Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile

This is the oldest hardware store in Louisiana – the Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile in Natchitoches, LA. It was founded in 1863, during the American Civil War, by Jewish Prussian immigrants who were looking for a welcoming place to settle. The store is still owned by descendants of the family.

This is an original working till from 1910. I LOVE hardware stores and have been known to loiter with intent in my local Ace store… Kaffie Frederick was the stuff of nostalgic dreams and totally unexpected. Despite it’s historical magnificence, it’s a working hardware store, with some unique old toys.

Look at the original paneling on the walls and those amazing tools! They looked as though they could have been used in battle…

It’s amazing to think that the store was opened before electricity was in general use, so you needed natural light, and perhaps some gas lights. I wanted to say thank you to the owners for preserving something so special, even if it was by accident.

This is so much more practical and sustainable that plastic packs of nails and screws. Below is a side view of Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile from the street.

Thanksgiving 2021

Was there ever a better year to thank health and care workers? On our recent trip to Natchitoches in Louisiana, we noticed little Halloween or Harvest displays by local companies along the banks of the Cane River. As we tentatively enjoyed our first vacation together since the pandemic, it struck me how much we need to thank all the people who worked relentlessly through the last two years. How grateful I am to farm workers, supermarket employees, scientists, health care workers and all the other essential workers who kept us alive and fed. Thank you!

When traveling, I love to find out something unique or whimsical about the area. Did you know there was a Creole fairy – Fee Folay? According to the sign, it is not dissimilar to our stories of Will O the Wisp. The display had a touch of Druidic charm that enchanted me.

El Camino Real, Texas

In English, El Camino Real means the King’s Highway but refers to the Spanish King, Charles II.  It stretches from Mexico City to the little town of Natchitoches in north east Louisiana – 2,500 miles in length.  I find it difficult to imagine my Spanish ancestors traversing this route with just horses that had been shipped from Europe.  Even more astonishingly it followed an existing trade and travel route used by indigenous Americans.  In 1690 Alonso de León followed the trail and consequently it became El Camino Real.  (There is another El Camino Real route in California.) The Texas route wavered at various points in time depending on relations with the local Nations and flooded rivers.  Missions were established all along the route, mostly notably the Alamo in San Antonio.  Austin and Houston were non existent at this time – strange to imagine, eh? El Camino Real was used extensively as a trade route from Mexico to Texas and Louisiana until the 19th century.  Louisiana had been settled by France in the late 1600s.

On our first little trip since the pandemic, we traveled from our home traveling north east, eventually joining El Camino Real after Lufkin.  It was my first long drive in 2 years (4.5 hours) and I was surprised how well I managed.  The road was quiet for most of the length and it went through miles and miles of Piney Wood Forest.  Most drivers were considerate – it is a simple two-lane road for most of the section near Louisiana but with a speed limit of 75 mph on long stretches.

Pendleton Bridge over the Louisiana/Texas border
Courtesy of Texas Fish and Game

I have a fear of long low bridges over water and the Pendleton Bridge tested me to my core.  I just focused on the road ahead and let Teddy enjoy the spectacular view on 2.5 miles of bridge.  You can see the bridge on the map above marked SH 6 aka El Camino Real. The center of the Sabine River is the border between Texas and Louisiana.  You have to be careful entering into Louisiana as the speed limits change and a Texas driving plate is just begging to be stopped!

Fishing Pier by Pendleton Bridge

After we crossed into Louisiana, we stopped briefly at this little village, below, named Robeline.  It was a little down at heel as are many little towns in the hinterland.  I was fascinated by the abandoned Masonic Hall which had a hand written sign.  Most halls I have seen in the States are very elaborate structures.  Robeline was the area where Louis St Denis, who established Natchitoches, led a party of missionaries and Spanish soldiers to initiate trade with the local Native Americans (Caddo Nation) in 1717.  Robeline didn’t become a village until the arrival of the rail road in the 1800s.  I wondered if it may have had a heyday but I read this quotation, on Natchitoches.net regarding Robeline, “The village also has a history of rough and rowdy crowds. Once known as “Robbers Lane” the area was full of these types of crowds.” Sounds like some places I have lived before…👀

References: Natchitoches.net, Wikipedia and Texas Fish and Game

Fancy Women

One of the many aspects of Texas that I love are the signs. This one tickled me and I wonder what constitutes a fancy woman? This is actually a sign from our next door neighbor, Louisiana. I noticed plenty of ‘fancy women’ in New Orleans….most were drunk as skunks and flashing their boobs from balconies in Bourbon Street.

I like to think of myself as a fancy woman but in the nicest possible way… This is the ‘skirt that disappeared’. Just before the Pandemic started I ordered a maxi skirt from American Eagle. After some weeks they got in touch to say that the skirt was no longer available. I completely understood given the chaotic situation but eventually started to wonder when I would get my refund. Just as I was getting ready to complain, my skirt arrived in the mail three months later. I had absolutely nowhere to wear it but finally it came out on my birthday, one year later.

This sign was on the Cantina next to our Cajun restaurant. It reminded me of a sign on a major toll road in Houston that made me laugh every time I saw it. It was a ramshackle old sign with mismatched letters leading to a very insalubrious bar in an industrial area, along the train tracks. “Our beer is colder than your ex wife’s heart…” I imagine that only ‘fancy women’ would ever dare go there!

As for the Cantina, all margaritas make you sexier. They didn’t reference the type of meat – that’s always suspicious…

I love marinas and this one at Lake Conroe has got way fancier as the decades have passed. Last year there was a Trump rally in boats on the lake – there was another on Lake Travis in the north of Texas where 4 of the boats sank. I will leave you to imagine how I felt but let’s just say schadenfreude was involved. Before you ask, no one died – there was too many boats on the lake at the same time. The Devil looks after his own…

Blue Lagoon

It’s official – Infinity is a bust!  More precisely, our Pyrex Infinity Pool was not appreciated by our garden critters.  We watched as they walked cautiously around it, looking at it suspiciously. “What did the People do with the old bowl???”  I think they couldn’t see the bottom of it or the edge and it made them wary about how deep it was.  The critters had spoken and we trekked off to our favorite ‘antique’ shop in Tomball  to replace their pool.  We enjoyed our antiquing but you know it is time to stop when you wonder if they would like our stuff…  The precious bowl Blue Lagoon was actually found at the church shop and cost $2.

Infinity’s a bust!

I was tickled that it was a genuine ceramic from the Coushatta Casino Resort in Louisiana. The Coushatta Tribe moved from their home base in south west Louisiana to Alabama to avoid Spanish explorer Hernandez DeSoto after an encounter in 1540.  They relocated back to their homelands and some live in East Texas.  Gambling casinos are illegal in Texas despite a recent bill in the Texas Senate.  Teddy felt that we should have made some miniature roulette tables to our lagoon but it is too hot to be bothered now!

The new Blue Lagoon is a hit with the garden critters as you can see at the top and below with the infra- red camera.  That is an indigenous pack rat sitting on the diving rock.  Given his occupation, he would have loved rummaging through the antique shop.  My favorite find was a George Bush doll! 

Perfect for a pack rat!

Does anyone else remember old school desks that still had the inkwell in them?  By the 60s we had stopped using the inkwell but I do remember having a few fountain pens.  It was a really hot sticky day so Teddy and I enjoyed a wee glass of Pinot Grigio at this lovely outside bar.  Afterwards we realized we hadn’t had any breakfast – we are turning into retired reprobates.

Cheers!! Sláinte!! Salud!! Prost!!