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EL CAMPO AND BEYOND:  We were fast losing daylight in El Campo but I couldn't resist a few downtown pictures.  In Nada I stopped in front of Leo's place for a pic, then homeward bound on I-10.

Story & Photos by IRA KENNEDY

The New York, Texas and Mexican Railway converged at Prairie Switch. Dubbed the "Pearl of the Prairies" thousands of cattle were shipped from there to San Antonio every year.  But the Mexican cowboys, disinclined to such poetic musings, switched the name to El Campo -- "The Camp" and the name stuck.

Further up the road is Nada, which means "nothing" in Spanish, but its name isn't about nothing -- more on that later.

E.jpg (2697 bytes)l Campo, being a cowboy campsite, was a town without buildings until 1889 when the general store opened, then  in 1890 a post office was built and El Campo headed for progress. Six years later a fire nearly wiped out the town but that wasn't holding them back.  By 1900 the community had 130 businesses and things were looking up.  For a little while anyway.
       A year to be exact.  In 1901 another fire took out a large section of the El Campo business community.  Seems fires are something of a tradition in the Coastal Prairie.  Anyway, El Campo must have taken a page from The Three Little Pigs because after the second fire folks started building everything out of brick.
Blessing.jpg (29614 bytes)        Before visiting El Campo Ms. Intrepid and I took a little detour to Blessing some 15 miles to the south.  It was here sometime around the "El Campo Fire of 1901" a rancher, Jonathan E. Pierce, started pondering the possibility of a rail terminal on his ranch. First, he granted right-of-way to the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway and once the deal was done he decided to name his new town  "Thank God".  The U.S. Post Office wasn't any too keen on that name so in 1902 Pierce settled for the name "Blessing". Then he set aside 640 acres of his ranchland for the town, where he built Hotel Blessing and a brick bank, both of which still stand today.
ElCampo5.jpg (28172 bytes)       Entering El Campo, Ms. Intrepid took Nigel the Land Rover on a few laps around the square while I walked about taking pictures and, as you can see, most every building is brick.  But that's not the really interesting part.  Seems at every turn there is a mural.  In fact you can take a tour of the dozen or so  Murals of El Campo.  ( Oops. I forgot to mention the half dozen Murals of Palacios.) Judging from the styles, most of the murals were painted by Dayton Wodrich.   Unfortunately, none of the pictures on the websites do the murals justice -- you'll just have to see for yourself.
Cola1.jpg (46973 bytes)        We were wearing out the daylight and pointed Nigel the Land Rover north toward home.  I'd picked out another curiosity on the map -- a place called Nada.
       How towns come up with names doesn't seem to follow any rules at all.  From such wanna be places as Eden and Utopia to El Campo which it isn't The Camp anymore, logic is elusive. 
       Then you have towns like Nada.  Originally named Vox Populi (from Latin vox populi vox dei, "the voice of the people is the voice of God").  I reckon, when the people (or God) finally spoke up the name was changed to Nada.  It was was intended to be Najda from the Czechoslovakian word najda or hope.
Nada2.jpg (18814 bytes)        Maybe the people had one idea (Najda) and God had another (Nada).  Maybe folks couldn't spell.  Maybe it was named by the Czechs and put into print by Mexicans.  Maybe the situation was hopeless to begin with.   Who knows?  But I'm sticking with Nada and its Spanish meaning because it lives up to that reputation.  Apart from Leo's Place there were only two or three other buildings plus an old gin along the road.  All on one side of the highway, just like Pandora.  You have to respect a town that most Texans consider Nothing and do nothing to change the name.
        Well, Ms. Intrepid, Nigel the Land Rover and I made it to The Coast and back all in one day.  We haven't decided on our next trip but I'll be the first to admit that we'll have to head that way again.

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Texas Hill Country Wine: Torrie de Pietra Vineyards and Winery near Fredericksburg