Texas Travel

Tales and Trails in Nocona

By Chet Garner 7.23.18

Today it’s got about 3,000 people, but back in the day, thousands of cowboys and millions of cows passed through Nocona on the Chisholm Trail and the railroad line. Much of the history of cattle drives, saddle-making, and cowboy boot crafting is preserved there today.

New Orleans Architecture

The architecture along Nocona’s Main Street has been redone New Orleans-style, with balconies and red brick. It feels like you’re in the French Quarter. One building is three stories tall and takes up half the block.

Every year there’s a huge Mardi Gras parade that goes down Main Street. It lasts three days and involves a fish fry, pet parade, karaoke, crawfish boil, gumbo and hot dogs, and an ATV parade. It’s called “Mardi Gras, Nocona Style” because it brings some Texas flavor to the event.

Barbecue

If we’re talking about Texas flavor, you’ve got to visit Fenoglio’s BBQ and Station. They have awesome barbecue and amazing burgers. It’s run by Robert Fenoglio, who’s actually the mayor of Nocona. In a small town like Nocona, being the mayor doesn’t tend to be a high-pressure (or high-paying) job. So his day-to-day is running the barbecue joint.

Bonus: Hit up Red River Pizzeria for dessert. It’s located downtown in one of the old buildings. They make a dessert pizza called Rico’s Road with Nutella, roasted marshmallows, and cookie crumble. It’s named after Rico, who invented it and also works in the back.

Cowboy Boots

Not many know that Justin Boots, the oldest boot brand in Texas (and some say the inventor of the cowboy boot itself), was born in 1879 just 10 miles north of Nocona, in Spanish Fort.

Justin Boots has since moved on and so has Nocona Boots. However, Fenoglio Boot Co. (sound familiar?) still makes boots by hand here in town, the old cowboy way. If you want a pair of real Texas-made cowboy boots that’s cheaper than the custom price tag you’ll find in other Texas towns, then you need a pair of Fenoglios.

nocona

Chisholm Trail

Nocona was a stop on the Chisholm Trail, the most famous cattle drive route in America. Cattle drives would meet up throughout South Texas and push north through Waco, Fort Worth, and then on to Nocona, where they’d all meet to cross the Red River. There’s a historic marker at the crossing point where there used to be a town called Red River Station.

While there isn’t much to see there today, it’s a very cool part of the world. With some imagination, you can almost hear the grand Western symphony playing in your head, with cowboys herding cattle as they cross the river.

Tales ’N’ Trails Museum

A lot of Nocona’s cowboy history is preserved in the Tales ’N’ Trails Museum. It’s packed with all kinds of Native American artifacts, like their boots and leather-making. The museum even has on display the largest private collection of arrowheads in the country.

Some tools and decorative pieces are so rare, the Smithsonian doesn’t even have them. This includes a set of intricate spearheads that are so unique, scientists believe they were used not for hunting but for the burial of an important chief. This is just a small glimpse of the priceless history you’ll find in this Texas town.

Find more of Chet’s daytrips around Texas.

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