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Three Guys Eating Week Three: Harris Country Market - A hidden gem in Town Bluff

3 guys eating

By Jeff Fatheree

Hello again fellow foodies. This week we went to Town Bluff (at one time the temporary county seat, but we’re not here for a history lesson) where you can find Harris Country Market.

This was the first time all three of the titular guys in this series were able to sit down together to enjoy a bite.

Linda Harris, the proprietor, created a brand-new offering of a specialty burger, which, after some names were thrown around, was ultimately dubbed “The Harris Heat Burger,” and all three guys were fired up to try it.

Chris and Jeff both have a great love of all things spicy, and Caleb, well he tolerates some heat.

The three guys walked into this store and found a full-service establishment; a real, old-fashioned country store. You can get gas, groceries, tackle, live bait and the deli has food cooked fresh and hot.

There’s a great many folks who come to the area for prime fishing on the nearby lake, and at Harris’s Country Market, there’s some great vittles to start off one’s fishing trip (or for grabbing supper on the way back.)

If you have never been here, you have missed a jewel in Tyler County. Mrs. Harris is a wonderful host and typically you will have to go to the picnic tables across the road to dine.

She, being the gracious host, made room for us to dine inside and get the atmosphere of the store.

Although the guys aren’t around to judge the ambiance of the establishments they stumble into for this undertaking, Harris’s would be tops in that department, if they did. Nothing but friendly folks and good conversations.

The guys started the visit with the homestyle burger. As they brought it out, the guys could see that it was made the same way mamma cooked them back in the day, with lots of love.

Harris HomestyleCALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Harris homestyle cheeseburger

The smell and look made mouths water as the guys began their journey for this installment.

As you know, the three guys really enjoy the time spent together as well as the food. The burger weighed in at 13 ounces and was a good-looking burger. The price of just the burger is $4.99 and a good deal. The first bite is good, the taste and blend of the condiments and vegetables just took you back to your childhood. 

All the guys agreed the first bite, both from the visual and taste standpoint, merited a five-burger rating. Overall impression it is a good burger. We all agree that you need to come try this just for the homestyle.

Then the guys came to the Harris Heat, and prepared for a historic occasion. As the new specialty burgers approached the table you could smell bacon and burgers blended with pepper jack cheese. It was quite a large construction, well, actually that’s a bit of an understatement.

The behemoth appeared and the guys prepared to be the initial tasters of this great-looking specialty burger. This cannot be stated enough: this was a first for Harris Country Market. History was made with the rolling out of this specialty burger.

Weighing in at 20 ounces the Harris Heat is a big meal with double meat bacon pepper jack and jalapenos.

The meat was juicy, the vegetables holding the meat and jalapenos. Caleb gave it a 3-burger rating on first bite impression, while Chris and Jeff dubbed it 4. The cost of the burger is $8.99, and it is enough food for two people (or one hungry youngster.)

The heat is not that strong as Chris and Jeff thought it should be with the name; that it should have brought a little more fire. It is a 5 from Caleb overall, and he watched the preparation of the burger.

Heat BurgerCALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Harris Heat Burger

 The bottom bun began sliding off and having to reassemble the burger. So, Chris and Jeff gave it a 4 in the overall category.  The average was 3.93 burgers for the homestyle and 4.26 burgers for the Harris Heat. We would strongly recommend a trip to the east side and try out the Harris Country Store and get your grub on. Thank you again to A-1 Wrecker for sponsoring this week’s event.

The three guys look forward to seeing you again next week as we travel just barely south of the county line and try out the GiGi Deluxe down at GiGi’s Kountry Kitchen in Village Mills. They’re taking a break this week due to the unwanted guest that is Hurricane Laura.

Like the Tyler County Booster on Facebook and watch the Three Guys Eating crew giving you a run down on some of the best burgers in Tyler County.

Stay safe (and hungry) friends!

 

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Tribute to a friend of many

IMG 2788CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Editor of the Tyler County Booster, Chris Edwards.

By Chris Edwards


Mike Paddie was my friend.

I’m willing to place a hefty wager that many of you who are reading this can say the same. Mike was a good friend to many, many folks in Tyler County. He was one of those rare folks who exuded nothing but kindness and goodness.

