Monday, July 2, 2018

OTRA Part 6 - The Fat A** Ranch & Winery? Really?

Anyone remember Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the USA?   I can remember him from when he was inaugurated after the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.  The announcement of Kennedy’s death came over the PA system at the school I was attending near Pittsburgh, PA.   But you may ask: “Exactly how and why does this topic apply in this blog?”   

Well, proximity of LBJ’s “Western White House” to San Antonio, where we were visiting, is the reason.  As we had access to a rental car, and as we both were interested in visiting the ranch (which is now the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park), off we went!

It’s out in Texas Hill Country, and currently covers about 1600 acres, of which about 700 are officially part of the park.   On the bank of the Pedernales River, it's is a lovely setting.

 The ranch, from the entrance drive.

The Western White House

There is an airfield on the property, and on display is “Air Force One-Half,” the jet used to transport LBJ to and from the Western White House.   The 707 in use as Air Force One back then couldn’t land on the ranch’s short runway.  We parked our rental car on the “taxi-way” marked by yellow lights with blue lenses.  

From the American-Statesman comes the following info:

The National Park Service rescued the 50-year-old JetStar from the Pentagon's "bone yard," an open-air retirement home for more than 4,400 old planes in the dry, desert air of Tucson, Ariz. The government paid $261,000 to bring the plane to Texas, to provide shelter and to restore the exterior of the VC-140 Lockheed aircraft with a sparkling new paint job that replicates the outside of Air Force One.

LBJ traveled on a Boeing 707 for most trips when he was president, but he also had a fleet of smaller planes available to him, including several JetStars. The larger plane could not land at the ranch because the 6,300-foot asphalt airstrip was not long enough. However, a JetStar could land and taxi to within 200 yards of LBJ's so-called Western White House along the Pedernales River.

"They could conduct the business of the country right here," said Russ Whitlock, superintendent of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park near Stonewall. "But without aircraft like the JetStar, it wouldn't have been possible."

This JetStar, tail number 612490, made numerous trips for the Johnson White House, including taking staffers and aides on flights to Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic during the Johnson White House years. It also flew to Puerto Rico.

The plane was a flying ambulance at times. It was dispatched by LBJ at least twice in the middle of the night for emergency medical missions. Johnson sent his doctors in the JetStar to assist former President Dwight Eisenhower, who had suffered heart pains in Georgia in November 1965. Cardiologists also scrambled to board the plane in August 1966 to treat the gravely ill president of Nicaragua, René Schick. The Central American leader died while the JetStar was still in the air.

Air Force One-Half

Remember the Amphicar?  That amphibious car from the era 1961 to 1968 (about 3800 built) which could function as a boat?  There was a 1962 model at the LBJ Ranch.  Still is there!!


After we finished up at the LBJ ranch, we headed to a couple more sights – one was the Fat Ass Ranch and Winery…yep, that’s its real name.   Couldn’t miss that photo op, which on my list of strange names ranks right up there with Toad Suck, Arkansas (discovered in my trip last January.)

We didn't have time to go in and sample the libations (happy hour is 5PM), but some folks were there enjoying the atmosphere at about 1) - and our share of the booze!   (Apparently they figure it's Happy Hour "somewhere.")

Remember Waylon Jennings singing “Back to the Basics of Love,” which was released in April 1977?    I really like that song, even though I didn’t listen to it much back then.  The lyrics say “Lets go to Luckenbach, Texas…”     It was only a couple miles off our route, so we did.   

Unfortunately, due to an event going on at the town dance hall (possibly a reason for the town's continued existence), we couldn’t drive down its main street.  But on Google Maps it appears to be a rickety, very old western town (allegedly now a population of 3), on a short loop road, and from the perimeter parking lot, we couldn’t see anything to alter that impression.   The only good pic I could get was of the sign…and a "bucket of bolts" pickup sunk in the mud out front.

Waylon Jennings had a fabulous voice.    

I say “had” because he reportedly passed on from this world in 2002, at about 65 years of age, due to diabetes-related complications.  Maybe I’ll try listening to some of his other music.  Like a replay of the theme from the Dukes of Hazzard!  Some of us in the right age category remember that show...if not by name, then by the Dukes' famous General Lee  (a copy of which I visited in Nashville in 2015).

It certainly was a copy-car...the driver's door opened.  I didn't have to climb through the window!

More later…



  1. Getting around this great country is wonderful. I had the pleasure of getting to the Reagan Library back in 2011. On my desk is my photo of me coming out of the door on Air Force 1. If you ever get out to the coast you should stop at see the Library in Simi Valley.

    1. There are many interesting sites to visit, everywhere one goes in the country. While it's unlikely that we will get back to the west coast any time soon, that is definitely a good suggestion.

      Thanks, Pat!



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.