Stephenville, TX

This town calls itself the “Cowboy Capital of the World” and for good reason.  Stephenville (and greater-Erath County) has more world-championship cowboys per capita than any other town on the planet.  These aren’t just guys who wear hats, drive big trucks, and pretend to own horses.  These are the real deal.

Start your visit with a walk along the Cowboy Capital Walk of Fame right off the square.  The plaques on this city block honor the men and women who have made an impact on the cowboy culture of Stephenville.  To meet one of these cowboys first hand, head to Chick Elms Grand Entry, a western store and rodeo shop started in the 1950 by walk-of-famer G.W. Lewallen and now run by rodeo champion Chick Elms.  Pick yourself up a shiny pearl snap, and then head to catch the action at Lone Star Arena.  This facility is constantly hosting rodeos and riding events.  If you’re brave enough, you can even jump on a bull and try it yourself.  For a taste of Stephenville’s modern culture, check out the campus of Tarleton State University and cheer on the Tarleton Texans.

If you’ve worked up an appetite or need some caffeine to jump start the day, head to Beans and Franks, a coffee and hot dog bar serving house-roasted coffee and gourmet hot dogs.  (Warning:  please consume these separately, as a coffee-hot dog pairing is not advisable).  I recommend diving into the “Big Nasty”, a jalapeno sausage topped with chili, cheese, and cayenne pepper.  Woo-Doggy.  For a taste of Stephenville’s history, head to Jake & Dorothy’s Cafe, a town institution that’s been turning out delicious chicken-fried steaks since 1948.  They’re so popular, they’ve even made the cover of Texas Monthly and may have invented the waffle fry.  ???  Make sure to wash it down with a slice of pie.

For a sweet treat, I recommend heading up the road to Dublin, TX.  It’s a little bit like Ireland….OK, it’s nothing like Ireland.  But you can make a very sweet visit to Dublin Bottling Works, the home of bottled Dr. Pepper.  While these guys may no longer be pumping out this Texas original, they do have 7 other flavors, and XXX Root Beer.  Grab an old-fashioned soda at the soda shop and then wash that down with a root beer float.  MMMMMMM.  And another place to see is the Ben Hogan Museum honoring this Dulbin-born professional golfer who is regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time.  While you’re here, keep your eye on the sky, as you might just see one of Dulbin’s other famous visitors….UFOs.