Last year on my birthday I spent the day in urgent care, and was sent to the hospital by ambulance, where I spent 6 miserable days. This year my birthday was significantly better, and involved a trip to Austin for oral argument in the appeal of a case we tried in October 2015 in La Grange.
La Grange, population approximately 4,600, is located about 100 miles from Houston. Established in the 1830s, the town is rich in history, although it’s best known as the location of the Chicken Ranch — “the Oldest Continually Operating Non-Floating Whorehouse in the United States,” and the subject of the Broadway musical and movie “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” (Don’t get too excited — the Chicken Ranch closed in 1973.) Kinda makes you wonder how many floating whorehouses are out there, doesn’t it?
As is usually the case, my role was towards the end of trial, when I was summoned to assist with the jury charge. And as is also usually the case, opposing counsel did not appreciate my sudden appearance in the case. At one point, as we were attempting to draft an agreement and opposing counsel would not tell us what he would agree to, he emailed me and copied everyone in the case (oh, grow up): “I don’t understand this. I think we have had a good working relationship with the attorneys of the firm of which you are of counsel.” And his point was?? Was he telling on me? He never did share what it was he would agree to. Yeah, we won’t be exchanging Christmas cards.
Once outside the big city, I really enjoyed the drive, past fields of purple grasses and ranch lands (and an occasional smoke stack):
The trial took place in the Fayette County Courthouse, which is the most stunning Texas historic courthouse I have been in yet. Built in 1891, the Fayette County Courthouse is a “prime example of the Romanesque Revival style of architecture with its arched openings along with the use of different stone types and colors.” It’s built of red and blue sandstone, pink granite, and white limestone. Thanks to a $4 million grant from the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program of the Texas Historical Commission, the courthouse was beautifully restored in 2003.
In the center of the courthouse is a 30′ x 30′ courtyard, around which the courtroom and offices are arranged:
I think opposing counsel got excited believing there were “hot chicks” in the courthouse:
Note the star of Texas on each seat:
The all-important jury box:
Here’s the star witness from the trial — steel casing used in an oil well:
I won’t bore you with the details of the trial (we saved that for the jury), but we won. 🙂
Before we leave La Grange, a few highlights of the courtyard square. Lukas Bakery is across from the courthouse at 135 N. Main St. I saw the A/V guy in the courtroom munching on oatmeal cookies from there throughout the trial. I brought home a bag of their Cherry Slice cookies, which everyone went crazy for (I have had no luck reproducing them at home).
Prause’s Meat Market, at 253 W. Travis St., is a popular lunch destination, but you better get there early before the barbecue sells out. The day I visited, there was a line out the door of women waiting to buy meat:
There are a number of retail establishments in the courtyard square, including this one that caught my eye:
Heading back to Houston, I stopped at the La Grange Smokehouse, 4315 E. State Highway 71, to pick up some smoked beef sticks. Not much to look at inside, but those beef sticks are really tasty:
Usually when I see a Buc-ee’s billboard I pay attention and start counting down the miles (Yes! Yes! I CAN hold it!):
But if you look a little closer, you’ll see that right after the Buc-ee’s sign is Hruska’s, 109 W. Highway 71, in Ellinger, established more than a century ago, and well known to travelers for its famous kolaches. So, sorry Buc-ee’s, but history won out this time.
Hruska’s menu lists 16 varieties of kolaches, a dozen different klobanskys (savory filled pastries, what we call sausage kolaches), 8 different cookies, breads, rolls, and filled cookies they call “skrumptions.” My family was pretty happy to see me when I got back home, but was even happier to see the pastries, beef sticks, barbecue, and cookies I brought them.
Our opponent was not happy with the outcome of the trial, and appealed. And so a year and a half later we traveled to Austin for oral argument of the appeal — on my birthday. We got in around noon the day before, and headed over to the Texas Chili Parlor, established in 1976, for lunch.
My hotel room had a view of the beautiful Capitol:
The rest of my group bailed on me for dinner, so I strolled over to The Clay Pit, an Indian restaurant down the street from the hotel.
Dining alone I was only able to sample a few things, but I really enjoyed my meal and recommend this reasonably-priced restaurant. Being the party girl that I am, I started with a glass of hibiscus iced tea and an order of papadum, which came with red and green chutneys:
For my main course I ordered channa saag, which was made with spinach, garbanzo beans, and herbs, and was served with rice:
Bright and early the next morning — my birthday — we headed over to the Third Court of Appeals for argument, located in the Price Daniel, Sr. Building. According to the historical marker outside the building, Price Daniel held more offices of public trust than any other individual in Texas history. Learn something new every day!
The building’s exterior was plain, but inside the courtroom was elegant, with comfortable upholstered benches. Usually the benches are wooden and it feels like being in church; this felt more like being at the movies:
My boss expertly argued the appeal in his typically animated manner, and we felt like it went well. We left, as always, cautiously optimistic. It’ll be a few months before we find out which side won.
On the way home, my boss steered us towards Meyer’s Smokehouse in Elgin. That was some good barbecue — so good I forgot to take any photos before everyone scarfed down their lunch.
Back at home, my family was waiting to take me out for birthday dinner at Provisions, one of my favorite restaurants. We enjoyed everything we ordered, including:
White asparagus vichyssoise
Ham ‘O Day (a family favorite)
Bread service of Rye Berry Pumpernickel with Bay Blue and Beer Jelly
Cresta Di Gallo (a permanent fixture on the menu)
Fish Taco (from The Pass menu) — kombu/snapper/uni/avocado
King crab, watermelon, and tomato gazpacho (from The Pass menu)
All in all, it was a great birthday, full of fun surprises, and a million times better than last year’s!