picture of houses in dish texas

This Denton County Town is Named After Dish Network

Texas is full of cities named after different places – from Athens to Italy, and all the way to Palestine. However, the town that I visited recently wasn’t named after a country or even a U.S. state- rather it carries the name of a satellite TV provider. Welcome to DISH, TX. Yep, that’s right, in all caps.

I first heard about DISH as I was browsing around on Wikipedia. On a page listing the different municipalities making up the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the unique name caught my eye right away. Upon doing some Googling, I learned about the interesting story of this tiny town. Located about 16 miles to the southwest of Denton, it was originally known as Clark. In 2005, this community of less than 400 voted to rename their town in an agreement with Dish Network. In return, all residents received ten years of free basic service, a satellite dish, and a DVR.

Upon arriving in this town of only 1.6 square miles, I noticed the number of relatively new homes there. Given that there are many new developments in the nearby town of Justin, it didn’t come off as much of a surprise.

photo of homes in dish texas

photo of homes in dish texas

One thing I wanted to see was how many homes still had Dish Network satellites, since the agreement had expired in 2015. As ironic as it sounds, I saw many more DirecTV dishes! Maybe that would have been different had Dish Network continued to give at least some sort of discount to these residents. Perhaps it was just the quality of service. Really can’t say either way.

In many of these ranch-style houses, the backyard area was fairly large. I’m sure the residents wouldn’t be complaining of being crowded here! All this space made it look like a relaxing place to live and enjoy life.

picture of houses in dish texas
The spaciousness in this neighborhood was nice.

However, this town has had its share of problems. On the other side of the neighborhood were natural gas drilling sites. DISH sits in the Barnett Shale, a huge source of natural gas spanning seventeen counties. Some residents have reported health problems as a result of the chemicals emitted from production. Other folks, like town founder L.E. Clark, say that there are no issues. “There is a sniffer checking air quality. The pump is located 1800 feet from my house, and if anybody would be breathing it, it would be me. I have had no problems.”

picture of a natural gas site in dish texas
One of the natural gas sites.

Just down the road from the natural gas sites was the town hall. A small single-story metal building, it is only staffed for less than 3 hours a day, four days a week. A satellite dish was erected in the lawn close to the roadway – a landmark of sorts.

picture of the dish texas town hall
Dish’s Town Hall. I wonder what company the satellite dish atop their roof is.

An equally tiny park sat right behind the town hall. The playground equipment looked to be surprisingly modern and well-equipped for such a small community like this.

picture of a playground in dish texas
Behind the town hall was this playground.

Another neighborhood, this one considerably older and consisting of mobile homes, was located right across the street. Unlike the stereotypical trailer park most people have a mental image of, this neighborhood wasn’t cramped at all, and there was plenty of space in between units.

picture of mobile homes in dish texas

picture of mobile homes in dish texas

Having been to many of the small towns on the outskirts of the Metroplex, I enjoyed this mini trip to this very unique, yet relatively unknown little community. If you find yourself driving by DISH, pop in and check out it out- regardless of which satellite TV company you prefer!

 

 

downtown of West, Texas

The Tiny Texas Town Shook by a Fertilizer Plant Explosion, Five Years Later

April 17th, 2013 began just like any other day in the tiny town of West, located just north of Waco. In this tight-knit community of under 3000, the adults went to work, kids went to school, and it was life as usual in a small Texas town.

West, Texas welcome sign

However, before the day ended, life as residents knew it would drastically change. At 7:50PM, the West Fertilizer Company plant exploded after a whole stock of ammonium nitrate caught on fire. Two schools, a nursing home, and numerous neighborhoods nearby sustained extensive damage. With 15 people killed and another 200 injured, the West tragedy was one of the worst industrial accidents in Texas history.

West_Explosion_Aerial
An aerial view of the explosion site a few days after the event. (Photo by Shane.torgerson / CC BY-SA 3.0)
8734796461_58b130c3ed_k
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a memorial service for the victims of the fertilizer plant explosion at Baylor University in Waco on April 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

After an extensive investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms concluded that the incident had been an act of arson. To this day, there have been no strong leads. But whatever happened to this tiny community, stricken with grief and overwhelmed by loss? I wanted to find out, so I paid a visit to West over Labor Day weekend to see how much recovery had been done in the five years following the disaster.

downtown of West, Texas
Downtown West.

Once inside the city limits, it was only a few minutes before I reached the former plant site, where the explosion originated. What was an area flooded with first responders and later investigative personnel now sat there as a vacant lot.

west tx explosion plant
The former grounds of the West Fertilizer Company.

Talking with West Mayor Tommy Muska, he spoke very highly of the immediate recovery effort. “After the explosions, over 140 charitable organizations from all over the country came to lend a hand. From the Salvation Army to various churches, it was truly a faith-based recovery process.”

Not far away from the explosion site was the new combined middle and high school. Before the explosion, they were two separate campuses, with the middle school located right behind the plant and the high school just down the road. Both buildings suffered severe damage, and were rebuilt as one facility on the site of the high school. Classes were held at a temporary location until the new campus opened in 2016.

West,Texas middle and high school
The new West Middle/High School, opened in 2016.

