Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tales N Trails

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

Standing in front of the Tails N Trails Museum

Still under construction, the "barn" will add
immensely to the museum's display space.
The Tales N Trails Museum is a feature attraction of Nocona. For almost two decades Nell Ann McBroom, aided by her husband Dennis and by her many friends in Nocona, has worked to develop this excellent museum, which is located on Highway 82 on the eastern outskirts of town. The hilltop site was donated by the family of rancher and oilman Joe Benton, who amassed a vast collection of artifacts pertaining to the history of Nocona and of Montague Country. Although it took 15 years to raise funding for a suitable museum building, Tails N Trails Museum today exhibits a large portion of the Joe Benton collection, along with numerous items donated or loaned by men and women supportive of the museum. Indeed, a 9,300 square foot “barn” is nearing completion a short distance behind the main museum building. This spacious new structure will house agricultural machinery and other large items. From the richness of its exhibits to the quality of its facilities, Tales N Trails is a museum destination that will reward a Texas history buff.

Museum display of the famous Nocona boots.

Nell Ann McBroom, whose great-grandfather founded Nocona, directs Tales N Trails with dedication and resourcefulness. I met Nell Ann and Dennis at a couple of history conferences during the past year. Nell Ann invited me to provide a program for the annual Membership Meeting, scheduled for Friday evening, May 20. She and Dennis had seen me speak about “Gunfighting in Texas” at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, and they asked me to present the same program at Tales N Trails.

A 1/6 working model of a 1920s
oil field Spudder.
Karon and I arrived at the museum early on Friday afternoon, May 20. We were greeted by Nell Ann, who gave us a quick tour of the museum, including the room where I would speak. Soon we drove downtown, where Nell Ann arranged for us to tour the Nokona American Ballgloves factory. Karon and  I were met by genial Rob Storey, Executive Vice President of this unique factory – unique because Nokona now is the only company in the United States which manufactures baseball gloves. Rob conducted our tour, beginning with historic equipment such as leather football helmets and venerable softball and baseball “mitts.” I’ve written six volumes of baseball history, and for several years I coached high school football and basketball, so I reveled in the displays of vintage sports items. Rob took us from station to station in the factory, and we observed the fascinating process of fashioning baseball and softball gloves. I was deeply interested, but Karon, who is a seamstress, was absolutely intrigued. We also learned that Rob Storey is an active board member of Tales N Trails, and there is a fine Nokona display in the museum.
Mural displaying the museum's primary focal points.

One block from Nokona we checked into our hotel, a converted commercial building which owner-manager Bob Ferguson built one room at a time. Red River Station Inn opened last December, and our hosts – Bob, Kristal, and their delightful seventh-grade daughter, Maddie Ferguson - offered a warm welcome. After Bob gave us a room by room tour, we changed clothes to return to the museum. We set up a book table and I arranged my pistols and gun rigs for use while speaking.
Display at Nokona Baseball Glove manufacturing plant.

Nell Ann and Dennis took us to dinner downtown at the Times Forgotten Steak House. The atmospheric restaurant offered a delectable menu, and Karon and I reflected that in the few hours since we had hit town we had enjoyed one terrific experience after another.
Karon and Rob Storey holding kangaroo skin, the
plant's softest leather.
Nell Ann had advertised extensively, but Nocona is a small town, and she hoped for a crowd of 40 or so. Instead, extra chairs had to be set up, and by the time I was introduced by Tom Horn, more than 70 people jammed the room. The audience was most receptive to my presentation, and we spent an enjoyable hour together. 

The next morning Karon and I were in no hurry to leave such pleasant surroundings. I took in the town with an hour-long walk, and we lingered in our room. We finally drove out of Nocona at ten o’clock, talking to each other about the people we had met and the historical experiences we had enjoyed.
One of the Nokona manufacturing rooms.

In the hallway of our charming hotel, the
Red River Station Inn.

With Nell Ann McBroom in front of a
Native American mural (we appear to be a trio).

With Tom Horn, a distant descendant of the notorious
gunman and scout.

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