Tuesday, April 08, 2008

LBJ Country

Just up a ways from Blanco State Park is Johnson City, a small town where the Lyndon Baines Johnson boyhood home and original family settlement is located. As a Viet Nam veteran, I'm not a big fan of LBJ and his presidency, since his micromanagement of the conflict along with his Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, handcuffed the military's ability to fight the war and cost this country nearly 60,000 lives. But hey, I'm always interested in history and since it was close to where we were staying it seemed like a good idea to visit the historical sites. We started at the visitor center, the former city hospital, which serves as a central point to explore the boyhood home, recreated original settlement, and place to get information on how to get to the "ranch". After a short walk to the boyhood home, we joined a guided tour and narrative about LBJ's family life here in the 1920s. It was an interesting tour; it's always amazing to see how people lived without electricity, especially in the hot and humid Texas summer. From the visitor center, it was a 14-mile drive to the LBJ ranch, now known as the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Here, we boarded a bus at the visitor center for an hour and a half tour narrated by one of the park rangers. The tour passed the one-room school he attended and stopped briefly at the house where he was born in 1906, and where we toured the restored home. Across the street is the family cemetery, where his gravestone is the most prominent. Next to his grave is Lady Bird's, marked with flowers and still without a headstone after a year, as the family hasn't come to an agreement about the inscription. The driver's narration focused on two areas - LBJ's educational and civil rights accomplishments, which were certainly significant and meaningful, and how everyone in the park loved Lady Bird. Until shortly before her death, she would sit on the porch of the main house and wave to everyone on the bus tour, and in years past would come to the bus and greet all of the visitors. Throughout the tour, the driver pointed out all of the remains of the presidential years - the Secret Service quarters, the airfield, communications facilities, and guard shacks. The main house, or "Texas White House", is an impressive home, but we were disappointed that tours of the inside won't be available for a year or two from now. We were told that the house is unpretentious and comfortable inside; that Lady Bird wanted a home that her husband could feel comfortable in without the trappings of the White House. Overall, touring the LBJ historic sites was enjoyable and interesting, and for those who are too young to have lived through his administration, an educational experience.
Now that we're into April, our flamingo is of course appropriately attired in her rain gear. Who knows what she'll be wearing next? Check back and see!

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