Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Legend of Old Rip

For a small Texas town, Eastland sure has its share of shenanigans.  If you're not familiar with Eastland, it's along I-20 about halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene.


A little background info from a helpful historical marker:

     "County seat, Eastland County. Named for William M. Eastland--Texas War for Independence hero who was in Mier Expedition against Mexico, and was executed in "Black Bean" lottery at Rancho Salado in 1842.
      Most noted early local people were Comanches, who resisted occupation of area by white settlers. The last recorded Indian raid in county was in 1874.
Eastland was named county seat in an election on Aug. 2, 1875. With 250 people it was incorporated on June 6, 1891, and W.Q. Connellee was elected as mayor.
      After a discovery in 1917, one of the fabled oil booms of Texas occurred nearby, with Eastland center for legal matters. With oil priced $2.60 a barrel, many wells flowed at 10,000 barrels a day. The city quickly grew to 25,000 people; 5 banks prospered.
      Coming here to seek "black gold" were celebrities, including evangelist Billy Sunday, circus owner John Ringling, sports figures Jess Willard, Tex Rickard.
      An international wonder-story happened here: the old courthouse cornerstone was opened (on this site) in 1928 to reveal survival of "Old Rip", a horned toad placed there with other mementoes on July 19, 1897.
      Continuing oil production, agricultural processing and clay products bolster the present economy. "

You may have noted the bold part of the text which mentions "Old Rip" the world famous horny toad.  His story is a true Texas tall tale.

Yes, Old Rip was quite the celebrity during his life but his fame continued after his death.  Like any Texas icon his final resting place is constantly visited by people from all over the world who want to pay their respects.  His coffin resides in the Eastland County Courthouse:

His unique story caught the attention of the folks at Ripley's Believe it of Not and Old Rip made it into the comic strip:

And the TV show (yes, that's Jack Palance in front of the steps of the Eastland County Courthouse):

The story also captured the imagination of Warner Brothers animation and they created the famous animated short "One Froggy Evening" which was loosely based on Old Rip's story:

About ten years ago I shot a we shot a documentary about the life and times of Old Rip.  It had a decent run at film festivals and now we've posted it online, in it's entirety, for the first time ever!  So sit back and enjoy the Legend of Old Rip:

Eastland's other claim to fame like the 6-ft. x 10-ft. mural made from over 11,000 stamps at the post office.  Sure it lives in Old Rip's shadow but it's still worth a mention (and a visit if you're in town):

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tom Landry: The Comic Book

Tom Landry can easily be classified as a Texas icon and as such his life was memorialized in one of the greatest ways possible.  Statue?  Oh, sure.  Highways and buildings named after him?  Of course.  But no, I'm talking about America's highest honor:  your own comic book!

"Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys" was published by Spire Christian Comics in 1973 and as you might have guessed from the publisher's name, it's less of a biography of Landry and more of an advertisement of the Christian faith.  It starts where all stories should start - Super Bowl VI:

That victory was an anchor point for telling the story of Landry's life.  As I said, details are sparse but the highlights include his service during World War II:

His football career at the University of Texas:

His time in New York:

And, of course, becoming head coach of the Dallas Cowboys:

Which leads back to that victory in '72:

The rest of the book centers around his spiritual life.  It's hard to sum up a man's life in one comic book but they make a concerted effort to do right by Tom here...and in the end, that's all you can ask for.

The Hippos of Hutto

When you visit the town of Hutto, TX (about 30 miles north of Austin) you can't help but notice the multitude of hippo statues. What gives? Well the town also has a Historic Marker which will hopefully shed some light on the situation.

The marker reads:

"Located near Shiloh, one of the earliest villages in Williamson County, this area was settled in 1855 by J. E. Hutto (1824-1914) and Adam Orgain, a former slave. Hutto sold land for this townsite to the International & Great Northern Railroad in 1876. A post office was established in 1877 with Hutto as postmaster. By 1882, the town had a school and a Baptist church. By 1898, there were six churches, a Masonic lodge, newspaper, hotel, bank, two gins, and several stores. Hutto grew rapidly after Swedish immigrants turned nearby farms to cotton production. The town was incorporated in 1911."

Ok, that really didn't help so here's the short version of the story: in 1915 a hippo escaped from a circus train and went about the business of hippo hi-jinks until the townspeople and animal trainers were finally able to catch him and return him to the train. Ever since then the town has had Hippo Fever!

The school even adopted the hippo as the official mascot and the town is riddled with hippo statues. Some say there are hundreds but I don't think anyone has ever done an official count.

KKK Day at the State Fair

Yikes!  It looks like the 1923 State Fair of Texas had a special themed day for the universally despised hate group, the Ku Klux Klan:


Before we get started, in the interest of full disclosure, I have a confession to make: I am not fond of McDonalds food. I do eat it from time to time but afterward waves of regret and nausea slap me back to the produce section of the grocery store where I desperately seek leafy green penance for my greasy indiscretions.

That being said, I'm still a big fan of effective marketing and nobody puts themselves out there like Ronald and all his wacky pals. And this inundation of the American kiddie consciousness isn't exclusive to toys, TV and billboards.

Ambitious franchise owners design fanciful fa├žades to woo hungry youngsters into the Neverland of Nuggets.  And some of the better ones that caught my attention just happen to be in Dallas.
One of the most noticeable is in north Dallas on 635 and Montfort:
Nothing sells hot dogs like a car in the shape of a wiener, and nothing puts kids in the mood for a meal like the Happy Meal Box McDonalds.

Super sized fries, shakes and Big Macs adorn the sides of the restaurant and can presumably be seen from space.

A more "down to earth" McDonalds (next to the Dallas Zoo) is populated by an ark load of critters and creatures.

An imposing gorilla clutching a large order of fries welcomes zoo patrons eager to expand their wildlife awareness but unwilling to leave their culinary comfort zone.

And now it's time for dessert. A sweetly candied castle beckoning children, Hansel & Gretel style, sits beneath the golden arches in south Dallas and is populated with all your McDonaldland favorites.

Shakes, floats and soft serve are the spires in this calorie laden citadel. I'm not even sure if they serve half the things on the walls. But it sure looks cool.

Sure, we can debate the merits and shortcomings of the world dominating franchise that is McDonalds until we're red and white in the face. But it might be better to just drive by and enjoy the scenery as you head to Whole Foods.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chuck Norris Downtown Dallas Car Chase

The first episode of Walker, Texas Ranger had a pretty sweet car chase in downtown Dallas.  Who's in the mood for some old school action?

It all starts in a way that all scenes should start...with a specific mention of the filming location:

We begin at the intersection of N. Griffin St. and Corbin St. in downtown Dallas.  If you go there now you'll see a giant aquarium.  But the Dallas World Aquarium didn't exist (or at least, it didn't exist as it does in its current form) when this episode was filmed so it didn't get in the way of their cameras.

Walker and his partner Trivette were parked separately and were both apparently waiting for something to happen as they regaled each other with tales of past hijinks.  I guess they were putting the vibe out somehow because when the mustachioed bad guys (or MBGs as they will be referred to from here on) drove by in their evil white van they could sense something and they freaked out and the chase began.

Trivette took off in his lame car and Walker head out in his awesome truck:

Getting out of a Dallas parking lot in downtown is a lot hard than it looks.  Walker found this out the hard way as  he tried to pursue the MBGs and found several pesky citizens and their cars in his way.  But not to worry, Trivette was right on their tails.

They headed northeast on San Jacinto St.  (Note the KDFW antenna/transmitter in the background...sorry it's kind of washed out in my pic):

They then took a sharp right onto Akard St. which caused enough of a fender bender to put Trivette's car out of commission.  Then I'm guessing they headed south (the wrong way) on Ervay or went a block over to Paul St.  But Walker was close behind and Trivette jumped into the back of his truck and they continued the chase...

Both vehicles somehow then found themselves heading southwest-ish (don't you just love the funky layout of downtown Dallas?) on Bryan St. toward Thanks-Giving Square.  You can see Trivette in the back of Walker's truck firing his gun wildly in the general direction of the MBGs (which, of course, is a perfectly reasonable thing to do):

One of those pesky box trucks picked that exact time to pull out into the street and get in the way of Walker's truck.  So Trivette jumps out and runs across Thanks-Giving Square (which is really more of a triangle) to Pacific Ave. 

Which was a great idea because the MBGs continued down Bryan St. and made had the horrible idea to make the very sharp (and probably illegal) turn onto Pacific which means that they were essentially driving back towards the cops.

But this wasn't anywhere near the end of the episode so, of course, after some more gun play the MBGs got away.  Walker finally shows up to Trivette's location, delivers the act break joke and then the commercials started. 

Here's my rough approximation of how the chase happened:

 Don't worry, there's plenty more action ahead.  Next time: another bank heist, a shootout and at least one big, honkin' explosion in downtown Fort Worth!  To be continued...

(In the interest of full disclosure: only one of the bad guys had a mustache.)

Devin & Wayne vs. the 72 Ounce Steak

Awhile back our pals Devin & Wayne took on the 72 ounce Steak Challenge at the Route 66 icon The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, TX.  Here's their story:

The Cockroach Hall of Fame & Museum

Here's a look at the Cockroach Hall of Fame and Museum in Plano, TX that we shot a few years ago: