Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Five Years at Texas Star

Five years ago today, we opened Texas Star Trading Company as a Texas book, gift and music store. Today we are celebrating our fifth birthday with cake, balloons, a ribbon cutting and free gifts from 10-2.

If you haven't checked out our web site, it is

We opened in a small 750-square-foot space in the restored Wooten Hotel next to the Paramount Theatre. Two years ago we moved up the street to 174 Cypress, a space almost four times the size of our original store.

When we started, we filled the room with books and some Texas gifts. Since then, we've added T-shirts, souvenirs, gourmet, jewelry, and most recently party items such as cocktail napkins, plates, cups, wine bags -- many of them with humorous sayings.

Books continue to be an important part of our store. Tom Perini's cookbook -- Texas Cowboy Cooking -- has been our best-selling book of any genre all five years that we've been open.

We reserve some shelves for Elmer Kelton's western novels, and Elmer has been so kind to do numerous book signings at Texas Star. He always draws a crowd.

Kinky Friedman drew huge crowds all three times he signed books at Texas Star. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has had two very good book signings at our store. And so many other authors have sat and signed books during ArtWalk, Downtown Dayz and other events.

We have a guest book, and over the years we have had visitors from all 50 states and, at last count, about 50 foreign countries. Right here in Abilene!

To all who have shopped with us these past five years, thank you. If you haven't had a chance to come by, we're at 174 Cypress St. at the corner of N. 2nd and Cypress. You'll see the Texas flags flying. Or check us out on the web.


Glenn and Carol Dromgoole

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Texas Brags, Buried Treasure, War Memorials

Sherrie S. McLeRoy has collected about 50 true Texas tales in her book, “Braggin’ on Texas” (TCU Press, $9.95 hardcover, part of the press’s Texas Small Books series).
Among them:

Mollie Bailey was the first woman to own and run a circus in the United States. Mollie lived in Texas at the time and flew the Texas flag over her circus tent wherever she went.

Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, for better or worse, is the largest producer of fruitcake in the world.

Daisy Dean Doolin of San Antonio invented the Frito pie.

Vern Dalhart, born Marion Slaughter in the Texas town of Jefferson, had the first country music hit to sell a million copies – “The Wreck of the Old ’97.

Cindy Walker of Mexia, who died in 2006, is the only American songwriter to make the Top Ten list in five successive decades.

The statue of Sam Houston outside Huntsville is the tallest statue of an American hero at 67 feet tall (77 feet counting the 10-foot base).

In 1929 a Texan, Bill Williams, became the first person to push a peanut up Pike’s Peak – with his nose. It took him 20 days and he wore out 170 pair of pants.

The Tyler Civitan Club was the first organization, in Texas and the U.S., to adopt a highway, and that was just 25 years ago.

Buried Treasure: Another book in the TCU Press Small Book Series is Patrick Dearen’s “Lone Star Lost: Buried Treasures in Texas” ($9.95 hardcover).

Dearen relates stories about a gold-laden wagon supposedly hidden in a lost cave, buried outlaw gold, Comanche jewels, and seven other tales of alleged wealth lost but not forgotten.

War Memorials: The Texas State Historical Association continues its series of small, informative paperback books on Texas history with Kelly McMichael’s “Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas” ($9.95).

McMichael tells the stories behind the various Civil War monuments in 60 Texas communities. Most pay respects to fallen Confederate soldiers, but a few also honor Union troops as well.

The book is divided into six sections geographically – East Texas, North Texas, Central Texas, the Panhandle and West Texas, South Texas, and Southeast Texas.

Taken together, the monuments relate the history of Texas and the Civil War. And you can take the tour without leaving home.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Local History in Plain Sight

Abilene High social studies teacher Jay Moore has created a new TV series on Abilene's cable channel 7 called "History in Plain Sight." The first episode aired on Tuesday and will be replayed several times in the next couple of weeks.

Through the generosity of the Dian Graves Owen Foundation and the sponsorship of the Abilene Preservation League, Jay is funded for five programs and hopes to do many more.

Basically, what he hopes to do is take elements from Abilene's past that are still visible today and tell the history of what they stood for and what they say about our heritage and our city today.

His first program focused on the Bankhead Highway, which ran right through the middle of Abilene. It was the first paved transcontinental highway in the U.S. There are still segments of the old highway visible today as well as motels and other business establishments that owe their founding to Bankhead travelers.

My friend Joe Specht, retired librarian at McMurry who has a keen -- some might say fanatical -- interest in the Bankhead, was one of the experts interviewed on camera. Jay Moore narrated the program himself and did a beautiful job. The camera work, the story line, everything about it was first rate. The program ran about 40 minutes.

Probably not too many people saw it because it hasn't received any kind of media attention yet, as far as I know, though surely that will change. I knew about it because Bill Minter of the Abilene Preservation League sent out an e-mail.

Anyway, it will be shown again aat 4 p.m. Saturday, , July 18; 8 p.m. Sunday, July 26; 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, and 8 p.m. Saturday, August 1.

DVD copies are available from Jay Moore for $10 ($11.60 with postage). Contact him at

The second program will focus on the people behind Abilene street names. Stay tuned for air times.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So Many Beach Books, So Little Beach Time

So you’re looking for a good beach, mountain or poolside read?
Well, here are three to consider:

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo (St. Martin’s, $24.95 hardcover) is more than fast-paced enough for men or women readers.

Although Castillo is known as a romantic mystery writer, there isn’t a lot of romance in this one, but there is plenty of suspense.

The principal character is Kate Burkholder, police chief in a small town with a dominant Amish influence. Kate herself was Amish before she strayed from the fold after the violent assault that has remained a family secret all these years.

Now that assault figures prominently in a series of murders that rocks Burkholder’s small town, threatens to reveal her family’s secret, and puts her life in danger.

Unidentified Texas Objects: Tales from the Weird, Wild West is Carol Walt’s latest book (AuthorHouse, $16, softcover).

The novel is a collection of short stories and a novella set in the fictional town of Brangus, Texas, which has certain similarities to the West Texas town of Cross Plains.

“The stories are meant to be amusing, perhaps thought provoking, and some of them have a little surprise for the reader,” she writes.

This is Walt’s fifth novel, and if you read one of her books you will probably go back for more. She is that good.

Carol is autographing books Thursday night (July 9) from 6-7:30 at Texas Star Trading Company. E-mail Texas Star at if you would like a signed copy.

Unidentified Texas Objects begins with a story set at an Abilene Air Force base (called Dugeness instead of Dyess). Tillie, from Brangus, has an appointment with a general to tell him about these weird sightings she has witnessed.

He seems to take her seriously, and in fact he takes her more seriously than she is led to believe. Meanwhile, all evidence of her visit to the base is obliterated.

“Buck and Sissy” is a tale of two lovers who turn out to be – well, let’s not spoil the story.

Walt even features herself as the main character in one story, “Stranger Than Fiction,” that involves investigators from the Department of Public Safety and the federal Homeland Security office.

Dog Nanny by Ann Whitaker (Wild Rose Press, $14.99 softcover) is the first novel by a Waco (formerly Abilene) author and teacher.

Whitaker combines her love of dogs, romance and mystery to weave a tale revolving around Julie Shields, a vet tech at an Abilene veterinary clinic who is called to Waco to help save a marriage.

Huh? Well, the wife in the marriage is so attached to her poodles that she gives them the total run of her mansion, including the bedroom. Her macho husband gives her an ultimatum: get the dogs under control or he will leave her.

Julie is called in to train the dogs, but the wife places unreasonable restrictions on how she can do that. Meanwhile, there is this very charming pilot who flies Julie to the mansion and takes an obvious interest in her. He is not what she is looking for in a husband, but, oh, how the sparks fly.

The sparks almost ignite a blaze during a passionate bedroom scene until, well, you might say there is doggus interruptus.

Whitaker will sign books from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, during the Dog Days ArtWalk downtown at Texas Star Trading Company.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Beautiful New Texas Cookbook

I got a sneak peek and an advance copy of a sensational new Texas cookbook by noted Fort Worth chef Jon Bonnell. The book is Fine Texas Cuisine and it's due out in August from Gibbs Smith Publishing for $30.

It's a gorgeous full-color book with enticing recpies for such things as:

-- Rack of Blackbuck Antelope with Wild Mushroom and Dijon Mustard Sauce.
-- Rocky Mountain Elk Tacos
-- Texas Ostrich Fan Fillet with Sherry-Laced Mushrooms
-- Pheasant Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Herbs in Phyllo

You know, the kind of meals you whip out when you get home from work. Just the other night we were debating whether to have Duck Meatballs Marinara, Quail Raviolis, or Seared Duck Breast with Wild Mushroom and Cabernet Demiglace. Maybe with a side order of Jalapeno Parmesan Creamed Spinach or an appetizer of Buffalo-Style Frog Legs with Gorgonzola Dippping Sauce, followed by Dublin Dr Pepper Float with Cinnamon Buneulo Cookies for dessert. Or perhaps Blueberry and Peach Beggar's Purse with Orange and Ginger Sauce.

The cookbook cover has a mouth-watering photo of Grass-Fed Texas Rib-Eye with Three-Pepper Compound Butter. And it only gets better!

If you would like to invite me over for Wild Boar Chops with Peach Barbeque Sauce, just say when.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Best Fried Chicken

We were in Dallas last weekend and decided to eat at a fried chicken place recommended by Texas Monthly -- Bubba's. It's in Highland Park. on Hillcrest between Lover's Lane and Mockingbird.

Carol and I each ordered the two-piece dinner (leg and breast). She had mashed potatoes and green beans; I had mashed potatoes and okra & tomatoes. It was a good dinner, but we both came to the same conclusion: it wasn't anywhere close to the best fried chicken we had eaten.

The best would have to be Ellen Webb's, which is featured in her cookbook, You'll Be Going Back for Seconds. Ellen is my mother-in-law, so I'm sure I am biased, but I'll put her chicken up against anyone's. I also included a chapter about Ellen's fried chicken in my book, A Small Town in Texas.

A close second would be the The Judge's fried chicken served at Perini's Steakhouse as part of its Sunday-only buffet. Tom Perini is also a cookbook author. His book, Texas Cowboy Cooking, is on my list of 10 Great Books for Your Texas Library and has been the best-selling book, of any genre, at Texas Star Trading Company all five years that we have been open.

Ellen's and Tom's chicken is not over-battered like so much commercial fried chicken you find these days. And Ellen and Tom both cut up their chicken so that there is a pulley bone. or wishbone, which is becoming a lost art, I'm afraid.

Back to Bubba's. We filled up on just one piece (the breast) and the veggies and the excellent yeast rolls, so we took our leftover pieces back and put them in the fridge in our hotel room. I'm pleased to report that Bubba's passes one important test of good fried chicken: it is as good, if not better, cold as hot.

By the way, you can get autographed copies of Ellen's and Tom's cookbooks, as well as A Small Town in Texas, from