Tchoupitoulas, Ellen Trout Zoo, and Texas State Prison Museum

July 16, 2011

Friday, we spent the day in eastern Texas. In the morning, we visited the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin. It’s small – takes perhaps three hours to see at a leisurely pace – but has a nice selection of animals. The paths are well shaded. There are peacocks everywhere.

We then drove to Huntsvilleto visit the Texas State Prison Museum. The exhibits and stories were fascinating, and left me with a strange mix of emotions. There were times when the prisons were under the direction of individuals intent on helping prisoners to become contributing members to society. Both the prisoners and community ultimately benefited. But then these men would be replaced with others intent on punishing rather than reforming those incarcerated. Conditions degenerated and those in charge abused their positions. Eventually things became so bad that the Federal Government had to step in and take control of the entire Texas prison system.

On a looped recording, those responsible for performing and witnessing executions, related their experiences. It made me want to cry. Perhaps the death penalty should be abolished, if only because of the anguish it creates among the innocent.

An excellent article about the museum can be found at

We spent the night in Crockett, and had dinner at Tchoupitoulas (Chop-eh-too-las), a local favorite in the oldest section of the historic downtown. The food showed a rare attention to detail. The salad was a mix of romaine and fresh vegetables. The cucumbers were crinkle-cut. There were shaved carrots, and a sprinkling of bacon bits. The blue cheese dressing was outstanding. The salad was served with warm, fresh-baked bread.

I ordered the surf and turf. The filet mignon, ordered medium-well, was done perfectly with just a hint of pink. The marinated meat was flavorful and tender. It was accompanied by a soft-baked sweet potato.

The waiter was friendly and attentive, without being intrusive. The owner stopped by to see if everything was to our liking.

A definite thumbs-up!