New to Waco: The few, the brave, the early morning Wal-Mart shoppers

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

Cue “Jaws” soundtrack. It’s early Sunday — 6:41. My daughter and I enter the “water.” No one else is in the “water;” they’re sitting safely on the “beach” (in their cars). It’s Walmart. We’re first in line.

Gradually others jump in, keeping at least six feet apart. We must look especially threatening; the guy behind us opts for 12 feet of unsocial distance.

Walmart employees buzz around beyond the closed glass doors. They all wear facemasks, but one guy, who kind of acts important, has his mask down on his chin — a rebel, for sure. Required to mask-up, he’s being passive aggressive in his resistance.

Doors open. Our presence is tallied on a digital tablet. The worker’s mask remains low, but my daughter and I are properly masked and rush past him to retrieve a freshly disinfected shopping cart. (No disinfectant injections offered.)

As a “high risk” person, it’s my first visit to a Walmart since things got dangerous. It’s also my first visit to a Waco area Walmart.

The other shoppers must be behind us, but I don’t look back. We are on a quest, and it’s important to keep your eyes forward while on quest. I’m reminded of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — unsuspecting dangers lurk. We have no coconuts to clap together, but we move with purpose.

There is actually a sign marking the aisle where the grail should be. An obstacle! Not a physical one, merely a message on the floor — “Do Not Enter.” It’s a one-way aisle; we are supposed to go around. A long-time rule follower, I want to detour, but my daughter doesn’t hesitate and she knows this routine better than me. (She’s been my designated COVID-era buyer.) I follow.

I’ve heard the stories and seen the pictures of empty shelves, and there they are down the length of the left side — nothing. But wait. In the distance, there’s something different. Can it be? Yes, it is. The grail is there. I wonder if others are going to rush past us to reach it. But, no, it’s all a rather tame scene. We pick up our one package of toilet paper and proceed to the less-exciting parts of my first Waco shopping adventure.

Having missed the early days of pandemic shopping, I feel I have missed something. I have only one rather lame story to share while others recount thrilling tales of when there really was a toilet paper shortage… of which there really was not one.

Walmart shopping came back to me pretty quickly.  Like riding a bike.  Or more specifically like riding a bike as an adult after years of four-wheeling with a motor attached.

We got most of what we needed and some of what we wanted. And we left some digital money with the nice lady cashier. Another worker even bagged some of our groceries before suddenly disappearing mid-bagging.

I think it’s healthy to have some fun with tough times, but we all know these have been some very difficult days for many people and the struggles are not over. Our community has lost four of our residents, including a school principal, and others have barely escaped the virus’s death grip.

Our health care workers are exhausted. They’ve endured the physical challenges of long hours and dangerous circumstances. They’ve had trouble finding childcare, and they’ve worried about bringing home the virus to the people they love. I cannot fathom what this has been like for them, but I try and I cheer.

My sister-in-law is a health care worker in another town, and she has been in my thoughts and prayers a great deal. She’s had it rough at times, but I’ve noticed on Facebook that she also has had time for some laughs with her fellow heroes.

So I write these rather fun and frivolous words not because I do not hurt for those who have sacrificed so much but because in the midst of all of this it doesn’t hurt to smile.

Years ago, a famous guy said, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (It’s in a letter to some ancient Romans.)

These surely have been times for weeping, and they are not over, but I hope we also can find some happiness as we move forward. Otherwise, it seems, COVID wins, and that is just not acceptable.


Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

New to Waco: Where all the women are strong

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

My first days in Waco brought to mind Garrison Keillor’s introduction to his weekly radio story. “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

I know Keillor had his tongue firmly implanted in cheek, but he could have been truthfully referring to the women of Waco. When it comes to Waco women, strong leaders are easy to find.

This is not to negate the good qualities of Waco men. Shoot, we’ve got a mayor that I would put against any mayor in the country. But this is about our women.