I did not have the good fortune of knowing him as long as many of my fellow Tyler Countians did, but with Mike, how long or how short one knew him goes out the window. The great qualities were so evident and made him someone you’d want to know from the first time you met him. A co-worker only met him a couple of times, but was heartbroken, nonetheless, when news of his passing came down the pike. When that news became public, and was reported in various places on social media, a deluge of tributes poured in for the man whom many said was Warren ISD.

First and foremost, Mike was an educator, and he loved his job, but he loved the students most of all. Many of the Warren alumni commenting on posts about him cited him as a true mentor teacher or as one of the most positive influences in their lives. Those kinds of words speak volumes to the man’s heart and paint a picture of one who truly believed in service above self.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll write it here: if you didn’t like Mike Paddie, then, brother, you should probably rethink some of your life’s choices.

Many folks outside of Warren knew him as the indefatigable chairman of the county Republican Party. It was always a joy to be around him at different events, and sometimes he’d greet me with a “Well, you guys are the real news, unlike that fake New York Times, so I guess you’re welcome,” which was chased with a friendly laugh.

Working elections with him was always a blast. Election nights can be chaotic for everyone involved, but with Mike on deck, there was always a sense of order as well as good humor. He was always so helpful with anything that needed to be done, or just in terms of gathering information as results rolled in. It certainly won’t be the same this coming Nov. 3 night without his smiling, helpful and ever-witty presence.

I’ll also miss him at our Wednesday afternoon Rotary Club get-togethers, and last time I spoke to him, he was looking forward to being able to start coming back more regularly.
As one of his former students and close friends commented, he was just someone who curried such respect that it was hard to not refer to him as “Mr. Paddie” or “Coach” as opposed to his preferred and simple “Mike.” I can hear him saying “It’s Mike!” to me in the back of my mind.

A few weeks ago, I wrote something here about my friend Kurt who’d just passed; something to the effect of what a class act he was, and how his kindness and dignity should be something we should all aspire toward. The same is true for Mike Paddie.

Having lived for a bit in the academic world in a past life, I have met many pedantic pedagogues who rely all too much on advanced degrees as a source of respect. Some swing around backgrounds in esoteric subjects – from hermeneutics to medieval dream poetry – with all the might of Buford Pusser’s fencepost toward those whom they think might be impressed.

Mike Paddie was not one of these people. Sure, he had an advanced degree, and he was certainly a master teacher, but above all he was a master human being.

Mike did not want any memorial or funeral service, but here’s an idea: if you knew him and want to pay homage, engage in some random acts of kindness. Check on your elderly neighbor or buy him/her a meal or some groceries; pay a bill for someone in need; put a few dollars into the hand of a friend who can use it or tip your waitstaff or bartender a little extra.

The world is a little less kind of a place without Mike’s presence, so let’s do what we can to fix that deficit.

I know Mike was looking forward to the start of this new school year, in spite of all the challenges afoot, and I know we all wish he were still here. I’m pretty sure that when he crossed over to the other side, however, he received the kudos “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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Three Guys Eating Week two: The Burger House – A cure for the burger blues

3 guys eating

Week numero dos in this series that chronicles the adventures of, well, three guys eating, finds them posting up one afternoon at Colmesneil’s venerable Burger House.

The Burger House is the sacred cow (heh heh) of burger joints in the region, but time will tell as to whether or not it offers up the best in burgers.

This week, Caleb and Chris were joined by a guest judge. The third guy (Jeff Fatheree) was out on vacation, so Mike Rastatter, a Pennsylvania transplant to the pineywoods under the employ of Woodville Pellets, was on hand. For Mike, it was quite an enjoyable experience as he has not enjoyed a good burger since before the pandemic changed everyone’s lives.

Everyone involved had a most excellent time and enjoyed some of the restaurant’s legendary burger goodness, especially Mike who concluded the afternoon’s gluttony with “you can’t go wrong no matter what burger you choose here.”

The first sammich up to be put before the three guys’ critical tastebuds was the establishment’s monstrous house specialty: The Bulldog Burger. This work of hamburger art, which Chris referred to as “the eighth wonder of the modern world,” features two meaty patties, bacon, jalapenos, an onion ring, cheese, ranch dressing, etc., etc. It weighed in at a colossal 25 ounces.