The new school looked very nice, and was a gleaming example to the world that West would only let a tragedy like this make them stronger. Another sign of this town’s comeback were the many new homes seen in the neighborhoods lining the plant. Many of them were damaged beyond repair, and had to be razed. The new homes taking their place looked nice, and had I not known they were in West, I’d have thought this was a new development in Frisco or something!

west, texas new homes

west, texas new homes

Although recovery has come a long way, reminders of that tragic day can still be found. Just down the road from the plant site, I saw this now-abandoned duplex. Damaged in the explosion, the brick held but the windows and doors didn’t make it.

West, Texas abandoned duplex

Beyond physical damage, Mayor Muska said that post-traumatic stress disorder is still an issue for many residents. The community has stepped in to help heal emotional wounds as well, with Baylor University providing counseling services and other guidance to residents.

Another reminder of this incident came in the form of something much more positive – a park containing a memorial, commemorating the lives lost and providing a peaceful place for all. Mayor Muska said the memorial is expected to be dedicated next year, on the anniversary of the explosion.

West, TX memorial park
This park and memorial, located just behind the plant, will remember those killed in the explosion.

As I left West, I could feel the spirit of the community, and how strong they were to pull through this disaster and prevail. Despite all that happened, Mayor Muska said that today the local economy was healthy, and that the residents are very blessed. I could feel the same resolve while visiting Joplin, Missouri as well, the site of an EF5 tornado in 2011. As Americans, we may not agree on everything, but at the end of the day, everyone coming together to overcome tragedy is what makes our country so great.

West, TX Water Tower

Granbury Town Square

Granbury: A Great Texas Small Town Getaway Destination

Over Labor Day weekend, my family and I decided to visit a small town on the outskirts of North Texas – Granbury. The idea came up to head out there as I continued on my journey to see all 254 counties that make up the Lone Star State. However, after seeing everything there is to do there, I concluded that it’s also a great weekend getaway destination that’s not too far from the Metroplex!

Located 38 miles to the southwest of Fort Worth and named after Confederate General Hiram Granbury, this town is home to a population of just under 8000. It is situated off the banks of Lake Granbury, which is part of the Brazos River. Driving there was a breeze – coming from North Dallas, we took Highway 20 and 377 which brought us right into town after about an hour and a half.

Upon arriving, we went straight to the Historic Granbury Town Square. As we pulled in, I was surprised to see how busy it was! In other small towns, the square is usually pretty dead, but this one was packed with people checking out the many quaint shops, bakeries, and other businesses.

Granbury Town Square
The Historic Granbury Town Square.

Many of these stores sold apparel, while others carried wall decorations and other knick-knack items.

Granbury Town Square Shop
Small family-owned stores like these made up the retail scene here.

One of the stores that we stepped into, Odd Relics Vintage Shoppe, had antiques of all sorts. Walking down its aisles, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time!

Granbury Odd Relics Vintage Shoppe
Antique fans, tin signs, and more – you never know you’ll find at an antique store.
Granbury Odd Relics Vintage Shoppe
The store had a second floor, filled with even more stuff.

Speaking of stepping back in time, not only do the buildings here look charming, most of them have some sort of historical value. I saw State Historical Markers posted everywhere I looked. That alone is something you rarely see in other small towns!

Granbury Town Square Historical Marker

Nutt House Hotel
Historical markers are on many buildings here, like this hotel.

It wasn’t long until we came upon the Granbury Visitors Center, located steps away from the town square. Open and staffed seven days a week, you can get brochures, maps, and info about local events here. They even have free cookies!

Granbury Visitor Center
The Granbury Visitors Center.
Granbury Visitor Center
This is a good place to stop for more information about local attractions(or to cool down!).

The center of all these town squares is usually the courthouse, and Granbury was no exception, being the county seat of Hood County. There is a Parker, maybe Lampasas County flair to its architectural design, and was quite gorgeous. This building has been here for close to 130 years, having been built in 1890.

When we went, there were a number of booths set up right in front of the courthouse, where you could get everything from some Texas BBQ to homemade jewelry. A mechanical bull ride was even set up. This was all part of Shop, Stroll, & Savor, a one-day event that brought lots of people and vendors out here.

Granbury Shop, Stroll, & Savor

Granbury Shop, Stroll, & Savor

Just as it was starting to get unbearably hot, we headed off for our next and last stop after lunch, the Granbury City BeachIt’s definitely no Corpus Christi or Tampa, however if you want to find a peaceful place with sand and water located inland, this is it.

Granbury City Beach
The Granbury City Beach.

Unlike another similar beach in Little Elm, Granbury’s isn’t as crowded. The facilities looked to be well-maintained and welcoming for people of all ages. Food and drinks were being sold at a nearby pavilion, and a Hilton Garden Inn was located within walking distance should you want to stay a bit longer. I also saw a fair amount of jet ski and boating activity here, and it just seemed to be a nice place overall to enjoy the beauty of the Brazos.

Lake Granbury
Lake Granbury is a nice place to enjoy the water, whether by boat, jet ski, or just on the sand!

Although there are a few other things to do in town, such as touring Revolver Brewery and exploring the Hood County Jail Museum, we had to head back home since we planned this as a half day trip. It was nice experiencing the vibrant small-town charm present here, as well as crossing Hood off the list of counties I have yet to see. If you are looking for a relaxing place away from the big city with plenty to do, Granbury is a great choice!