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Features

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SPLASH INTO SUMMER Local pools offer perfect way to stay cool in Central Texas

When those Texas summer temperatures start hovering over 100 degrees Fahrenheit this summer, keeping cool will be a lot easier with all of the community pools and splash pads open to kids of all ages. From north to south and east to west, there is someplace to cool off all around Bell County. By SALLY GRACE HOLTGRIEVE

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BRINGING HISTORY & COMMUNITY TOGETHER Troy couple revives 100-year-old store

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LURE OF BASS FISHING

Couple encourages conservation Last month Charlie Gantenbein and Wendy Randolph won the Texas Bass Couples Tournament Central Division on Lake Waco. It was their fourth tournament with this group, and their first win for the heaviest five-fish bag weighing in at 20.92 pounds. By CATHERINE HOSMAN 4

JUNE 2017 | TEX APPEAL

Downtown Troy is about a half block long, but residents Eric and Brandi Warren are turning the street into a community gathering place with the newly re-opened Troy General Store owned by Eric’s parents Sammy and Florence Warren. The building is a standout with the words Troy General Store emblazoned across the front, and it comes with its own history. Originally opened in 1919 as the Cameron and Co. Lumber Yard and Hardware Store, the shop served the burgeoning railroad community with lumber, tools and hardware for building the railroad and homes for the growing town. By CATHERINE HOSMAN

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OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Area lakes ready for crowds

Good news, Central Texas outdoor enthusiasts. All Bell County lakes, parks, campgrounds and picnic grounds are open for business this summer. Except for Sparta Lake Park, which remains closed indefinitely due damage sustained by the torrential rains and flooding in 2015. By CATHERINE HOSMAN


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Departments

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TexTalk NEIGHBORS Bob and Linda Bilec sail aboard the Queen Mary 2

16 TexTalk FLAVOURS Ari’s Italian Restaurant in Harker Heights

18 TexTalk SCENE Harker Heights Farmers Market

20 TexTalk CALENDAR Upcoming events in June

8 splashing away the

SUMMER HEAT keeping kids of all ages cool

EDITOR’S LETTER

TexTalk WELL-FED HEAD

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“Discovering Westcave”

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TexADVENTURES

WELL-CONNECTED

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OctOber 2013 tex AppeAl

ON the COVER

Ashlyn and Tristan model fashions from local boutiques at Lions Junction Water Park in Temple. 24 Photograph by JULIE NABOURS 6

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CONTRIBUTORS

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ADVERTISER’S INDEX

58 Westcave Preserve shares her secrets

67 TexTHERAPY


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From the Editor

Tex Appeal Life & Style in Central Texas

Dear Readers, I’ve been living in this area for three years now, and I never get tired of seeing the landscape when I am driving east on U.S. Highway 190/Interstate 14 or south on State Highway 195. The ranches, rolling hills and high bluffs unencumbered by progress give me a feeling of what it might have been like before Central Texas was discovered for the paradise it is. Our area is rich in parks, forests, lakes and pools, which makes keeping cool in the Texas heat a little easier. From splash pads and swimming pools, to water sports and fishing on one of our many lakes, Bell County offers activities for kids of all ages. This month city pools, water parks and splash pads in Copperas Cove, Killeen, Harker Heights, Temple and Belton are in full swing as families find their own way to beat the heat. Pack a picnic lunch, water bottles, hats, sunglasses and sun screen before heading out to one of the many facilities where you can cool off during the Central Texas summer, Page 24. Last year Bell County lakes and campgrounds were closed for repair due to the flooding experienced in 2015. Since then, the Army Corps of Engineers has repaired nearly 100 percent of all recreational areas with the exception of Sparta Lake Park on Belton Lake in Temple. For now, this is the only park that remains indefinitely closed. But hikers, picnickers, boaters, swimmers and campers, your favorite spot on Stillhouse Hollow Lake and Belton Lake is open, including boat ramps, Page 42. There are several bass fishing clubs in Bell County that welcome novices and experienced anglers. And it isn’t just for men. Women are bass fishing on their own or with their partners through organizations like the Texas Bass Couples Tournament Trail. Meet Charlie Gantenbein and Wendy Randolph who fish together, and individually, in different Tournament trails around Central Texas, Page 34. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sail across the sea on a great ocean liner like the Queen Mary, now docked as a hotel in Long Beach, Calif.? Come aboard the Queen Mary 2 with Belton residents and world travelers Bob and Linda Bilec, who took a transatlantic cruise to Southampton, England, to visit their daughter and her family. The ship didn’t disappoint them with its retro elegance to another time when people dressed for dinner then danced the foxtrot and waltz across a ballroom floor, Page 12. Going retro seems to be a theme these days from sailing ships to community general stores. Meet Eric and Brandi Warren of Troy. They have revived the town general store with a twist. They sell farm-to-table locally grown organic produce, grass fed beef, milk with the cream on top, and homemade lunches made from ethically grown or raised ingredients, along with other numerous made-in-Texas items. Locals can enjoy a cold natural soda, craft brew or coffee before heading out to the shaded Biergarten for live music on Friday nights, Page 50. For your next Tex Adventure day trip, drive south on U.S. Highway 281 to RR 962 East in Round Top and follow the signs to Westcave Preserve, “a 76-acre Shangri-La hidden in the limestone hills 30 miles west of Austin.” Author Fred Afflerbach said it is referred to as the “Crown Jewel” of the Texas Hill Country. The preserve offers trails to hikers of all levels as well as docent-led hikes for groups of 25. The Warren Skaaren Environmental Learning Center is both a visitors and educational center for the community, Page 58. Wherever you are, take a break, pour yourself a glass of your favorite ice cold summer beverage and enjoy the June issue of Tex Appeal Magazine.

Catherine Hosman 8

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Published by FRANK MAYBORN ENTERPRISES, INC. KILLEEN DAILY HERALD 1809 Florence Rd., Killeen, TX 76540

TEMPLE DAILY TELEGRAM 10 S. Third St., Temple, TX 76501

Publisher SUE MAYBORN Editor CATHERINE HOSMAN Editorial Director ROSE FITZPATRICK Photographers/Graphic Designers

M. CLARE HAEFNER JULIE NABOURS ERIC J. SHELTON Contributors FRED AFFLERBACH GARY L. HANSEN SALLY GRACE HOLTGRIEVE AMY PROCTOR Advertising 254-778-4444 254-501-7500

Tex Appeal Magazine is published monthly by Frank Mayborn Enterprises, Inc. 10 S. Third St., Temple, TX 76501. The cover and content of Tex Appeal Magazine is fully protected by copyright and cannot be reproduced in any manner without prior permission. SUBSCRIPTIONS: For the United States, $24 per year, 12 issues. Mail check to P.O. Box 6114, Temple, TX 76503-6114.

Questions about subscriptions, call 254-778-4444.

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Tex Appeal Magazine, P.O. Box 6114, Temple, TX 76503-6114. HOW TO CONTACT US: Advertising: Call 254-778-4444 or 254-501-7500. Editorial: Contact Catherine Hosman at 254-501-7511 or email editor@texappealmag.com.


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We’re all about Central Texas living ... the people, the places and the things that make us appealing.

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Put your business in the spotlight! Don’t miss your chance to reach potential customers in one of our upcoming issues. July: Food & spirits

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DID YOU KNOW?

You can read back issues of Tex Appeal Magazine at texappealmag.com. Log on today to find the current issue and older editions of Tex Appeal. You also can connect with us on Facebook.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH US

Email a letter to editor@texappealmag.com. Please include your name and a phone number for verification.

September: Medical professionals October: Young professionals November: Holidays December: Family Call us today to advertise: 254-778-4444 in Temple or 254-501-7500 in Killeen TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Contributors FRED AFFLERBACH is an award-winning writer and novelist, college graduate at age 50, and former long-haul trucker. His stories and columns have been published in daily newspapers across Texas. His novel, “Roll On,” debuted in 2012, and is an interstate odyssey about a man afflicted with an incurable wanderlust despite pressure from family and friends to settle down. Fred lives in Cedar Park with his wife, Diane, and enjoys perusing Central Texas backroads with a keen eye out for roadrunners, old trucks and lipstick sunsets.

GARY L. HANSEN is an award-winning photographer with 40 years of experience. His professional images have appeared in print media ranging from newspapers to magazines. He is also worked in commercial photography including advertising, fashion, retail and tabloid. His latest work was as a corporate photographer for Scott & White Memorial Hospital where he worked for 25 years. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, fine art photography and deep sea fishing.

SALLY GRACE HOLTGRIEVE is a full-time freelance writer in Central Texas. A few of her favorite things include traveling, hiking, camping, reading, cats, classic rock music and cheese. As a kid, Sally Grace could never figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up — astronaut, Celtic dancer, entomologist, Egyptologist — everything was interesting and she couldn’t decide on just one world to immerse herself in and study, so she became a journalist. She learns new things every day.

AMY PROCTOR is a professional travel, landscape and news photographer and is an Army spouse of almost 23 years. Her work has been featured on CNN and National Geographic and she has written for various military newspapers around the country. She and her husband have four children.