The Bulldog Burger

Bulldog burgerCaleb Fortenberry | TCB Bulldog Burger

Texture:
Caleb – The first-bite impression of this specialty burger had a crunch to it. I like that a lot! Bacon’s not supposed to be chewy and stuff, so a 5 for texture.
Chris – I second Caleb’s motion on texture and gave it a 5. My first-bite impression is, in spite of all the different things going on with it, all worked together as a great and wonderful whole.
Mike – Five-star rating for texture. Held together well, with a nice, crispy edge to it.

Taste:
Caleb – I’m going to give this a 4. It’s good but doesn’t send me over the edge to say this is the best burger I’ve had in my life. There was not anything in it I didn’t like.
Chris – I’m more of a simplicity is beautiful kinda guy with burgers, and many things, so I’m giving this a 4. It’s great, but I’m a no-frills type.
Mike – I’m going to go with the local knowledge and go with 4 stars. I’m not a jalapeno guy. Overall very good, though.

Overall Impression:
Caleb – I’m going to say this is a 4. Coming out of the kitchen it looked awesome, and it was stacked so high, I wondered ‘How am I going to fit this in my mouth?’ but I did.
Chris – My overall impression, I’m going to have to go with a 5. This thing is just mammoth. Words can’t adequately describe the architecture of this burger.
Mike – I, too, am going to have to go with a 5-star rating. Even though I’m not a jalapeno guy, the presentation of the burger coming out was super. The ingredients are fresh. Everything is super-good.

The Homestyle Burger

BH homestyleCaleb Fortenberry | TCB Burger House homestyle burger

The Homestyle Burger was up next. It weighed in at a hearty 12 ounces.

Texture:
Mike – I think I’ll go with a 4-star rating. The bun was a little more than what I think it needed to be for the burger itself.
Chris – I’m going with a 5 for amazing. For me it’s all about that meat, with its perfect char and it holds together so well. Wonderful!
Caleb – For me it’s a 3. Not bad, but a little dryer than I wanted it to be.

Taste:
Chris – I’m going to have to go with another 5. The blend of the perfectly cooked meat, the red onion and other fresh condiments just make for a classic, great taste.
Mike – I’ll go with a 4-star rating with the taste. Everything is very fresh and very good, but maybe because I’m following up the Bulldog Burger which had an explosion of taste, and this one just doesn’t have all of that flavor in it. A tough one to judge because of the order we ate.
Caleb – I gave it a 4 for taste. It’s good. The onions give it a sweet flavor. It’s a good burger with a nice little char on the end.

Overall Impression:
Chris – I tried to cast bias aside, as this is the burger, I ordinarily always order from the Burger House. With that in mind, I gave it a 4, overall,
Mike – I’ll give it a 4 overall, to remain consistent. Everything is super-fresh and came out of the kitchen with a great presentation.
Caleb – Gave it a 4 overall. It’s good and coming out it looks like a burger. Nothing crazy about it and following up a specialty burger is hard. Maybe next time we’ll do the homestyle first.

Overall, here are the tabulations from the three judges’ votes for the Burger House fare:

Bulldog Burger – 3.93
Homestyle (regular) burger – 3.89

 

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The Beef Trail: Tyler County’s Forgotten Road (Article VI)

1 Cattle DrivePhoto by Kim Fritzemeier | In a scene reminiscent of the mid 1800’s – one visible from the front porch of the Peter Cauble house, columns of Texas longhorns are herded along a sandy road much like the Tyler County Beef Trail.

By Col. Eddie Boxx

The first Texas Tycoon, John Henry Kirby, known as the “Prince of the Pines” thoroughly embraced his pioneer upbringing in Tyler County and his family’s arrival via oxen-drawn wagon. After crossing the Neches River at Jordan’s Ferry in the northeastern portion of the county, the Kirby family traveled along the Old Beef Trail or the Jordan Ferry Road, as it was sometimes known, to their eventual homestead near Peachtree Village.

After arriving in 1850, they followed a procession of settlers, some who stayed in Tyler County, and others who continued 2 John Henry KirbyJohn Henry Kirby, the “Prince of the Pines” (Photo used by Creative Commons license)westward. As an influential titan of the timber trade, it is somewhat fitting and yet ironic his family traveled on a road he would later help eliminate.

