Farming Heartland: Taylor, Thrall, Thorndale, Rockdale, and Calvert Professional Review and Guide
"Taylor’s claim to fame is its International Barbecue Cook-off in August and its controversial National Rattlesnake Sacking Championship and Roundup held every March. Taylor was the hometown of former Texas governor Dan Moody as well as Bill Pickett, an African–American cowboy born in the area in 1860. Pickett originated the practice of “bulldogging”—throwing a bull by twisting his head until he falls. The well-known cowboy also had a habit of biting the steer’s upper lip, a trick called “biting the bull” that he practiced on the rodeo circuit. When oil was discovered in 1915, Thrall’s population skyrocketed as over 200 wells were drilled. As the saying goes, what goes up must come down, and Thrall was back on its way down as soon as oil production diminished. Today it’s once again a quiet spot on the highway, composed of a few blocks of homes that run parallel to the railroad. It’s another farming community built alongside the railroad tracks. As you drive through Thorntown, you can’t miss the enormous cottonseed processing mill on the right, another of the many industries that make up this agricultural part of central Texas. Unlike most of the other towns on this day trip, Rockdale is not known so much for farming but for what lies beneath the soil. This region is rich in lignite, a soft brown coal used as a fuel to generate electricity. The resulting energy in turn fuels Alcoa, America’s largest aluminum-producing facility. Things stayed quiet in Calvert for many years, but because of its many Victorian homes and refurbished downtown businesses, the town was declared a National Historic District in 1978. Today Calvert welcomes visitors to browse in shops containing woodwork, candles, fine art, and pottery. This eTrail from the DayTrips series describes many fascinating, exciting, (and many free of charge) things to do, most within a two-hour drive of Austin. Each Day Trip includes destination highlights, places to visit along the way, choice restaurants and lodging, and shopping."