Texas Travels – Cowboy Culture

Picture of Museum of Western Art in Kerrville Texas

by Nancy Foster

Summer vacations don’t need to break the bank, especially if you live in the Lone Star State. A couple of tanks of gas will get you to many fascinating spots where you can learn something new and have fun doing it. With a quest to keep your vacation dollars at home, the Texas Historical Commission created an engaging website –  texastimetravel.com – that provides unique vacation ideas focusing on its award-winning Texas Heritage Trails Program. The concept is to entice you to select which of the state’s ten regions you’d like to explore, then provide highlights of the region’s history, culture, architecture, nature, and special events. You can even explore by theme. Do you love historic downtowns? National monuments? Archeology?  Presidential History? Open Spaces?  Your planning can be done in a few clicks.

To get you started, we found some intriguing places to visit in their Cowboy Culture theme.

Cowboys, cowgirls, ranches and rodeos are all synonymous with the Lone Star State’s history and heritage. If you need an entertaining refresher course the whole family can enjoy, start with any of the stops listed below.


Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum – Cuero

Cattle trails were integral to the development of Texas. An estimated six million head of cattle were transported from Texas to the Northern Stockyards during the heyday years of the drives from the 1860s until the 1890s. Tough and hardworking cowboys – also known as cowhands, cowpokes, or ranch hands –  endured grueling conditions on the trail to get the herds to market. The first cattle drive was said to be in 1866. It led from Dewitt County, Texas, to St. Joseph, Missouri, and if that holds your interest, head to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum in Cuero to learn much about this significant era. Collections in the museum center on ranching life before and after the great cattle drives. The museum is on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Cuero Commercial Historic District and is also a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. A fascinating collection of handcrafted spurs, over 900 objects in their Tinker Collection, and a special exhibit on rare equestrian and ceremonial artifacts from Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, and Peru will intrigue you. Also check out the second floor with its collection of Native American portraitures before you go.  chisholmtrailmuseum.org


National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame – Fort Worth

Cowgirls played an essential part in the history of the West, and in Fort Worth, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame pays homage to over 750 of these remarkable women and 247 National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Honorees. With more than 4000 artifacts in its permanent collection, you’ll learn about women pioneers, artists, writers, entertainers, ranchers, and rodeo performers including Sacagawea, Georgia O’Keefe, author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Annie Oakley, Dale Evans, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. View championship spurs, Annie Oakley’s letters, cowgirl attire, paintings, boots, belt buckles, and more. The 33,000 square-foot museum is in the Will Rogers Memorial Complex inside the Ft. Worth Cultural District and features an exterior adorned with hand-carved panels, wild rose finials, and bas-relief sculptures. Special exhibits include the captivating “It’s Never Just a Horse ™” that examines the partnership between people and horses, and Escaramuza Charra, an intriguing exhibit that showcases a unique form of horsemanship combining side saddle, culture, and grace. cowgirl.net


Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight Ranch State Historic Site – Goodnight

If you’re headed out toward Amarillo, 40 miles southeast is a stop well worth your while. Charles Goodnight and his wife Mary Ann (aka Molly), were instrumental in the area’s development. This visionary entrepreneur and authentic cowboy – considered the Father of the Texas Panhandle – is credited with developing the Goodnight-Loving Trail, one of the Southwest’s most heavily used cattle trails. His cattle, shipped from his 1,300-acre JA Ranch, were earmarked to supply the U.S. Army with beef back in the 1880s. In addition, he invented (of necessity) the chuckwagon. Charles also enjoyed a remarkable and cordial friendship with Comanche Chief Quanah Parker. His wife, a 5’ dynamo in her own right, had a passion for conservationism that led to acclaim for saving the Southern Plains Bison herd. Visitors to the ranch can still see descendants of those original bison today, grazing contentedly on pasture land. The late-Victorian, two-story house looks a bit out of place amid Texas prairie land but features original furnishings, art, and Charles’  – who disliked being inside – famous sleeping porch. The home, gifted to the Texas Historical Commission, sits on 30 acres of the original ranch and is a testament to a couple whose life’s work was instrumental in developing the Great Plains. visitgoodnightranch.com



Museum of Western Art – Kerrville

Kids and adults alike will enjoy a salute to our western heritage at the Museum of Western Art. Amid hundreds of original western-themed paintings and sculptures are collections of antique saddles, vintage weaponry, barbed wire and historical artifacts. Youngsters love the Journey West Children’s Gallery, an interactive recreation of life on the Oregon Trail as explained through the diary of a young pioneer girl. There’s a chuckwagon to climb into, a teepee to explore and period dress-up clothes that set the stage for memorable Instagram photos. Take time to roam the grounds and enjoy the larger-than-lifesize bronze statues, all done by masters. Ranked one of the top five western museums in the country, this Kerrville icon belongs on your “must see” list.   museumofwesternart.com


Dublin Rodeo Heritage Museum – Dublin

Rodeo comes to mind when you think of cowboy culture, and a great place to learn about its roots is at the Dublin Rodeo Heritage Museum, an easy 90-minute drive southwest of Fort Worth. When Everett Colburn moved from Idaho to the area in 1937, he leased ranchland for his Lightning C Ranch, destined to be known as the largest ranch in the world dedicated to raising rodeo stock.  In 1940, a new venture, Everett Colborn’s World’s Championship Rodeo, catapulted into the public’s eye and soon attracted rodeo legends from around the country to perform in rodeos at Madison Square Garden, Chicago, and Boston. In 1942, TV cowboy legend Gene Autry went on to merge his own rodeo company, “The Flying A R Ranch Rodeo,” with Colburn’s rodeo. By 1959, when Everett Colborn retired, rodeo stock was moved to another location, ending an era that lives on in memory at the museum. Allow at least an hour to roam past period artifacts, show saddles, trophies, a wall of branding irons, and a treasure of photos from rodeo greats including Casey Tibbs, Jim Shoulder, Toots Mansfield, and others. Dublin is a rural charmer and you may want to stay over. If so, consider the western-themed Marmalade Station BnB across the street from the museum, and for really great eats, head to homey Granny Clark’s Restaurant. drhm.org


Need more ideas?  Among other Cowboy Culture stops are Doan’s Crossing in Vernon, King Ranch in Kingsville, or the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth. Each one is a Lone Star treasure. Go see for yourself. texastimetravel.com.