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Sunday, April 13, 2008


While my son Dave's family was in Tomball at Easter I suggested we visit the Kleb Woods farmhouse and nature preserve. It is located not far from my birthplace in Rose Hill.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the weather was appreciated by Dave's family, who had left their home in Michigan in a snowstorm. Instead of first checking in at the visitor's center we walked directly to the old farmhouse. I remembered visiting there as a child with my parents. After peering through the windows - the house was locked since we had not asked a volunteer to open it for us - we walked back to the visitor's center and looked at the collectibles there, including a Kleb baptismal certificate signed by one of my uncles.

Elmer Kleb, the last family resident at the Kleb farm and a great-grandson of the original owner, "marched to a different drummer." His mother's nickname for him was "Lumpy," spoken with a German accent. I believe he quit school around the 4th grade and rarely left the property. However he seemed to have an easier life than his sister Myrtle, who I believe was institutionalized several times and later committed suicide.

After inheriting the farm, Elmer stopped growing or harvesting anything but let the place go back to nature, enjoying the birds, bees, natural flora and fauna. He also had a relaxed attitude toward taxes and never paid them. Eventually a judge, realizing the property was worth more than its back taxes, appointed an attorney to manage Elmer's affairs. The farm was turned into a nature preserve by Harris County and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and a trust fund was established to take care of Elmer's needs. Elmer continued living on the property until he died in 1999, at the age of 90.

Kleb Woods today has many features including picnic areas, camp sites, a walking trail, and an educational garden.

As an adult I also visited the Kleb place, when Elmer contacted me about fixing his refrigerator. The house was so full of newspapers, boxes and other items that I could barely make my way to the kitchen. Eventually Elmer could no longer navigate through the piles and, rather than get rid of anything, he moved into a shed outside the main house. Although he had electricity when I fixed his refrigerator he gave up that and phone service, and later heat and running water.

Whoever unearthed the interesting items, including vintage Coke bottles, tools and jewelry on display at the visitor's center, must have had a lengthy project in sorting those treasures out of the junk. My daughter Sarah suggested that maybe the house should have been left full of clutter and displayed as a museum to hoarding. Keeping worthless items for too many years may be more of a national problem than people not paying their taxes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Keeping worthless items for too many years may be more of a national problem than people not paying their taxes."

How true! And don't I personally know it from all of Tim's
"valuable collectibles". My garage is now clean, and this summer his office will be clean.

Freeing oneself of clutter is so...freeing.


Ben the Cook

Ben the Cook
Action shot from the 1970s



I recently made Tuna Helper, following the instructions on the box and adding margine, milk, etc. Priscilla and I had generous portions for lunch. When she asked about my recipe, I pointed to the kitchen table where the box was sitting...and only then noticed the unopened can of tuna sitting next to the empty box.

Well, we enjoyed our macaroni & cheese lunch and already have the tuna on hand to make another box of Helper.


I watched the TV news show "The Eyes of Texas" for years. When in the mid 1980s they announced the publication of a Texas cookbook I wrote down my grandmother's honey cookie recipe. I asked Priscilla to type it, and she mailed it along with several of her personal favorites.

When the book was published Priscilla's recipes were not included but mine was, with a special mention in the cookbook's introduction. I was invited to the signing in Houston, where I got all three of the main Eyes of Texas contributors to sign the front and while standing in line got a number of contributing cooks to sign their recipe pages.

Some might consider the description "somewhat chewy" an understatement. For those who are dentally impaired, I recommend soaking a cookie in milk or hot coffee before trying to chew it. The good news is, these cookies will keep indefinitely.

Eyes of Texas Cookbook introduction:
My great-grandparents August and Caroline Weiss operated the first cotton gin operated by steam, near Salem in Washington County, Texas. They were among the first German settlers in that area. Money was scarce; however, they always had bees and native pecans...consequently, this recipe was a favorite.

1 1/2 pints honey, warmed
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
1 tsp. baking powder
Enough flour for a very stiff dough

Mix all ingredients well. Roll dough out on a floured board and cut with a cookie cutter, or drop the dough in a greased pan and flatten with a floured glass. Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, with edges slightly darker. These cookies will be somewhat chewy.

Ben's Bio

I was born in Rose Hill, Texas in 1925 and at age 18 drafted into the Army. After my discharge I settled in Tomball, which although a small town had more opportunities than Rose Hill. I ran my own appliance installation and repair business for many years and in 1977 accepted a position as Plant Engineer and Director of Maintenance at Tomball Regional Hospital, where I worked until retirement in the late 1980s. In the 1970s I served two years on Tomball’s City Council, was elected mayor and served for six years during which major streets were paved and guttered, utility lines were extended, and a new jail and city hall were built. After retirement from the hospital I spent time on a genealogy project that included two trips to Germany to visit relatives and look up archival records. I have also gotten into writing, chronicling my WW II experiences and authoring Growing Up in Rose Hill, published by private press and sold as a fund-raiser for the Tomball Community Museum Center, where I have served as a volunteer, trustee and Chairman. I am still involved with the Tomball hospital as a weekly volunteer and serve as General Manager of Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries (TEAM), a church-sponsored operation that provides food and other assistance to area families. I continue to be involved in writing about my childhood and personal interests, and I still enjoy woodworking and other handyman projects. My wife and I still live in Tomball and are not far from most of our 8 surviving children and 14 grandchildren.