Friday evening, I was mentioning to a librarian friend at the Taylor Public Library that I had to go. Darkness was near and I needed some photography meditation. Or call it therapy. Both work in my lexicon. So I dashed over to Murphy Park to watch the birds at the rookery. Alas, they weren’t getting the job done. However, as I got ready to leave, the sky got my attention. It was misty, somewhat cool night, but dang, that sky looked magnificent…magenta, then orange, a little of both. The tripod came out of the trunk and I began to snap away. The mist occasionally called for a lens cleaning, but it was delightful to see. The light, I think, was coming from areas outside the park. Whatever the source, I was hooked. Finally, after wiping off the camera enough times, I headed on home. In case you feel the need to ask (again), I don’t manipulate. It’s there to see when you see it at the right time. Therapy, friends. Meditation.
Last year, a friend offered me access to the Denson family cemetery, a very old cemetery on her family land. Since it’s not generally accessible to the public, I was honored to have some time there. The other day, with time on my hands, I took her up on the offer. The land is northwest of Granger, in East Williamson County. Since the unpaved road to get there was pretty rough, I managed to borrow a truck from a family member. I’m sure glad I did since my Honda would not have fared well! Some of those buried here were born in the early-1820s. The most recent interment I could find was in 1951. It is quite old. I’m still trying to find out the purpose of the dove decoys hanging in a tree there, but it was kind of unsettling to see. By well after dark, I decided it was time to return to Taylor, but I am thankful to a good friend for access to a slice of Texas history.
It was so dang cold last night, I kept the rambling to a minimum, but did manage a little north to the area around Granger, Texas. The precipitation, thankfully, had moved on, but a smattering of cloud cover added a nice texture to these scenes. I’m kind of fond of that little barn in the opening photo, a new one on which to focus as long as it continues to grace East Williamson County with its presence. Grain elevators are presented in two photos, one taken from a distance where the clouds were an interesting blue, the other from Granger City Cemetery. That Santa photo? It was odd, and kind of spooky … Santa Claus staring down at me from a window in the Granger National Bank building. Christmas may have moseyed on, but Santa remains!
A few years ago I produced a story and photos on Painted Churches in Fayette County, Texas for our state travel magazine, Texas Highways. Those churches were all Roman Catholic, with deep Czech and German roots. They are quite beautiful, inside and out. Since then, I learned of another painted church, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Serbin, Texas, not far from Giddings, in Lee County. This church and its roots are Wendish. In late-1854 and early-1855 approximately 600 Wendish people, with Germanic and Slavic heritage settled in this part of Lee County under the guidance of Reverend Johann Kilian. The church you see in most of these photos was completed in 1872. The sanctuary painting is more subtle than the Catholic churches documented a while back, but no less wonderful. The pews are original. Church custom held that men were to sit in separate pews from women and children, thus the balcony seating area, where the men once sat. Now, of course, members and guests make themselves at home anywhere. The ten columns in the sanctuary were painted using a feathering technique. The pipe organ in the upper area was added in 1904. Also included in this post is a fine old cabin. When Rev. Kilian’s group arrived in early 1855, they built a two-room cabin that served as a church, school and parsonage. In 1859, a larger wooden church was completed. Rev. Kilian continued to live in the cabin until his death in 1884. Shortly after he died, a portion of the cabin was destroyed, but in 2004, St. Paul moved the remaining section of the cabin to St. Paul, where it was restored. It’s really neat to see this kind of preservation, connecting past and present. St. Paul continues to be an active church today and is quite a welcoming community. Nearby is a Wendish Museum for those wanting to make a nice day trip and learn more about the Wendish culture.
The plan was to post something else tonight, actually another church, but the Central Texas weather forecast, temperatures plummeting, followed by wet, icy conditions, prompted a change in direction. As it happens, I wandered east of Taylor, to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, in Wuthrich Hill. In addition to the church, there’s a lovely cemetery, seen in the opening photo and one other. That truck isn’t driving through the cemetery, folks. The road was nearby. And that pond? I love that pond.
Passing through Lee County, Texas on a farm-to-market road. Let’s leave it at that.
A few years ago, I had an Austin American-Statesman assignment to photograph Vencil Mares and his Taylor Cafe, a barbecue establishment he opened in 1948. “Barbecue” alone doesn’t really describe Vencil’s place. The barbecue is good, of course, but the atmosphere is pretty fine. Patrons can sit at tables, but can also prop their rear ends on stools that in an earlier life were tractor seats. People go to Vencil’s to hang out, drink beer, play pool, watch sports on television, listen to the jukebox, or perhaps visit with Vencil, not a bad thing at all. One photo shows a couple of young folks in a game of billiards. Vencil normally won’t allow anyone under 18 to play, but the pre-teen in this photo was with his dad so he got a pass. In November, Mr. Mares, a World War II Army veteran, a medic, celebrated his 94th birthday. Although he uses a wheelchair now, he still comes in every day of the year with only Christmas and Easter the exceptions. He arrives between 5 and 7 a.m., staying every night until 10p.m. Mostly, he lets the younger folks prepare the barbecue, but he’s there to make sure everything’s going alright. I like how it’s situated close to the railroad tracks, tucked neatly under a viaduct. That viaduct came many years after Mares had set up shop. The Taylor Cafe, and Vencil, are doing fine. It’s iconic Texas. I decided to present these in black and white. It seems to fit.
This wasn’t exactly what I was looking for earlier tonight, but I kind of like it. I had meandered into Northeastern Travis County, Texas and this flag-adorned barn, complete with ancient farm equipment, got my attention. The flag, pretty faded, had obviously been there a while. This is one of those times where black and white treatment seemed right, but also included is the color version of this nifty old structure.
Wednesday evening I attended a memorial ceremony in Georgetown, Texas for Rachel Cooke, who at 19 went missing on January 10, 2002 while on a run from her family home. On this, the 16th anniversary of that tragic occurrence, about fifty friends and family gathered in front of a live oak tree planted in her memory several years ago on the Georgetown High School campus, where Rachel graduated in 2000. Included were her mother, Janet Cooke, who still holds out hope that some resolution will finally come. The investigation continues. On hand were three members of the famed Texas Rangers, wearing their iconic hats. The Rangers are actively involved in finding answers, as are other law enforcement officials, including the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff Robert Chody, shown with Janet Cooke in the opening image. A $100,000 reward is offered for anyone with information about Rachel. These photos accompany a story in the Austin American-Statesman.