WIMBERLEY, Texas — Turning up the curving, paved road toward Highpoint Manor, (www.highpointmanorinn.com) a bed and breakfast tucked away in the hill country off RR 32, the scenery changed from rugged hill country to llamas, a horse and donkey, miniature pony and lots of cute miniature goats. The cries of peacocks float through the air and the peace of the hill county slowly sloughs off the rat race of the city in this little piece of heaven.
Highpoint Manor’s owner is a most unique woman - part confidante, part carpenter, part chef, part decorator, part artist, part animal caretaker, all wife, mom, daughter and hostess. Amazing that someone could be so many things, but Barbara Mayhew is one multi-talented lady.
An original Ohioan, when she landed in the hill country she said, “I could live here!” And now she does.
Living the military life with her first husband, she would change careers whenever they moved - which they did a lot.
“That was the fun thing about being in the military, especially as a military wife,” said Barbara. “You can recreate yourself wherever you go - a different kind of job, different friends. It’s fascinating so I did all kinds of things.”
In Las Vegas she was the grand handler for a tour company — meeting her tours at the airport and playing mother hen for them during their stay. At another stay, she worked for a Nationwide Insurance Sales office where she did a monthly publication with a lot of free hand drawing.
“As you grow up, you mature and everything you do you take with you to the next job,” she said.
After two children and traveling with the military, they moved to Texas and happily decided to go their own ways, her son asking why did you wait so long?
But she was in the hill country and she loved it. She began working for a private school where she met the love of her life.
“We became really good friends before we became an item,” she said. “It was interesting because my ex-husband has a wife that is perfect for him and I now have a husband who is perfect for me.”
When the school had problems they began buying properties, redoing them, then renting them.
“I liked to work with wood and did a lot of the work myself,” she said. “Anything that was too heavy for me - like sheet rocking - I would hire contract workers to do but the rest I would do. All the finish work - trim, molding - I did. I built the walls. I learned as I went. I would watch these people I had hired to do something and I’d think, ‘I can do that better.’ I started doing it better and I wouldn’t have to pay them labor.
“I’d say, ‘I just made $3,000 today because I didn’t have to hire somebody to do it,’” she said, laughing.
From there it was an easy switch to real estate which Mark, her husband, had a great affinity for. When Barbara got her license she discovered it wasn’t for her and lamented to Mark.
“One day I laid my head on his shoulder and said, ‘Mark, I hate this. I don’t want to go to work. I hate feeling like this.’”
“I tell you what,” said Mark. “Life’s too short. Figure out what you want to do and do it.”
“How cool is that,” she thought to herself.
Making a list of wants and don’t wants she and Mark looked it over. It was Mark who gave the findings.
“It looks to me like you might like to do a bed and breakfast,” he said, studying the list.
It didn’t take too long for Barbara to agree and a piece of property was found.
“It was a nasty property and needed a lot of work,” she said. “I thought the very best that could happen is I would enjoy doing it and I’d have a blast. The worst that could happen is I would end up with a good resalable property.”
She went to work - literally - not just hiring it out to be done. First thing was to get rid of all the raccoons.
“The lady that lived here fed the raccoons, so at night the raccoons would ooze out of the trees. They would come up to the door and demand food,” she said. “I told my very large dogs, ‘Your job is to get rid of those raccoons.’ Pretty soon they were gone.”
After fixing up the original home into six suites and breakfast area overlooking the countryside, she began designing and building additional cottages. Some turned out Victorian, some rustic, each one developing it’s own personality - from her, of course.
Then she found an old barn on their property and worked her magic there - turning it into a popular site for weddings, political rallies, and parties.
“I’m an artist and this place has been my palette,” Barbara said. “I haven’t done much art since I’ve been doing this because I’ve been creating all this,” sweeping her arms to include all her land.
The animals add that extra special quality to her B&B.
“I had a donkey and she was lonesome. Plus the briar brambles were so thick I decided to get goats to help clear the property. I discovered I really liked goats,” Barbara said. “They are a ton of fun. Now I raise them and sell them.”
She’s added a few alpacas, two pigs - Daisy May and Moomba, specialty chickens (fresh eggs for breakfast!), roosters, ducks and her rapidly growing peacock flock - proudly spreading wide their span of brilliantly colored feathers.
“I just love the place. It’s the perfect job,” she said. “If you really get down to it I have a wonderful place to work, I’ve got wonderful animals, I get to meet really nice people and I’ve made great friends.” What more could anyone ask for?
Breakfast is a treat with her and her daughter’s paintings standing guard over the hungry morning crowd. Then, with the meal complete, a silence enfolds the home as the visitors disperse to follow their adventures of the day.
Around Wimberley there is much to do. For meals one need only go down the road to the country corner where Bruce and Holly Collie have their three restaurants - Trio Market - a uniquely different Irish potato bread recipe used for their yummy pizza, Cedar Grove Steakhouse with delectable steaks, seafood and vegetarian selections and Caso Lomo, equally delicious Mexican fare. Perhaps while dining the voices of the Collie family - all 14 of them - will carry down through the restaurant as they happily sing after dinner. Then it’s fun to watch as they are lined up from smallest to the tallest before they head for their bus.
Or go on into Wimberley to visit the quaint downtown with a wide array of gift and art stores, restaurants and a variety of events, including an outdoor theater - depending on the season. Over in Boerne, about an hour away, is the Cave Without A Name (830/537-4212) - a stunningly beautiful living cave with spectacular formations - well worth the visit.
All this for only a five and a half hour drive from the Valley. An easy drive for a weekend away or stay longer - Barbara would love to have you. After all, her home is, truly, open to the world to enjoy.