I’m not going to name names, but a woman is leading that little school on the east side of I-35. Then there’s the head of the public health district. We’ve got two women leading two of our strongest foundations. Then there’s the woman who is in the middle of everything communicated in this town via the Internet. There’s a woman city council member who brings expertise, heart, and soul to meetings. I’ve tuned in online to hear a woman pastor who keeps many of us grounded in faith. A business-owning woman is a former mayor and is still active in city leadership. A woman leads our community-wide fundraising effort. Can’t forget the leaders of a local mental health facility and a substance abuse center. And, of course, my own boss is one of those leading ladies.

There are many other women providing leadership in our medical facilities, educational institutions, city government, real estate, and businesses. And, there are countless women leading their families (sometimes with a manly assist), and that is an especially important role in our stay-at-home times.

I have met all of the leaders referenced above and encountered women who fit into the next category in my short two months of working in Waco and one week of living here.

Back to Keillor’s intro, I don’t know about the handsomeness of Waco men, but the last phrase about above average children is an exercise in wishful thinking. Average is what it is, and it applies to all sorts of things. Each of us is average in some ways, and below and above average in others. But it’s also true that we can move up from being below average at many things.

One reason you get great leadership from boardroom to living room is because you stress quality education — from start to finish. Education is not just about book smarts; it’s about learning, and that takes many forms.

When I was in high school in Dallas ages ago, I took “distributive education” my senior year. I learned how the marketplace works, and I left school at lunch to work at a regular job — Sears, Roebuck & Co. The academic track eluded me. No one who knew me then, including me, speculated I would someday wear a hooded graduation gown.

Primary and secondary schools prepare us for all kinds of roles in life, and colleges and technical schools help students hone their skills in more specific ways. All of it is education, all of it is important, and all of it can be had right here in Waco.

Garrison Keillor was asked where the name, “Lake Wobegon,” came from. Keillor said the name had Native American roots meaning “the place where we waited all day in the rain [for you].”

I love that. The name, Waco, has a Native American lineage as well, and it gives me a very warm feeling thinking Waco can be a place where we wait all day in the rain for each other.

And to borrow the closing line from Lake Wobegon, “Well, that’s the news from Waco, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”


Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

New to Waco: East? Or Waco East?

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

The late, great Albert Einstein and I have one thing in common — a fascination with compasses. Waco presents a problem for this handy device — compasses don’t seem to work exactly right here.

Let me clarify. Compasses work; they can just mislead you. North is not north; east is not east. It’s one of the first lessons I had to learn in moving to Waco.

I bought a house in what I would have called South Waco. But when I explained where it was to a friend, he said, “Oh, that’s Hewitt.”  Turns out that even though I have a Waco address, in Waco lingo I’m essentially in Hewitt.

Bryan, a coworker, explained that directions in Waco are best understood in relation to the Brazos: up river is north and down river is south. So, what I might have called North Waco or Northeast Waco, is, in Waco terms, East Waco, I think.

I even hesitate writing this for fear I will say something distinctly Waco-stupid, but I continue on despite my hesitation.

True to Waco directions, North Waco is to the west and northwest of downtown. Right?

Before I moved to Waco I introduced my friend, Jimmy Dorrell, at a luncheon as he received yet another big-deal honor. (He’s a big deal guy in the best way. If I have an unknown brother somewhere, I hope it turns out to be Jimmy.) Anyway, even though I know Jimmy pretty well, I read his official bio before giving the introduction. It spoke of years ago when he and his wife bought a house in North Waco. I now understand where that house is — it’s west of downtown. I think.

I may have to get counseling after writing this. Writing always helps me understand better what I know and don’t know. The more I write this, the more fear rises inside me that I am committing some Waco faux pas from which I will never recover.

I can see it now. I walk into some nice fundraising dinner and introduce myself. They “reply” with a look of recognition and a little grin. “It’s good to meet you, Ferrell,” is what they say, but what they’re thinking is, You’re the idiot who is clueless about Waco directions.

Writing this has kicked me out of the directional closet, and I need your love and acceptance. Everything I know about this place tells me you are loving and kind and care a lot about education (witness the green and gold bubble). So I appeal to my new neighbors — love me, accept me, and educate me.

Gosh, I love Waco. A city that has the gumption to throw away its compasses and say north, south, east and west are wherever we dang well want them to be, is my kind of town.


Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

New to Waco: Neighbors and Leaders

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

Boxes and totes line the foyer. Bookshelves stand empty. One week before moving day and everything is chaotic in the Foster household. Those boxes, totes, and bookshelves do not know they will soon be traveling to the Heart of Texas — Waco.

Moving is always disruptive, and this one is happening during a pandemic. I wonder if our new neighbors will be glad to see us. I do not expect them to bring over cookies, but maybe we can wave from a safe distance.

Act Locally Waco is letting me share a little of what it’s like for one family to move to Waco. We move out of our Georgetown home on April 1 (we must be fools), sign the papers on April 2, and move into our Waco home on April 3. All things in the Foster house are pointing to those three days.

But there is a dark cloud hovering above us like a tornado-ripe storm — COVID-19. You keep your eyes on it; it would be dangerous to not do so. It’s swirling; the color is ominous; it threatens here and there. And you wonder if it’s going to bring a disaster.

We’ve been told that title and moving companies are providing essential services. They surely are essential to us, but we do not want to be too self-centered.

My biggest fear: the title company in Georgetown is open and we close on selling our current home but then get to Waco and we cannot close on our new one. Yikes! I hope my friends in Waco like my family and me enough to house us.

That’s just fear working in my head. Faith keeps us moving — no pun intended.

Since early February, I’ve been working in Waco and commuting the 70 miles along I-35. That is until we non-essentials needed to work from home.

I’ve been in and through Waco many times, but I have discovered so much more about the city the past few weeks. Like, the best small bookstore around — Fabled — and there is nothing more essential to making a town my home than a bookstore. I’ve been praying for them during this mess; they simply must survive.

My wife did most of the house hunting. I got called in for only the most promising possibilities. But even in those few visits the drives took me here and there in Waco. There is a lot more to this town than I-35 travelers or silo visitors ever discover.

I still recall some of the houses we visited. There’s the one with the beautiful, old live oak in the backyard. I so wanted to buy that house so I could climb that tree like the ones I did as a kid. I probably would have fallen to my death, so it may be good that we didn’t go for that one.

Then there was the really funky house that I loved because it was different and interesting. Only problem: The second-floor master bedroom looked over into a unkempt (and I’m being kind) backyard behind the house. We didn’t think a 20-feet-tall privacy fence would work.

And probably our favorite house sat behind a warehouse with giant, loud fans sucking the air out of the neighborhood. Put that house somewhere else, and it would have been ours. Every house search leaves you with at least one memory of what might have been.

I share this about house hunting to illustrate an important point about good communities — we are never alone. Trese and I moved from the country to Georgetown almost six years ago. We had to re-learn what it meant to be a good neighbor because in the country we could pretty much do as we pleased. Not so in town.

I suspect some people in this rooted yet emerging city would just as soon people like me stay away. They liked the “old” Waco. I suspect I would have liked the old Waco, as well. But there is no reason we cannot like the “new” Waco just as much.

Cities change by growing or declining; they do not simply remain the same. Most of us want to be part of where good things are happening, where we can have jobs and friends and sports and theater and parks and libraries and on and on.

A growing city can provide such a healthy environment for its residents and businesses, but it is also possible to have growth that is unbridled and destructive to the common good. What I have seen in my first weeks of work in Waco is that this city and county have the kind of leaders who want the best kind of growth and the best kind of environment for nurturing our lives, our families, and our friends.

COVID-19 will pass. It will forever change some of the ways we do things, but the leaders of this city and county have shown that they really do care about making Waco the best it can be, not just another city where the humanity of people gets lost in the mechanisms of government and commerce. It must be worked for; I hope to work with my new neighbors.

By the way, I’m not a Baylor alum, but I learned some time ago to Sic’em Bears.


Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.