We send salutations to our neighbors in the south by visiting one of the seven wonders of the world. Chichen Itza, located in the Yucatan state of Mexico, is the remnants of an ancient Mayan city featuring ruins and architectural wonders that capture the culture and history of the people of the past. We explore the freshwater sinkholes, the shrines, and the city that once stood as a hub of Mayan civilization. For a cultural experience and a chance to glimpse a significant part of Mayan heritage, this trip is well worth the stop on The Texas Bucket List.
The Texas Bucket List – Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial in College Station
We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave all because of the courage and fearlessness of the men and women who have served and defended our country for generations. The Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial in College Station stands as a tribute to these servicemen and women, from the Civil War to Vietnam to 9/11. Make this part of your stop on The Texas Bucket List to thank and remember those who have fought for our freedom.
The Texas Bucket List – Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center
LANGTRY, Texas – Down in Southwest Texas along the border of Mexico is a majestic landscape leading the way to the west, and once you cross the Pecos River, you’ll find yourself in a notorious section of our state.
This is where the West gets wild and the story of the infamous Judge Roy Bean, a lawman who also happened to be a saloon owner, still resonates off the rocks of Langtry.
“Well, Langtry’s kind of special. It has a very interesting history. We have almost as many historical markers as we have population,” said Jack Skiles, retired manager of the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center.
Skiles is another legend of Langtry whose grandfather came to this part of the Lone Star State in 1905.
“[I remember] growing up as a kid hearing about Judge Roy Bean but, most of what the local people said was rather derogatory. Often referred to him as that old scoundrel, that old scalawag, or that old reprobate. I didn’t even know what reprobate meant until I started writing about it and had to look it up in the dictionary,” said Skiles.
Skiles left Langtry to pursue his career as a school superintendent, but in the late ‘60s he heard TxDOT was looking to build the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center, so he did what any proud native would do – he checked in to see what was happening to his hometown.
“I was at a superintendents meeting in Austin one day and right across the street from us was a highway department office. So I went over there to find out what was going on and what they were planning and by George, before it was over with, they offered me a job to come back home and operate this Judge Roy Bean Visitors Center,” Skiles said.
In 1968 he opened the doors to the new center to help tell a story he knew by heart – heck, he wrote the book on it – Judge Roy Bean Country.
“I interviewed those that were still living, oh, I believe it was in about in 1960. I wanted to get their story straight about Judge Roy Bean,” said Skiles. “There’d been so many magazine articles, a couple of books, and other things written about Judge Roy Bean that were not true. So, I was determined that I wanted to find out the truth about Judge Roy Bean.”
It all started when Roy Bean decided to build a saloon in a rowdy railroad town that was booming with workers from every part of the world.
“That had about 7000 workers and half of those were Chinese. Then there was about 3500 of Americans and Italians and Germans and Mexicans and Irishmen and, of course, most all that bunch likes their whiskey, so Roy Bean set up a saloon, that Vinegaroon,” Skiles said.
As the railroad moved west, so did the town, eventually landing in Langtry. By this time the amount of arrests for disorderly conduct – whether it be fights or drunkenness – was getting out of control and the Texas Rangers got tired of taking the charged all the way to Fort Stockton. So, they appointed one Roy Bean as Justice of the Peace to help maintain order and make criminal cases a bit easier to handle.
“There was a federal judge in El Paso – T.A. Falvey was his name. And he was quoted as saying that Judge Roy Bean was the right man at the right place at the right time. So, he did the job that needed to be done here,” said Skiles.
Of course, this Justice of the Peace just so happened to own a saloon, which was his courtroom and notary. Known as The Jersey Lilly in honor of English actress Lilly Langtry for whom Judge Bean had quite the affinity, his barcourt notary became a Texas hall of tall tales.
During his time as a Judge, Bean only sentence two men to hang, a popular misconception considering some called him the hanging judge. Clearing up some misnomers about Bean’s law enforcement is something Skiles has been working to change. But, this by no means suggests that Bean was a good guy.
“I interviewed several of the people who had known the old judge and I always remember what one person, Mrs. Beulah Birdwell Farley, told me,” Skiles said. “I asked Beulah, I said, ‘Well, what did you think about Judge Roy Bean?’ She said, quote, ‘He might have been a murderer and a robber and a thief but he was good at heart.’”
