This is a guest post originally posted at Momma DJane's place:
For those of you who don't know me, I'm an author who writes quirky, fun fiction about good, strong women who find themselves in life changing situations. My specialty is writing traditional serial fiction. This means the story is published as it's written, in this case, two chapters a month. Through a series of events that can only be called serendipity, I spent much of the last year working on a serial fiction, the Queen of Cool, set in Fort Worth, Texas.
Writing the Queen of Cool was a huge opportunity for me as I'd never written a story outside of my hometown, Denver, Colorado. I'd never been to Fort Worth. I knew only three people who lived in the Dallas Fort Worth area. So this was a big risk, a big challenge and just a freakin' deal.
Being me, I spent the year immersed in the deeply weird, dark, and wild places of Fort Worth. (The whys of this would require hours on the couch. Suffice it to say that being a little... erm... quirky, the weird tends to find me in a kind of like finds like manner.)
Here's my top five fun and fascinating facts about Fort Worth.
1. A documented sighting of a Bigfoot/Mongollon Monster like creature at Lake Worth or The Lake Worth Monster or Goat man:
In the summer of 1969, there were a number of sightings and incidents involving a half-man, half-goat creature. It was said to stand seven feet tall. This photo was taken by Allen Plaster near Greer Island. Before you dismiss the Goatman as a hoax, here are a few things to consider -
- 40 - 50 people saw this creature over the course of six months. Many unrelated people saw the creature at the time.
- This type of creature have been seen in Texas since the 1800s. There is one described in the "Legends of Texas published by the Texas Folklore Society in 1924. The creature was described as covered in short brown hair and was very fast." (This link has a great round of the historical sightings of these creatures.)
- The Goat man sighting is considered by actual Bigfoot researchers (yes, there is serious scientific research into the phenomena) as one of the true sightings of these elusive creatures.
Honestly, if I had little boys, I would hype them up with the Goatman story and set them loose on Greer Island. They could run around for an afternoon or ten and you'd all have a blast.
2. Fort Worth is a hotbed for other elusive creatures - the Romani: Who? Gypsies.
Fort Worth is home to one of the largest populations of Romani in the country. Pushed for centuries from one country to the next, they come to the United States to seek asylum and live in peace. Unlike the usual depiction of a Gypsy as a thief or trickster, the Romani are hardworking people who blend into the background in Fort Worth. They tend to be highly educated business owners. When I was in Fort Worth doing research, a waiter (the only person who had any contact with them) told me that you could always tell the Romani by their expensive clothing, purses, shoes, and jewels. The Romani tend to keep to themselves with the hope of keeping their culture, language, and traditions alive. They live together in an area by the Naval Air Station called White Settlement.
The Romani are not to be confused with the Irish Travellers, these people were highlighted in the television show, the Riches. While the Irish Travellers claim genetic links to the Romani, and call themselves Gypsies, they tend to be louder and more visible than the Romani. Irish Travellers live in Fort Worth during the winter months and travel the country doing (or not doing) construction work in the summer.
3. Bonnie and Clyde hung out in the Stockyards in 1930s.
While almost everyone in Fort Worth can articulate the date Elvis played the Colesium, January 20, 1956, very few remember that Bonnie and Clyde were born just outside of Dallas. While on the lam, they held up in the stockyards at the Stockyard Hotel. In a time when no one but the very wealthy had money and everyone felt desperate, Bonnie and Clyde robbed banks. This quote from Wikipedia best describes their appeal then and now - "The country’s money simply declined by 38 percent", explains Milner, author of The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde. "Gaunt, dazed men roamed the city streets seeking jobs... Breadlines and soup kitchens became jammed. (In rural areas) foreclosures forced more than 38 percent of farmers from their lands (while simultaneously) a catastrophic drought struck the Great Plains... By the time Bonnie and Clyde became well known, many had felt the capitalistic system had been abused by big business and government officials... Now here were Bonnie and Clyde striking back." Bonnie and Clyde were folk heroes to average people. They spent a great deal of time playing cards in the saloons in the Stockyards.
I was able to sneak one Bonnie and Clyde story in the Queen of Cool. I was never able to find out it's origin but it was told to me as if it was fact: Bonnie loved to play cards. While the two of them were recognizable together, they were safe apart. Bonnie would play cards in saloon across the street from the Stockyard Hotel. Clyde could sit up in the window and watch her play. The person tell me this story thought he was watching to make sure she didn't pick up a few men with her winnings. I personally believe they cheated at cards that way. With Bonnie's back to him, he could easily see her cards and two or three other players around a round table. The question is how did he signal her. I pose an answer - moving the curtains changed the light - but I challenge you to check it out yourself.
Visiting the Stockyards is another great trip to take with kids. Round up the kids and head down to the stockyards during the day when the bars are quiet. Tell them the cool story and ask them to figure it out. There are waterways and paths to explore as well as great old West stuff to do in the Stockyards. The last scene of the Queen of Cool happens on the site of the Swift Packing Plant. This is a super creepy site that's also worth some exploration.
4. The nations oldest district, the Fairmont Historic District, is in Fort Worth.
The Fairmount has gorgeous homes, great coffee houses, quirky places to eat, world famous vegan restaurants, and the first community garden in Fort Worth. What more could you want? The neighborhood is one of those places where artists and lawyers live side by side in community. It has one of the most active neighborhood associations in Fort Worth, so if you move there, you may have to deal with the "Fairmont Mafia."
In the year that I was writing the Queen of Cool, the park in front of the main character, Lo Down's house was completely rehabilitated. When I went to tour, they proudly showed off all of its new fabulousness.
Just on the edge of the Fairmont is Chase Court. Chase Court was a small gated street just off Hemphill. The houses are big, gorgeous, and deteriorating.
If you find yourself cruising down Hemphill and have a few minutes, take a left at Chase Court. These homes almost reek of mystery and romance. Of course, if I had kids, I'd load them up and drive over to wander the streets. This might not be as fun as chasing after the Goatman, but in the middle of the Fairmont is Arts Fifth Avenue. If you love looking at old houses, you could set the kids up for a summer class in theater or dance or painting or all kinds of cool stuff and wander the streets dreaming of a cool mint julep.
5. Just north of Fort Worth, you can find lions and tigers and bears - oh my!
The International Exotic Animal Sanctuary is about twenty minutes north of Fort Worth. There you can find every thing from American Brown Bears to white tigers and snow leopards. The preserve takes in animals that have been neglected and often abused and helps to restore them to health and well-being. These animals, many of whom are on the endangered species list, are sought after by private collectors. These private individuals eventually become overwhelmed and the animal suffers.
And seriously? I thought everyone knew about the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary. But in talking to people in Fort Worth, Dallas, and around, the sanctuary seems to be a bit of a secret.
If you have a chance, check out their website. You can book a tour for yourself and your family. The animals are amazing, the facility awesome, and it's all available to you, just outside of Fort Worth.
I hope you enjoyed my quirky facts about Fort Worth and that you have a few different ideas for adventures around time.
The Queen of Cool is an intoxicating ride across a landscape of insurmountable odds, covert government operations, and toxic weapons, where a courageous heroine who risks it all in the name of love. For the rest of April and all of May, you can download the Queen of Cool and set your own price at Smashwords. The book is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon and our store. The Queen of Cool is released two chapters a month on Wednesdays at the Queen of Cool website. For more information Go to the Queen of Cool Facebook page or follow the Queen of Cool on Twitter. You can find more photos of Fort Worth locations in the Queen of Cool on Pinterest.