Saturday, April 25, 2015
Sunday, April 19, 2015
I have made a video about the most controversial man, the most controversial sheriff, and perhaps the most controversial couple to ever live in Grimes County... the whole story, especially the details and politics, can be found in my blog called Blues Valley... (@ brazosvalleyblues.blogspot.com) but watch this music video first.. it will save you a bunch of time! This is a true story...
For a short intro video, CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW:
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
I have combined my love of history, photography and my daughter Raegan's fabulous original songs to create six "digital stories."
Here are the titles and the links...
UNDELIVERED: A Valentine for Joan of Arc: A look at Joan of Arc and her relationship with the Duke of Orleans, the man behind the scenes during the short military career of Jehanne D'Arc. Featuring Raegan's song "Riot."
TEMPLAR: A love song by Raegan about a Knight Templar and the lass who loves him...
Take It Back: A saucy song by Raegan and a saucy story about the feud between the Governors Ferguson and Ranger Frank Hamer... and Bonnie and Clyde, who brought them together!
Rachel's Unspeakable Saga: The story of the captives taken by Comanches from Fort Parker and their battle for survival. The story worked well interwoven with Raegan's "A Song About Zombies"!
The Pathfinders: George W. Durant, The Father of Alvin: Soldier, Inventor, nurseryman... The life of my great-great grandfather encapsulated. Raegan's "PIONEER" fit it like a glove, even though her song is about something else entirely.
Having lots of fun- And there is more to come!
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
In the path of possible destruction: Beautiful high ground on HWY 90 between Anderson and Navasota- I have dubbed Holland Pass, above the bottoms of Holland Creek. Tapley Holland was one of the heroes martyred at the Alamo.
Jesse Grimes was an early pioneer, friend of Sam Houston and signor of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
We are planning a benefit concert for Molly Bee and her father Leon on January 24, 2015. Tubie and the Touchtones and Brickyard Kain have offered to play at a benefit concert and auction at The Dizzy Llama. Things will kick off at 6:30.
If you want to donate to the LIVE Auction, let me know!
The Collin's house burned down a couple of weeks ago. Leon lost everything but his Bible. All of his money and paintings and clothes...He's going to need a lot of help. They have moved into a new place on Church Street.
Leon's tragedy reminds us that life, our mission in life, is more important than we might think. There are great things at stake while we indulge ourselves in philosophical questions, often unanswerable. Sometimes life demands that we step up to the challenges at our feet, think of the greater good. And jump in.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Governments at every level and in many locations across the country are struggling with dangerous dog ordinances. This is America and many people think they have a right to own a dangerous dog and even let it run around the neighborhood once in a while. But I am fed up with these irresponsible pet owners who give no thought to the danger their dogs present to cats and small dogs and children.
Friday, August 22, 2014
IF you have the real thing... there are some telltale signs, on the back of the badge... once again the reverse or Peso side of the badge tells everything. A jeweler in Houston named Nelson Silvia made many of the later Ranger badges from the 1960's on and put his mark on them. It will look something like this... there are variations. IF you have a badge that looks like this, but does not have this cartouche, you are probably holding a clever copy.
The better copies of this badge are cast in silver by excellent craftsmen. As far as I know, there have been none made with the Silva name stamped in them, as this would be double forgery. But not all of them are easily discounted. Some of these copiers are very good at casting and replicating the Peso. So good, you cannot tell. BUT, you can tell if it is cast.
You will see file marks, but they are never as neat and are rarely done with much precision... like a real Peso... it is just too small for most jewelers to be able to do it.
Is it really a coin, or a clever forgery? Here is another absolutely gorgeous fake... with tell-tale saw marks on the edge, to compare with yours...
This one is numbered and signed GW by the jeweler. GW did a great job, but his sprew location is easily detected, on the ridge, again, at the very bottom.
I hope yours passes this last line of scrutiny. If it does... then congratulations! You might well own a real Texas Ranger badge.
Monday, August 18, 2014
I had heard Andi and Peter Renfree first as "The Renfrees" at the Corner Cafe several years ago. They came back the next year re-invented as "2 Bit Palomino," with a new guitar picker and keyboardist, and unveiled their new songs... But being in transition, I chose to reserve my judgment and wait for more input before writing about them... Then a mutual friend invited me to see them at Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville.
2 Bit Palomino is a veteran threesome of Houston-based singer-songwriters who have found an original sound and written some catchy, solid songs. These are songs that make you remember those things in your sub-conscious that have been pushed aside by the tyranny of the urgent; things we need to hold on to.
They were named the Vocal Group of the Year in 2011 and 2013 by the Academy of Texas Music. My favorite song is an epic song they sing, made famous by Chris LeDoux, and written by Andrea C. Renfree, Willie McCullough and Clay Canfield, called The Buffalo Grass. I promise, it sounds better than... it sounds... Anyway I'll bet this song had something to do with the fact that Howlin' Dog Records just signed them to a contract. The three are quite pleased with their new situation and looking forward to cutting the new album. Persistence and excellence have paid off.
