This article was written and subsequently published in the Hill Country Sun (2009), a regional Texas magazine. Sadly, Miz Kitty was put to sleep a few years after I wrote about her. In her memory, we will keep the famous Luckenbach cat alive! Thanks to Bobbie McDaniel and Hayden Whittington for being such gracious hosts when we visited.
Willie and Waylon aren’t the only famous ties to Luckenbach, Texas. Miz Kitty is the cool cat presiding over town these days. Proudly known as the most photographed cat in Gillespie County, she’s captured the hearts of Luckenbach’s caretakers and the folks who visit.
According to Bobbi McDaniel, Luckenbach’s General Store Manager, Miz Kitty showed up in January, 2005. “Some unbeknownst character who obviously didn’t know what they had dumped her on our doorstep.”
A vet confirmed the small feline was about one year of age. Already under the cat’s spell, McDaniel paid for spaying and vaccinations, and named her young protege Miz Kitty.
“Miz Kitty presides over the General Store. She puts herself in every night before the bar closes. Some nights she doesn’t, so she stays out all night. This doesn’t happen often, though. Besides, it’s her job to keep the mouse population at bay!” McDaniel says.
The nonchalant Miz Kitty is known by a few other names. “We call her our ‘Boss’ in the store,” McDaniel winks. “She’s also known as our mascot.” As Miz Kitty lies motionless on a counter or display case, visitors often mistake her for a stuffed animal.
McDaniel explains how Miz Kitty fools customers. “A man came in the store one day, during a pretty busy weekend. He was standing next to a fairly high display cabinet, talking to a couple of his friends. Miz Kitty was laying on top of the cabinet. He had his back to the cabinet and she was reaching out with her paw and very gently tapping his head. He kept brushing his hand over his head like he thought it was a fly or something. She did this three or four times, and everyone else was just watching and laughing! Finally, he turned around and [Miz Kitty] stood up and scared him to death. He jumped and yelled and it was so hilarious. His friends and everyone else in the store just laughed and laughed.”
Folks are naturally drawn to Miz Kitty, and stop to take her picture before doing anything else. “People have been nice enough to send us several pictures that they’ve taken of her while here, and we also find them posted to websites and blogs periodically,” McDaniel says.
How does Miz Kitty accept all the love and attention she receives? Very well, according to McDaniel. “She has been cuddled, coddled, man-handled by small kiddos, chased by dogs, and she’s swiped a few of those dogs across the nose, too.“
Hayden Whittington, another Luckenbach employee, says his dog would agree. “She’s gotten used to him, but if he gets too close, she’ll get him.”
Luckenbach was founded in 1849 as a trading post. The little burg quietly flourished and by 1886, August Engel established a post office within the general store. A cotton gin, blacksmith shop and school were opened between 1879 and 1885.
By 1970, the Engel family put Luckenbach up for sale. Hondo Crouch, Guich Koock and Kathy Morgan purchased the town and worked to put Luckenbach back on the map. In 1973, Jerry Jeff Walker recorded Viva Terlingua in the town’s dance hall. When the legendary album went gold, more musicians flocked to experience Luckenbach’s magic.
Soon after, Waylon Jennings’ and Willie Nelson’s recording “Luckenbach Texas (Back to the Basics)” immortalized the town, enticing tourists from around the world.
Miz Kitty never met Waylon, and Willie hasn’t made it back to Luckenbach in the recent past. However, Paula Nelson (Willie’s daughter) knows Miz Kitty, along with Noel Haggard (Merle’s son), Billy Joe Shaver and Gary P. Nunn. Miz Kitty doesn’t stick around once the music starts, but she enjoys watching musicians set up.
True to type, Miz Kitty successfully hid from McDaniel the morning of her interview. Luckily, Whittington spotted the wily feline, scooping her into his arms as the interview and photography session began.
Luckenbach is all about getting back to the basics in life. The community is casual, friendly and everyone is greeted with open arms and big smiles. Course, any establishment who’d appoint an adopted cat as their “Boss” has to be pretty darn special.
Luckenbach is located in Gillespie County at 412 Luckenbach Town Loop, Fredericksburg, Texas 78624. (The location is off RR 1376, about 10 miles southeast of Fredericksburg.) The community holds regular live music and entertainment events – be sure to sign up for the newsletter, The Luckenbach Moon, to find out what’s going on in town. The General Store is packed with souvenirs and historical displays. There are outdoor seating areas, a bar behind the General Store, and a dance hall. Thursday through Sunday, the Luckenbach Feed Lot serves BBQ, burgers and other fixings beginning at 11 a.m. Luckenbach opens daily at 9 a.m. For more information, call (888) 311-8990 or visit www.luckenbachtexas.com.