Stories from a Wanderer – Superbloom in the Cross Timbers

While I don’t know if it is technically a “superbloom,” my wanderings confirm that 2023 Texas wildflowers are superb. The Indian blanket is perhaps past its prime, but still evident in great sweeps of deep vermilion, while yellows which I’m still learning the names of and spikes of deep purple liatris that cover swaths of countryside. The Texas white prickly poppy, various daisies, yarrow and bold forests of ivory yucca abound.

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I was treated to this late spring show as I wound my way west and south until I’d found a few stopping points for the return trip. I had crossed ecoregions – a first in a while for me – from the north central area called the Cross Timbers (because 150 years ago the prairies of the area were bounded by thick forests) and into the Texas Hill Country. While I didn’t make it into the heart of Hill Country, I did pass through the colorful town of Hico (pronounced Hi’co) and into Hamilton, where I drove several circles around the huge, historic, brilliant-white local limestone courthouse. This version, finalized in 1932, is built in a classical revival style with crenelated towers, triangular pediments and entablatures, and Romera. Slightly off the square were a number of Victorian era homes, one with a spectacular garden and vibrant Victorian era colors with gingerbread trim details.

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Unfortunately, I had an injured dog at home, and I was afraid that as much enjoyment as I was having from my lovely drive in new territory, any more time away might make him uncomfortable; so I found my way back to the highway to reverse my trip. Just outside of Hico I stopped at a roadside market called Dutchman’s Hidden Valley. The building itself is unique, a string of cottages and reclaimed army barracks converted into small rooms of taffy, pecan pralines and brittles, local arts and crafts, tourist bric-a-brac, home goods, old-timey toys, a freezer case of bison meat, an ice cream stand and a German deli called Wenzel’s. Wenzel was the Dutchman, or Deutschman (German), in the market’s name. My brother’s nickname is Dutch, as my Grandpa Ode was also called Dutch (after his German heritage). Wenzel’s deli is still a family-run business within the larger market and I watched three generations work to bring my lunch together.

I ordered a Rueben with a side of hot German potato salad, because I love it and because it made me think of my Grandma Wittman. I also bought peanut butter cookies, my Grandma Ode’s specialty and my father’s favorite. I pulled into a roadside picnic area that had a rolling field of wildflowers for a view. I was pleased by the tangy corned beef and crisp white kraut with sharp horseradish and spicy brown mustard. The potato salad was sweet and sour, and so identical to my grandmother’s that it almost made me cry. I’ve never been able to capture that flavor despite having the recipe in her handwriting.

The rest of my trip was spent nibbling peanut butter cookies and taking photographs of fields of wildflowers. I was thinking of my mother who would describe them, I’m certain, as “Just like great big bouquets for everyone to enjoy.”

May your own wanderings take you out of one region and into another; and bring you closer to home and yourself at the same time.

greta ode
Greta Ode is currently enjoying “tiny house” living in Weatherford, Texas. She has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine and is an editor and contributor to Tandeta Journal. Her work can be found on Substack at “Ramble, Bramble.”

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