I wandered up to Hico last weekend, and discovered a town with its own Billy the Kid legend – plus cool murals painted on old brick buildings, shops peddling Western-themed merchandise, and a restaurant that serves dang good tortilla soup.
My friend Marcy lives near Blanco. She got stir crazy and invited me to make the two-and- a-half hour drive from her place in the country to Hico, which is located between Stephenville and Killeen. Since I’ve recently become obsessed with small Texas towns (I ventured to Sanderson a few weeks ago, then stumbled upon Rock Springs the other day), I immediately agreed to go.
We rolled into Hico just before noon, and settled in for lunch at Jersey Lilly’s Mexican Restaurant. Quesadillas, check. Tortilla soup, check. All good.
You might recall that Judge Roy Bean, who doled out law west of the Pecos, named his saloon the Jersey Lily after the famous British actress and socialite Lillie Langtry, who was born in 1853. (You can check out Bean’s old digs in another cool Texas town, Langtry, in Val Verde County west of Del Rio.)
We wandered into a couple of shops, our masks firmly in place. (Masks are not widely worn in Hico, although someone tied a red bandana around the statue of Billy the Kid at one end of town).
Hico reminds me a bit of Fredericksburg, circa about 1985. It’s a good place to buy vintage posters advertising old-timey rodeos, etched wine glasses, brass fixtures, straw hats, throw blankets, cowboy boots, ruffly clothing, humorous wooden signs, embroidered pillows, candles that smell like cowboys, paintings of cattle, and other stuff perfect for the country cabin you wish you owned.
The sides of several buildings in town are painted with old advertisements for Dr Pepper and something called Hooper’s, a remedy used to treat itchy hands and feet.
I got distracted by the town lore. According to local legend, William H. Bonney – aka Billy the Kid – wasn’t killed in a shootout with Sheriff Pat Garrett in New Mexico. That was what you might call “fake news.” Instead, the story goes, he moved to Hico and went by the name Brushy Bill Roberts.
Roberts dropped dead on a downtown Hico sidewalk in 1950. A small museum now houses a small collection of artifacts.
That statue wearing a red bandana? A plaque says this: “(Kid) spent the last days of his life trying to prove to the world his true identity and obtain the pardon promised him by the governor of the state of New Mexico. We believe his story and pray to God for the forgiveness he solemnly asked for.”
Hico itself was originally located 2.5 miles down the road, on Honey Creek. When the Katy Railroad was built, the residents moved the town so it would be conveniently located along the rail line. It incorporated in 1883 and became a cattle and cotton market.
The population in 2010 was 1,379 people, and today the town motto is “Where everybody is somebody.”
It’s known for Wiseman House chocolates (I didn’t make it there this time but it’s on my list), an old-school diner called the Koffee Kup that gets rave reviews for its strawberry pie and chicken fried steak, and fun-to-explore collection of shops that includes a hardware store, the Hico Mercantile and some high-end home goods shops. The historic Midland Hotel looks inviting.