On a warm Friday evening in Taylor, I moseyed up the road a little to the Williamson County Expo Center, where I attended the first night of the 69th Annual Taylor Rodeo, held each year by the Taylor Rodeo Association. It’s mighty hot in Texas right now, with temperatures well past a hundred. Thankfully, the Expo Center is covered on top, blocking out much of the. sun’s rays. And they have gigantic ceiling fans to boot. Anyway, a collection of photos from last night. It bears repeating: while action photos are fine, and I’m happy to get a good one now and then, it’s the culture and atmosphere of these events that make it good. Included in the “action” are steer-saddling and mutton bustin’, for the little folks. And of course, one photo from steer wrestling, created by Taylor’s own Bill Pickett. The road running behind the Expo Center is named for him. The opening photo shows two friends, both 8, removing their cowboy hats while a riderless horse circles the arena. That horse is a nod to members of the rodeo family who have died over the past year. And there’s cowboys, taping up, getting ready, psyching themselves for their event. I particularly like the young lady, obviously head-over-heels in love with her cowboy boyfriend. I asked if it was okay to say “boyfriend” in my captions. With smiles, they said okay. The post ends with boots, worn to a frazzle, taped up for their last rodeo according to their owner. It’s presented in both color and black-and-white, mainly because I couldn’t decide which I liked. These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.
This is a photo taken along a relaxing country road recently. Evening was making its presence known as I traveled from Coupland to Beyersville. This farmland scene merited a brief stop. While we don’t live in the Texas Hill Country, our home on the prairie has some wonderfully-peaceful rolling hills. And need I say it? Our skies? No adequate words right now.
In the 50s and 60s, when growing up in Texarkana, Texas, mama would often say “Let’s go to the country.” The “country” was sixteen miles south, in Cass County, where her family, my great-uncle Harry Bradley and his sister, my great-aunt Bip Bradley, lived together on the farm in the Bradley family since the the late 1800s. Another sister, my great-aunt Sal, also lived there. We lost Aunt Sal when I was pretty young. Mama, daddy and I spent many good hours and days there. The farm was never large by Central Texas standards, 100-200 acres, but it was enough. Uncle Harry, born in the late-1890s, was the typical stoic Texas farmer, quiet, but whip-smart. While not one to smile on the outside, you knew underneath that gruff exterior lived a good and happy man. When we weren’t fishing for perch and catfish together in the stock pond, or wandering through a huge swath of tall pines, I’d sit in the living room and pore through copies of Progressive Farmer and Arizona Highways. My uncle loved landscape photography. Through all the years I knew him, he always wore a large hat to ward off the sun’s rays. Harry, you see, had been quite bald from an early age. Tall and thin, he ate like a bird. He drank coffee from a cup and saucer, delicately pouring a bit into the saucer, then taking a spoon and taking tiny servings. A plug of tobacco was usually working its way around his jaws, a tin can always nearby. For years, Bip held a town job, working for the rural electrical company in Texarkana, Arkansas. It wasn’t until the early-mid 60s that indoor plumbing came to the Bradley farm. A well supplied the needed water, an outhouse was aromatic but functional. After I’d been in the newspaper photography business for a few years, we left Shreveport for Atlanta, Georgia, in 1980, where I took a job with the paper there. The goal had always been to stay a couple of years and high-tail it back to Texas. Two years ending up being twenty-nine years. While occasional long road trips to Cass County were possible, they weren’t nearly enough. One of the photos posted here, from 1982, shows Harry strolling with our then six-year-old son, Austin. As the years passed, I thought about Harry and Bip often. Although technically aunt and uncle, they were really the closest thing I had to grandparents. Into the late 1980s, the Department of Transportation decided they. needed to widen the highway in front of the farm, essentially making it into a high-speed super highway, the fastest route to Houston. The law of eminent domain gave the Bradleys little choice in the matter. A wide swath of land was scooped away for the road project. In the opening photo, Harry looks down on the work in progress. The only good that came of it was Harry and Bip getting a new brick house built for them. The road work resulted in the removal of their old home. We never made it back to Texas before losing them. Harry lived 97 years. Bip, a few years younger, left the farm and moved to Kentucky to be near another family member, spending her remaining days in a retirement home. She lived 94 years. The farm was sold since nobody in the family was there to look after it. I write all this while thinking about our life now in Central Texas, on the Blackland Prairie. While not the Piney Woods, I’ve come to love this area, with its rural charms and some mighty good people, many of them farmers. I think now about the road projects being considered in Williamson County, and the families affected. Areas grow, particularly ones close to Austin. While I understand that (a little), I’m concerned that these proposed super highways don’t destroy a way of life for many families for whom agriculture has been a way of life for generations.