JOIN THE TEX APPEAL TEAM

Tex Appeal Magazine is looking for photographers and freelance writers with experience photographing and/or writing features for a newspaper or magazine. We are seeking candidates from the Central Texas area. Candidates must be detail- and deadline-oriented and good storytellers, and must be familiar with AP style. Ability for writers to take photos is a plus, but not required. Interested candidates may send their resumes and three to five recent stories and/or photographs for consideration to editor@texappealmag.com. 10

JUNE 2017 | TEX APPEAL


neighbors 12

flavours 16

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well-fed head 23 Bob and Linda Bilec

Elegance on the high seas TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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TexTalk neighbors

Temple couple sails on the Queen Mary 2

Story by CATHERINE HOSMAN Photos by GARY L. HANSEN and contributed by BOB AND LINDA BILEC

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orld travelers Bob and Linda Bilec took a step back in time to an era of elegance and sophistication on the high seas when they boarded the Queen Mary 2 last October. They sailed to Southampton, England, to visit their daughter, Jennifer, and her family for the Christmas holidays. As they stood on the deck of the QM2, they watched the skyline of New York City fade into the background. For Bob, it was the realization of how small Manhattan Island really is, a mere 22.82 square miles of land inhabited by 16.36 million people. For Linda, it was watching the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island shrink in size as the boat pulled away from New York Harbor. She said she couldn’t help but think of all the people who immigrated to the United Sates on a ship, seeing Lady Liberty for the first time, and hoping for a better life. The Bilecs are residents of the world. They have traveled and lived all over the globe for pleasure and work. But this was their first transatlantic crossing on an ocean liner. So when Jennifer asked her parents to spend the holidays in England, Bob knew right away that they didn’t want to fly. “I wanted to take the Queen Mary,” he said. “I wanted the experience of sailing on the boat.” They started planning for their trip a year in advance, watching fares and looking for the best and most economic time to travel. They even downloaded a schematic of the ship’s decks to find the right mid-ship state room to help mitigate the potential for seasickness. While Bob wanted a themed crossing, Linda said she looked forward to the elegance of a bygone era of dining and dancing the night away in the ship’s formal restaurant — a stark contrast from the downhill skier and outdoor enthusiast she is. 12

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“I was really excited about the dancing,” Linda said, admitting that she and Bob took private foxtrot and waltz lessons before they sailed. “I was thinking about ‘Titanic,’ the movie,” Bob said. “I looked at the staircase, the chandelier — it’s all very elegant.” Their search led them to Road Scholar, a nonprofit organization that offers educational and adventure tours, domestic and abroad, with an intellectual twist for seniors 50 and older. Not only did Road Scholar have a trip planned for Southampton with a murder-mystery theme, and four nights in London, it also

included return airfare to Austin for both of them. The RMS Queen Mary 2 is a transatlantic ocean liner and not a cruise ship so the crowds are not as big (around 4,000 people including staff and passengers). There is a strict set of guidelines, including casual and formal dress codes. On formal nights, men must wear a tuxedo and women must wear a gown or after-five dress. “If you want to enjoy the experience, get a tuxedo and (for the ladies) a formal dress,” Bob said. “You can pick up deals at thrift stores and discount stores.” Bob found a designer tuxedo jacket


ABOVE: The Queen Mary 2 leaves New York Harbor passing carefully under the Verrazano Bridge heading for a transatlantic crossing from New York to Southampton, England. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock) OPPOSITE PAGE: Bob and Linda Bilec with George and Darlene Bilec in White River, Ontario. This sign replaces the original sign touting White River as the coldest spot in Canada. BELOW: The Queen Mary 2 is docked at New York Harbor waiting for the boarding to begin.

window. When you look out the window, all you see is ocean.” “The views didn’t change for seven days,” Linda added. Although jet lag is often a problem when flying through time zones, Bob said sailing on the ship wasn’t so hard to deal with because time advances one hour every day. By the time they reached Southampton, they were adjusted to the time change. “It takes two or three days to recover from jet lag,” Linda added.

and pants in a thrift store. After adding a white tuxedo shirt, tie and cuff links, he had a tux for under $100. Linda, a former costume designer, picked up a basic black dress at a discount store and embellished it with sequins across the neckline. With a change of accessories and jewelry, she was able to make the dress look different for each of the formal evenings. “All the women have on a black dress and (they) drip in pearls, every pearl they own. They wear lots of pearls,” Linda said, smiling her smile that never seems to fade. The passage took seven days and followed the same route as the Titanic, in

reverse, when it sailed from Southampton on April 12, 1912, on its way to New York, a destination cut short by a collision with an iceberg. “I actually looked for icebergs,” Linda said. “There were none.” The weather cooperated the whole way — sunny skies, calm blue waters and smooth sailing. When it was time to retire for the evening, they chose an inside cabin, above the water line but with no portholes to look out onto the sea. “We wanted the experience of sailing on the boat,” Bob said. “When you are sleeping, you don’t need an outside

WHERE CANADA AND AMERICA MEET Linda Bilec was born in Colorado, grew up in Michigan, and attended college in Utah, before transferring to Lake Superior State College (now University) in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., on the border of Canada. An avid downhill skier, during winter Linda spent as much time on the Michigan slopes as she could, either skiing by herself or coaching a high school ski team during her college years. Sault Ste. Marie was less than 200 miles from the town of White River, Ontario, Canada, where her aunt had a summer vacation trailer park. White River was also Bob’s hometown. He and his twin brother, Michael, are known to Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Bob Bilec before boarding the Queen Mary 2. 14

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be the first set of twins ever born in this small town of about 1,000 people. He also has three older siblings. “The population hasn’t changed in 40 years,” said Bob, a U.S. citizen since 2009. White River is also known as the coldest spot in Canada. Bob recalls one morning when he looked out the window of his home and the thermometer read -68 Fahrenheit. Summer temps can reach as high as 75, but the season only lasts four weeks. Summers in White River were short and recreation was scarce. For fun teens would cruise the parking lots of businesses, listening to their music, looking to see what was going on in their small town where the sun didn’t set until after 10 p.m. One summer evening while Linda and her cousins were working at her aunt’s trailer park, Bob and his friends drove through the lot. Bob was in the back seat. Linda saw the boys in the car and intercepted their fun. “I threw them out of the park. I made them leave,” she said. While Linda didn’t see Bob tucked away in the back, he saw her. The next day Linda took a break from work to walk over to the service station where her car was towed after it ran out of oil. Bob was up on a scaffold at the service station painting a sign that read, “White River, the Coldest Spot in Canada.” Linda didn’t notice Bob, but he noticed her as soon as she walked by. He remembered her from the trailer park. Calling down to her he asked, “Hey, do you want to go to a party?” She looked up and said, “Yes.” Later that evening, Bob walked over to her aunt’s house to pick her up for their date. They walked back to his family’s home for the party, but his parents were not there and as it turned out, the party was intended just for two. His parents returned home, interrupting their first date, but that didn’t stop the young couple from spending time together that summer. When the season ended, Linda started classes at Lake Superior State College in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and Bob headed to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Though 400 miles apart, their romance ensued and they traveled by bus back and forth between colleges to see each other, splitting the fare.


Linda Bilec at her group’s staging area before boarding the Queen Mary 2.

Linda graduated from Lake Superior State College in 1972 with a B.A. in English and emigrated to Thunder Bay as a “landed immigrant” to be near Bob. She took a job as a porter at a psychiatric hospital for two years before entering Lakehead University to earn her B.A. in English, so she could teach. On one of her days off from the hospital in 1975, they married. Both graduated from Lakehead University in 1976 and moved to Alberta, Canada, where Bob pursued his MSc in chemical engineering while Linda taught school. Following graduation, Bob was hired by Exxon Mobile and the couple stayed in Alberta for eight years until Bob’s job transferred him to Toronto for two years, then New Jersey for one year before he was transferred to Spain. That is where their life of travel really began.

OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPLORE Travel is definitely in Bob and Linda’s DNA. Over the years, they’ve traveled extensively as a couple to China, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and the southernmost point of Chile, where they sailed around Cape Horn. As a family living in Spain,

they traveled extensively throughout the European continent. Moving around the world with two children was challenging but Linda always made it an adventure. She got Jennifer into kids’ acting and their son, Chris, continued hockey. In Spain, they visited the beaches often and traveled around the country, learning the history. Christopher and Jennifer played soccer in the courtyard of a 12th or 13th century castle, and on a side trip to Greece one of Bob’s most memorable moments was when the children ran across the finish line at the original stadium in Olympia, where the first Olympic Games were held. The family also skied downhill in Kitzbühel, Austria, the children learning from their mother who has been skiing since she was 12. “Linda did an excellent job of moving, leaving family and friends,” Bob said. “She would always find something the children could do in their new home that they couldn’t do in their previous home.” When their assignment in Europe ended in 1989, the family returned to Ontario, Canada, where Bob continued

his career with Exxon. In 1992, Exxon Mobil transferred Bob back to New Jersey. During that same period, Linda entered Rutger’s University where she earned her law degree and served as Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Jersey. Bob retired in 2006, after a career working in the oil and gas industries at refineries around the world. They stayed in New Jersey until 2012. When Linda retired from her job and they moved to Texas. But of all their travel adventures, except for their latest trip on the Queen Mary 2, most trips come in second to Linda’s love of Disney World. She’s been 14 times, including a side trip to Paris Disneyland on their recent trip to England, with their daughter and grandson. Bob said traveling has expanded his horizons and made him more understanding of people. He said it has given him a new world view and a new appreciation of how others live. “Travel has enriched my life. It has given me a new perspective,” Bob said. “You learn tolerance, understanding and not to be so judgmental,” Linda added. TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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TexTalk flavours

Big flavors at Ari’s Italian Restaurant

Story by CATHERINE HOSMAN Photos by GARY L. HANSEN

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sen Ismaili, owner of Ari’s Italian Restaurant in Harker Heights, wants to make sure that his diners get the best of what he has to offer. Open for a little over six weeks, Ismaili offers his patrons a selection of Italian foods and desserts created from his own recipes, including marinara sauce and breads made in-house. Ismaili has been in the restaurant business for 17 years. Although he left the business for a while to pursue other work interests, he came back to open Ari’s. “It’s in me,” he said. “I truly enjoy the business. It’s relaxing to me, when I start cooking, creating dishes so people taste new things,” he said. “It’s creative, like an art.” The specialty of the house is Ravioli Diablo, jumbo pockets of pasta filled with sautéed chicken and shrimp and in a chipotle Alfredo sauces topped with Romano and mozzarella cheeses. Another big seller are his pizzas: homemade crust topped with homemade pizza sauce and smothered in toppings like sausage, ham, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, vegetables — everything except anchovies. Not everyone craves the salty fish that is a Mediterranean staple. Ari’s Italian Restaurant offers dinein, carryout and catering. Ismaili said he will make an effort to accommodate a customer’s special requests for items not on the menu based on the ingredients he has in-house. Ari’s also offers a 20 percent discount to retired and active military personnel, first responders and teachers. Recently he installed sliding barn doors to separate the two dining rooms. There is now a room available for 16

JUNE 2017 | TEX APPEAL

Isen Ismaili owns Ari’s Italian Restaurant in Harker Heights.

private parties and business meetings. Wi-Fi and a big-screen TV allows groups to display their presentations. Ismaili said beer and wine is available for purchase at the restaurant, and he is working on the creation of a

new menu based on his research of what people like to eat. For now, he is sharing with us his recipe for pasta primavera, a favorite and easy-to-make dish that satisfies pasta lovers.


Chef Raffen Aviles, front, sautes vegetables for pasta primavera with owner Isen Ismaili.

PASTA PRIMAVERA This recipe used penne pasta, however, you may use the pasta of your choice. Serves four. 15 cherry tomatoes 2 tablespoons minced garlic 5 mushroom buttons sliced (white or baby portabella) 2 bunches of spinach 1 whole green bell pepper chopped or julienne ½ can fire-roasted red bell peppers (or roast your own) 3 leaves of fresh basil, chopped or whole ½ white onion diced Red cabbage for garnish Salt and pepper to taste Sprinkle with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese to taste For sauce 2 ounces white wine (can use inexpensive selection or cooking wine) 3 tablespoons olive oil Pre-cook pasta (check cooking times for selected pasta). Drain and set aside. Add small amount of olive oil to cooked pasta to prevent it from sticking. In the meantime:

1. Preheat sauté pan with 3 tablespoons olive oil. 2. When pan is ready add the garlic and swish it around the pan until it moves fluidly, like water. 3. When the garlic is lightly browned add the tomatoes. Tomatoes will release their juices preventing the garlic from overcooking.

4. Add rest of the vegetables and sauté until tender. 5. Pour in the white wine. 6. Salt and pepper to taste. Once the sauce is ready, add the cooked pasta and mix to blend the flavors. Serve immediately with salad, favorite roll or bread and a glass of wine. TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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TexTalk scene

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Families find fresh foods at Harker Heights farmers market

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1. From left, the Lacroix family; Christopher, Tiana, 2, Amari, 6, Stephanie and Xavier, 11, try local honey. The Harker Heights Farmer’s Market is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday 18

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through October in front of Seton Medical Center in Harker Heights. 2. From left, Estrella, James, 2, and Luis Vasquez. Photos by AMY PROCTOR


scene TexTalk

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3. Joshua Kneely and Erika Mateus 4. Kimberly DeVore and her 4-year-old son MacKenzie DeVore-Eades buy jam.

5. Brie Deerin and her 2½-year-old son Charlie, also known as Firefighter Frank, bought some tamales at the market.

6. Sujin Bodolus cooks Korean yakimandu. 7. Elisabeth Correnn buys fresh vegetables from the Belton Veggie Guys. TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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TexTalk calendar

Belton Senior Center Country Dance June 1, Shorty Grisham and Friends June 15, Luau with Out of the Blue 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Bring a small food item for the snack table. June 26, Potluck dinner, Denim and Diamonds line dance group performing 5:30 p.m. 842 Mitchell St., Belton Call 254-778-4751 for more information.

From Swords to Plowshares: Metal Trench Art from World War 1 June 1 through Aug. 12 Admission is free This exhibit features more than 160 pieces of metal trench art, educational panels, and period photographs. Trench art is a form of brass art that finds its origins in the trenches of World War I. During the war, some soldiers used periods of inactivity to create art from artillery shells, bullets, aircraft parts, coin currency and more. The art ranges from primitive artillery shells to elaborately made lamps. This art form spread to the civilian sector in wartime, and eventually into World War II. Trench art from the following countries will be exhibited: United States, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Australia, Belgium and Czechoslovakia. Bell County Museum, 201 N. Main St., Belton, open 12 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday. Visit www.bellcountymuseum.org or call 254-933-5243 for more information. 20

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calendar TexTalk

7th Annual Harker Heights Farmers Market Saturdays through Oct. 28 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Come shop with us every Saturday for local produce and honey, baked goods, herbs and more. The market is run by Harker Heights Parks & Recreation. Seton Medical Center Harker Heights 850 W. CenTex Expressway Call 254-953-5493 or visit http:// bit.ly/HHFarmersMarket for more information. Tablerock presents: “Much Ado about Nothing” June 9-10 Concessions: 6:30 p.m. Show: 7:30 p.m. $10 adults, $5 students, $3 12 and under Concessions are separate Tablerock Amphitheater, Royal Street, Salado Call 254-947-9205, email tablerock1@ aol.com or visit www.tablerock.org for more information. Teen Pool Party June 9, 7:30 to 10 p.m. Carl Levin Park Pool 400 Miller’s Crossing, Harker Heights Come join the Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Department and Stewart C. Meyer Public Library for a night at the Carl Levin Outdoor Pool. Enjoy a fun-filled evening of eating snacks and

letting the “good times reel.” Don’t forget your lawn chair and blanket. Carl Levin Park Amphitheater 400 Miller’s Crossing, Harker Heights. Call 254-953-5466 or visit http://bit. ly/heightsevents for more information.

Movies in the Park “The Secret Lives of Pets” June 17, 6:30 p.m. festivities begin Movie starts at sundown Bring your blankets and chairs to enjoy the outdoors and a free familyfriendly movie. Miller Park 1919 N. First St., Temple Call 254-298-5440 or visit templeparks.com for more information. Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” will be performed at Tablerock in Salado.

swimming while listening to DJ music. Teen pool party is open to ages 12 to 17. All participants will be required to pay gate admission rates. Call 254-953-5466 or visit http://bit.ly/Heightsevents for more information.

Film & Food Fridays June 16, 8 to 10:30 p.m. Enjoy a family-friendly movie shown on an inflatable screen and enjoy a taste of local vendors’ food creations while

Late Skate June 17 6 to 8 p.m. $10 Bring your family and friends to watch as you show off your best tricks. There will be music, food and friendly competition. The “Best Trick” competition will be broken up in two different age groups: 15 and under; 16 and up. Call 254-298-5474 for more information. Temple Skate Park Miller Park, 1919 N. First St. Continued

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TexTalk calendar

Hot Summer Sounds Free Concert Series 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. June 2 –Toni Ringgold & The Sophisticated Soul June 9 – Sloppy Joe Band June 16 – Anjelique & The Sweet City Band June 23 – Billy Hold Band June 30 – Uptown Drive Bring your blankets, chairs and picnics. Enjoy an evening of music with friends and family. Call 254-298-5440, or visit templeparks.com for more information. Food Truck Frenzy June 24 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Main Street Market Downtown City Square 120 W. Central Ave., Temple Call 254-298-5378 or visit discovertemple.com for more information The Central Texas Film Society presents “Singing in the Rain” June 25, 2 p.m. Free The CTFS is showing free classic and best-loved films one Sunday every month. These are movies everyone should see at least once. A guest speaker will provide historical context and interesting tidbits about the featured film. Bring your family and friends to enjoy this great movie on a big screen. Attendees are encouraged

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to ask questions and participate in discussions. Cultural Activities Center 3011 N. Third St., Temple Call 254-773-9926 for more information.

Temple Farmers Market Every Tuesday and Thursday 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. Support your local farmers market

and shop local. The market is every Tuesday and Thursday through the summer. West Temple Park 121 Montpark Road, off West Adams behind Temple Fire Station No. 7 Call Mary Coppin at 254-778-2104 for more information. Email upcoming events to editor@ texappealmag.com.


well-fed head TexTalk

‘Discovering Westcave’ guides visitors through preserve By FRED AFFLERBACH

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iscovering Westcave,” by S. Christopher Caran and Elaine Davenport, published by Texas A&M University Press 2016, is not your typical guidebook, one that merely points out the native flora and fauna of a particular place or region. But it’s not merely a coffee table book either; chock full of glossy color photos and little else. Discovering Westcave is one part love letter to a place and the people who lived there, going back several thousand years; one part geology and biology examples in context to how Westcave evolved; and one part, for you avid wildlife biologists, illustrations of classification tables and identifications of the species found there. In the book’s preface, Westcave CEO and executive director Molly Stevens sets the tone with a profound argument for introducing young children to wild places such as Westcave. “During the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors. With the average American boy or girl spending an average of eight hours a day in front of electronic screens, there is an increasing divide between children and nature. That divide is linked to some of our most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rise in obesity, attention disorders and depression.” The book is organized into three sections. Part one is a visitor’s guide. First you will take a virtual walk through the preserve. Through illustrations and photographs and vivid explanations, the authors will introduce you to the birds and butterflies, grasses and wildflowers, boulders and bedrock that you would see. Next, step inside the visitors’ center where exhibits such as the solar observatory and sky map connect the earth, sky and stars. Clearly, the authors have an emotional attachment to Westcave. “Footprints fade away, as do echoes of laughter, curious inquiries, and expressions of awe,” Caran and Davenport wrote. “What remains is an invisible armor, fashioned from a common resolve that the preserve must forever be what it is today: a constant place of exquisite perfection, but always displaying something new.” Part Two, The Place, delves into the geography and how Westcave’s location in “flash flood alley” has affected its evolution. Readers will also learn how the preserve changes through the seasons. And even if you’re not a rock hound, the diagrams and explanations of the geology are easy to grasp and help illuminate how the canyon and springs, streams and caves evolved. Part Three, The People introduces us to an endearing cast of homesteaders, Mormons, mill operators, artists, educators and conservationists who have lived on or near, or visited Westcave. Here you will find memories of encounters with snakes and panthers, flash floods and blessed isolation. During the 1970s, Westcave was known as a cool hangout for Austin musicians such as five-time Grammy Award nominee

Marcia Ball. “Those beautiful spots, in a wet spring, were amazing to me and a big part of why we stayed in Austin,” Ball writes in an essay. “Westcave was one of those special places.” The poignant story by Amber Gosselin, “Growing up at Westcave Preserve,” captures the magic and allure Westcave has had on generations — speargrass battles with her brother; swinging on a rope and dropping into the Pedernales, sleeping with the hum of a box fan perched in a window — Gosselin paints a picture of an idyllic childhood. And a whole chapter is dedicated to her late father, John Ahrns, resident caretaker, naturalist and educator at Westcave from 1974-2010. If you visit Westcave, this is a worthy read because you will uncover more information than can be digested in a single visit. But even if you don’t visit, or have a visit on your bucket list, Discovering Westcave is time well spent because it will carry you away to a unique and peaceful Texas respite, one that is a shining example of how important conservation is in the burgeoning Central Texas corridor. TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Ashlyn and Tristan model fashions from local boutiques at Lions Junction Water Park in Temple. See page 33 for more information about the outfits.

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S P A H L ! S

INTO SUMMER Area pools offer perfect way to stay cool in Central Texas heat

Story by SALLY GRACE HOLTGRIEVE Photos by JULIE NABOURS and contributed by local cities

Carl Levin Park pool in Harker Heights

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hen those Texas summer temperatures start hovering over 100 degrees Fahrenheit this summer, keeping cool will be a lot easier with all of the community pools and splash pads open to kids of all ages. From north to south and east to west, there is someplace to cool off all around Bell County.

BELTON Belton’s Harris Community Park (www.beltontexas.gov) splash pad and South Wall Tiger Park splash pad are both open all week and totally free, Jeremy Allamon, events coordinator with Belton Parks and Recreation, said. There are also no age limits. Food and drink is allowed at the picnic areas but not on the splash pads themselves. “This year the City of Belton upgraded the inter-workings of the system to be able to treat the water more efficiently and more effectively,” Allamon said of recent improvements to the splash pads. This summer, two “movie in the park” events will be held at Harris Community Park, where one of the splash

pads is located: “Finding Dory” is May 20 and “Moana” is Aug. 19. Harris Community Park Splash Pad 312 N. Alexander St. 254-933-5861 South Wall Tiger Park Splash Pad 1895 S. Wall St., Belton 254-933-5861

Schedule/hours May 27 to Sept. 3 Open seven days a week 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fees There is no charge to use the splash pads. Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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COPPERAS COVE City Park Pool is hosting its own Shark Week this summer. The free community event will be June 26-29. Donations for the local animal shelter will be encouraged. Each night of the event a different activity will be hosted, including a float and glow where glow sticks are scattered around the bottom of the pool, a “dive-in” movie, a giant sharks and minnows competition and even “life size battleship” with kayaks and buckets of water. Throughout the season City Park Pool offers lap swim, a mushroom fountain feature and a kiddie slide. They also have family night on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. “This is a time for the whole family to participate, compared to open swim where you might drop kids off,” Aquatics and Recreation Specialist Julianna Baxter said. “It’s a time when parents are off work and can just relax with the kids for the last two hours.” There is a concession stand at the pool, and because of a contract with the stand, patrons are not allowed to bring in their own food or drink, including bottles of water. The entire facility is available to rent anytime Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. City Park Pool 1206 W. Avenue B 254-542-2719 or http://www. copperascovetx.gov/parks/ Schedule/hours Open through Sept. 4 Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 7 p.m. open swim Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7 to 9 p.m. family swim Fees General admission, ages 2-49: $3 resident, $5 nonresident Seniors ages 50 to 65: $2 resident, $2 nonresident Under 2 or 65 plus: No fee

South Park splash pad in Copperas Cove 26

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South Park Pool is about half the size of City Park Pool and is used primarily for programming by the Copperas Cove Parks and Recreation Department, though they do have open swim every day except Tuesday. There is a slide, a splash pad and lap swim available. Classes offered include swim lessons, water aerobics, aqua zumba and other in-pool fitness classes. More information can be found at the


City Park Pool in Copperas Cove

Copperas Cove Parks and Recreation web page. South Park Pool also does not allow outside food or drink, but has a concession available. It is available for private rentals Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m. or from 7 to 9 p.m. South Park Pool 2602 Dennis Drive, (CR 30 46) 254-542-2719 or ww.copperascovetx. gov/parks/ Schedule/hours June 3 through Aug. 12 Monday, noon to 5 p.m. open swim Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. open swim Fees General ages 2 to 49: $3 resident, $5 nonresident Senior ages 50 to 65: $2 resident; $2 nonresident Under 2 and 65 plus: Free

South Park splash pad in Copperas Cove

HARKER HEIGHTS The pool at Carl Levin Park will open for Memorial Day weekend, May 27 to 29, and for the summer season on June 6. The park offers a special event for teen Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Carl Levin Park pool in Harker Heights

swimmers a few times throughout the summer — movies in the pool. The dates for these “swim-in” theater events are posted on the Harker Heights Parks and Recreation website, Recreation Aid Eric Vazquez said. Swim lessons at the pool will be available by registration. There is a first aid station at the pool and five or six lifeguards on duty at all times, Vazquez said, adding that the park is also welllighted at all times. Carl Levin Park offers other summer activities, too — a catch-and-release fishing pond that can be used anytime, a 28

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basketball court and a playground. The park also has an amphitheater where the city hosts dry movie nights for the family and a pavilion that can be rented out for private events. There are no food concessions on site, but guests are allowed to bring their own meals to the park and the pool, Vazquez said, “as long as they have no alcohol and no glass bottles.” Carl Levin Park 400 Miller’s Crossing, Harker Heights 254-953-5657 or www.ci.harker-heights.tx.us

Schedule/hours Open May 27 and 28 for Memorial Day Weekend June 6 to Aug. 13 Tuesday to Friday, 1:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday/Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 19 to 27 Weekends only, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fees Youth, ages 2-17: $2 resident, $3 nonresident Adults, 18-54: $3 resident, $5 nonresident Seniors, age 55 plus: $2 resident, $2 nonresident


TEMPLE Lions Junction is still sparkling after its $2 million makeover thanks to a parks bond passed in 2015. The upgrades included expanded, lighted parking, new restrooms, new pool furniture, a deep water pool with a diving board and climbing wall and in-pool cutouts for lounging. The park also has a lazy river for inner-tube floating, a splash pad, aquatic playgrounds and newly repainted slides. According to Aquatics Director Keith Dawson, the highest slide is three stories. Children must be above 48 inches to ride this slide. There are 14 to 20 lifeguards on duty daily, Dawson said, and there is a first aid station. Only bottled water is allowed in the park, but there is a snack shack and the new “snack shack express,” which is a food trailer. The park is available to rent for private parties Thursday, Saturday and Sunday each week. There are also some special events planned for this year, Dawson said. Larry’s Special Conductors’ Day — June 10, July 8 and August 5 this year — is an event where the water park opens early for people with special needs. They also host river walking, a fitness event, and offer swim lessons. More information about the entire summer schedule can be found on their website or Facebook.

Summit Pool in Temple

Lions Junction Family Water Park 5000 S. Fifth St., Temple 254-298-5690 www.ci.temple.tx.us/1104/LionsJunction-Family-Water-Park Schedule/hours May 27, 28 Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, noon to 6:30 p.m. Summer schedule begins June 3:

Fees

Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, 7 to 9 p.m. Family Night Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, noon to 6:30 p.m. Adults: $7 Youth, seniors, non-swimmer: $5 Ages 3 and under: Free Continued Lions Junction in Temple

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Clark Pool in Temple

Walker Pool is ready for the season with new picnic tables and a new awning over the baby pool to keep little ones and their parents cool. There is no concession stand at Walker Pool, but guests can bring their own picnics or snacks as long as they have no glass containers or alcohol, Temple Aquatics Director Keith Dawson 30

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said. The pool is watched by five to seven lifeguards a day and there is a first aid station. Swim lessons are offered at the pool and it can be rented out Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 6 to 9 p.m. Apart from the baby pool, there is also a 10-foot slide, a diving board and an aqua climb rock wall.

Walker Pool 2603 N. Third St., Temple 254-298-5698 www.ci.temple.tx.us/172/OutdoorSwimming-Pools Schedule/hours Memorial Day Weekend open May 27 and 28.