Andi Renfree strolls among her crowd at Bernhardt Winery before she performs. With casual, down to earth ease, she explains how far her faith was stretched, how far she had to step out on faith, before the band was seemingly "instantly" rewarded with milestones of success in their respective careers. Now they are going to enjoy the coming journey with appreciation that has been fermented like a fine wine.
2-Bit Palomino sings about No cowboys in Dallas, buffalo grass... and even about a whore. Bill sings a protest song. He finds no comfort that everyone agrees with his protest, that there is no more middle class in America. So it must not be a protest song... he explains, if everybody agrees with him... Their sensitive, sincere message strikes a chord with the audience. America is changing right before our eyes. The songs hit us where we sit; regular folks seeking a measure of peace and serenity in the middle of somewhere. And for just a moment, remembering.
As in the days of yesteryear, songsters are the voice of our social conscience- and our consciousness. And for the moment, there is music, and friends, and Grimes County wine.
It has been a perfect evening. Too perfect. Native Americans would intentionally place a random bead in their bead work, a concession that only God can make perfection, and to keep themselves humble. I looked around and found the Bernhardt's "random bead"... a little light bulb had gone out.
You probably wonder about their name... it is also the name of one of their great songs... about that mechanical rocking horse we all begged to ride for a quarter as children, in front of the grocery store... Meanwhile 2 Bit Palomino has grown and matured into a promising act, and will be away, more than ever, on the road or in Nashville or whatever, and we are fortunate to have had an evening with them. And now they can get rested up for the challenges ahead. Good luck to them, and God Bless! And thanks for refreshing my memories!
I have prided myself in covering most music venues and anything worth knowing about in my neck of the woods... but I will confess to avoiding the woods. 24 years ago when my little family left Plantersville, after calling it home for around 18 years, it was with the firm conviction that coming there had been the most serious mistake of our young lives. So it will be no surprise that going back... to cover any deserving story, is bitter sweet. Or to be more accurate, choking on crow.
It was a hard pill to swallow, that right across from the Price pasture where I used to hunt and photograph bluebonnets and run my Labrador retriever, is the sign and the road leading to one of Grimes County's prime attractions. Plantersville has enjoyed the upgrade brought by such neighbors as the Bernhardt Winery, as some of us shrugged and shook our heads. "More newcomers... they will never make it..."
So now you and I can quit ignoring the stunning truth- that Grimes County is now the home of several excellent wineries, and Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville is the flagship of the fleet. Let me demonstrate why...
Bernhardt Winery is situated on county road 204 in far eastern Grimes County, just north of Hwy 105. The surrounding countryside is so pretty that it explains why I moved here... and stayed here in Grimes County over forty years ago. Distant vistas and mammoth trees greet visitors to this oasis, which prides itself on being a site of peace and serenity. And the wine doesn't hurt. Bernhardt offers their award winning wines ice-cold, as you sip and listen to Texas' most celebrated musicians. Shake Russell. Ezra Charles. On this visit we were entertained by the original future hits of 2- Bit Palomino.
World Class Music.
A veteran crowd of picnickers congregate on a gentle slope which stops at a gargantuan pecan tree, which protects a small outdoor stage from the sun. It might be Bob Livingston, who has performed in over 30 countries around the world for the State Department, or the best of local talent. This Autumn they plan a series of tribute bands, from the Eagles to Willie to Elvis to the Beatles to Motown.
And the wine flows. The music fills the valley. The sun goes down...
And Jerry Bernhardt reads some of his winsome poetry and... all is right with the world. He explains that the place is for getting back in touch with nature... and beauty. If I'm not totally accurate about what he said... I'll blame the wine...And he asks everyone to be quiet and just listen for a moment to the sounds of the country. Cicadas obligingly turn up the volume, and crickets rub their legs with enthusiasm. He makes a toast. I look around. Yes, this is Plantersville. Back when I first moved here, me and my coon hunting, skoal dipping, whiskey sipping buddies would have cracked up at such eloquence.
As I explained to the kind lady offering me a sampling of wine, I'm a beer guy. But the wines I tasted were very rich and refreshing. We bought a blush wine that disappeared quickly. You come. You be the judge. I know music- and they have the best music in Texas, and as our entertainers for the evening joked, the more we drank the better they sounded. And probably the better the whole experience is... or seems. Whatever, Plantersville has more going for it than the Texas Renaissance Festival. Right now it has the two most impressive entertainment venues in Grimes County.
Thanks to the vision of the Bernhardts, time, good taste and financial commitment has rewarded this lovely place with a solid attraction. And hundreds of people are making it a regular part of their lives. I sure plan to.
If you want to more details about Bernhardt Winery, call (936) 894-9829 or go to their website:
Carved cedar tree trunks hold up a timber framework which shines under the tin ceiling. The cozy lighting makes each area intimate, even though it is a huge (16,392 sq ft!) facility. A large stage will facilitate most bands, who will appreciate the excellent sound system, and there is a spacious serving room for caterers.
Here are a few shots of a beautiful wedding for the Prescotts, held there Saturday...
This place is sure to become Party Central for the Brazos Valley!
An 80 foot bar... You have to see it to believe it...
And over-the-top ranch decor... a Texan Valhalla!
This Brazos Valley event hall should be called VALHALLA!
Michael Havens can be reached at: (936) 499-8699