Let me start with the words this is not our ranch. But my mother’s family had one that looked very much like this, located between Stephenville, Texas, and the tiny town of Hico. We sold the ranch several years ago, after Daddy died, because none of us lived close enough to look in on it or handle ranch business. Saddest day in our lives. Five hundred acres of grassland and hills, freshwater streams, and ponds now belong to someone else.
The Circle Bar Ranch is larger, though still small by Texas standards at only 1500 acres. Like Mom’s ranch, it’s shaped in a horseshoe, with the hills surrounding the pastures and setting the natural boundaries of the property.
The nearest city is Stephenville, where Marie set up her shop, the Quad-B. Compared to Houston or Dallas, Stephenville barely qualifies as a city, but it is the county seat. I admit, it’s been so long since I’ve been to this area that I took a lot of liberties with the setting. Don’t quote me on this, but I think if my characters actually did go to a movie, they’d have to go all the way to Fort Worth, an hour and twenty minutes away. I imagine, however, that drive is nothing to the folks who live in the area, because frankly, I don’t think there are any other cities of size nearby. I’ve been aching to go back and explore the region. Maybe someday–soon, I hope.
Though its nearest city is Stephenville, the nearest town is Hico (with a long “i,” like in Hi!). Hico played a big part in Give the Lady a Ride as the location of the Texas Steak Cook-Off, an actual annual event for the town. It looks like a charming western town in this picture–and it is–but it’s grown since I was last there. And I don’t remember them having the cook-off when I was there last. I figure that’s part of the planning committee’s attempts to bring attention to the town. Based on the pictures I’ve seen of the event, their plan worked.
Hico is also the home of the Koffee Kup, which is famous for it’s cream pies with four-inch meringue. I may not remember a lot about the area, but I do remember those pies. Spoiled me. No one else’s cream pies compare. The meringue is impressive, but the pie custard is out of this world. This pic makes me hungry for their coconut cream right now–for breakfast!
Okay, this whole post is making me homesick for a place I’ve never called home. Mom tells stories of horseback riding out there, and of the fruit and pecan trees they had, but all I remember about the ranch is that I saw my first live armadillo there. Up close and personal. They’re actually kind of cute. I’ve seen several now that MSB and I live in a more rural setting in East Texas, but seeing that little critter nosing around just a few feet away from me is something I’ll never forget.
Bringing Patricia Talbert down from Manhattan and putting her in this setting in Texas has been one of the most fun projects I’ve ever undertaken. But the woman is a trooper. I’m proud of her.
By the way–the Kindle version of The Final Ride is available for pre-order now! The print version will be coming soon.