Today was a gorgeous day in east Texas; 65 and sunny. I celebrated my current unemployment status by taking the car and camera and heading out State Road 279 to the towns of Elom and Ben Wheeler.

On the way to Elom are the enchanting Blue Moon Gardens, a 25-year labor of love for two local ladies. I read about these gardens when I picked up a copy of the local County Lines Magazine. These two best friends started with a small wholesale herb garden, and have grown their enterprise to include a lovely garden center, seven greenhouses, a number of support buildings, classes, and now a fiber arts studio.

I wandered the grounds for at least an hour, learning about my new Sony α6500 DSL camera. Since it was about noon, the UV and polarizing filters that Shawn thoughtfully bought me were a great asset. Presented here are some of my favorites (unretouched).


After depleting a camera battery, I continued westward into Elom thinking I’d grab a bite to eat.

…Elom is not much of a town, really. I stopped at the single stop sign, and opted to skip the two cafes in town in favor of whatever lay down the road.

The next town is Ben Wheeler. While it appears to be about the same size as Elom, Ben Wheeler presented me with two slightly larger dining options. I opted for Moore’s Store, a building that opened as a general mercantile in 1933. The building was converted to a restaurant and bar with live performance space in 2010 (I think). Folks were friendly and the Dancing Pig sandwich really hit the spot.


A deep front porch on this and the buildings next door served as a boardwalk to a small group of buildings nestled in a large lot a few doors down. The first contained a woodworker who made some beautiful tables and cutting boards – I wish I’d had the presence of mind to snap a few photos. The next was closed, so I headed into the third — a knife maker.

Dan Harrison has been making knives for nearly 70 years. A master craftsman and native Texan, his custom knives sell for upwards of $1,000. He forges the steel and crafts the handle, and does the majority of the inscriptions. At 80 years young, he continues to pass along his art through workshops and classes.


The handle on this Bowie knife is made from a mastodon tooth!
The handle on this kris blade is made from mastodon ivory, and the blade is Damascus steel. I was told that this particular knife blade was folded 512 times, and was valued at $10,000 for insurance.


I’ve definitely noticed a remarkable array of craftsmen in Texas. They aren’t all clustered around the town square. And you certainly won’t find them in the new shopping centers out by the WalMart. These skilled artisans may work in wood, metal, paint, ink, or live plant material. Others are machinists, mechanics, welders, lathe operators — and let’s not forget the ranchers and the farmers. So many people creating, with their hands, goods that make life more livable for the rest of us. Where would we be without them?