Last week, my husband Chris asked me where I wanted to go for Mother’s Day. “Pick anywhere you want and we’ll take you there,” he promised. “It’s your day!”
He said this because he’s a wonderful husband, but also because I had to spend last Mother’s Day at an endless baseball tournament sitting next to insane women who wouldn’t stop screaming, “HIT THE BALL, ETHAN! HIT IT!”, and swatting mosquitoes with the half-dead carnation the umpires had handed out to all of the mothers so we’d feel special. Too bad they didn’t use that flower money to buy toilet paper for the Port-A-Potties. That would have made us all feel special and sanitary.
Of course, last year’s Mother’s Day was still better than 2006. That’s the year I opted to spend my day at a horse track in San Antonio. However, not only did I lose $50 placing bets on behalf of then-4-year-old Sam who claimed he had “a winning system” (he did not), but then-2-year-old Jack had a pee accident on the escalator that resulted in 1) the escalator malfunctioning 2) his clothes being wrecked and 3) him leaving the venue wearing a $30 adult-sized gift shop t-shirt that said “Put Me Out To Stud” while Chris told everyone we passed, “Looks like someone lost his pants at the track! Haha! By the way, you’re going to need to take the stairs.” Fun times.
So that’s why this year I decided I wanted to spend my special day in one of my favorite places ever—Luckenbach, Texas. Luckenbach, population 3, is about an hour away from Austin in the Texas Hill Country, near the popular tourist town of Fredericksburg. The directions on their website are as follows:
- You get on I-10, go to 87, get off on 290, you know… where that dead deer
is in the ditch.
- Then you take a right on that farm-to-market road. You know, where that cattle guard is? And that mawkin’ bird nest?
- Then take a left, go through a bump gate, two wooden gates, and a wire gap.
- Then you’ll find Luckenbach in the canyon. No, well, it’s more like a rut.
Those directions pretty much show the relaxed attitude of the entire place. There’s beer, music, picnic tables, the glorious shade of 500-year-old oak trees to keep you cool, and not much else. Nobody takes themselves too seriously in Luckenbach and that’s why I like it. Austin’s rapid growth has turned my city into a place I hardly recognize anymore, so it’s nice to get out of town and once again feel the weird, friendly, kick-back Texas vibe I fell in love with 15 years ago. And trust me, it is weird. Not just because Sam is the saddest cowboy in the world, either.
There are only three or four buildings in the entire town of Luckenbach, including a dance hall (where Jerry Jeff Walker recorded 1973’s outlaw classic “Viva Terlingua”), a kitchen and a gift shop. And of course, there’s a stage. Luckenbach has live music every single day, most often in the form of a picker circle. Anyone is welcome to show up with their guitar and join in the acoustic jam. Previous attendees include a guy named Willie, who has held his legendary Fourth of July picnic in Luckenbach at least four times. And, per the official blog, in the fall 2012, a blonde pulled into town on the back of a Harley, climbed atop a picnic table and belted out the song “Delta Dawn” like a pro. Which she was—because it was Tanya Tucker. That’s the kind of randomly awesome thing that happens in Luckenbach.
The drive from Austin is always a pretty one because of the rolling hills, wildflowers and wineries. Plus, this being Texas, you pass by pastures filled with cattle, horses, goats, bison and zebras. (Hello, exotic game ranches.) The kids played their favorite car game in the back seat—“Stop hitting me, I’m not hitting you, yes you are, no I’m not”—while Chris and I took in the scenery. Then we pulled into Luckenbach and were immediately greeted by a noisy rooster and three men on Harleys. (I don’t think they were traveling together unless that’s a new Groupon Adventure.)
“Is this entire town just beer and motorcycles?” Jack asked.
“Pretty much,” I happily answered, and skipped off to order my petite Mother’s Day brunch of a corn dog, a pulled pork sandwich and two bottles of Shiner. We then spent the rest of our day in Luckenbach listening to the live music, hiking around the river, playing washers and eavesdropping on the family at the next table who had presented their Grandma with a lovely Mother’s Day present of a whoopie cushion. (“Now I can fart any time I want, y’all!” said the delicate senior flower.)
And of course before we left, the boys had to visit their friend Tumbleweed, the cuddly 1000 lb. Longhorn bull. Tumbleweed’s very funny handler/BFF asked the kids if their “sister” would like to sit on the bull, too. “Stop pandering to me,” I told him. “You’re better than that.”
“I’m not pandering,” was his answer. “It’s Mother’s Day. I’m marketing, darlin’. Now do y’all wanna touch these horns or not?” For some reason, I didn’t. I was a little worried Tumbleweed wouldn’t like the smell of my Aveda hair products and go nuts on my middle-aged ass.
Well, that probably wouldn’t have happened, now that I think about it. Tumbleweed doesn’t seem like the excitable type. But at that point I was ready go home and take a big nap after a relaxing, fun day in Luckenbach, where the town slogan is “Everybody’s Somebody.”
Especially on Mother’s Day.
And now because you all have THAT SONG stuck in your head, get down to the basics and enjoy yourself some Waylon: