Experiencing East Texas – Shopping, Eating, and Family History!

After the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided I needed to take a four-day weekend trip to visit my Aunt Ruth in east Texas. We talk once a week, if not more often on occasion, and I was ready for an in-person visit. I drove the nearly 400 miles from San Angelo to Bullard, a little south of Tyler. Texas really is a BIG state!

I didn’t have plans to do much while I was there but I did have a community I wanted to explore. Located off I-20, Lindale is down the road from Tyler, where I attended college at Tyler Junior College in the early 1980’s.

Lindale is most known for the town’s connection to the country music superstar Miranda Lambert. Miranda, as I refer to her as if we’re on a first-name basis, even has a store called The Pink Pistol in town that I’ve wanted to see for a while now. Let me first say, I’m NOT a big shopper, but I did buy a few items while visiting the store including her line of coffees and olive oils, named after her songs. A few of my favorite songs by Miranda are The House That Built Me, Famous in a Small Town, and songs from her most recent album, The Marfa Tapes, especially Waxahachie, which Darla and I sang with gusto when we visited that city on my Most Mispronounced Towns and Cities Tour.

Let me just say, I’ve never seen so much pink in one place. It was like going through the Barbie aisle at a toy store that had no end in sight. Not being a pink-loving person, I found I wasn’t really bothered by the color. It seemed to fit, right down to the pink vintage camper cut-out that greets you when you pull your car into the parking lot next to the store. Both my aunt and I sat on the royal throne to get a picture. I mean, we were there.

We didn’t try the wine tasting at Red 55 Winery, located inside the store, as it was a little early for us, but several women were enjoying the experience. Maybe next time. I’m not a big wine drinker but I thought it was a great offering for those who are.

My aunt suggested we stop at Lindale Candy Company. Established in 1946, this 75-year-old candy factory makes their delectable treats right on site in a factory directly behind the store. Between the two of us, we left with hefty bags filled with candy canes, hot chocolate bombs, chocolate and caramel dipped pretzels, and more. The candy-dressed dolls were stunning and would be a terrific gift, except who would want to destroy the dress creation. And the Texas-shaped chocolate screamed my name but it would melt in the Official World Headquarters, so I passed.

By the time we finished up at the candy store, we were ready for lunch. Aunt Ruth suggested we drive the 18 miles northwest to Mineola and grab a burger at East Texas Burger Company on the downtown square. Since 1984, this restaurant has served delicious burgers and other southern favorites like chicken-fried steak with cream gravy, farm-raised fried catfish with hushpuppies, and flame-grilled hamburger steak with brown gravy. We both opted for burgers.

And then there were the desserts. You could take your pick of an assortment of cream pies and cakes like carrot cake, strawberry cake, and cheesecake. The fried pies were award-winning, according to the sign outside the door. The choices they had while we were there included apricot, coconut, peach, apple, and cherry. My grandmother made the best fried pies I’ve ever eaten and my favorite was apricot so I opted for that one.

We couldn’t finish the giant burgers we ordered and saved the pie for a snack later. We walked the square and came across Mineola Mercantile offering Farm House Fried Pies. You could even see the pan they fried the pies in and a variety of fresh goodness cooling on wire racks. They had a little different selection of pies including chocolate, lemon, bavarian, pineapple, strawberries and cream, buttermilk, and moonshine. Yes, you read that correctly. Aunt Ruth chose a buttermilk, and, of course, I had to purchase a moonshine. I mean, moonshine fried pie. How bad could it be? We enjoyed the pies later that day and they were all really tasty.

Our final stop in Mineola was another of my aunt’s suggestions. The Pecan House County Store is full of nuts…literally. Pecans, walnuts, and peanuts were just a few of the offerings. Texas-themed kitchen items, hummingbird feeders, and candies were also available for purchase. The aroma of freshly-roasted peanuts wafted out the door as soon as we walked in and I couldn’t resist buying a bag of warm peanuts for the road. A giant wood-carved squirrel, PeaCan Sam, greeted us at the door and is available for selfies. Another long-running store, they tout they have been crackin’ nuts since 1978.

From Mineola, we drove around six miles to the community of Golden in Wood County. My aunt mentioned they were known for their incredible sweet potatoes. We love sweet potatoes in our house so we were in search of these tuberous roots. Oprah Winfrey referred to the Golden sweet potato and how delicious she thought they were. We saw a road-side directional sign so we took off down a county road and, several turns later, we made it to the only sweet potato farmer in Wood County. They were still covered in dirt, unlike what you find in the stores. We think they might have been better because of that fact. My grandfather grew fantastic sweet potatoes and many times we grandkids got to eat them cold, right out of the fridge, after grandma had baked a bunch from an earlier meal. When they are cold, they become even sweeter, or that’s what I thought. I’d unwrap the skin and toss that outside and eat it the orange flesh like it was candy. So good. The Golden sweet potatoes were delicious. Would I say they were as good as my grandfather’s? I’m not sure but they were definitely worth the stop.

That evening, my aunt’s neighbors, Clay and Stefanie, invited us over for a fish fry of crappie. Previously, they treated me, Morgan, and Debra to a similar meal when we were on the first day of our nine-day, eight-night, road trip around the perimeter of Texas in June 2020. It was my first taste of crappie and I’ve never looked back. Clay cooked them to perfection.

Before I headed back home, my aunt took me by the former home of my grandparents. I miss them and think of them often. They were two of the best people I’ve ever known. While near their old house, we drove to the land that my ancestor, my great, great, great grandfather settled on when he moved to Texas in the 1840’s. He is buried on the property and I hope to someday get the chance to see the location. There was something about knowing my love of Texas was tied to the land George Washington Stone acquired when he first arrived to the Lone Star State, a few short years after Texas declared independence, becoming the Republic of Texas.

My 3rd Great Grandfather George Washington Stone

After four days of fun adventures, I packed up and headed back home. I spent most of my young adult years in the east Texas piney woods and it’s always a treat to make my way back for a visit.

I look forward to more adventures on the road as I explore this large state and continue to attempt to answer the question, how big is Texas. Safe travels!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. James M Bell Sr, now of San Antonio says:

    Another good ereport from your travels with an inquiring eye and a gift for description. Being West Texas born & bred I’ve never savvied East Texas – too deep in the gloomy trees – I like the wide bright blue breezy skies. But you showed me a glimpse of the charm of the area. Thanks.

    1. diannbayes says:

      Thanks, James. Growing up there, I have a fondness for it. That said, I prefer the open spaces. Many areas of that part of the country have beautiful, open fields with large groves of pine trees behind them. Beautiful!

  2. David says:

    The Pecan House has an Apricot fruit cake that is out of this world. Yes, I eat them!

    1. diannbayes says:

      I’ll have to try it.

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