Clark Pool is a neighborhood pool perfect for quieter, cool relaxation. It has a diving board, twin slides, an in-pool basketball hoop and a zero-depth entry area for new, young or cautious swimmers. Like Walker Pool, there is no concession stand on site, but guests can bring in their own food as long as they have no glass containers or alcohol. Four to six lifeguards are on duty daily at the smaller pool and there is a first aid station. It can also be rented out for parties Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. Clark Pool 1808 Curtis B. Elliott Drive, Temple 254-298-5735 templetx.gov/172/OutdoorSwimming-Pools Schedule/hours Memorial Day weekend May 27 and 28 Full-time starting June 3 Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Fees Adults: $2 Youth: $1

Fees

Full-time starting June 3 Tuesday-Thursday, noon to 5 p.m. Friday, noon to 6:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5:30 p.m. Adults: $3 Youth: $2

Sammons Park Indoor Pool is open year-round. Though most people prefer an outdoor pool during the summer as a way to enjoy the outdoors without overheating, Sammons Park Indoor Pool is the perfect solution to a particularly stormy week, especially if restless children home on summer break are involved. The pool also has family swim on Saturdays so that everyone can attend. There are two to three lifeguards on site daily and a first aid station. No food apart from bottled water is allowed at the pool. During the year they host the Halloween Splash Bash and an underwater Easter egg hunt. They also host dive-in movies and an array of swim lesson options. Kids can take private, semiprivate or group lessons and there are classes for adults, too, including aqua arthritis, aquacize, hydro fitness and senior water aerobics and senior open swim. Sammons Park Indoor Pool 2220 W. Avenue D, Temple 254-298-5930 www.ci.temple.tx.us/1186/SammonsPark-Indoor-Pool Schedule/hours Open year-round Monday to Thursday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fees

Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. Day pass for open lap swim: $3 Day pass for instructed class: $4 Open lap swim with punch card: $1.50 Instructed class with punch card: $2.50 Punch-card: $30

If you live in Temple you may want to consider a membership to Summit Pool. The facility has a 10-foot slide, a three-foot slide for small children and an in-pool basketball hoop. The smaller pool makes a great rental for church groups, family reunions, birthday parties and more. It can be rented Fridays from 8 to 10 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 6 to 9 p.m. The pool opens for lap swim from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and holds aquafit classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Family aquafit classes are on Saturdays at 10 a.m. People can bring their own food, plus the pool offers “nationally recognized holiday snacks,” Temple Aquatics Director Keith Dawson said. For example, June 7 is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, and the pool fully intends to recognize and celebrate it. Summit Pool 620 Fryer’s Creek Circle, Temple 254-298-5348 Schedule/hours Memorial Day weekend Full time starting June 3 Monday to Friday, 12:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Fees Members-only pool

TEMPLE SPLASH PADS All of the Temple splash pad locations are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and are free. The water turns on the first weekend in May and cools the public until early October. The splash pad surfaces are slip resistant and non-porous, and there is no standing water. They also have a recirculating feature to clean the water and reuse it in order to be environmentally friendly. Learn more at www.ci.temple. tx.us/473/Splash-Pads Ferguson Park Splash Pad 1203 E. Adams Jaycee Park Splash Pad coming soon 2302 W. Avenue Z Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Family Aquatic Center at Lions Park in Killeen

Miller Park Splash Pad 1919 N. First St. West Temple Park Splash Pad 121 S. Montpark Road

Long Branch Splash Pad in Killeen

Family Aquatic Center at Lions Park www.killeentexas.gov/index. php?section=56 1800 E. Stan Schlueter Loop The facility has a 2,180-square-foot bath house, a 10,360-square-foot multiuse pool, a 25-meter lap pool, three water slides a bowl slide and shady areas. Call 254-501-6537 for more information about hours and fees to use the aquatic center.

OTHER PLACES TO COOL OFF Summer Fun Water Park 1410 Waco Road, Belton, TX 76513 254-939-0366 Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. www.summerfunwaterpark.com YMCA Spray ‘n’ Play at 901 S. Ann Blvd. in Harker Heights offers a zero-depth, 7,000-square-foot spray park, which is open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Daily admission is $2, and recreational swim, exercise and swimming lessons are offered. Call 254-634-5445. 32

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city recreation hotline at 254-547-2719.

Turkey Creek Pool For more information, contact the

Long Branch Pool and Splash Park 1101 Branch Drive, Killeen Pershing Pool 1125 Bonnie Drive, Killeen For more information, call 254-6907946 or 254-526-7946.


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Wendy Randolph and Charlie Gantenbein won the Texas Bass Couples Tournament Central Division last month.

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The lure of bass fishing

Couple encourages sport and conservation Story by CATHERINE HOSMAN Photos by GARY L. HANSEN

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ast month Charlie Gantenbein and Wendy Randolph won the Texas Bass Couples Tournament Central Division on Lake Waco. It was their fourth tournament with this group, and their first win for the heaviest five-fish bag weighing in at 20.92 pounds. The eight-hour tournament started before dawn. Charlie and Wendy caught fish all day and within the first two hours of the tournament Charlie said they were able to put a five-fish limit in the boat. “As the day went on we were able to upgrade the fish with bigger ones,” Gantenbein said. The weather was perfect. Clear blue sunny skies reflected off the water. The strong winds, common in early spring, were now a soft breeze across the lake. “The weather was good for us,” said Gantenbein, who participates in more than 50 tournaments a year with various pro bass groups, including Texas Bass Couples with Wendy. “Typical conditions would have been a little more cloudy weather. However, we took what the weather gave us and adjusted our pattern according to the weather.” Because of recent rains, however, Gantenbein said Lake Waco was murky brown. He said it’s easier to catch fish in cleaner water, but bass don’t leave their feeding grounds unless the water turns muddy brown. Charlie said they knew they had a chance for the top spot, their first win since joining Texas Bass Couples about a year ago, but said it was a little questionable because “we were going against top quality fishermen.”

Lifelike lures mimic the kind of bait fish big mouth bass like to eat.

“It’s the anticipation of catching the big one. It’s fun to sit and catch the little ones. But it’s the anticipation of catching the fish of a lifetime.”

— Wendy Randolph

Bass have their own seasonal patterns, Gantenbein explained. “Every season fish change where they live, how they feed. Lake

Waco, because it’s a dirty water shallow reservoir, fish stay shallow all year round,” he said. Unless the temperatures heat up. When it’s hot, he said the fish go deeper after their morning feed, and return to the shallows to feed in the evening. In addition to knowing the lakes where the tournaments take place, proper equipment and the type of bait used play a huge part in bass fishing. “The presentation of your bait is important,” he said. “There are three main sources of food for a large mouth bass: Brim, also called sunfish, shad, a multiple species type of bait fish that live in the lakes; and crawfish. Artificial Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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lures are designed to imitate the shape and color of these particular fish foods.” YOUTHFUL ANGLERS Charlie, a Salado native, picked up his first rod when he was 5 years old when his dad took him trout fishing. Wendy, a Belton native, was 3 when her dad took her cat fishing. She recalled her family’s annual family reunion when she and her dad would go down the river to catch catfish and gar in Maxdale, and fishing at her grandfather’s stock tank. She said at first she didn’t understand why people 36

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“It’s being in the water, it’s a getaway. Peaceful. Any time I’m in the water sunrise to sunset, it releases stress, clears the mind, every day of fishing, sunup to sundown. All across Texas”

— Charlie Gantenbein

liked the idea of bass fishing. “It was cast and reel, cast and reel, I just didn’t get it,” she said. “But I was hooked from the first time Charlie actually took me. Now cat fishing seems boring.”

By day Charlie manages Salado Creek Antiques, his family’s business. He has been participating in tournaments for 11 years, starting when he was in his 20s. His competitive nature continues to lure him to the


With the sun starting to set behind them, Charlie Gantenbein and Wendy Randolph cast their rods into Belton Lake.

waters with the anticipation of catching that “once in a lifetime fish.” “The next cast could be the one, you never know. With every cast you are trying to get the bigger one,” he said. But it isn’t just the competition that attracts Charlie. “It’s being in the water, it’s a getaway. Peaceful. Any time I’m in the water sunrise to sunset, it releases stress, clears the mind, every day of fishing, sunup to sundown. All across Texas.” Tournament fishing requires dedication and the ability to be an early riser. Gantenbein said some mornings

require rising at 2 or 3 a.m. “If you are in a tournament, it takes time to get the boat ready and launched,” he said. “Depending on the tournament, it could take two to three days prior the event to get the boat and equipment ready.” Charlie and Wendy do their homework before a tournament, practicing on the lake where the tournament will take place, studying the lake and learning the habits of the fish. “We study maps, try to figure out where and how to catch the fish,” he said. Continued

Call us today to advertise: 254-778-4444 in Temple or 254-501-7500 in Killeen TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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They know the depths and the shallows of a lake, how the temperature, color of the water and sky affects the fishing, and use the maps to guide them to the areas where the fish are feeding. Wendy, an area sales rep for an auto finance company, admits she was a beginner and knew nothing about bass fishing until Charlie took her out on the lake for the first time. It didn’t take long before the sport reeled her in and she traded buying shoes for buying fishing gear. “It’s the anticipation of catching the big one,” Wendy said, echoing Charlie’s 38

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sentiments. “It’s fun to sit and catch the little ones. But it’s the anticipation of catching the fish of a lifetime.” GETTING STARTED There is a lot to learn about tournament bass fishing, if you’ve never done it. Gantenbein said the best way to learn is to “gain knowledge through a local bass club like Centex Bass Hunters.” “Make frequent trips to a sporting goods store,” he said. “If you own a boat, make sure your boat and its accessories are well maintained through

a professional service.” And be prepared to have a deep pocket. Charlie suggests buying high quality poles. “Don’t buy cheap,” he warned. And keep an open mind as there is always something new to learn. “Remember to always have fun,” he said. “If you’ve spent money on a passion, if you don’t enjoy coming to any sport, you can’t succeed. No one has a passion that doesn’t enjoy that passion.” In addition to Texas Bass Couples and Centex Bass Fishing,


Wendy Randolph gets ready to release the bass she caught in Belton Lake.

