I have always enjoyed history, but typically more in a "History Channel" way than a "history major" way. As such, I have to admit, I didn't know a lot about Lyndon B. Johnson before yesterday. He passed away more than three years before I was born, so I also have that excuse for my ignorance.
I have a really hard time resisting a visit to any National Park or Monument. When I saw the NPS arrowhead for the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park on my way into Austin, I knew I would likely have to return.
The drive out through Texas Hill Country was beautiful, and gave me a better idea of the scenery surrounding Austin since it was dark when I arrived a week ago. There are a tremendous number of wineries dotting the landscape all through this area, which might make for a fun future adventure (anyone want to come drive me around?).
Johnson's boyhood home and his grandparents' settlement in Johnson City were my first stop. Honestly, I had thought that was the full scope of the park until I arrived, and was informed that the LBJ Ranch and home in later years, the "Texas White House," were also located 14 miles up the road toward Fredericksburg.
I enjoyed a short walk through the Johnson settlement, including an opportunity to meet my first real Texas longhorn. I loved the crackling sound of the grasses rustling in the fields there. I made it back to Johnson's boyhood home just in time for a ranger-led tour of the home, which was modest with the exception of the fact that it contained the only telephone that had existed in Johnson City in its day. The telephone, the three porches, and the radio were the hubs of the household and influenced the way that Johnson approached his life from that point forward.
A short drive up the road, through fields of deer, sheep, goats, and cattle, and I was at the LBJ Ranch along the Pedernales River. The location might be slightly remote, but that didn't stop LBJ from having modern conveniences like his own airplane hangar and telephones and televisions everywhere you looked. There were three televisions in both the living room and the bedroom, and even a telephone mounted under the dining room table. We complain about cell phones today - can you imagine what he would have been like with the technology that now exists?
My knowledge of Johnson's legacy mostly consisted of a vague idea of his role in escalating the Vietnam War, his "Great Society" programs, and the advancement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968. I was largely unaware of the litany of legislation that was passed during his time as President, during which he had Democratic control of both the House and Senate (which is the situation we are facing in January 2017). Among others, legislation included Medicare, Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, the Open Housing Act, National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, the Truth In Lending Act, College Work Study, Food Stamps, the Clean Air Act, and the establishment of nearly 50 National Park areas.
I wrapped up my day with a trip into Fredericksburg, Texas. This town has a downtown full of beautifully preserved historic buildings that are home to shops, wineries, breweries, and restaurants. After seeing so many cute cattle through the day, I was hungry for a burger - so I finished off my day with a (VEGGIE) burger at a place called Burger! Burger!
You're welcome, cows. :-)