Llano: Not as Cool as Marble Falls

At Mahjong a woman tells of hitting a deer with her car.

“Totalled the car,” she says.  “It was terrifying.”

Then another woman tells her story of when she hit a deer.  Then another woman shares about the time it happened to her. 

“It’s not a matter of if,” says the woman next to me, her voice dragging with doom.  “It’s a matter of when.”

After Mahjong (a good day; Mahjonged practically every other hand!) I rush home and tell David about the deer. 

“The damn things are leaping from everywhere,” I say.  “They’re practically suicidal.”

“Let’s buy deer whistles for both vehicles,” he suggests.  And we do it right away.  Six ninety-nine at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. 

The next afternoon I must go to Llano to purchase batting for the quilt I’m making.  I invite David along. 

“We can eat lunch there,” I tell him.  “I’ll blog about it.  We’ll take pictures.”

Before we go we install the deer whistles on the sides of the front bumper of my car—and by we I mean David.   It’s not a major project—peel the cover off the two-sided tape and stick’ em on.  But David likes to keep busy, and I help him with that. 

Llano is pronounced Lann-o, a delivery that feels wrong to any person who sat through beginning Spanish; but this misguided diction simply serves to prove the intransigence of the area’s anglo-redneck etymology. 

The trip to Llano is a thirty-five minute drive up Seventy-one.  The topography is complex, both austere and lush—scrubby cedar next to green live oaks; graceful ups and downs, with the occasional dramatic jut of granite.  Though it’s cold out, and windy, the sky is cloudless blue.  We cross over creeks trickling around gray boulders.  Though the Austin-bound lane is busy, we make the drive to Llano without passing another car.  Not many people want to go to Llano, probably because they’re unaware of the exceptional quilt shop that’s four blocks past the Llano River Bridge.

The way we know we’re getting close to Llano is that the speed limit goes from seventy to fifty-five.  Then we pass a horse farm and the school; and the water tower rises up in front of us.  There isn’t much to Llano.  Highway Seventy-one passes right through it, leading to Brady (never heard of it) and then on to somewhere else.  Years ago, effort was made to attract visitors—there are boutiques, gift shops, and antique shops.  Two restaurants look interesting, but when we approach their doors, hungry for our meal, it’s to find that they’re closed.  Upon further inspection, as we stroll around the square surrounding the courthouse, it becomes evident that, though the bright signage broadcasts antiques and gifts and food, more than half the shops display Out of Business or For Sale signs. 

Not to disparage Llano—but really?  In all fairness, their population of thirty-three hundred is half that of Marble Falls.  But they have a pretty courthouse and an old-timey square.  Surely some savvy capitalist among their citizenry could use these assets to turn a profit.  No wonder people would rather live in Marble Falls, where the antique stores are actually open and the quaint Main Street is thriving; also, there’s a movie theater with six screens and at least eight fast food restaurants. 

All Llano has to offer, as far as I can tell, is the quilt shop, which is where we head next.  I love fabric; and they’ve changed things around since I was last in, which makes the whole set-up all the more intriguing.  The batik’s are now where the solids once were.  The brights and pastels have switched places.  It’s all I can do not to touch, to match, to buy.  But I have no current need for fabric.  The proprietor leads me to the back room, where we work together to cut batting from a massive mounted bolt.  David busily takes pictures around the shop.

“Usually I buy it packaged,” I tell her.

“It’s half the price this way,” she says. 

She folds the batting and transfers it to the front counter.  The price is, as predicted, half of what I usually pay.  I ask her if there’s a good place in town for Mexican Food.  She recommends Rosita’s and gives us directions.  Also, and this is one of the many things I appreciate about this quilt shop, it’s their policy that, if you don’t want a bag for your purchase, you receive a free fat square from the basket on the counter.  Yippee!  I select a square of blue floral. 

Rosita’s, not surprisingly, is not nearly as good as Janey’s or Marguerita’s, the two Tex-Mex restaurants in Marble Falls. 

The notable outcome of the day is—the deer whistles worked!  We drove all the way to Llano and back and didn’t hit a single deer. 

 To prove we were really there.  This is true, not made up.  

To prove we were really there.  This is true, not made up.  

 The courthouse is lovely, which should be conducive to successful enterprise in the surrounding square.  

The courthouse is lovely, which should be conducive to successful enterprise in the surrounding square.  

 The only reason to ever go to Llano.  

The only reason to ever go to Llano.  

 Me, wandering around in Fabric Heaven.  

Me, wandering around in Fabric Heaven.  

 This is Llano's idea of art.  Pathetic.  

This is Llano's idea of art.  Pathetic.  

 This is in Marble Falls, where there are interesting statues on every corner of Main Street.  

This is in Marble Falls, where there are interesting statues on every corner of Main Street.  

 This bronze, also in Marble Falls, is called Dragon Dreaming.  I imagine it wasn't hard to capture because dragons sleep a lot.  

This bronze, also in Marble Falls, is called Dragon Dreaming.  I imagine it wasn't hard to capture because dragons sleep a lot.