Thursday, April 9, 2009

LBJ Ranch & The Texas Whitehouse

One of my favorite jewels in the hill country of Texas would have to be the LBJ Ranch. A short half hour drive from Fredericksburg had us at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park...and the LBJ Ranch.

In 1972, the 36th president of the United States donated a portion of the ranch to the national park service...with the stipulation that the LBJ Ranch remain a working ranch. The bulk of the ranch is still owned by the Johnson family. Lady Bird Johnson lived out her life in the Texas White House...and it is only since she passed away that the public has been allowed inside. The tour was as much a tribute to a wonderful First Lady as it was to LBJ.

And so it was...that we found ourselves driving along gravel ranch roads...

...through herds of Hereford cattle on our way to tour the Texas Whitehouse. The National Park Service maintains a herd of Hereford cattle descended from Johnson's registered herd and manages the ranch lands as a demonstration of ranching the LBJ way....rather like a living museum!

The Johnson home is situated along the Pedernales River...

...and surrounding by living oak trees...which are estimated to be hundreds of years old.

It was under these oak trees, that President Johnson and his wife entertained world leaders and hosted banquets for upwards of 500 people.

This was the home of President Johnson and a center of political activity for more than 20 years. Leaders from around the world visited the Johnsons here, and during the Johnson administration it became known as the Texas White House. President Johnston spent much of his working time here at the ranch, rather than in Washington...and it is only recently that the public has been allowed to tour the office wing of this piece of history. As we approached the Johnson home...
... we passed by a lovely purple tree in full bloom...and loaded with butterflies. I don't think I have ever seen so many butterflies in one spot before!
Our most knowledgeable tour guide was a storehouse of information...

...and took us inside for a tour of the President's office suite.

Everything is just as it was in his presidential years...

...including all his personal office furniture and his favorite pillow.

Back of the White House is a garage...where LBJ's cars are on display... which he preferred to drive speeds which his guests would often find scary.

Just down the road from the house, is the Johnson Family cemetery where President Lyndon Baines Johnson was laid to rest on January 25, 1973. Throughout his life, President Johnson expressed his love for the Hill Country of Texas, "where people know when you are sick, love you while you are alive, and miss you when you die."

How fitting that he should be buried just a stone's throw from the place he was born...on the ranch that he loved...and where he spent the biggest and best part of his life.

At the entrance to the cemetery is a plaque with this inscription...

"Here amidst these familiar hills and under these expansive skies
and under these beautiful oak trees he loved so much,
his earthly life has come a full circle."
-Reverend Billy Graham

Across the river from the cemetery...we could see the church where President Johnson worshipped.

As we left the Texas White House...

...we passed by the former home of the President's grandparents, who lived out their lives in this modest farmhouse.

A little further down the road is the home where LBJ was born on August 27, 1908. The house was rebuilt by the President in 1964 to be used as a guest house.
Junction School was where four-year-old Lyndon learned to read...a small one-room school located near his home. He returned as President 53 years later to sign the Elementary and Secondary Education Act...for which he is applauded.

We finished our tour...and bade farewell to the LBJ Ranch as the skies turned suddenly dark.

The cattle seemed not to care one bit...but the regularly scheduled radio program was interrupted to warn motorists in certain counties to stay off the roads as a tornado was coming their way. Hmmm...we had no idea what county we might be in...

...but it wasn't long and the rain came down in sheets and the daylight turned to darkness. Being from the west coast...where we are most used to driving in the rain...we carried on for a spell. Then we pulled off the road like all the sensible motorists and waited out a true Texas storm. It came with rain, hail and wild winds...and we sat in our rental car and hoped for the best! We survived...the sun came out as the storm passed...and we heard on the news that hailstones the size of baseballs landed in some areas. Oh yes...they do everything in a big way in Texas!

On our drive out to the LBJ Ranch, we had passed by Wildseed Farms...where fields of blooms were beckoning. We had full intentions of stopping by on our return trip...but had not counted on tornadoes and thunder storms.

We couldn't leave Fredericksburg without a visit to the world's largest working wildflower farm...

...and so we took another drive out to the country in the morning. Things were rather damp out in the fields...

...and the flowers had taken a beating, but there's nothing quite as beautiful as bluebonnets and poppies by the acre.

