Happy Trails

Welcome to Bandera, the “Cowboy Capital of the World!” “Not to be confused with Dodge City,” the tourist bureau warned me, “they’re just the ‘Cattle Queens.’” Cowboys versus cattle? This was a lot for a city girl to handle, but I had my cowboy boots on, and I was ready. Bandera gains its enviable title by claiming the most cowboy stars per capita in the world. After my day trip, I discovered that this rugged Western influence permeated all of Bandera, giving it an almost tangible spirit and pride.

Bandera is a popular tourist destination with a colorful main street of sweet souvenir shops and gift stores, but the town’s atmosphere also reflects its strong history. Bandera was founded by the Polish in 1852 and has been the stompin’ grounds for many different civilizations including Native Americans, Mormons, and Mexicans. So, as you might expect, Bandera has a broad range of cultural traditions and celebrations, as well as many sight-seeing opportunities. The Frontier Times Museum, the largest privately owned museum in Texas ($5 admission), overflows with artifacts from Bandera’s multicultural history. It also houses some of the strangest things I have ever seen: a two-headed kid goat, a shrunken head, and dressed-up fleas … as in the insects. That was worth the admission fee.

After a visit to the museum and a trip to St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, the second-oldest Polish church in the United States, I was ready for some Texas barbecue. I walked into the locals’ favorite, Busbee’s, to find a warm atmosphere of long wooden tables, extensive windows, Texas flags hanging overhead, and pictures of famous Busbee’s fans tacked on the walls. Hey, if Busbee’s was good enough for the Dixie Chicks, it was good enough for me. I feasted on juicy pork ribs, moist cuts of meaty brisket, and two sides of corn on the cob and coleslaw. The slaw was especially tasty, fresh and crispy, not weighted with salt and thick dressing.

The owner of Busbee’s, Joe Davis, sat down and we chatted about Bandera’s biggest tourist attraction, dude ranches. Now hotels may park your

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