With apologies to the Wizard of Oz, the Robson Red Hat Ranchers Mystery Trip can best be described as ‘Ostrich, Wine and Boots, Oh My! On September 11, 24 brave and trusty ladies boarded a chartered bus and rode off to points unknown. Organized by Jan Utzman, Joan Krause, Peggy Crandell and Gayle Coe, members were driven past feed stores and grain mills and oil rigs to the small Texas town of Saint Jo, the oldest town in Montague County. Located near the headwaters of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, Saint Jo was an important watering stop for cattle drivers where the Chisholm Trail crossed the California Road. Today 1,200 people reside in Saint Jo and enjoy the informal life style and colorful history of this town located in the Red River Valley. Red Hatters began their visit with a tour and talk at the Stonewall Saloon Museum. The Stonewall was the first permanent structure erected in Saint Jo in 1873. It was built to accommodate thirsty cattle drovers. Accurately restored and furnished with original artifacts, it offered a realistic view of life in the “old west.” Of particular interest was the doctor’s surgical kit. Overpowered by saws and intimidating hatchets, it gave a renewed blessing for laparoscopy. Next, the sisters ambled over to the Davis & Blevins Gallery and experienced the artwork and exquisite gift items steeped in the rich heritage of the American West. The fully restored building displays unique artist-created products that cannot be found anywhere else. From hand-created artwork, the Red Hatters wandered into Mike Karnes, Bootmaker. Forget about buying boots here; this is a true custom-made order only bootmaker and teaching school. Students come from across the U.S. to learn the craft of authentic and original bootmaking. Bent over decades- old sewing machines, students were busy creating boots for private customers. Mike said that Montague County was the center of traditional boot making, and the cattle drovers would be measured for boots before they crossed the river during the cattle drives. On the way back, after being paid, the drovers would pick up their custom-made boots. Famished, the sisters gathered for lunch at the upscale Lazy Heart Grill. Nestled in a restored building with an historic western atmosphere, the ladies feasted on homemade meals and the awesome, incredible desserts famous throughout the county.
Topping off this incredible day was a visit to the Blue Ostrich Winery Vineyard, located just north of Saint Jo overlooking the Red River Valley. This family-owned vineyard and winery was once a breeder and rancher of ostriches during the 80s and 90s. Today the acres are filled with tempranillo, viognier and cabernet grapevines. Julie, one of the owners, walked the Red Hatters through the wine making process. The tour ended with a tasting at the 16-foot hardwood and granite bar. Each of the wines tasted were cellared and bottled at the winery. A toast to the ladies for a very unique experience.