Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 26, 2010

Small Town, Texas

I grew up in the small South Texas town of Mission located just a few miles north of the Rio Grande River. Everybody in town knew my family. As a kid, I learned that news in a small town travels fast. Whenever I did anything wrong my parents often heard about it before I got home. But, the folks in town also made sure I was safe. Everybody kept an eye on everybody else’s kids. I enjoyed growing up in a small town and, in the back of my mind, I sometimes wonder if I will ever live in a small town again. Over the past week, Cheryl and I have driven through and explored lots of small towns on our way to and around Texas’ Big Bend country. While driving between Ft. Davis and Marfa this afternoon, we made a list of the top ten things about small towns that we have enjoyed over the past few days.

10. Interesting old buildings. | Every small town has interesting old buildings and houses. We enjoyed how seeing how entrepreneurs have restored some of these buildings and turned them into craft shops, specialty boutiques, restaurants, and more. It’s nice to see new life breathed into old buildings.

9. Historic hotels. | In addition to our accommodations in Big Bend National Park, we enjoyed our stay at the historic Gage Hotel in Marathon and Hotel Limpia in Ft. Davis. These old hotels are beautifully appointed with antiques and offer comfortable common areas where we enjoyed conversations around the hearth with other guests.

8. Steering wheel salutes. | We have enjoyed the drives across vast expanses between towns where you can see oncoming vehicles approaching from miles away. And, when another vehicle approaches, at least eight out of every ten times the driver in the oncoming vehicle will give you a quick salute with the hand at the top of his steering wheel. Or, if another vehicle passes you the driver will give you a quick wave.

7. Incredible hospitality. | When we phoned ahead to one hotel to tell them of our possible late arrival, the lady on the phone told us not to worry. “If you get here late,” she said, “we’ll leave the key in an envelope with you name on it on the front porch. It will unlock the front door to the hotel and also the door to your room.”

6. The Texas Stop Sign. | You will not see many Golden Arches in small Texas towns, but you will see the Texas Stop Sign in almost every small town — Dairy Queen. We enjoyed ice cream cones dipped in chocolate in what is the small town equivalent to a Starbucks-type atmosphere.

5. Home-style cooking and generous portions. | We sampled several small town eateries and enjoyed some delicious meals along the way. On Thanksgiving day we enjoyed an amazing four-course meal at the quaint Hotel Limpia Restaurant. This reservation-only meal was as good or better than any we have ever had. It was Texas cuisine at its best.

4. Historical markers. | Texas has a great Historical Marker system in place throughout the State. Cheryl and I made it a point to stop at these markers along the way to glean some historical perspective on this part of our great State. We learned some interesting things about who and what has shaped the history of West Texas. It was worth taking the time to stop along the way. We have a better appreciation for this expansive region of Texas.

3. County courthouses and town squares. | County seats in Texas boast some of the best-looking courthouses in the nation. These prominent courthouses are generally centrally located and adjacent to inviting town squares where people actually sit on park benches and have conversations.

2. New friends. | One thing I enjoy most about travel is meeting interesting people. Cheryl met a young lady from New York who has left the corporate world to seek new employment and adventure in small town Texas. We met a wonderful couple from Germany on a hike in Big Bend. They are from a city I visited in May with my Dad. And, we met a terrific family from India who live in Austin and are exploring our State. We’ll see them again tonight at the McDonald Observatory.

1. Spending time together. | The number one thing that Cheryl and I have enjoyed on our adventure through Big Bend and small towns is getting to spend time together. Cheryl and I do not lack for stuff to talk about. We enjoy conversation. And on those rare occasions when we are not talking, we also enjoy sharing our quiet moments together. We are scheduled to return home on Saturday evening and will do so rested and refreshed and grateful for our thirty years of marriage.


  1. Hey O-
    No matter where I go in the world when I am asked where I am from and I answer, “The United States” I get a polite head nod, but when I answer “I’m from Texas” I usually get a huge smile and an “Oh, yes, Texas!”
    You and Cherly picked some great top 10s, especially the Dairy Queen one. There’s nothing like sharing some family time with a big Blizzard on a hot summer evening.
    Just one more thing I miss about home!

    Hope all is well in the great state of Texas.

    • Hey Laura,

      Amen! I have experienced the same thing on my travels abroad.

      We miss you and pray for you as you serve our great country overseas. I am enjoying reading your blog posts and learning more about all of the good things our folks in uniform are doing to make life better for those who live in remote and tough places. Thank you for your good work and good words.

      We’ll have to do a family outing to Dairy Queen when you get home. While at the airport in Phnom Penh last year I was pleased to find a Dairy Queen there. Imagine that! A Dairy Queen in Cambodia.

      Take care,

  2. Omar,
    As a kid, my family spent time with friends in Alice, Texas every summer. I remember the hot metal slides and swings at the playground. With the heat they were as hot as an iron! smile


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