Cute Toot-Toot

Amtrak notwithstanding, countless unfulfilled railroad buffs still reside in Texas.

For these unsatiated appetites, a genuine “little railroad that could” still makes daily runs in East Texas. The Moscow, Camden & San Augustine Railroad was begun in 1927 as passenger service between the sawmill town of Camden and the railroad connection in Moscow, and it’s still going 46 years later. The engine may be diesel, but the passenger section is a real 75-year-old granddaddy that’s both antique and elegant.

Passengers board in Camden, off Highways 59 and 287, in East Texas, for the six-mile, two-hour run to Moscow. Whiz along you don’t, but the fragrance of the Piney Woods is inescapable in the car ventilated by plain old fresh air.

The coach has three compartments, seats 46 people, and has a daily average passenger load of 25 persons, rain or shine. Summertime crowds swell to an unbelievable 100 people or more, who find seats on the plank floor, in the baggage compartment, or in the inoperative one-man W.C.

And you can even put pennies on the track.

Moscow, Camden & San Augustine Railroad/Mon thru Fri at 1:40 p.m. /Camden, Texas/ Adults 50¢, children 30¢

Dillo Confab

History doesn’t record whether Sam Houston ever felt the need to adorn the early Texas Republic with an official State Animal—or if he did, whether the lowly armadillo figured in his musings. But chroniclers of the 1970’s will surely record that the reputation of this much-maligned armored mammal (about which Webster’s Unabridged remarks ominously, “Their flesh is good food”) has suddenly soared.

The gentle Texas version of the species is even honored with its own summer festival, the Third First Annual Armadillo Confab & Exposition. Sponsored by the Victoria, Texas, Chamber of Commerce, it’s a kinky meeting ground for establishment and counterculture that provides more relaxed, good-time fun than half a dozen ordinary fairs.

Featured events include the World Championship Armadillo Races, the “Miss Vacant Lot of the World” Contest, body painting, beer can smashing, and an armadillo beauty pageant. For the younger set, there’s also a hand-rolled cigarette making contest.

Armadillo Confab & Exposition/Victoria, Texas/June 15-17

Chipping Dale

For all those infatuated with native Texan culture and for those who have always been convinced there was no such thing as native Texan culture, the Early Texas Furniture and Decorative Arts exhibition at the Witte Memorial Museum in San Antonio will be an eye-opener.

It took two and a half years for the museum’s curators to gather these examples of cabinet work, pottery, weaving, quilts, samplers, silverwork and other decorative pieces fashioned in Texas from about 1830 to 1900.

The museum will also display early bird’s-eye maps of Texas towns and paintings of the Texas landscapes. Some of the furniture in the collection has been used to restore two historic houses and a log cabin on the museum’s grounds. Craftsmen will give demonstrations of early crafts, including pottery, quilting, weaving and woodworking.

Witte Memorial Museum/3801 Broadway/San Antonio/Beginning June 10 for six months.

Mall Cracks

Although you probably aren’t curious about the U.S. Post Office auctions of damaged and unclaimed parcels, this June may be the time for your initiation. You’ll be in good company, with bidders as diverse as bank presidents and housewives—anyone who loves a bargain and a good time.

Fort Worth is one of 14 dead parcel post depositories in the U.S., the end of the line for unlucky packages from a four-state area. There are three auctions a year, on the third Wednesdays in March, June, and October. They’re held to recover part of the money the post office has paid out in claims for damaged merchandise, and to provide more room for storage. This month, the curious can inspect merchandise Tuesday the 19th from 9 to 2. The auction begins at 8:30 the next morning.

Items are sold by lot number on a cash-only, “as-is” basis. Advance catalogs are sent all over the country and can be obtained by sending your name and address to Postmaster, Attn: Director of Administrative Services, Main Post Office. Fort Worth 76101.

Some bidders come just to snare one item, like the piece of Steuben glass with a solid gold mouse on it that sold for $800. To keep it fair, the auctioneers don’t use the “chant.” They want everyone, including novices, to be able to hear and understand what’s going on.

Boyd Mercer, the auctioneer, says people just get carried away; he’ll never understand why they bid higher than the item’s value, although he suspects that some just don’t want the other guy to have it.

Fort Worth Post Office Auction/National Guard Armory, 2101 Cobb Drive/June 19 & 20/334-2981/Free.

Back In Luckenbach

The ad in the Fredericksburg paper said, “Town for Sale.” “Let’s buy it and save it from 20th Century progress,” said town savers Hondo Crouch and Guich Koock (pronounced Geech Cook). Thus Luckenbach (pronounced Luke-in-Bok) , a charming 19th Century village buried deep in the Hill Country, remains the same: a general store and post office built in 1849-50; an 1880’s dance hall; an 1870’s vintage blacksmith shop, molasses press and cotton gin. Also, one parking meter (out of order) and six residents, including fire marshal Benno Luckenbach.

This year Luckenbach will host not only the Fourth 1st Annual Women’s Lib Chili Cookoff (in the fall) but also the First Annual Luckenbach’s World Fair June 29, 30 and July 1. Also celebrated during the World’s Fair will be the Annual School Closing, despite the fact that the local school has been closed for ten years.

The Fair will have Indians; shoot-outs by the Kerrville Hole-in-the-Wall Gang; music by the Hill Country Boys; and Karen Oestreich’s German Children’s Choir from Fredericksburg.

But mostly it will feature folk artists: whirl-a-gig maker Fred Birck; Mrs. Appelt and her baskets made from Armadillo shells; molasses maker Newton Hoey; and Sherrille Stroud, a third generation blacksmith who will make cattle brands.

The Fair ends Sunday at dusk. Luckenbach is 65 miles west of Austin; four miles east of Fredericksburg on U.S. Highway 290 is a Texas Highway Department sign pointing to Luckenbach (5 miles).