Charlie Gantenbein caught and released a bass during an afternoon fishing excursion on Belton Lake.

other Texas groups include the Tuff Man Tournament Trail, the Texas Tournament Zone, Bass Champs and a Tuesday night “3 x 9: series, which is a 3-fish limit caught by 9 p.m. “Ninety-five percent of tournaments any angler fishes have a five-fish limit,” Charlie explained. “You bring in the five biggest fish to the scales. The single biggest fish gets weighed for the big bass. Then it’s the total weight for the five bagged fish.” When Wendy isn’t fishing in a tournament with Charlie, she brings Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Charlie Gantenbein and Wendy Randolph enjoy an afternoon of bass fishing at Belton Lake two days after winning the Texas Bass Couples Tournament five-fish bag for the Central division. BELOW: Gantenbein shows off a bass before releasing it back into the lake.

their 6-year-old twin girls to the weighin. Wendy said the girls are being introduced to fishing by catching perch for bait, something she started to do when she was a young girl fishing with her dad. MORE THAN JUST A SPORT When Charlie isn’t fishing, working at the family store in Salado, or spending time with his girls, he keeps his competitive edge playing ice hockey in Austin. Wendy stays busy as a working mom, making sure their daughters keep up with schoolwork and outside activities, like fishing. But when Charlie and Wendy do get out on the lake together, it’s their time “to interact without outside interference,” Charlie said. “It’s our way of one-on-one time. Every couple has something they love to do, for us its fishing.” Bass fishing is more than just a sport. Charlie said it’s an opportunity to teach a new generation about the sport and the responsibility that comes with 40

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it. Conservation is a big part of bass fishing and Charlie said anglers do what they can to provide a cleaner, healthier fishing experience. Also, he said “live release is a big deal.” “We make sure the fish get to see

another day,” he said. “It’s a big deal because it takes so long for a fish to become big. They become big because they are smart. If an angler is killing more fish than keeping them alive, we will lose fish.”


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Boaters spend the day on Belton Lake. 42

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Open for business

Bell County lakes and parks ready for summer crowds Story by CATHERINE HOSMAN Photos by GARY L. HANSEN and contributed by BRADLEY ELLIS

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ood news, Central Texas outdoor enthusiasts. All Bell County lakes, parks, campgrounds and picnic grounds are open for business this summer. All except for Sparta Lake Park, which remains closed indefinitely due damage sustained by the torrential rains and flooding in 2015. But everyplace else is good to go. So get your camping gear ready, pack the picnic, backpack and boating supplies and head to one of our many recreational areas this summer. “We are not in a drought or flood stage, so all of our boat ramps, floating docks, picnic shelters and swimming areas are accessible,” said Lead Ranger Bradley Ellis, Army Corps of Engineers. In 2015, torrential rains caused major flooding and damage to the recreation areas causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. At Temple Lake Park playgrounds, pavilions, road signs and shelter picnic tables were nearly completely submerged. The picnic area at Union Grove Park on Stillhouse Hollow Lake was submerged. Roads leading to Riversbend Park were completely underwater. Because of the heavy flooding in 2015, Ellis said the Corps was unable to open the Belton and Stillhouse dam floodgates, which prevented additional flooding to downstream areas. Prior to the 2015 flood the Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes were at 13 feet and 17 feet drought state, respectively. “The place you launched your boat was dry ground. Boat ramps

Debris covered the grounds at Union Grove Park on Stillhouse Hollow Lake following the 2015 floods. The area is now cleaned, repaired and ready for the 2017 season.

came out of the water, but that is not the case this year,” he said. During a good season Ellis said 1.1 million visitors utilize the parks recreational facilities between Memorial Day and the end of summer. However, because almost everything was closed in 2016 due to the previous year’s flooding, they didn’t make that number. “We were funneling all our visitors to two parks below the dams on each lake — Miller Park at Belton and Chalk Ridge Falls at Stillhouse. People want to enjoy the outdoors and lakes but only two parks were open last year.”

Park closures aren’t only bad for visitors, but bad all around for the local economy, he said. “There is a lot of money to be made on camping, boats, licenses, fishing gear—we provide about $66 million to local government. It hit our local businesses pretty hard.” But this year all that has changed. Ellis said they are “gearing up for one of the craziest summers.” Belton and Stillhouse lakes are both at their optimal water level each lake was designed to hold. Stillhouse is at Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Debris covered the grounds at Union Grove Park on Stillhouse Hollow Lake following the 2015 floods. The area is now cleaned, repaired and ready for the 2017 season.

622 feet conservation level and Belton is at 594 feet conservation level. “It’s been seven or eight years since we had fully functioning lakes. We staff up with seasonal help and even though these guys are new, we get them trained and ready to switch gears for the recreational season,” he said. STILLHOUSE HOLLOW LAKE Stillhouse Hollow Lake is 100 percent open for business and that includes Stillhouse, Chalk Ridge, Riversbend, Union Grove, Cedar Gap, and Dana Peak Parks. “Hiking, boat launches, swimming beaches, day use for picnicking, grilling out, camping — all of that is ready to go,” Ellis said. “There was a lot of flood debris, logs, trees that completely covered everything,” he said. Also, electrical 44

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“It’s been seven or eight years since we had fully functioning lakes. We staff up with seasonal help and even though these guys are new, we get them trained and ready to switch gears for the recreational season.”

— Bradley Ellis

pedestals at campsites and restrooms were completely under water. The Corps removed the debris, renovated restrooms and campsites, replaced the pedestals, and “everything that comes with a campsite impact zone.” In addition, the decomposed granite that sits under the picnic tables was replaced, as were grills, shelter tops, “everything that you would associate with a campsite had to be renovated.”

Ellis said damage and needed repairs cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Repairs are completed including Stillhouse Hollow Lake,” he said, adding that bass fishing clubs, private volunteers and “different army platoons” came out to help clean up debris and repair structures. “We rely heavily on volunteer labor to help.”


This new pavilion at Temple Lake Park replaces the original structure destroyed in the 2015 flood. Debris from the flood made other areas of the park unusable.

BELTON LAKE Belton Lake received the major punch of the 2015 flood damage and rose 19-21 feet over the conservation level. Ellis said it sustained heavy damage at Westcliff and Temple Lake parks. “The damage has been repaired. There are completely brand new picnic tables, pedestals (electrical), shelter tops over the picnic tables constructed with corrugated steel and metal “so when we do go under again, hopefully it won’t receive as much damage,” he said. TEMPLE LAKE PARK Four restrooms were destroyed and to date, one has been renovated. The other three were damaged beyond repair and the Corps is looking to completely rebuild and replace the restrooms with solid concrete facilities. Construction should begin this fall. “We are removing the existing debris, getting the site ready for the floor, wall, partitions and roof. It will be a solid concrete building,” he said. Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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This playground at Temple Lake Park on Belton Lake is ready for summer visitors. BELOW: Renovated Westcliff Park offers plenty of room for picnics, complete with grills.

To accommodate visitors, the Corps contracted for Porta Pottys so they can keep the park open. Also replaced were the roof to the pavilion and numerous shelter tops to picnic tables. “The Sparta Valley Park and boat ramp remains closed indefinitely,” he said. “Sparta Valley sustained critical road erosion and we are about to lose the road completely. There is a 15 to 20 foot drop with no safety railing.” BOATING Except for Sparta Valley Park, all boat ramps are open at Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes. Ellis said anglers are already on the lakes and fishing is great. “Recently, on Belton, the Texas Tournament Trail set the record for catching (and releasing) the heaviest big mouth bass at 13.94 pounds. That’s almost 14 pounds for the first week of April.” Ellis said fishing will probably 46

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pick up if anglers know that there is a 14-pound bass swimming in the lake. Other species of fish include a variety of catfish, small mouth bass, white bass, crappie, buffalo gar and other rough fish.

SWIMMING Swimming areas are open and Ellis wants everyone to know that there are always inherent dangers to swimming on the lakes. “You can’t see the bottom or know the exact depths,” he said. “It’s


Facilities at West Cliff Park, including the restrooms, playground and area for RV hookups, are ready for use by outdoor enthusiasts looking for family fun at Belton Lake.

“The damage has been repaired. There are completely brand new picnic tables, pedestals (electrical), shelter tops over the picnic tables constructed with corrugated steel and metal “so when we do go under again, hopefully it won’t receive as much damage.”

— Bradley Ellis

very important for people to realize their ability to swim. Drowning happens because people try to swim out to the buoys and back, or across the coves to test their limitations.” Another important thing to remember, Ellis said, is don’t recreate

intoxicated when swimming. “No drinking,” he emphasized. “And when on a boat, always wear your life jacket. Kids 13 and under must have a life jacket on.” However, everyone should wear a life jacket regardless of age. “People say it’s too

heavy or too hot and they don’t want to wear them.” With the new technology in life jackets, Ellis said there are no more excuses. “Some are inflatable and help combat heat,” he said. Another warning Ellis has for the boating crowd is not to swim after their boat when it becomes dislodged. He said he worked a lot of recoveries because people try to catch their boats. “No matter how good of a swimmer you are, you will be constantly swimming because the boat won’t stop. There are plenty of other options (to catch your boat). Passersby will stop your boat; people on land will help you retrieve your boat.” Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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HOW YOU CAN HELP Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been put back into the renovation of the parks and lakes. Everyone has an opportunity to help keep the recreational areas functioning by playing their part in keeping their areas clean. While most of the visitors clean up after themselves, properly disposing of trash and cleaning up their areas after use, many people still can’t figure out where to throw their trash and so they leave it behind. “We are always combating this. It’s always a conversational topic,” Ellis said. His advice is to come and enjoy everything our lakes have to offer but leave no trace behind. Leave it better than when you found it. “We still have tons of trash annually to pick up and move,” he said. Another area of concern for the Corps is mudding, or off road driving. “People are still doing the mudding with the intermittent rains at High Bridge Park and Horseshoe Bend Park. These parks are open 24 hours a day and are not gated. People go out there and create havoc.” Ellis said the fragile ecosystem is being damaged and while visitors are “having fun they may rip off an oil line, leaking contaminants into the waterways.” “We’re teaming up with the game wardens to impose a zero tolerance policy on mudding. But it’s not just the mudding, it’s also primitive camping. This is illegal in all Corps properties of the southwest Fort Worth District.” Ellis said with primitive camping people start campfires which could create a wildfire causing property damage, or worse. To volunteer, call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office in Belton at 254-939-2461 or visit volunteer. gov or volunteerclearinghouse.com. 48

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This baby fawn looks abandoned but was most likely left at this safe place by its mother. Deer return to claim their babies but might reject them if handled by a human.

