Wine, Rain and a Wedding at the LBJ Ranch


The morning rain had stopped.  Our favorite wineries did not open until 10 o’clock so we decided to stop at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.  We had been there before but had never toured President Johnson’s Texas White House.  Checking in at the visitors’ center, we were informed that the last tour would begin at 11 o’clock  because a special event was being held there.  The pass for the window of the car was put in place, and we started on the self-guided LBJ Ranch Tour Route that follows the Pedernales River.  The park brochure describes it this way.

“President Johnson drew strength and solace from to demonstrate the cultural and conservation practices associated with ranching prompted President and Mrs. Johnson to donate a portion of the LBJ Ranch to the National Park Service in 1972.  Johnson stipulated to park planners. that the LBJ Ranch remain a working ranch, and not a ‘sterile relic of the past.’  To that end, the National Park Service maintains a herd of Hereford cattle descended from the President’s registered herd and manages the ranch lands as a living demonstration of ranching the LBJ way.”

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The road meanders along the river until it turns and crosses it via a low river crossing.  It took us past on old school where Johnson attended, his reconstructed birthplace, the Johnson family cemetery and a modest farm-house where his grandparents had lived.  Remnants of Johnson’s Herefords grazed quietly as we passed cattle guard after cattle guard seemingly accustomed to the slow movement of cars.

The first thing you see at the Texas White is Johnson’s jet.  He would fly into Austin on Air Force One from Washington and then take the smaller jet to the ranch where a small landing field was constructed.  Husband reluctantly agree to a photo.

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The building next to the jet had been an airplane hangar originally, but it had been converted into a visitors’ center.  At the entrance a huge white tent was set up with white tables and chairs and red-checkered table cloths; people were busy decorating the tables and getting things set up.  I imagined some local fundraiser for a charitable cause.  We proceeded inside to obtain our tickets at $3.00 each.

Soon a park guide gathered our small group together.  We walked to the entrance of the house that was surrounded by a low white picket fence.  A small delivery truck full of wildflowers, some in blue and white pots, was being unloaded.  I assumed they were for the special event scheduled for later.

For those of us who had lived through the Johnson administration years, being inside the Texas White House was like going back in time.  There were three television sets placed side by side so that the President could keep up with the news on CBS, NBS and ABC – no cable in those days.  Telephones were scattered all over the sprawling house; the guide told us that Johnson was constantly on the phone.

At the end of the tour our park guide casually mentioned that we had chosen to visit at a special time as Jennifer Robb was getting married that evening at the ranch.  So that was the reason for the flowers and tent!  I remembered that Lynda Bird Johnson Robb was the daughter of President and Mrs. Johnson but did not know anything about her children.

Now I wanted more details!  I walked to the front of the house outside the fence and saw a woman (dressed in shorts & boots)  placing what appeared to be horseshoes on metal rods.

“Excuse me, ” I said.  “Are those for the wedding?”

“Yes, ” she replied. “They will be married up at the house on the lawn, but she wants to cut the cake down here by the river.”  That would explain the flowers being unloaded there, I thought.

“Oh, that will be lovely!  May I take a photo – I won’t include you in it.”

“Yes, that’s fine,” she replied as she continued placing the horseshoe things firmly in the ground.

I could just imagine flowing white silk fabric being entwined in the horseshoes to guide wedding guests toward the Pedernales River and a bride’s table with a huge cake.
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On our way out we had to pass the tent.  Politely, I asked if we could take a picture.  Again, a friendly wedding planner said it was fine and volunteered that the couple had reception the night before in Austin at the LBJ Library and that she hoped it would not rain.   I joked that my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail.

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On out way out we stopped at the Johnson family cemetery where President and Mrs. Johnson are buried near the Pedernales River.  At each of the headstones was a huge bouquet of wildflowers in short blue vases identical to the ones brought for the wedding.

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Later that afternoon as we left our last winery, Texas Hills Vineyards, just outside Johnson City, it started to rain.  Oh, I thought, I wonder if it is raining back at the LBJ Ranch.