During the latter half of the 1800s, his lumber and railroad empire would make rutted, serpentine and bumpy roads like the Beef Trail obsolete. In previous articles, we have mapped the eastern half of the route between Jordan’s Ferry and Billums Creek. To recap, the road paralleled the Neches until it climbed a north-south ridge chain of hills near the future town of Rockland. After traveling south avoiding numerous waterways and sloughs, the Kirby’s like others before them, veered west near the Sand Hill community and followed the narrow ridge down into the Billums Creek bottom. Flowing north makes Billums unique for a Texas waterway as most tributaries run south to the Gulf of Mexico. Geographically the Billums crossing served as a midway point for travel through Tyler County, and during the mid-1800s, it delineated road maintenance responsibilities by the commissioner’s court. Here we include our final documentation of this important Texas road in Tyler County. After climbing out of the Billums watershed, the Beef Trail continued westward until it entered the nearby James Calk land grant. A historically significant headright awarded during the Texas Republic.

Twenty-eight-year-old James Calk joined Colonel Fannin’s famed (and later doomed) regiment and was killed January 6, 1836 in Velasco. A member of the battalion that marched from Macon, GA, he was one of their first casualties. Just a few days later, the iconic, Georgia-produced Texas Lone Star flag was raised for the first time, and a few months later, Fannin and many of the Georgia volunteers were massacred at Goliad. After the war, Calk’s sister and heir, Sarah (later married to a Julius Younse) was entitled to the Texas veteran’s one-third league of land (1476 acres). Why the Calk headright grant was in Tyler County, and how Calk (and why just him) was killed remain a mystery, but it establishes a remarkable linkage to a fallen soldier during the earliest phase of Texas Independence.

For our Beef Trail purposes, this land grant signifies its importance along an east-west route through Tyler County. Later in 1862, Sarah gave her power of attorney to William Mann to sell the property (she was living in Arkansas) and in the field notes, the surveyors clearly include the Jordan Ferry Road. Continuing west, the next Beef Trail “bread crumb” is the “Old Ballard Place” on McGraw Creek. Paired with the James Sturrock homestead, local historian Lou Ella Moseley includes both homes as anchoring the Old Beef Trail. Additionally, the Tyler County Commissioner Court records show Lot (father) and Eli (son) Ballard as road maintainers for the section that “commences at the ford on Billums Creek on the Jordan Ferry and Moscow Road to Peachtree Village…and extends to Williams Seaman’s.” The road eventually merges with the original Coushatta Trace at Seaman’s Prairie. The open area remains a pronounced geographical feature in an area dominated by pines. The black earth grassland dates back to when buffalo would travel into east Texas and today is still easily recognizable. Besides being one of the first families of the county, the Seaman’s were the only ones known locally to herd and drive cattle to market along the Beef Trail. In his seminal research on Texas cattle-producing counties, Terry Jordan’s Trails to Texas: Southern Roots of Western Cattle Ranching includes Seaman’s prairie as the perhaps the only herd in Tyler County. Moseley mentions Tom Seamans driving cattle both ways along the trail and also includes a local gin, an important community resource, on the route. “A gin was built east of the home [Seaman’s] on the Beef Trail which led beyond Moscow.” Here the Belt’s Ferry Road leading southwest from Fort Teran joined with the Jordan Ferry “cut-off” and then traveled along what is now FM1745. This important crossroads featured prominently in the Tyler County Commissioners’ Court minutes and served as an important regional intersection. These roads merged westward as one and crossed Russell Creek ford near the Mount Hope Methodist Church. The nearby and still visible “Wishing Rocks” swales are the next stop as the road heads toward the historic Peter Cauble House.

3 Cauble House 2Chris Edwards | TCB The historic Peter Cauble House as it appears today.

A veteran of the war for Texas independence, irascible and a larger than life figure, the fiercely independent Cauble interestingly enough did not escape the county-mandated obligation to maintain the road that passed his house. He and his family were regularly assigned to oversee and repair a trail that would pass his eventual gravesite. The dogtrot house with the Beef Trail-facing porch once used to hail travelers about news of San Jacinto is still standing and maintained by the Heritage Village Society. It served as a major milestone as the Beef Trail passed through Peachtree Village along the timbered ridge into Polk County and on to the Brazos Valley.

Article 6 map

Col Eddie Boxx teaches at Baylor University and writes for the Heritage Village Museum – an organization dedicated to education and preservation of Tyler County history. If you have any information about Tyler County’s Beef Trail, the Heritage Village Museum would like to hear from you.

 

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