NAME THAT WILDLIFE Everyone enjoys looking at wildlife — water birds flying overhead, songbirds in the trees, the occasional hoot owl, fireflies, bunnies, lizards and baby deer. These and other significant wildlife are abundant in our parks and lakes and visitors may look, but not touch — especially the baby fawns born around this time every year. Ellis wants to impress on visitors to leave the fawns alone. While walking down a path or in a meadow, if you see a fawn be assured that mama isn’t too far away. He said a doe will leave

her fawn in a place she knows and will return to it at night. “(Fawns) are not as resilient as their mothers,” Ellis said, adding that they are usually left in a shaded area and play possum until their mother returns. Recently, someone picked up a fawn they thought was abandoned and Ellis said chances are that fawn will not survive. Ellis said if a fawn is touched by a human, its mother could reject it. “People think fawns are being abandoned by their mothers, but they are not,” Ellis said. “We don’t want campers going out to try and rescue


Be careful if you step off trail. Rattlesnakes can be hidden in clear view, like the diamondback curled up under this bush.

them. Mother’s leave their babies to hide them.” In addition to the cute and colorful park animals like the deer, birds, butterflies, bunnies and lizards, Ellis reminds everyone to be on the lookout for the not so cute critters that can bite, sting or worse. Stay away from wild animals. And be on the lookout for snakes. The parks are host to a variety of snakes, venomous and non-venomous that includes the eastern and western diamondback rattlesnake, coral snake, copper heads, the occasional cottonmouth, although Ellis said you usually don’t see cottonmouth, a.k.a. black moccasin, in Bell County, and the harmless diamondback water snake. If you see any snake, stay away. And be careful as you hike trails and through brush as rattlesnakes are everywhere. And to add another layer of snake suspense, Ellis said rattlesnakes no longer rattle to warn you of their presence. “They are evolving,” he said, stating that not rattling is a survival mechanism for the serpent. If you get bitten by a snake, call 911, get the attention of a ranger and seek medical

When visiting one of the Bell County lakes or parks, watch for wildlife like this pair of lizards sunbathing on a rock, or the tarantula at left.

attention immediately. The same goes for broken bones. “We are all trained to treat minor abrasions and lacerations,” Ellis said. “For anything serious, like a broken bone or snake bite, call 911.” Ellis said any snake will bite you if it cornered, even the non-venomous species. “Rule of thumb, stay away from them,” he said. When you are enjoying the outdoors, Ellis recommends all visitors pack a basic first aid kit to include Band-Aids, gauze and antibiotic ointment. Also, carry insect repellent with DEET, to repel mosquitoes. If

you do find yourself a feast for the flying insects a topical lotion, such as calamine, will help ward of itching. If you happen into a patch of poison ivy, sumac or oak, use individually wrapped towelettes that wipe away the oily residue from the poisonous plants. “You will come in contact with poison oak, sumac or ivy, and depending on your allergic level, you can get a pretty bad rash. The towelettes are especially made for this use and will remove the oil residue from the exposure.” TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Eric and Brandi Warren 50

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Bringing history and community together Troy couple revives 100-year-old store Story by CATHERINE HOSMAN Photos by JULIE NABOURS Contributed by ERIC WARREN

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owntown Troy is about a half block long, but residents Eric and Brandi Warren are turning the street into a community gathering place with the newly reopened Troy General Store owned by Eric’s parents Sammy and Florence Warren. The building is a standout with the words Troy General Store emblazoned across the front, and it comes with its own history. Originally opened in 1919 as the Cameron and Co. Lumberyard and Hardware Store, the shop served the burgeoning railroad community with lumber, tools and hardware for building the railroad and homes for the growing town. Remnants of the store’s original lumberyard are in the yard behind the Biergarten, where 100-year-old planks of wood are stacked in original stacking bins behind a chain link fence. Sometime in the 1950s the Camerons sold the business to Wayne Randolph who maintained the lumberyard and hardware store while adding other food and merchandise, turning it into a general store for the local community. The Randolphs held onto the property until 1998 when Sammy Warren bought the store with his wife, Flo. Eric was still in high

The general store is the third business in this building’s 100-year-old history.

“We were going to so many different places. It was limited in what you can do when shopping at a market. It was hit or miss. The next logical step was to have a store where people could buy the goods they want and more often. We wanted a farm-to-table store.” — Eric Warren school at the time. The Warrens sold coffee, teas, Texas crafts, antiques, homemade salsa and jellies. Occasionally they took in a consignment. The store held on up to five years ago, then things started to slow down

because of road construction on Interstate 35. “That’s when we decided to do something about it,” said Eric Warren, who now runs the farm-to-market store with his wife, Brandi. Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Married since 2010, the Warrens have three sons. Both Eric and Brandi have always been “passionate about local foods” and feeding their children pure, organic and ethically grown produce, dairy and meats. “We learned how different foods and chemicals react in our bodies and made an effort not to put it in our bodies,” Brandi said. 52

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“We grew up eating the same junk food other people ate: fast foods, artificial sweeteners,” said Eric. “Once you start eating healthier, you feel better,” added Brandi. “Make the decision to start eating better.” “If you splurge from time to time and have a treat, do it with quality,” Eric commented. The young family visited area

farmers markets to shop for quality organic produce, but were unable to go every Saturday. So they held impromptu open air farmers markets for the community at their store. “We were going to so many different places. It was limited in what you can do when shopping at a market. It was hit or miss,” said Eric. “Large cities were doing well with outdoor


A vintage Dayton scale, above, is still in use to weigh homegrown produce.

traditional farmers markets in Texas, but you would have to travel.” Eric said he saw the store as an opportunity to create a place where people in the community could shop for locally grown produce, milk from grass-fed cows, and beef from grass-fed cattle. “The next logical step was to have a store where people could buy the goods

they want and more often. We wanted a farm-to-table store,” said Eric. IN THEIR DREAMS Their idea began as a daydream. They were young parents and their son, Kegan, was just a baby. They’d travel to Austin, visiting markets, trying different products, when Eric had the idea of bringing a farm-to-table store to Troy.

“Being in a community where everyone knows everybody it seemed like a good idea to have a place where we could meet and support local businesses,” he said. “It was a really cool idea. We knew we had to have a way to do something like this.” In 2011 the Warrens began the transformation, wanting to make the Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Fresh organic and ethically grown produce and fresh pastries are brought to the store daily. BOTTOM LEFT: The Biergarten comes alive on Friday nights with free concerts and food trucks. BOTTOM RIGHT: A fruit-inspired tic-tac-toe game.

store a community gathering spot. Bands in Austin for South by Southwest would stop by for impromptu concerts. This idea would later lead to the Friday night concerts now held in the Biergarten. But to fully make the transformation, the store was shuttered in 2012 to make the necessary updates without compromising the 100-year-old integrity of the store. Eric, his brother Jason, and parents went to work to revitalize the structure inside and out. They had a new roof installed, sealed and repaired the outside of the building on each side, cleaned and maintained the original 1919 hardwood floor and added a fresh coat of paint to the original store shelves. Bins once used to hold nuts, bolts, screws and other hardware items are still in use today as storage bins for some of the shops AN ETHOS CONNECTION Eric and Brandi were both students at Temple College when they met through mutual friends in 2005. As they got to know each other they discovered they shared the same values and wanted

the same things in life. “We both seemed to want peace and community for everybody, our friends, and to serve others,” Eric said. Eric recalled the Fourth of July fish fries at this grandfather’s house every year. When his grandfather died in his 60s from cancer, Eric said family gatherings became fewer and fewer. “I realized the importance of fellowship and family,” he said. “It inspired me to carry the torch and carry on to bring people together.” It is this philosophy that he hoped to bring to the store. The Troy General Store had its grand re-opening in March. Brandi runs the shop during the day with Mary Armstrong, and Eric steps in when he gets home from his day job as a computer technician for a local company. On the weekends Sammy and Flo help out. Today the store offers ethically grown food items from local farmers and ranchers; it has a coffee bar, serves craft beers, old-fashioned sodas, grabto-go meals, Made in Texas products, Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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and offers a limited, but healthy lunch options. But don’t ask for a printed menu. Everything is written on a chalkboard you see when you walk into the store. “The menu is created by what ingredients we have on hand,” Eric said. “As we experiment with different quantities, we hope to have items everyone is interested in on a limited 56

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menu. We are working toward more.” The Friday night music shows are free to the public and Eric said with every show they bring in a food truck. “And if we don’t have a food truck, we’ll go back there (in the kitchen) and cook,” he said. The business is gaining momentum and in addition to their farm-to-table selections, they have a steady week-day

coffee business. Not only does the store support local purveyors and vendors, it also puts money back into the community. Since the store reopened it has become the gathering place the Warrens had hoped for. Brandi said many new friendships have developed as people come together. “This is an excellent place for


Don’t ask for a printed menu to order lunch. Daily selections are listed on the blackboard. From top, the pork stack, chicken pesto panini, and spinach salad with beets.

people to come and meet their farmers and people in the community; (people) they may not meet otherwise,” said Brandi. “Our central focus and ethos is to support local farmers,” said Eric. “We hope to see it continue to grow as more and more people learn to love and appreciate why local organic food is so important.” TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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TexAdventures

Westcave Preserve shares her secrets

Explore the hidden crown jewel of the Texas Hill Country Story by FRED AFFLERBACH Photos contributed by ROB PEOPLES

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s education director at Westcave Preserve outside Austin, Paul Vickery enjoys job perks any naturalist would envy. Golden-cheeked warblers. Towering cypress trees. An emerald green grotto with a spring-fed waterfall that flows year-round. But above all the splendor that Mother Nature has bestowed on what’s called the “Crown Jewel” of the Texas Hill Country, it’s the schoolchildren that make Vickery’s job most gratifying. “It never gets old. You hear the kids, after they’ve gone down the staircase and they’ve seen the creeks, they say, ‘This is the best field trip ever,’” Vickery said, seated at a picnic table on a warm, clear spring day. “I’ve had kids say, ‘This is pure nature,’ with outstretched arms. To have a child, eight, 10, sometimes 12 years old say something that profound or that simple about this place is refreshing — to know that you are fulfilling your mission to not only protect this place but let its story be inspiring and really hit home.” Westcave Preserve is a 76-acre Shangri-La hidden in the limestone hills 30 miles west of Austin. Unlike state parks, camping is not allowed. Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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Education Director Paul Vickery prepares students for what they will hear and see on their hike into the canyon in the Warren Skaaren Learning Center. First-graders from Baranoff Elementary in Austin visited in April.

