The Texas State Railroad powers the small town of Rusk

Work on the railroad

“When I was a senior in high school, I worked at the Texas State Railroad. I started on the Piney Woods Express, which goes from Rusk to Palestine and back. I did the Polar Express ride in the winter and I handed out hot chocolate and cookies in the observation dome car. Rusk’s stone deposit looks like something out of a movie. Inside there are pictures on the walls of the various engines, as well as historical photos.There are also campgrounds and a lake, where people go fishing and hanging out.

Fresh paint

“People ask me to paint all kinds of things. In Tyler, I painted murals for an elementary school, park, car dealership, and coffee shop. I just finished one for a cafe in Jacksonville, and I also painted the “Welcome to Bullard” sign. My biggest mural is in Jacksonville – it’s 3,000 square feet and says, ‘Love thy neighbour’. In Rusk, I repainted the “Welcome to Rusk” sign and the old caboose underneath. People are always there to take pictures.

Family ties

“At Rusk, everyone knows everyone and I feel like I relate to most of them. My whole family lives here, both on my father’s side and on my mother’s side. I got married last year and all of my husband’s family live here as well.

A sense of history

“The city is named after Thomas J. Rusk, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. And Jim Hogg State Historic Park was named after the first native-born Texan to become governor. He was born on this land and the park has a replica of his house. Rusk has a historic wooden walkway downtown that is said to be the longest in the United States [546 feet]. This is where everyone takes their prom photos. The Cherokee County Heritage Center and the Cherokee Civic Theater are also downtown.

Fill the tank

“The Daily Grind is a nice little cafe downtown. At All Star Bar-BQ I get the ground beef sandwich and love the potato salad. The owner is a huge Houston Astros fan, so the interior is full of Astros memorabilia, as well as local sporting goods. If you were on a sports team in Rusk High School, your picture is probably there.

retail therapy

“My mother-in-law has a store in the square called Jenny’s Salon & Mercantile, which sells kitchenware, accessories and antiques. And my best friend opened Aly Bee’s, a flower shop that also sells home decor and gifts. All the local businesses get together and set up booths for Fair on the Square, which takes place in May. Next year, I plan to have a stand with a 1971 Volkswagen van that I am having restored.

Nothing better than being at home

“People say that in small towns everyone knows your business, but at the same time everyone supports you in your struggles and triumphs. Some say you have to go outside to broaden your perspective, but I think being here has already broadened my perspective. Rusk may be small, but the people here aren’t petty. Everyone is friendly, tolerant and kind, and that’s one of the reasons I love this place. I will probably never leave.

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