A little bit of rambling from last night’s venture onto the Blackland Prairie, mostly east and west of Granger, Texas. Yep, that last one’s black-and-white. I’ll leave it at that.
Taylor’s Murphy Park is home to a colorful butterfly garden. On Saturday morning at 10am Keep Taylor Beautiful will dedicate it to the memory of Betty Jackson, a longtime educator and ecology supporter who inspired its creation. I stopped by there Monday evening and was fortunate to find quite a few butterflies, a bumblebee or two, some dragonflies and some mighty fine flowers. The garden’s center will be adorned with a Monarch butterfly sculpture created by Taylor’s First Lady, Julie Davis Rydell.
During a visit to Taylor’s Murphy Park tonight, where I was photographing something else, this scene got my attention. This young lady, visiting the park’s rookery, sweetly bonded with one of the park’s resident ducks. Most of the time, when I see ducks or geese here, they’re reticent about such close contact. This one, however, relished the attention. Good moments while living a good life in Taylor, Texas.
Earlier this evening, I attended a meeting at the Norman’s Crossing Community Center. After the session was over, I ambled over to the Taylor HEB to pick up some ice cream for National Ice Cream Day. That task completed, a trip back to the community center seemed like a good idea. I wanted to visit with the resident horses in the pasture right behind the old structure. Mentioned before a few years ago, but worth repeating: the building was at one time a one-room schoolhouse. It remains one of just a handful left in our entire state. But this post is about portraits. And big beautiful equestrian eyes. In case you’re wondering, that last image is black-and-white.
This weekend I attended the 115th Annual Celebration of the Williamson County Old Settlers Association at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock. While they meet for business purposes, the most fun thing is the music provided each year. The Old Settlers Association includes families of the original settlers here in Williamson County, Texas. On Friday night, I stopped by to observe and photograph their annual fiddlers contest. Among the entrants was 12-year-old Meredith, the great-niece of Irene Michna, the association’s president. Meredith has only been playing her fiddle for a few months, but she’s part of her school’s orchestra in Waco. Meredith calls her fiddle a “violin.” Meredith was a surprise entry for her great-aunt, who was overcome with a sweet happiness. Michna, one of my Taylor neighbors, is currently in treatment for cancer, but she remains upbeat and wonderful. It was good to see her reaction to her niece’s performance. And there are others presented here as well, including 11-year-old Jackson, a young fellow from Austin who’s been fiddling for eight years. And then there’s 93-year-old Joe Chovanec, still fiddling. I did some video this time, too. If I can figure out the editing process, it might end up here, or on Facebook. Best wishes and prayers for Irene.
Honestly, I try to hold back on taking too many sunrise or sunset photographs, but in the years since returning to Texas, they catapult my senses into a nice place. This one’s a sundown not far from Coupland, Texas. May your weekends be good, friends.
“Mary Poppins” begins tonight at the Georgetown Palace Theatre. It’s an excellent production, directed by Ron Watson and starring Katya Welch as Mary Poppins and Ismael Soto III as Bert. Everyone’s spot-on! This plays on their main stage, the Springer Memorial Stage every weekend through August 12th. As usual, only a few photos here, but more on Facebook. These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.