Heading south from Abilene, the first real place you come to among the rolling, sheep-herding hills of the Edwards Plateau is Ballinger (pop. 4,459), a lively little town with many of its brick and sandstone buildings dating from its inception in 1886, when the railroad came through. Standing along the banks of the Colorado River, the town now supports itself with agriculture. On the courthouse square are the photogenic Pompeo Coppini’s Charles H. Noyes Statue and the courthouse itself: a Texas classic, completed in 1889 in opulent, mansard-roofed Second Empire style. Within a block you can get a taste of Ballinger’s best enchiladas, lomo de puerco, and horchata at the Gonzalez Restaurant (700 Hutchings Ave., 325/365-3781).