Taking a Drive Out 529: Leaving Suburbia for the Open Road, a Bit of History, and Adam Lambert

F.M. 529 in Waller County, the cars are far and few between.

When I was a kid, sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, my dad would say,  “Do you want to go for a drive?”  We’d all pile into the car (the “we” that I recall most was just Dad, Mom, and me, because I was the youngest and the last one left at home) and head in some direction from the farm.  I suppose there were times when Dad had a particular destination in mind, but often we’d just take out and go wherever the car, and our whims, decided, driving for a couple of hours, looking at the  “sights”.  On some drives, we’d drop by a relative’s house or get an ice cream cone, but usually, we just drove, finally arriving back home.

I still like taking drives.  Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve often gotten into the car and just headed out without a clear destination, just enjoying the countryside and small towns I pass through.  Even though I now live in the suburbs, I still enjoy driving where the houses disappear and in their place are lines of trees, open pastures full of grass, and cool streams snaking through the countryside.

Since I’m on vacation right now, but still enthralled with having my own house and not wanting to take a real vacation, today I headed west on S.H. 529, the highway that is about a half mile from my home.

From Highway 290 to near where I live, F.M. 529 (F.M. = Farm to Market.  F.M. highways in Texas are usually shorter than S.H. roads (S.H. = State Highway) is 3 lanes each way, but as I drove west a few miles, it became 2 lanes each way, and once out of suburbia, it’s only a 2-lane road.

When you reach Stockdick School Road, you've definitely left suburbia. I took a detour down that road just because of the sort of provocative name. I didn't find any school, or anything else either.

In Bellville, you find one of the strangest courthouse-highway arrangements; Highway 36 divides to go on either side of the courthouse. There is a quaint shopping area on the courthouse square, but maneuvering this "roundabout" might prove difficult for a driver passing through this town for the first time.

I took some detours here and there, just to check out the “sights”, but finally ended up in Bellville, a cute county seat town about 30-35 miles from my house.  (Bellville is the county seat of Austin County, named for Stephen F. Austin and is steeped in Texas history.)

Despite the heat, the drive was just what I needed to get a taste of the country air and do some thinking.

The bridge passing over the Brazos River between Hockley and Bellville. This spot doesn't make the river look very impressive, but it does appear that this dead end river road is a favorite place for making out and drinking beer.

With the radio playing the whole drive, I  started  remembering about when driving between cities, the only stations that you could tune in were local AM stations playing country western music or the drone of fire and brimstone preaching.  As I was on a stretch of road between Hockley and Bellville (not on 529 then), Mix 96.5 started playing Adam Lambert’s new song, “If I Had You.”  I thought how much things have changed; even a gay kid stuck out in the middle of nowhere at least can listen to Adam Lambert and know somebody gay who is successful.  And that’s a good thing.

This little road trip today was also a good thing.  I didn’t or couldn’t stop every place that I wanted to take a photo; some places there just wasn’t anywhere to pull over and as it got after noontime, the heat made me just want to stay in with the cool AC.

Off of 529 east of Bellville, after driving through a tree-covered country lane, you'll find Pilgrims Rest Cemetery. Many of the stones in this cemetery, which is marked as a Texas historical site, have German and Czech names, some of the inscriptions in the original language. Down 529, there's a smaller, older-looking cemetery of the same name.

A stop to take a look at a historical marker proved to be the discovery of a Texan I had never heard about. Norris Wright Cuney was the son of a plantation owner and one of his slaves. He later became important in Republican politics in the latter part of the 19th Century.

You can read the inscription on this historical marker here.  This certainly gives a glimpse into what was once part of Texas history and politics, and perhaps the remnants still exist.

This old country church in Austin County doesn't appear to have services anymore, but its condition shows that its still being taken care of. You'll also find for-sale mega-mansions located on ranchettes as well as a couple of rural meat markets along this quiet strip of road.

Scattered alongside 529 in western Harris and eastern Waller Counties are any number of small- and medium-sized plants.

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Puddin’ Meat–Good Food for a Cold Morning; (Mom’s Recipe Found and Included)

A few days ago, I mentioned hamburger gravy, tuna gravy, and chipped beef gravy. Another of what I would call “country” foods that my mother made was puddin’ meat. We didn’t raise our own hogs (my sister says my dad thought they might hurt kids), but we frequently got pork from some neighbor, and for sure, we had ground sausage that we made into patties.

To make puddin’ meat, they would get a hog’s head and boil it for some time, and after it was very well cooked and then cooled down, Mom would clean the head and take all the actual meat from the bones. All the scraps-skin, bones, brains, and the like–got thrown to the dogs. Then with the meat and some of the liquid, she would stir in oatmeal, and cook it until it thickened. I suppose it got salted and peppered a little, but it didn’t have any other spices. She scooped the thickened combination into loaf pans, and they were put into the refrigerator to chill. (Mom’s recipe found, see it below.)

When it had set up, we would slice it into about 1/4-3/8 inch slices and fry it for breakfast. You didn’t need to put any grease in the skillet because the pork had enough fat in it to get browned up without burning. I always liked it fried really crispy, but some of the others liked it a little less so. She usually made 3 or 4 loaf pans of puddin’ meat, and it would last quite awhile. I know that it didn’t easily spoil because sometimes we would “take a break” from having it, and there’d still be maybe one more pan that we would eat later.

Sometimes, when Mom made puddin’ meat, she also made corn meal mush, which she also put in loaf pans, chilled, and then fried the same way. We used to put our homemade butter on the the fried mush. I liked them both, especially cooked for breakfast.

In later years, people didn’t butcher so much, so then the folks would buy a pork roast or loin, or some other “chunk” of pork, and make the puddin’ meat from that.

I don’t know where our family tradition of making puddin’ meat came from. While I was growing up, none of the people I went to school with made it. In my hometown, many of the people were of German-Russian heritage, and in our neighboring town (our farm was in between), most of the people were Bohemians (these days they call themselves Czechs). Some of the traditional foods that these people had brought with them (kolaches and bierochs), my mom learned to make and I can still make them today. Maybe my dad’s family had brought it from England, or maybe my mom’s family who were Pennsylvania Dutch (German) and New York staters of English background had made it. I know they have scrapple in Pennsylvania, but I think that’s something different.

My Mom’s Puddin’ Meat Recipe

  • 1 pound pork roast, cooked and ground up
  • Broth from the roast, enough to cover the meat
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

In broth, put as much oatmeal as you have ground pork roast.  Cook the oatmeal (regular oatmeal not instant) for as long as the box says.  Then add the ground up meat to the oatmeal mixture and pack in loaf pans.  Cover and refrigerate until chilled. (Usually overnight.)

Slice and fry until brown on both sides.  Good with toast.

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If you liked this one, you might also like “Coffee Milk and Hopalong Cassidy” and “Hamburger Gravy“.