Orange Boy haven been bit by a rattlesnake made me recall my childhood years. While I was raised and spent most of my life in California, my grandmother, my father’s mother, was actually from Texas. One summer when I was about eight years of age, my grandmother decided to take me with her on one of her summer trips to Texas. Every summer starting in June, my grandmother would leave California, and return to Texas to spend the next couple of months, with her friends and family, still residing there. So why did the rattlesnake bite remind me of Texas?
Well for centuries, my distant family lived and worked on farms in Texas, and as farmers, there where always rattlesnakes present on their property of course. Life in Texas was quite different. It was something my grandmother thought that all of her grandchildren needed to experience. To escape from the city life in California, and to visit our rather large family and learn about their long and fasinating history. Legend has it, that the day before my grandmother’s sister was born, Jesses James rode into town. According to the stories told by my relatives who lived mostly out in the backcountry, Jesse was a kind man. During many of the string of robberies the James-Younger Gang made from Iowa to Texas, the James-Younger Gang sought refuge on small little farms located way out in the Texas countryside.
The countryside was so scarce that farms where located literally miles upon miles away from one another. This made them the perfect place to stop without ever being noticed. One fateful night, my great-grandparents heard a knock on their front door. To their surprise, there stood before them, the James-Younger Gang. Now my great-grandparents where god-fearing people, who would have given anyone the shirt of there backs, so despite everything the gang had done, they couldn’t turn them away. Instead they put them up for the night and where so surprised by the manners and kindness of the gang, Jesse James in particular, that the following day, when my grandmother’s sister was born, they decided to name her Jesse after Jesse James, or so that’s how the story goes…
Orange Boy having recently been bitten by a rattlesnake brought back memories of the Texas countryside, and all the history I learned and encountered during the childhood summer I spent there. On the one hand you had the simple country folks, such as my great-grandparents, and the outlaws such as Jesse James, on the other, you had the prominent businessmen such as W.H. Stark. All of who would shape and make Texas what it is today.
The W.H. Stark House stands in Orange, Texas, as a tribute to a man, who at the age of 10 started working on his family farm, much like my great-grandparents, but who, unlike my great-grandparents, by the end of his life, became a prominent businessman and philanthropist. He is perhaps best known for being president of Lutcher & Moore Lumber Company in Luther, Louisiana, but also had financial interests in the “Orange Car and Steel Company, Orange Rice Mill, First National Bank, Sabine Packing Company, Orange Products Company, Sabine Supply Company, Orange Investment Company, Holland Hotel Company, Texas Creosoting Plant, Yellow Pine Paper mill, and Orange Cameron and Land Company.”
As you can see, Texas is full of history, and the W.H. Stark House is a perfect example of an individual and his family who helped shape it. To visit the W.H. Stark House is to step back in time. You can view various pieces of 18th and 19th century decorative works, such as the “Napoleon Bonaparte Death Mask,” or the “Crest of the Wave”, sculpture created by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, student of Rodin. A walk through the homes first, second and third floors, will reveal, beautifully constructed 1900’s Victorian architecture, the kind no longer found in homes today. There is much to take in and absorb here in this home.
Listed in the National Register of historic Places, and recorded as a Texas historic landmark, one can step back in time and tour the W.H. Stark Home, Tuesday thru Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at a cost of $5.00 per adult and $2.00 per senior. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you too can expose yourself to the wonderful history of Texas…
It was because of Orange Boy’s rattlesnake bite that memories of things I hadn’t thought about in years, returned. Thoughts of the warm Texas countryside, of friends and family, long gone, and of the vast amounts of history I was exposed to at an early age. The trip changed my life. It led me to pursue and nearly obtain a degree in anthropology, it exposed me to family and friends I never knew, and taught me more about myself than I could have ever dreamt possible. What can the history of Texas do for you? How can Orange Texas change your life? There’s only one-way to find out…visit, and experince the vast history yourself.