When River Ware steps into his backyard, his recreational options are limitless. His dad’s farm is more than 260 acres, sits on two miles of Lampasas riverfront and features antique farm equipment and log cabins built in the late 1800s.
“There’s one day I just thought, ‘there’s actually something special here,’” said River, 11. “It’s pretty fun. It’s not like I step out my front door and walk a couple of feet and that’s my property.”
His dad, Bradley, is the fourth generation of Wares to own the land in south Killeen. The farm originated in 1874 with cotton and corn crops, but changed through the years.
“If we were still a cotton farm, we would have gone broke a long time ago,” Bradley Ware said. Right now, he’s focusing on expanding his chicken operation. A few years ago, the Wares had about 100 chickens. Now, they have more than 750.
Ware hopes to transform his one-man farming operation into an agritourist destination, where residents can peruse pumpkin patches, corn mazes, a re-creation of Stonehenge and a museum of antiques, which Ware is in the process of building.
In 2010, an energy company wanted to build a power line that would cut through his property and devastate his river. Ware hopes his agritourism business will be the preventive measure needed to make sure the city doesn’t contemplate destroying his farm.
“I can’t sit out here and be the old hermit and keep my mouth shut and hope that they’ll leave me alone,” he said. “You grow up here and it’s part of you and you’re not going to get up and leave.”
Since Killeen can only grow south down State Highway 195, Ware knows the city might be headed in his direction.
“I’ve always known that,” he said. “I’m trying to do something with my farm to preserve it. I don’t want it destroyed. I want it kept together.”
Growing up, Ware’s dad pointed out the accomplishments and additions built by passing generations.
“(My grandfather) cherished a lot of (the farm),” he said. “Every generation has done some kind of improvement, so it’s hard for me to come up and say ‘Oh, well, this thing doesn’t mean much to me so I’m going to sell it.’”
Through the years, his family harvested their own honey, made molasses, sold hay, provided numerous campgrounds for hunting and fishing, and built cabins.
Ware is in the process of restoring older buildings and constructing a parking lot, pavilion and two-story barn.
“I’ve got hundreds of projects going on all the time,” he said. “You make $1,000 here and $1,000 there and before long, it adds up, but when you’re spending $1,500 on feed, you can get behind pretty fast. There’s always maintenance and that’s what eats me up.”
Ware teaches River to value the memories and hard work his family put into the land and doesn’t want his son to think, “Oh, when dad dies I’m going to sell this place and be a millionaire.”
Although the more than 260 acres is a lot to take care of, it’s not enough to make a living off of, Ware said. Still, it’s something he feels — with all the little characteristics that have been added throughout the decades — is unique.
“When you got a kid out here and they’re involved in stuff like that, they don’t realize it, but they’re falling in love with it,” Ware said. “I went through the same thing. You get to the point where you want to keep it together.”