For the past three days — thanks to the gracious staff of the weekly Bandera County Courier — Ace, while he’s gotten no scoops, has been able to beat the heat and get the vast quantities of attention he requires.
While he was never welcome at the big mean Baltimore Sun, Ace was met with open arms in this tiny newsroom, our home base for the past several days.
We’d never been to Bandera, Texas. Though we’ve spent time in San Antonio and Austin, we’d never lingered in the Hill Country in between — and it’s well worth lingering in, which might explain why we’ve been here three days.
Not to mention the fact that Ace is being named Bandera’s tourist of the week.
Bandera, both a city and a county, are situated amid countryside so scenic you think you must be in some other state. It has given us a whole new respect for Texas, some of which we may sweat out today, as we cross a few hundred far flatter miles of it on our way to New Mexico.
Here’s how we ended up in Bandera, population 957 (not 975 like I said the other day). A few months back the editor of the Bandera County Courier, a former Baltimore resident named Judith Pannebaker — she and her husband Bill, a dentist, moved here 14 years ago — contacted ohmidog! about using some of our stories in her newspaper.
Negotiations were intense. She asked. I said why not, figuring it would make me a syndicated columnist. (If your newspaper is interested, feel free to get in touch, though our prices have gone up since Judith called.)
When Judith heard about my trip, she invited Ace and I to drop by, and bunk down at her home.
The lodgings have been wonderful, and Ace, a bit lackadaisical before we got here, really grew more spirited, thanks in large part to the four dogs and four cats, acres of running room, and frequent treats at the Pannebaker home.
Ace has gotten along great with three of the dogs — Doc Holliday, Johnny Ringo and Kate, who looks like a miniature version of Ace and who, when she chases a squirrel up a tree, literally goes up the tree herself.
Ace got along slightly less famously with their fourth dog, Jake, a big black pit bull. So we kept them separated. Sorry, Jake, for inconveniencing you.
For Ace, it has meant new friends, new sights, new brands of bugs and prickly plantlife, even new sounds — the cicadas have been singing up a storm at night.
I’ve been similarly refreshed, spending some of my time at a small town newspaper — where it seems journalism is still important still, usually, principled and still, judging from the laughter in the background, fun.
When I made my trip Monday to Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, Ace went to the newspaper, riding with Doc and Johnny in Judith’s car, and he was happy to spend the day there, hanging out in the air conditioning with his newfound friends.
Bandera, it turns out, is just the sort of place we had in mind when we departed on this trip, preferring to pass through small towns with character as opposed to big ones that all look alike.
Bandera takes great pride in its cowboy heritage, and some spots, like the legendary Silver Dollar Saloon haven’t changed much since the days of the old west, if you don’t count the addition of neon, pinball and Merlot. I just finished quaffing an ice cold $1.50 Lone Star there and smoking a cigarette INSIDE THE BAR while hearing customers say things in conversation that sounded like country songs, like, “It may not be right, but it’s right for me.”
Today, Bandera is dappled with dude ranches, teeming with tourists, and the county has about an equal number of people and deer, I’m told.
It’s the sort of place you can still see scenes like this:
The city park runs along the Medina River, with huge cypress trees providing abundant shade. Young people play freely. Unleashed dogs romp freely. Individuals — human and canine — still have some liberties. And the fairly intense heat — not nearly as humid as some other parts of Texas — seems to slow people down just the right amount.
Of all the places we’ve been so far, it’s the hardest one to leave — and not just because of the free lodging.
(To see all the installments of Dog’s Country, click here.)
(Photos By John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)