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I Love B&Bs

Stay in someone’s house for a mini-adventure

One of the advantages of having been at Texas Co-op Power magazine for a decade is having a perfectly good excuse for staying in bed-and-breakfasts. Although it may cost a little more than a chain motel, I love the possibility of meeting interesting new people, seeing a unique home and getting tips on what to see in the area. Some people don’t recognize the wonders of their region, but B&B hosts are usually knowledgeable.

Thanks to the B&B proprietors outside of Kountze who directed me to The Cottage Restaurant, a hamburger joint on Old Evadale Road outside the Big Thicket. The magazine staff was researching hamburgers for an article we never completed because Texas Monthly did a great one, and we just couldn’t compete. Still, we ate a lot of hamburgers, including old-fashioned examples at The Cottage. It was a “Cheers” kind of place where everybody knows your name soon enough, even if you’re a newcomer. With only five tables or so, the place lends itself to intimacy. Most of the lunch crowd were retired loggers and their spouses. Many could recall the era when mules hauled timber out of the forest. Mules, they said, are a lot smarter than trucks. We caught up on everybody’s health and all the latest gossip.

Most of the places I have stayed are excellently preserved vintage homes—from Victorian mansions in downtown Nacogdoches to a 1925 prairie mansion in Lubbock to the venerable family home in Livingston with its original wooden shutters and gazillion-thread-count linens.

Some are first-generation family homes where Mom and Pop rent out the adult kids’ rooms. You haven’t gotten the full beauty queen experience until you’ve stayed in a perfectly preserved room with the daughter’s crowns carefully preserved on display.

In addition to homes that have been in the family a long while and those with new owners, the establishments can be categorized by the owners’ passions. Antique shopping is at the top of the list. Owners can buy furniture at auction and, I presume, some can write off their treasures as business expenses. Then there are the people who concentrate their most creative efforts on floral arrangements and beautiful window treatments. The most unusual wall hanging I ever saw was in Weatherford—a genuine pair of Muhammad Ali’s boxing shorts was preserved behind glass. I like the B&Bs that claim to have a ghost, but, alas, I’ve never encountered one. The only kind of B&B I try to avoid is one with too many porcelain figurines and doilies. I just know I’m going to break or spill something.

There are bed-and-breakfasts on farms and ranches. A couple in Tolar offers accommodations at cabins sprinkled among their vintage windmill collection. (This article is not providing the names of specific businesses because they might be gone by now or have changed ownership. Besides, there are B&B guides on the Internet for every part of the state, so you can research your own.)

Wherever birding is big, you’ll find bird-and-breakfasts, frequently with owner/guides to arrange tours for you. I visited a cushy one near Brownsville that offered several mini-habitats on the property. Or a really lazy birder such as myself could stake out a good spot on the second-floor balcony on a chaise lounge and let the birds come to visit.

Most important to me, of course, is breakfast! B&Bs are an excuse to forget your cares and woes about cholesterol and tuck in. As a representative of the magazine, I have to eat everything for reportorial accuracy. Ask about the breakfast when you’re booking a room. Don’t settle for a place that offers only yogurt, cereal and bagels unless you are very virtuous.

The best B&Bs serve breakfast in the dining room on good china and linen. The smells of breakfast waft through from the adjacent kitchen, and you can have as many helpings as you want. Fruit cups, fresh-squeezed orange juice, mimosas, broiled tomatoes, bacon, sausage, eggs, frittatas, cornbread, flapjacks, muffins, biscuits, grits, fried potatoes or some combination thereof might be on the table. Depending on the region, you may get a local jelly made from mustang grapes or peaches or peppers. The best breakfast I ever had at a B&B was in Bowie.

I want to offer a tip of the hat to places with:

• Claw-footed bathtubs, scented candles and sweet-smelling soaps

• Wrap-around porches and rocking chairs

• Big trees

• Books and brochures about area attractions

• Interesting hosts who will visit with you when you want them to but get the drift if you haven’t had your coffee yet.

I’ve seen mayhaws being harvested and petted newborn goats. There’s a whole buffalo herd at one B&B I visited, and another has paint horses, swans and axis deer. One of my colleagues encountered an albino peacock. You just never know quite what you’re going to find. That’s the joy of it!

Kaye Northcott has recently retired as editor of Texas Co-op Power.


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