“We’re real laid back around here” – Randy Leifeste
Laid-back, now there’s a word that perfectly describes the atmosphere at the Castell General Store. When my Dad and I pulled up on a Friday morning there were already locals just hanging around and killing time on the patio. Here, names aren’t important; these good ol’ boys were perfectly happy to sit a spell and spin a yarn with a couple of strangers from Austin. Instantly we were drawn into their easy conversation, the locals were eager to share some insight into the daily happenings of the Hill Country Folk.
Randy Leifeste – fly fisherman, river enthusiast, and owner of the Castell General Store introduces me to a local attraction; “Hey there girl, you wanna see something?” and then Randy bellowed at the top of his lungs “Duke!” “Duke, get over here boy” What could Duke possibly be?! I conjured up images of some great slobbery dog bounding towards us.
So intently was I scanning for something large that I all together missed the very small blur of feathers until it was already upon me. Hurriedly I scrambled for my camera, this was just too good not to capture on film. Duke, although large for a rooster, was not quite the monstrosity I had been imagining. He was highly entertaining to say the least; the boys at Castell had taught Duke a new trick. They would provoke him until he was completely out of his little mind with desire and had to take out his frustrations on the nearest thing to him- which happened to be a rusty coffee can. His predecessor, the infamous Cockaroo was not only willing, but also eager to show off his stud like skills. He preferred to make love to any of the unsuspecting Billy Bass that was lined up underneath the porch. And yes they had to be singing in order for him to be roused into action. Though Cockaroo has now passed, videos of his legacy can still be found on YouTube here and you can also get your picture taken with him at the store. Randy had him stuffed and mounted with one of his beloved singing bass.
We had arrived before eleven on a Friday, and despite the early hour the cook was gracious enough to make a starving girl a burger. And what a delight it was too! Well seasoned and cooked to perfection. Served hot off the grill just like your neighbor would hand it to you during a backyard BBQ. Fixings are on the table, and you’re allowed to load up with as much goodness as you can possibly stack. Needless to say I had the works, and topped it off with a side of potato chips to boot.
Our visit was during off hours, but I was assured that the best time to see the place come alive would be Friday night through Sunday. Castell’s starts with a traditional BBQ cook off Friday evening, and continues Saturday morning till nightfall- or whenever the food runs out. Fun games like Ring Toss, Shuffle Board, and Dominoes are provided for the patrons of the general store. Live music is also frequently played and it’s encouraged that all who can play should bring their own instrument if they want to join in. Castell’s has an all around appeal that makes for a great hangout for gatherings of friends and families alike.
In addition to the great tasting food, they are a fully operational general store; selling everything from deer feed, to wine and beer. The great thing about Castell’s is that you can make a quick stop for supplies and catch up on local news about the river. Randy happens to be a fly fisherman and a dedicated river enthusiast. “The river belongs to everybody” – that was Randy’s parting advice when we left the General store that day. If you’re in need of an update on the happenings of the Llano, Randy is the man to see. He will graciously share his fishing tips, and any other information you would need to know when paying the Llano a visit.
So the next time you’re in Castell the General Store is definitely one of those Hill Country hangouts that warrants a visit – whether to catch up on news, or spend the evening sampling some of their delicious BBQ with family and friends. The warmth and friendliness of the atmosphere is enough to put any busy body at ease and you can relax with the gentle current of the Llano River and the wonderful people who live there.