Thoughts & Images from Andy Sharp

Damn Yankees
Dawn at Murphy Park
Lois Perkins Chapel
Red Barn Early Morning
Berry Springs Pond Cleanup
Palace Kids Shows
8/15 East Wilco
2015 Summer Concert Series
Clearing the Corn Stalks


Having a Lively Time at “Damn Yankees”

The Georgetown Palace Theatre’s Springer Memorial Stage filled with a splendid cast last night for the dress rehearsal of “Damn Yankees,” playing here every weekend through September 27.   I could expound incessantly on just how fine this Ron Watson-directed production is, but the best  thing to do is experience it in person.   Everything came together, with choreography by Jesee Smart, music by Austin Kimble, costumes by Ramona Haass and lighting by David Sherline.   The lighting was particularly fine.   My rule of thumb on plays is this:  if the light works well for photography, it will be a good experience for the paying audience.   They got it right.   The cast members are all good, but I really enjoyed the performances of Robert Cross, a Palace regular (he’s the fellow in the bright red hat), and Palace newcomer Dara Hasenkampf, playing Lola.  Lola is at times a blond, and also a fiery redhead.   Put this on your calendar if possible.  These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.

A New Day Dawns at Carver Elementary School

At the end of the last school year, the original George Washington Carver Elementary School said goodbye to its teachers, students and staff.  It was a bittersweet time of moving on.   This morning, bright and early, the new Carver Elementary School opened its doors for the first time, welcoming over 680 kids to its doors.  While I love old schools, I must say this one is quite nice.  And there’s room to grow, a very important thing in fast-growing Georgetown, Texas.   Here are a few images I took for the Williamson County Sun this morning.   For 40 years, I’ve covered the first day of school, in three states.  It never gets old.

Dawn at Murphy Park

As mentioned on occasion, photography is a form of therapy in my world.   Lately, it’s also something to do when sleep doesn’t overtake my senses.   This morning, Sunday, was one of those times.   As so often happens when we age (or at least men, I’m not so sure about women), a trip to the bathroom in the wee hours is common.  When the sleep cycle is interrupted, sometimes I’m just awake for the duration.  Rather than toss around this morning, I quietly got up about 40 minutes before dawn, grabbed the cameras, hopped in the car and drove about a mile, to Taylor’s Murphy Park, to watch the birds.  In a nutshell, this post is the outcome of today’s therapy visit.   Dawn came at 7:01.  These photos are taken a while before that, then for about 45 minutes afterward.   Two other photographers were there, presumably to photograph the rookery, in the middle of the lake.  The rookery, however, is a pretty busy setting unless conditions are just right.  They were not.  Best of luck to the other photographers, whatever their goal.

A Quiet and Restful Place

On Friday I spent a busy afternoon at Southwestern University, photographing incoming freshmen as they moved into their residence halls.   After a few hours, preparing to head home, I stopped by the campus student center, took a few more photos, then stopped to visit with Jim, a friend who attended the university many years ago.  Jim was handing out welcome bags to new students and parents.   As I was leaving, Jim suggested that I stop by Lois Perkins Chapel on the way to my car.  “You’ll be glad you did,” he said.    Though tired, I followed my friend’s suggestion, entering this lovely chapel, built in 1950 and named for a former student, who attended Southwestern from 1908-1911.   Although I’ve been here several times for various things for the Williamson County Sun, this was my first visit with no activities scheduled.   I have to say, there’s something special about taking in such a beautiful place with no other soul around.   How very peaceful it was.   According to Southwestern’s website, when students are on campus, the chapel’s doors are open every day, from 7a.m.-midnight, for “prayer and meditation.”   Honestly, I think places of worship need to keep their doors open all the time, but how often does that happen?  Not so much.  But it’s a good idea.  There’s times when we don’t want a sermon

Red Barn, Early Morning

From time to time, I like to explore subjects and places on multiple occasions, for no other reason than because they are there.   One of those is a weathered, but beautiful red barn on Texas Highway 29, in Jonah, Texas.   For several years, I passed the barn on my travels between Taylor and Georgetown.   Alas, with a two-lane road and no shoulder, the only way I could photograph it was to enter the property.   If you’re from around here, you probably know that’s not a good idea, particularly if you’re toting large cameras.   The farmhouse near the barn appeared to be vacant.  Finally, last spring, I noticed a truck parked at the house and pulled in.   As it turns out, the house and barn are lovingly taken care of by Thomas Webb and his wife, Darwa.   Mr. Webb gave me a green light to pull in anytime I wished to photograph the barn.   Since then, I’ve been by here a few times.  A while back, after a rain shower, a lovely rainbow presented itself in the sky, making for a nice photo.   The photos you see here were taken a few days ago, just after the sun had risen.  Morning’s golden light presented a nice palette.   Barns are special.  When growing up in Texarkana, my parents and I would often travel 16 miles down Highway 59 to what mama called “the country,” where my great-uncle Harry Bradley, and his sister, my great-aunt Bip, lived.   They were mama’s aunt and uncle, the siblings of my grandfather, Carl Bradley, who raised 8 children, mama included, just down the road, on another farm.  Pappy Carl died when I was a little boy, his wife, my grandma, Willie Bradley, died before I was born.  When Pappy Carl passed, Uncle Harry, rather than let Carl’s unpainted old home go to ruin, dismantled it, with help from my great uncle Russ, and moved it to his farm, 2 miles away.   So Uncle Harry ended up with two barns, one recycled from mama’s childhood home.   The final photo shows Uncle Harry, by then in his late 80s (he was with us until the age of 97), plowing in front of one of the barns.  I’m not sure if that’s the original barn, or the one built from mama’s house, but let’s just say I love barns.   The little red one in Jonah will surely merit another visit or two.  I wrote about this for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.

A Clean Pond at Berry Springs Park

Staff and volunteers were on the job Wednesday morning at Berry Springs Park & Preserve, one of several scenic parks in the Williamson County Parks Department system.   The park, on County Road 152, just east of Georgetown, might be known for its lovely grove of pecan trees, its abundant bird population, hiking trails and two very friendly donkeys, but a pond is also a sweet spot.  During the warmer months, however, the bottom of the pond tends to get clogged with invasive growth, including milfoil, duck weed and musk grass.   With work clothes in place, the 3-4 hour process began, using a boat to tow a large rake across the water.  On the opposite shore, the  heavy rake was dropped, sunk to the pond’s floor, then drug across that surface using a tractor.  From the banks, others used rakes attached to ropes, throwing them into the water to get what the big rake might have missed.   More than a few crawfish popped up, too, lovingly returned to their home.   Unless, of course, Max, lending a hand with his owner, John Beneat, happened to get to the little critters first.  Mostly, Max found frogs, adding to his protein intake.    In the end, the muck became part of a compost pile, to be used for mulch on upcoming parks projects.    It’s a sweet and quiet park.  Visit when you can.  These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.

Summer Workshops at the Palace Theatre

Saturday was an eventful, busy and fun day spent at Georgetown’s Palace Theatre.    The culmination of weeks of work in the theater’s summer acting workshops for kids was the main event for kids, not to mention the proud parents and family friends in attendance for their performances.  Overseeing the hustle and bustle were Gwen Dicapo, the Palace’s education coordinator, with plenty of assistance from director Danielle Ruth and costume wizard  Annie Violette.  Both Ruth and Violette are Palace acting veterans.  Violette is currently appearing onstage in “Hank Williams: Lost Highway.”    My images focused (no pun intended) on boys and girls in the 10-12 age group, who were putting on three separate “Disney Review” performances on the theater’s Springer Memorial Stage.    Also, 7-9 age group kids put on their own productions of “The Unity Tree” at the Palace Playhouse during afternoon performances.   Later this month, teens who’ve been to their own workshops this summer will present “Into the Wood” on the main stage.   It’s a good thing to see kids interested in the arts, particularly something like this, where kids get to face their fears, and grow in a good way.   These images were made for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.

One Day Ends, Another Begins

The accepted philosophy  among many, if not most, of my photography friends is really quite simple:  1) if your work takes you outdoors, try to make it a time when God’s lovely light graces the skies, when day begins, or as it fades, and  2) stay off the major highways, take the back roads.  Alas, if, like me, you’ve spent your career in the fast-paced newspaper world, those are tough rules to follow.  Now that I’ve returned to my cherished state, I can often make those rules a reality.  What you see in this post are four images taken last evening, those first four photos.   Early this morning, after waking up much too soon, I decided to get an early start on the day.  The final four photos were all taken within 20 minutes of each other as I traveled the back roads from Taylor to Georgetown for an assignment unrelated to what you see here (more on that in a later offering).   The last shot is the elegant San Gabriel River, a section I often see, but usually during the cold light of day.  At 7:15 this morning, it spoke to me.  Oh, and as an added inspiration, I had my car’s CD player loaded with “Live at Carnegie Hall,” by Stevie Ray Vaughan.   What a nice start to a day.

More From the Summer Concert Series

At the beginning of the summer, I posted a few photos from Georgetown’s free series of laid-back concerts, held each Friday beginning at 6:30p.m. on the Williamson County Courthouse lawn.  It’s a great scene, on a wonderful town square in Texas, so I’m paying another visit to it here.  As usual when I document these events, it’s more about the attendees than the musicians.  I must say, however, that smooth jazz sounds emanating from Cactus Groove last Friday evening were amazing comfort food for the ears.   The music was so good, nobody seemed to mind that the temperature hovered around a hundred degrees.   If you’re looking for fun, the country sounds of Cowboy Nemo are at the square this coming Friday.  The concerts continue through August 28.   For more about this pretty area, check out the Downtown Georgetown Association, The Williamson Museum and Visit Georgetown.  These photos were for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.

After the Corn Harvest

All over my area of East Williamson County, Texas,  one can see field after field of corn traversing the Blackland Prairie acres.  After an unusually  wet winter, the ground readily provided area farmers, if they planted early enough, with good yields.  For those not versed in corn, when you see those parched-looking stalks dotting the countryside, don’t make the assumption that those are burned-up crops.  Most likely, you’re seeing a field that’s already been harvested.  But once the harvest is done, there is plenty to keep farmers, like the Raesz family, busy for a while yet.   Arnold Raesz, along with his sons, Shaun and Steven, and their cousin, 24-year-old Heath O’Banon, are still busy, clearing those fields, getting ready for the next planting.  This spring, S&S Raesz Farms planted 3700 acres of corn.   After harvest, they, like many farmers, get that farm equipment back in those fields, grinding  the used-up stalks and bits of corn, mulching it back into the soil, making it healthier for the next round of crops.  Not only that, but the combine also gathers grains of corn, which in turn is loaded onto trucks and stored in grain elevators, to be sold for feed grain.   Farmers, the good ones like the Raesz family, are the epitome of recycling.   I can’t say enough good things about their work ethic either.  Even as darkness enveloped the land, they continued their work, headlights shining on the tractors and combine.   These photos, and my story, are the subject of a little piece I did for the Williamson County Sun.