As we leave the Fredericksburg area...and point the car towards San Antonio...

I will leave you with this image of the bluebonnet...growing wild and free throughout Texas Hill Country...and a quote from their most famous resident...

"Three things, and three things only sustain life on this planet. They are a thin layer of soil, a cover of atmosphere and a little rainfall. This is all that the good Lord has given us, except one thing. He has given us a choice of what we'll do with it. We can waste it, we can pollute it, we can neglect it. Or we can conserve it, we can protect it... We can pass it along to our children, more promising and abundant than we found it." President Johnson

Next stop on the tour will be San Antonio...sometime soon.

Have a great day...


  1. Wonderful tour! My heart most warms to Mrs. Johnson. Of all the First Ladies, I am the most appreciative of her campaign to "Keep America Beautiful." I think we need to reinstitute that saying and attitude once again. When I see all the litter on the sides of the roads just as I did before her program, I fervently wish for her kind words and exhortations.

    I loved seeing your photography, too, Judy. Some of those shots are amazing!

  2. I agree with Vee - you did a wonderful job of giving us not only a tour but the pictures and the wording you used as well! Great Job!

    On some of the highways here, you will find a section of wildflowers planted in honor of Mrs. Johnson. It is a sight to behold after what seems endless miles of nothing but asphalt and cars.

    Thank you for taking the time to post the pictures and sharing with us your trip.


  3. Quite fascinating! I always have the illusion that President's are surrounded by grandeur at all times in some place that I can't imagine....rather than a "down to earth" comfortable looking home where even I might want to be. The pictures give a great overview of what is likely the heart of the Johnson family...but even then, this family must have moved on...interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Great history lesson Judy! Yesterday I wondered about those red I could clearly see the poppies!

  5. Judy, I am struck by the simple lifestyle that President Johnson appreciated. I love his quote at the end of your post. I so often feel yadayadayada when certain interest groups get going on their bandwagon, but his take on our beautiful earth. . .really shows his love for the earth we have been entrusted to.

  6. What a fascinatng tour, Judy. So lovely to be able to actually go inside these historic buildings. But my favourite was the flower meadows, which reminded me so much of the Alpine meadows in Smithers, beautiful!

  7. What a grass roots man...
    I loved looking at your pictures.
    What a modest lifestyle.
    The cars, are something my husband would relish.
    Looks like an enjoyable day except for the rain storms.
    Photography is amazing tasteful.

  8. Thanks so much for that wonderful tour, Judy. I found it very interesting ~ almost as good as being there in person (sans the wild storm). I too greatly admire Mrs. Johnsons "Keep America Beautiful" campaign.

    Can't wait for the next stop.

  9. I do not know if I will ever have an opportunity to visit this part of the country, but I think you did a great job as tour guide for me. The pictures and the information were done so well. Thank you for taking the time to do all of that. I really liked the wildflower farm. What beauty to see all of those bright colored flowers blooming. I enjoyed this post.

  10. What a wonderful post, Judy! President Johnson was president during difficult times in our history and I appreciate his forward thinking. This was a fascinating look at his private life! Did you notice if his wife was buried near him? She was a big advocate of preserving and maintaining the growth of wildflowers, so it seems so fitting that beautiful wild seed farm was nearby.
    Glad you didn't encounter the tornado! Springtime always carries that danger in the south.

    I have quite a bit of baking to do, so if I don't get a chance to go online the next few days I'll take the time now to wish you and your family a very happy blessed Easter!

  11. That was an interesting tour. Very humble Texas White House I would say, compared to the Reagan Library I visited a few years ago.

    I did not realize he worked so much from home:)

  12. Thank you for a wonderful tour of Texas.. the flowers, the butterflies..the historial glimpses.... so amazing! I so enjoyed your travel memories !!!

  13. You shared your visit very well -- it was almost like we were there with you -- thanks for the delightful way to tell the story!

    It's a beautiful piece of Texas -- the Hill Country and you can't visit the Hill Country without visiting the LBJ site.

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. One of the few regrets that I have about leaving Texas was that we never made it down to the LBJ ranch and the wildflower farm. Thanks for bridging that gap in my Texas experience.

    PS I am so happy that you got to experience a true Texas gullywasher! Aren't they something else?


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson