Sometimes the best stories, the sweetest ones, are in our own back yards. Here in Taylor, Texas, I’ve taken notice of a tall, tattooed chalk artist, Dennis Levitin, who hails from Denmark, and his 4-year-old son, Mikail. While not precisely a single dad, for several years he’s been Mikail’s go-to guy. Without going into too much detail here, years ago, while still in Copenhagen, he nurtured a bond with a young lady from Taylor, who at the time was attending college at Boston University. The online chats became phone calls. Soon, Dennis flew to America to meet her in person. In 2009, they married, settling in Taylor. Mikail came along in late-July 2013. About 8-10 months after the little boy’s birth, the couple separated, her moving to a town a little west of here, but not too far. Since then, Mikail has mostly remained with daddy in Taylor. Dennis estimates that he and Mikail are together 70-80% of the time. But let’s be clear. There are no bad people in this story. This isn’t about poor parenting, or lack of parenting, this is about a bond. They share everything, even dressing alike at times, wearing colorful shirts and caps designed by dad with “Team Toon Squad,” a creation just for Mikail. They share a small studio apartment and a big bed, not far from Dennis’ job as assistant manager at Taylor’s Farm to Market Deli. By choice, Dennis doesn’t drive. Years ago, he lost someone close in an auto crash. It left an impression. Thankfully, Taylor is less than 17,000 people, easily walkable. When Dennis reports to work, at 6a.m., Mikail comes, too. There’s a special room reserved where he can continue to sleep while dad works. Everyone here knows them. Co-workers and friends help keep watch on Mikail when dad gets busy. But daddy’s never far away. Mikail was a planned baby. You see, Dennis always wanted to be a father. It shows. “I’m not doing anything super special,” he said. Yes, he is. “His first walking steps were with me.” And first word?
A few weeks ago, I posted some photos of newborn donkeys at a friend’s place outside Granger, Texas. The donkeys, I’m happy to report, are thriving. They’re about two months old now, growing like Texas weeds. One thing I’ll know for that next visit to their pasture …. bring treats! Upon seeing me this week, the little herd, mamas and babies, made dash toward the fence. Sadly, all I had were cameras. Don’t give up, little friends. I won’t let you down again.
While the predominant crop around here at this time of the year is corn, milo is starting to pop up in fields all over the Blackland Prairie. From a distance, it can sometimes closely resemble corn, but closer inspection will confirm otherwise. I had to look it up to determine its use. What I found out is that milo is a cereal grain, or sorghum, used in food, animal feed and biofuels. Its little tops, which range in color from yellow, to orange and red, are pretty photogenic. Anyone who has more specific uses about this pretty crop, please let me know!
Looking for prairie scenes recently, I made a turn down a heavily-wooded road in East Williamson County. About two minutes in, deciding there wasn’t much to see along this route, I turned around and headed back the way I came. Then, gazing over my left shoulder, into a thick swath of dark woods, there was an obviously long-abandoned farmhouse, descending a bit at a time back into the earth from which it once rose, strong and proud. Once I realized this was indeed a road seldom traversed, I got out, continuing to take photos for a few short minutes. No other vehicles came along. Back in the car, having gone no more than 20 yards, another look to the left revealed an equally-decrepit barn, also engulfed, but standing its ground. I found the scene at once eerie and enthralling. There are times when a wrong turn leads us where we need to be.
On a recent foray along the country roads that make up our Blackland Prairie in Texas, a small green sign pointed to “Macedonia Cemetery.” The first time I saw it, time was at a premium, but eventually, I made my way there. There were no more signs after that, but in the distance, I saw what appeared to be a cemetery. And it was. Macedonia Cemetery is about 2-3 miles southwest of Granger, Texas, nestled under a collection of shade trees. Some history, courtesy of an historical marker. According to local tradition, a congregation known as the O’Possum Creek Church built an all-faiths sanctuary around 1858. The area was called Macedonia. The community continued to grow, with English and German immigrants settled on this rich farmland. In the 1870s, Macedonia became a thriving community, with Macedonia Baptist Church, a Masonic lodge, a gin, granary and general store. A parcel of land which includes this cemetery was donated by the S.A. Spiars family. Macedonia residents and businesses began to disperse after Granger was established on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad line in the 1880s. The last remaining evidence of Macedonia is this cemetery. For years, it remained abandoned, but in 1971, descendants of the original settlers formed a cemetery association to restore it. Burials continue here to this day.
This old shack continues to intrigue my visual senses. Just a little over a mile from our home in Taylor, it’s weathered countless seasons. For years, its presence in the middle of a field meant for crops was a mystery. Finally, an explanation. This was a “hand shack,” meant to be temporary shelter for farm workers working in the area. Obviously, that use has long past. What interests me lately, however, is the tree, or large bush, that continues to grow up around it. Still, the shack, though leaning a bit more these days, perseveres. I like its stamina. This view was taken Saturday morning.
If calendars are your guide, you’ll say summer hasn’t started, but here in Texas, we know better, don’t we? On Friday night, the Georgetown summer concert series started its warm-weather run on the town square. The season’s first artist was Jeremy McBee. The sweet lady that follows a photo of Jeremy is his 91-year-old grandma, there to lend her support. That’s neat. The little fellow you see enjoyed some fine ice cream from All Things Kids. The concerts, all free, kid (and pet)-friendly, are sponsored by the Georgetown Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Williamson Museum. Each Friday night this summer, everyone’s welcome to bring their lawn chairs and blankets, or their trucks (if they get a spot early enough), and just sit back and enjoy. They begin every Friday evening at 6:30 on the lawn of the historic Williamson County Courthouse, here since 1911. If you’re hearing good music, it’s a good bet you’ll not be so concerned with our summer heat. Hey, there’s plenty of trees on the lawn. That smiling pooch in the last photo? Why that’s Clark W. Griswold! These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.
One simple photo this evening, friends, a fluttering of corn stalks along a country road, taken just after 9p.m. tonight, at blue time. Corn is everywhere I look. And that’s just grand.
There are times when taking those long, wandering drives into the countryside take a back seat. My sinus and allergy issues can take a toll. On days like that, I’m glad there’s a place like Taylor’s Bull Branch Park. As the crow (or grackle) flies, it’s about a half-mile from home. That’s where I landed earlier this week. With the creek, the pond, the cypress trees and the birds, it’s got a lot to tempt those visual urges, which come to a head when the light’s good. While certainly no expert on ducks, a Google search showed me photos of what I appear to have in this post, Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. While mighty pretty, the pair I visited sure weren’t whistling! Here’s a collection of photos taken close to home in our sweet little town.