there’s nothing like this is Philly. This is a Crawdad Chimney. So cool. The reason it has been placed here on the post, is because we found hundreds of these mounds on the lawn at Spindletop. One crawfish digs a hole by digging and carrying out little balls of mud. It isn’t random. If you were to look inside of the hole, there is a definite pattern. The crawfish digs down until it hits water, and creates tunnels. Their tunnels can go down into the earth 3 ft or more. Sometimes it’s a single burrow going straight down, but more often it’s a main tunnel with a couple of side tunnels, each with a room at the end. They are normally full of water. How do they make them? It looks as if they have tiny excavation equipment – but they don’t. They use their legs and mouth parts to dig up the mud and make it into a little balls called pellets. Each pellet is taken to the surface, and placed on top of the existing chimney. The next pellet is set beside the first, and so on, much like a brick layer, laying a wall of bricks. Take a close look when you see a chimney, and you will clearly see a system that is a thing of beauty!
This hydrant stands 24 feet tall, weighs 4,500 pounds, and can blast 1,500 gallons of water a minute, it is the third largest hydrant in the world, and stands outside the Fire Museum in downtown Beaumont. By the way, this small park is decorated and surrounded by normal -sized hydrants, painted the same way, all around the perimeter.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know we like architecture. We decided to include these three beauties.
JOHN JAY FRENCH HOUSE
The Chambers family lived in this home from 1914-2004. During that 90 years, they kept everything, and updated nothing. Visiting is like a step back in time. The Chambers House was built in 1906 by a local lumberman, who sold it to the Chambers family in 1914. C. Homer and Edith Fuller Chambers moved into the home with their two young daughters. The family cherished this home for the rest of their lives. While the Chambers daughters did go off to college, a fairly unusual occurrence in those days, both returned home and never married. Few changes occurred to the house or it’s furnishings in nearly 90 years of Chambers family occupancy. In 2006, the house became a museum – Mcfaddin-Ward Museum. The collection inside contains nearly all of the original family furniture and artifacts. Very little was thrown away and they rarely purchased anything new.
The Tyrrell Historical Library is a public library. It was originally built in 1903 to serve as the First Baptist Church. The building became vacant in 1923 when the congregation moved to a new location. It was bought by Captain W. C. Tyrrell, who donated the building to the city for use as its first public library. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
We ventured to the GATOR COUNTRY ADVENTURE. At first I thought it would be a little too hokey. But it wasn’t – it was great. First and foremost, it is a rescue habitat. When Animal Protection gets a call about mistreated alligators, they often call GCA, because they take good care of them, and nurse the sick back to health. Hence the title of this post, GATOR-AID. When you first enter (and from the highway), you will see a 135′ alligator. it too is a roadside oddity, a lure to the park if you will.
The admission is $15 per adult. We paid gladly, knowing it would go towards taking care of these animals. Must-sees are “Big Al”, a 1,000 pound, 14′ long alligator, who is reportedly 83 years old.
His girlfriend, Allie is also a gigantic creature.
Al and Allie are kept in private ponds, due to the fact that they are two of the most aggressive “Gators” in the park. They have “history”, the outcome of which is that they can no longer be together – ever. Note that 8″ of her tail have be bitten off. Enough said!
There is a mating pond.
We also saw an Alligator Snapping Turtle – watch that finger!!!
Lots of animals are kept inside, such as caimans and snakes. They also have a “special needs” pond – alligators that need special care. For example, “Bella” has a missing top jaw. She was either maimed by a boat, or a more powerful alligator. In order for her to eat, they chunk her food, and put it way back in her mouth so she can swallow. That’s dedication. But check out this picture. This is me holding Colonel – a rooster that thinks he’s a dog, who also lives in the park.
He loves to be petted. If you sit down, he will jump into your lap for a little love – and fall asleep. Kind of strange, right? And I just loved it !!!
On the way out, you may put your complaints into this box – all you have to do is wade through an alligator pond – yikes!
Big thicket once sprawled over 3.5 million acres. Today, there are only remnants left – 15 different areas over 112,000 acres. There are no high peaks, deep gorges , or any other dramatic feature.
In most parks, hiking trails are meant to walk on. In Big Thicket, you are expected to walk, stop, and stay still, so you can observe the wildlife going about their usual business. You can’t drive through, only walk, or meander down it’s waterways by canoe or kayak. Our first stop was at the Visitor Center. where we watched the movie “Big Thicket: America’s First National Preserve” a 16-minute orientation film. It covers the cultural and natural history of the Big Thicket area and includes narratives from Preserve staff and long-term local residents.
Great forests once stood in Big Thicket until commercial logging began in the 1800s, and drilling for oil began in 1901. It was so thick with woods, that men who didn’t want to fight in the Civil War hid out in the thicket, where they knew they couldn’t be found.
Earlier cultures left little trace, faded out as the boomtowns around lumber mills grew. Oil exploration replayed the boom and bust cycle, but is still active. You can still see oil exploration today in the thicket, in the form of oil drills. These drills are overseen by the National Park Service. Actually, that surprised me.
On our last day in Texas, we were fortunate to find that the SOUTH TEXAS STATE FAIR was happening very close to us – like next door. Shall we go? Natch!
Gotta’ have a Midway…
And a Rodeo…
We left the fair early-ish, knowing we had to get going early the next morning. No sooner had we gotten into bed, we heard KABOOM! What’s that – is it a bomb? We both jumped out of bed to find this going on next door at the fair. A fine goodbye!
A gentleman at the fair asked how we liked Texas. We told him we really liked it, and that the people were so friendly. He said – “yep – the people in Texas are about the friendliest people I know – except maybe for Louisiana”.
Lake Charles, Louisiana – you’re next!