While Bean did what he had to in order to keep the peace in town, the story that put his name in the marquee all started thanks to a world heavyweight prizefight that couldn’t find a venue anywhere in the United States. Being so close to the border, Judge Bean invited the promoters to have the fight down south – and out of reach of U.S. officials.
“Judge Roy Bean’s prizefight held in 1896 was right down there where we see the water of the Rio Grande. At that time that was a big gravel bar and wide open space, and they erected a little footbridge upstream a little ways. Went across, walked down to the fight. Of course, many of people that watched the fight did not pay anything because all they had to do is go down there and sit on top of the bluff,” said Skiles.”
The Texas Rangers weren’t too thrilled to see Bean find a loophole around the professional fight. But, if you can’t stop it, you might as well enjoy it.
“That’s what Roy Bean told the Rangers when they arrived to stop the fight. He said come on down, you can’t do a damn thing about it, so come on down and watch,” Skiles said.
The fight only lasted two minutes as Bob Fitzsimmons defeated Peter Maher on Feb. 21, 1896, to take the world title, but those two minutes sealed Roy Bean’s place in the history books.
“Those eastern reporters really ate that up, you know,” Skiles said. “He was really a tough old western character, so that’s where legends about Judge Roy Bean really got started, I think.”
Independent, all-knowing, stubborn, and fair as long as you were on his good side, it’s no wonder Texans can resonate with his wild spirit. So, if you want to get an idea of what life was like back in the old West, just pull into Langtry and learn about Judge Roy Bean’s method of Texas Justice.
“It’s a part of history that needs to be preserved, and they’re doing a good job preserving it,” said Skiles.
The Texas Bucket List – San Fernando Cathedral
The San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio is a beautiful building with a history that stretches back to the beginnings of Texas. These holy grounds serve as the final resting place of Alamo war heroes such as Crockett, Bowie, and Travis. If you’re interested in anything Texan, this is the place to stop and learn about some of the finer points of Lone Star State history!
The Texas Bucket List – The Texas Country Music Hall of Fame & The Tex Ritter Museum
Polish your boots and get your guitar ready for the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage! Many a country crooner is now immortalized in history for their rise in fame and their country twang. This hall is dedicated to all those musicians with special connections to the Lone Star State including Carthage’s native son Tex Ritter.
So get ready to “Jingle Jangle Jingle” as you head out “On the Road Again” because this is well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List!
The Texas Bucket List – Miss Hattie’s Bordello Museum
Legend Jewelers in San Angelo has quite the legendary tales to tell about the bedrooms upstairs! Miss Hattie’s Bordello once held the jewels of the West and entertained many a fellow looking for rest and refreshment. Now a museum serving as a snapshot of the risqué side of southern hospitality, Miss Hattie’s is well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List.
The Texas Bucket List – Shelby County Courthouse in Center
Overlooking the green like a regal Irish castle is the Shelby County Courthouse in Center.
For over 130 years, this courthouse has served as an exhibition of Irish architecture with some unique accents that make it an exceptional place to visit.
Only serving a few court sessions today in order to display its grandeur, the Shelby County Courthouse is one unique stop on The Texas Bucket List!
The Texas Bucket List – Czech Heritage Museum and Genealogy Center
Polka music, Kolaches, and pivo — for the Czech Hertiage Museum and Genealogy Center in Temple, these things are only the tip of the iceberg of the wealth of history and culture preserved in their museum. They have everything you ever wanted to know about early Czech settlers in Texas from their bibles to their dialect. So while you’re sipping your Slivovitz, be sure to add this one to your list because it’s well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List!
The Texas Bucket List – Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown
We visit the Spindletop-Gladys Boomtown Museum in Beaumont to travel back in time to the place where the oil boom got its start. While you can’t see any black gold gush from the ground like in the olden days, the Lucas Gusher replica still gives you that feeling of excitement and wonder as it blows water hundreds of feet into the air. For a glimpse of the gusher that kicked off the worldwide oil craze, this place is well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List!
The Texas Bucket List – T.C. Lindsey General Store
You wouldn’t guess it from the outside looking in, but the T.C. Lindsey General Store in Jonesville has been going for 150 years strong! The part antique store, part museum has been around so long that it has some good stories to tell. Stop by and chat with Sibyl Elliot to learn a few or just take a look at some of the fixtures lining the walls. Well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List!
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