To find out how the wedding went, click the link below to a website maintained by an Austin newspaper. 

http://society.blog.austin360.com/2015/05/26/everyone-is-safe-but-rains-soak-lbj-ranch-wedding-for-johnson-family/

For those on Facebook, check out even more intimate photos of the wedding on their 5/27 post.

https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofLBJNationalPark

CONGRATULATIONS, JENNIFER AND JOSH!

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40 thoughts on “Wine, Rain and a Wedding at the LBJ Ranch

    • I have read the first two books and you have reminded me to check out the rest. You must visit as there is so much history there. You can hear actual phone recordings of Johnson and so many others. Worth the trip and you could check out the wineries! Thanks for taking time to visit and comment!

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      • Thanks for stopping by mine as well!! I’ve been so behind on reading other blogs, but I miss it, and once in a while I get to go and find your awesome writing. Thanks for your continued support.

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    • Thanks, Amy! It is a good place to visit and learn about the Johnson era as well as the rural life in the area 1900-1918 via the Sauer-Beckmann farm there also. It is good for teaching and there are annual activities.

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  1. Oh………….how very wonderful!!! As you know, we have had the opportunity to wander in upon many wedding on our travels (and a couple of funerals), but never was there any aristocracy involved. I do treat the Johnsons as Texas aristocracy. Marvelous!! My mother made an annual trip to the LBJ ranch with her friends and so loved going to visit. Thank you for this post, I am sure you had a delightful time and you brought back all sorts of memories for me. I shall peruse the FB pictures this evening!

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    • I am so pleased that you enjoyed it! I was so surprised that everyone was so open about not keeping the wedding secret. Last time we toured the Saue-Beckmann Farm and learned about rural life in the area. I recognized many tools from ones my grandparents had. It is fun to run into weddings – perhaps funerals too – on travels. I remember a few also. I wonder what Crawford Texas has to offer these days?

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    • Thank you! Who knew they were on FB! I tried to find more photos but could not. I so wanted to stay but Husband would not let me!!!!! Oh, well, he compensated me by buying bottles of my favorite wines to celebrate the pagan holidays and I am ready for the summer equinox!

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  2. How wonderful to slip backstage and view wedding preparations. One sets out on a journey with a destination experience in mind and then you have a bonus experience. And that’s what makes life wonderful. Thank you Jo Nell for sharing your trip to the LBJ Ranch.

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    • Yes, it was fun to be there for the preparations and then to find out a few days later how it turned out even with rain. I thought they handled it all very well and made the most of a special time. That’s what we have to do when we travel on that road of life. It is wonderful to hear from you! Hugs to you, Virginia, and hope you are doing well!

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  3. What fun! I love the Johnson Ranch, it is such a pretty place. What a fun day trip. Of course I love the Hill Country, my parents lived there for years and meandered throughout for decades. Thanks for the memories.

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    • I seem to remember your posting something about your parents living in the Hill Country. It is getting more and more crowded and more expensive to retire or live there, but we can still afford to visit. Glad to bring you some memories.

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  4. Always fascinated by the homes and/or libraries of the Presidents…. whether I voted for them or not. This sounds like a lovely experience.

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  5. I really enjoyed this! I’ve only visited the ranch once on a bus tour from the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm and around the LBJ ranch, just after Lady Bird died. The house was being restored to its 1960s appearance, not yet ready for visitors. Our driver was very knowledgeable, so that was enjoyable. He talked about the German heritage of Fredericksburg, and said that when he joined the U.S. Army he amazed people with his German-Texas accent.

    How fortunate you were there for the wedding preparations! I hope to return some day to tour the LBJ house. I go to Texas at least twice a year, but spend most of my time in northeast Texas visiting family.

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    • Oh, I am so glad you enjoyed the tour! The wedding preparations made it really special. You should go back when you get a chance and take a tour of the ranch and house. You can do a self-guided car tour with a tape to guide you. For the house itself there is a knowledgeable guide that walks you through with a small group. There is so much history and beauty in the area…plus the wineries! Thank you so much for the visit to my Texas blog!

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