Simple Living in the Piney Woods of Texas

Growing up in the Piney Woods of East Texas, I never really appreciated the simple life I lived as a child. On a recent drive through the pines, it all came rushing back but through the eyes of an adult with responsibilities. The reflection of the girl I once was rode behind me in the back seat of the car, anxiously pointing out the wonderful scenes I’ve taken for granted over the years.

I suppose adulthood has its privileges but the innocence of childhood would certainly be welcome on occasion. As grown-ups, we focus on work, paying bills and surviving the week. Now kids focus on electronic devices and the latest video game and parents wait for the report from the doctor stating their child has jaundice from never getting any sun.

Driving through the winding roads of the Piney Woods, the branches of the tall trees seemed to come together like a game of red rover, waiting for me to try to break through their strong hold, but instead allowing me to go under and continue to the next game.
20130720-224047.jpgI traveled by the old homestead of my great grandparents. We called them Baby PaPa and Baby Grandma but I’m not quite sure why unless it was because we were taller than them. The house near the town of Troup still stands and has life once again. The owners of my great grandpa’s old store, once known as Stone Lookout Station, located adjacent to the home, are planning on renovating it and making it a gift shop.

Memories flow as I think about us going into Baby Grandma’s house as children. She handed us a dime from a china cup in her cupboard as a special gift. This same woman, spent most of her life making beautiful quilts including the 48-state quilt hanging in my home. After leaving the house, we’d walk over to visit Baby PaPa and we’d get candy from his store. PaPa would sit, leaned back against the wall in the store, while we looked around. Life was simple.

As I continued my journey, I noticed a number of roadside stops, some in buildings and some off the backs of trucks, with farmers selling their homegrown produce. Having done this myself as a teenager and college student, I couldn’t help smiling. Nothing tastes better than a fresh tomato or cucumber fresh off the vine or a peach just pulled from the tree.
Then there were the buildings and the signs. Historic East Texas towns came to life again with new owners, selling the latest must-have products in a space once occupied by Texas settlers who probably parked their horse and carriage in the front of the building more than 150 years ago. Originals signs remained on doors and sides of buildings, reminding me once again of yesteryear.

If you want to enjoy the simple life, get in your car, turn off your phone, hide the handheld games from the kids, and take a road trip with your family. Having lived in various parts of East Texas, I highly recommend it. Safe travels!

In my travels, I try to go to restaurants unique to a community. On a recent stop in Bonham, I visited Cappy’s Cafe. I knew I would experience something wonderful just by reading the menu written on the door, literally. American, Asian and Mexican food were all on the buffet for the day, providing a smorgasbord of goodness for the residents and visitors.

Entering the restaurant, I noticed long, picnic-style tables and wasn’t sure where I would be sitting. A bubbly hostess welcomed me and sensed it was my first visit. She explained the buffet and took me to see where the food was located. I grabbed a plate from the various assortment of dishes along with mismatched silverware. A wonderful waitress took over from my greeter and before I had a chance to sit, she took my drink order. When I told her iced tea, she immediately asked me the question I’ve grown accustomed to hearing in Texas, “Sweet or Unsweet?” As a child, sweet was the only option I ever remember getting. After filling my plate with an assortment of dishes, my waitress brought me my beverage in a huge mason jar. Now that’s true Texas to me. I enjoyed my meal and topped it off with the best peach pie I’ve had in years. The crust was flaky and the filling was the perfect sweetness.
I finished my meal and waited for my bill. Sitting at the table beside me was an elderly gentleman, who was obviously a regular at the restaurant. I only know because my waitress occasionally took a break and visited with him while I was eating. They discussed the usual things – the weather, their family’s health and the latest news in the community.

A crowd of people came in and my waitress got busy seating the new arrivals. I asked my neighbor if I paid up front and he told me yes. Since I started a conversation with him, he immediately asked me “where you from, darlin’?” I told him I was from the Austin area and he thanked me for coming, wished me a good day and asked me to “come back and see us.”

After my experience at Cappy’s Cafe, I think the Cheers theme song may just be right on. In Bonham, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. For information on Cappy’s Cafe, visit

Categories: Travel Texas

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2 replies

  1. Loved this post! I have spent a fair bit of time driving around Texas and this brought back so many memories — especially all those old signs.

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