If truth be known, I could easily focus my lenses on the angels during the live nativity held each December at Taylor’s Immanuel Lutheran Church. The first year I covered this incredible undertaking for the Williamson County Sun was, if memory serves, about nine years ago, but who’s counting, right? Since then, the angels have grown and moved on, but more step into their wings each season. Saturday night, when this year’s photos were taken, it was quite cold, but thankfully, the rain that had bore down on our area of Blackland Prairie had moved east, paving the way for a special undertaking. Much of the nativity is indoors, but I was happy to see the scene in Bethlehem remaining outside. The angels, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and attendees didn’t seem bothered by the nippy wind. Visitors to Immanuel began their night by visiting the church sanctuary, where choir members regaled attendees with uplifting music. From there, it was onto Nazareth, then Bethlehem. Note that though the nativity is conducted at Immanuel, 14 other area churches help make this happen. Food donations were also accepted for Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry in Taylor. It was a good night. It always is.
Boy howdy, it’s been a very busy week. The Williamson County Livestock Show, held at the Williamson County Expo Center in Taylor, began on Monday and concluded today with a premium sale. While I didn’t attend today’s event, every other day found yours truly trolling for photos for the Williamson County Sun and the Austin American-Statesman. This is hard, but rewarding photo reportage, friends. For the kids taking part, it’s hard, too. For many, it’s the culmination of a massive amount of work, with chickens, turkeys, rabbits, goats, lambs, hogs and cows. While I missed out on the poultry and goat entries this year, everything else was documented to some degree. This post has far too many photos, but the beauty of the internet is that I can share quite a lot. And that is what you see tonight, friends. Like the young fellow showing a lamb even though he lost a leg to cancer two years ago. Or the dad toting a bag of feed through a heavy dose of rain for his son’s steer. These kids work their hearts out. So do their parents. They deserve the recognition.
Each year, since 1915, Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas has held candlelight services for the season of Advent. Beginning in 2010, I photographed this ethereal setting at Lois Perkins Chapel for the Williamson County Sun. While the images might look similar for each visit, they all have the ability to slow one’s heartbeat, bringing a sense of peace, particularly with the little ones. Regarding the chapel, dedicated in November 1950, alumnus and folklorist J. Frank Dobie said this: “The new chapel at Southwestern is the most beautiful college chapel I have ever seen on the western side of the Atlantic Ocean.” Precisely, sir.
These are some recent windmill photos taken in East Williamson County, Texas. The opening photo was taken on a very lightly-traveled county road, the traffic non-existent on the night I made the photo, allowing use of a tripod and longer exposure. It’s a long-dormant homesite. The only thing left, it seems, are trees and that sturdy windmill. The second, another longish camera exposure, west of Granger. Once again, the tripod came in handy. And what few drivers passed by were understanding of an odd fellow on the roadside with a camera. The last photo, through a stand of trees, shows a well-worn windmill missing some of its blades. One would assume this one’s retired, but still holding firm. Since I was standing in the middle of this road, with a few more cars, no tripod was used, but the ambient light was good. No worries there.
For whatever reason, a particular route I like to take when looking for photos is covered in huge masses of birds in flight. I haven’t gotten close enough to determine what birds they are, but my guess would be either grackles or starlings. At any rate, it’s fascinating to watch as they navigate the East Williamson County skies with seemingly-effortless skill and resolve. If you look in the far distance, some local folks might have an idea of this location.
South of Bartlett, north of Granger, on a late-November night in Texas as a tree meets the night sky, and an equestrian, honing her skills, finds solitude on the prairie.
I love my Central Texas area in so many ways. While not aligning politically with many of my fellow citizens, the uniqueness exhibited here is wonderful. One community I like a lot is Granger, up the road a piece from our Taylor home. This community, 1400-strong, just put up its annual Christmas tree. I’d passed it a few nights back, but only gave it a passing nod until a friend mentioned that the tree was adorned with cotton harvested from area fields. How the heck cool is that? So the main images tonight are of the tree, plus a couple more, lights by the town’s S.P.J.S.T. Hall. And Santa Claus. In January, I posted a photo of his visage peering at me from the second-story window of an old building. It was neat to see Santa still there… still keeping an eye on things. God, I love small-town Texas.
It was a day for celebration in Georgetown, Texas with the city’s 38th Annual Christmas Stroll. You know the drill so I won’t add much copy with this post other than to mention the photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.
Joyce White, 85-years-young, is one of the smartest, kindest, most patriotic people I am honored to know. Her husband was a decorated World War II veteran. When hearing this week that a Boy Scout from Troop 167 in Taylor earned his Eagle Scout designation by placing a flagpole at her home between Granger and Bartlett, I thought there’s no more deserving person on the planet. What makes this sturdy flagpole even better? When darkness comes, a light automatically comes on, making it visible from quite a distance. Here on the prairie, we’re fortunate in that we have the ability to see into (almost) infinity. One of the things I love about Joyce is that she doesn’t like to call attention to the good things she does. And she does quite a lot. With that in mind, a photo of Joyce is included, but the focus is that flagpole, a beacon to treasure.
Most of my philosophy about life was formed from childhood, the good and the bad. While I’ll quickly tell you that working in journalism didn’t color my views on things, sometimes it did. For 45 years, photographing children has been a passion. They are the innocents among us. For more times than I care to think about, I’ve encountered heart-wrenching situations. A couple are included here. The first one was taken in December 1975, a little girl, perhaps 7 or 8, clutching onto her ragged doll at the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission. The second image is from the early-mid 1980s, during the Atlanta years. That’s Leah, who I think was either 4 or 5, at a homeless shelter for children. While parents worked at getting back on their feet, for whatever reasons, the shelter helped give the kids a little stability. I’m posting these because I tire of hearing about “fake news.” I’m here to tell you friends, these kids were real, achingly real. The passion that drives all my work is something that can’t be helped. It is what it is. I’m okay with that.