Visitors must follow two simple rules: stay on trails and no collecting anything. Docents lead groups of about 25 on the one-hour hike which courses one mile round trip under a canopy of various oak, elm and cypress trees. First stop is a stunning overlook of the clear-flowing Pedernales River, gurgling and weaving over limestone bedrock 250,000 years old. Further down the trail, visitors grip handrails and trod rustic steps fashioned from cedar and stone and descend into the canyon’s mouth. Descending slowly, between rock 60

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crevices and monstrous boulders, the grotto and waterfall appear like out of a fairy tale. The common reaction: mouth agape followed by an exclamation such as — WOW! “It takes your breath away. It’s just amazing,” said Amber Gosselin, Westcave Conservation Director who grew up here in the 1970s. “When they (visitors) come around the corner and stand on the bridge, I just love to see their faces.” At the bottom of the canyon lies a pool 20 feet deep, home to the Central Stoneroller, a member of the minnow

family. The name is an apt label because males roll stones around to form nests where females lay eggs. Down in this moist and fragile ecosystem, sunlight merely trickles through the treetops, seldom shining directly on the grotto itself in summer. Consequently, most of the rocks and boulders and canyon walls are covered with lichens and ferns. The subterranean landscape is shrouded in a soft, green glow. The waterfall, which flows yearround thanks to a spring-fed tributary called Heinz Branch, has been etched


by the hands of time working in conjunction with simple geology. The water methodically erodes and undercuts the softer sand and shale layers, which lie below the dense limestone. The result is an overhanging stone balcony, adorned with native flora and rhythmically shedding water into the pool 20 feet below. At the trail’s terminus lies a small cave with growing stalactites and stalagmites. Decades ago, before access to Westcave was controlled, people broke off numerous stalactite tips, evidence why the preserve is closely

guarded today. The temperature here in nature’s basement averages 10-12 degrees below what’s recorded on the open spaces above. Back on high ground, visitors are encouraged to hike the Uplands, a 45-acre tract of classic Hill Country landscape. The trail is wheelchair and stroller friendly and affords several resting spots with sturdy benches sitting in the shade of hardy live oaks. A bird blind near the trail’s entry affords opportunities for close encounters with hummingbirds, purple martins, black-crested titmouse

and perhaps an eastern screech owl — patience and silence rewarded. Two pairs of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler also nest at Westcave from spring to early fall. JOHN AHRNS — BELOVED WESTCAVE ICON To protect Westcave’s delicate ecosystem, volunteers and staff members impress upon visitors to take only memories and photos and leave nothing more than footprints. But one man’s indelible mark stands out among all the benefactors, Continued TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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At age 3, Amber Ahrns Gosselin moved to Westcave with her family when it was a rural outpost overrun by trespassers. Today, she is conservation director at the Westcave Discovery Center. 62

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volunteers, staff and visitors. John Ahrns moved his wife and two young children to Westcave in 1974, when it was a remote and private 25-acre tract overrun with trespassers. Empty bottles and beer cans, paper trash and broken glass littered the grotto floor and surrounding area. The limestone formations, now lush and green, were trammeled and barren. As the first full-time paid resident and gatekeeper, Ahrns turned away people who felt entitled to do whatever they wanted. But at the same time, he befriended nearby landowners. Ahrns and friends and other volunteers slowly turned the tide and the grotto began to heal. Amber Gosselin was 3 years old when her father moved the family to Westcave in a bus borrowed from a family friend. Gosselin said the locals dubbed him Grizzly Adams because he wore a beard and long hair, embraced nature and exuded a live and live attitude. But his friendly demeanor did not mean he was a pushover when it came to trespassers. His stern enforcement of controlled access earned him another moniker: Law West of the Pedernales. Gosselin still treasures those childhood memories living at Westcave when it was a far-flung outpost straddling the banks of the Pedernales. “I can’t imagine coming out here with two small kids and it’s just wild. I mean, nothing out here,” said Gosselin. “We didn’t have indoor plumbing. We had an outhouse. For me it was completely normal because it was all I knew.” Because the Ahrns family had no phone, they kept in contact with neighbors via a CB radio like the ones long-haul truckers use. One wet year, the family was cut off from civilization. The river had swamped the bridge leading to Austin. “I was a teenager and wanted to be with my friends. And I was going crazy. I called my friend and said meet me down on the river and my dad canoed Continued


The grotto is a can’t-miss sight. (Photo by Jim Nix)

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ABOVE: The Westcave Preserve Waterfall greets visitors. (Photo by Rob Greebon) BELOW: Speleothems are seen in a cave. The stalactites and stalagmites are formed by water.

me across so I could go out with my friends. Country life!” During Ahrns tenure at Westcave, the preserve grew in size and scope. John Covert Watson, the man who bought the Westcave tract in 1974 and hired Ahrns to mange it, negotiated a deal with the Lower Colorado River Authority. The LCRA bought Westcave and then signed a 99-year lease with the newly formed nonprofit Westcave Preserve Corporation. Today, Westcave pays one dollar a year for the authority to manage the preserve. In 2003, the 3,000-square-foot Warren Skaaren Environmental Learning Center opened on a site selected by Ahrns. The center is named for Skaaren, an accomplished screenwriter — “Top Gun,” “Beetlejuice” and “Batman” — who made an important donation to 64

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Tours begin at the Westcave Preserve learning center where students are handed an illustrated check sheet to help identify birds, rocks and plants they will likely see on a walk. INSET: One of the bird species in the area is the golden -cheeked warbler. (Photo by Mike Murphy)

the building fund. A model of green architecture, the frame is built from recycled steel; solar panels supplement electricity needs, and a water collection system harness rooftop runoff. A solar observatory tracks the sun’s arc across the sky through the four seasons. A library, artifact display case, photos, drawings and illustrations explain in straightforward language the history, geology, plant and animal life visitors will see at Westcave. But back to those tours Vickery takes schoolchildren on four days a week, he says Westcave can provide a memorable moment that lasts a lifetime. “When they get down to that grotto, come across that footbridge, they’re just like wow. ‘I’m in Texas? I just can’t believe this.’”

IF YOU GO From the Killeen area take U.S. Highway 190/Interstate 14 to U.S. Highway 281 and turn south. Take U.S. 281 to RR 962 East in Round Top and follow signs to 24814 Hamilton Pool Road, Round Mountain, TX 78663. From Austin, take Texas 71 west to the village of Bee Cave. Turn left at Ranch Road 3238, also called Hamilton Pool Road. Drive 14 miles to the Pedernales River. Westcave Preserve is the first gate on your right after crossing the river. Tuesday through Friday: Reserved Group Tours. Email Paul@Westcave. org or call 830-825-3442. Teachers are encouraged to schedule field trips as

far in advance as possible. Saturday and Sunday canyon and cave access by guided tour only. Tours begin at 10 a.m. noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Ages 4-17 $7. Adults $15. Reservations for weekend tours are not accepted. Tours often sell out hours beforehand. Many visitors arrive early, buy tickets, drive to various eateries or wineries in the area and return for their tour. Others buy tickets and hike while they wait. Uplands access Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; TuesdayFriday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No smoking. No pets. No drones. Wheelchair accessible for parts of the Uplands. Call for special accommodations. TEXAPPEALMAG.COM

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ADVERTISERS INDEX ACT Central Texas........................................................................41 Affordable Insurance.....................................................................66 Atmos Energy...................................................................................3 Central Texas College......................................................................7 Crotty Funeral Home....................................................................10 Curtis Cook Designs.......................................................................5 Devereaux’s Jewelers......................................................................33 Documaxx......................................................................................21 Ellis Air Systems.............................................................................22 English Maids................................................................................33 Extraco............................................................................. Back cover Hallmark Service Company.............................................................7 Killeen Vision Source....................................................................37 Lastovica.........................................................................................41 Lone Star Ag Credit Union...........................................................66 Metroplex Hospital..........................................................................2 Pazmino Dentistry...........................................................................3 Smile at the World Orthodontics...................................................7 TDT Bridal Show...........................................................................20 Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum..........................................10 Union State Bank..........................................................................41 Wisener’s Auto................................................................................5 Z Medical Aesthetics......................................................................33 The Advertisers Index is published for reader convenience. Every effort is made to list information correctly. The publisher is not responsible for errors or omissions.

To advertise, call 254-778-4444 in Temple or 254-501-7500 in Killeen 66

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TexTherapy

“Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” — Henry James

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Tex Appeal Magazine | June 2017  
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