Thoughts & Images from Andy Sharp

Kid Baseball
Red Poppy Features
New Sweden Lutheran Church
Wine Cup Wildflowers
Moon & Grain Elevators
2016 Spring Begins
March Murphy Park
2016 Spring Break
Horses & Baptist Church
2016 First Poppies


Let the Play Begin…For Big & Small

The major league baseball season just this week is in full swing.   I love watching the games, particularly the Houston Astros.   While football is fun to watch, baseball, slow game that it is, has always been my favorite.   As a kid growing up in Texarkana, I was far too small to be on football teams.   But baseball?   Now there was a sport just made for any us, regardless of our size.  With that in mind, I decided to search for a team that exemplifies what it’s like to be a kid playing the sport today.   On Tuesday evening, I found just that, a team of 8 and 9-year-old boys coached by Dru Lopez.  Coach Lopez affectionately calls his team the Traviesos.  Loosely translated from Spanish, says coach, means “knucklheads.”   Synonyms include: clever, witty, restless, etc.  I like that.   A former pitcher, Lopez wanted to give back something of the sport he loved.   Alas, he needed a field where his team could practice.   In 2016, however, if you want to play on a field, you often must pay for the space.  Last year, driving around Georgetown, he found his field of dreams, a grown-over field behind Heritage Baptist Church.  Dru made a deal with the church staff:  if they would allow his team to practice there, he’d do the landscaping.   The church readily agreed and now the Traviesos get to hold their practices here, free of charge.   Sure enough, on the night I visited, there was Monica Lopez, Dru’s wife, operating the lawnmower while Dru did his thing on the field.  One young fellow, 9-year-old Jose Ortiz, moved here last year from Puerto Rico.  Jose had never played baseball before, but watching him at short-stop, you wouldn’t know it.   He’s the final photo in this post.   At the beginning and end of each practice, the team takes a knee for a brief prayer.   That was nice.  Some of these little folks might be your next major league players.  You never know.  Play ball.

Posting Poppies While They’re With Us

The red poppies around Georgetown, Texas are coming in great quantities.   At this rate, they’ll reach their peak soon so I wanted to post a few more taken late last week.    There’s obviously not much to add here other than to say this: poppies pair well with agave plants.

A Visit to New Sweden

The fascination with the architecture of churches in my area, particularly Lutheran churches, continues.   For this post, I paid another visit to New Sweden Evangelical Lutheran Church, in far Northeastern Travis County.  Last evening, heavy clouds came into the area, creating a somewhat gray appeal.  This church, however, has its own subtle colors.   Technically, I suppose it would be considered Manor, but the church sits along a country road that reminds me very much of my Blackland Prairie pathways, just up the street in Eastern Williamson County.   The road leading to this church has an easy name to remember:  New Sweden Church Road.   The church membership harks back to 1876, when it was begun by Swedish immigrants.  In 1879, their first structure came along, two miles west of this location, where the church’s cemetery is now.  The church shown here was built in 1922.   Until 1923, the sermons were conducted in Swedish.   New Sweden still meets here.   One of the sweet things about this church is you can see it from miles away, its tall steeple rising high into the Texas sky.

A Collection of Wine-Cups

It’s Spring in Texas.   With the new season, if we’re fortunate, we’re graced with wildflowers.   Everyone, of course, thinks about our state flower the Texas Bluebonnet, but let’s not forget there are others, too.   One I like is a Wine-Cup, often seen on the edge of farmers’ fields here on the Blackland Prairie.  Last evening I visited a few just up the road from us.   According to the wildflower book we have, you should be able to see these hearty beauties right on into June.

Chasing the Full Moon

Following up on the Vernal Equinox post, I present a lovely full moon for your viewing this evening.   As with most of my offerings, these were all taken close to my home in Taylor:  the lake at Murphy Park, a farmer family’s grain elevators, a crusty old barn, a lone tree,  and Immanuel Lutheran Church, the little church on the hill.

The Vernal Equinox Arrives

The Vernal Equinox, also known as Spring, arrived in Central Texas at 11:30p.m. Saturday, but Sunday was the first full day for us.   Needing a diversion from thoughts about losing my best friend, Anson, to cancer this past week, I decided to get up well before dawn to record what I saw, beginning with the little pond, recorded at 6:45a.m.  From there, a stop at Jonah Community Center, built in 1922 as Jonah School, but still going strong.  As I traveled west before sunrise, I stopped to photograph the San Gabriel River, watching the mist on its surface, but mostly observing a fisherman losing his kayak to a swift current at 7:15.  From there, my early journey took me to a favorite place in Georgetown, Our Lady of the Rosary Cemetery and Prayer Gardens, such a soothing place.  Wildflowers, as well as irises, are in bloom near the lovely pond.  Heading back to Taylor after sunrise, I found new signs of life in a farmer’s field, little shoots of corn poking up through the Blackland Prairie soil.  It was a helpful, healing morning.

A Return of the Birds at Murphy Park

During what passes for the colder winter months here in Taylor the bird population around the rookery at Murphy Park dwindles a bit.  With Spring approaching quickly, however, the little lake at the park becomes another sanctuary for ducks, egrets and occasionally a few geese.   On a slow evening this week, I grabbed my cameras, my fold-out Longhorns chair and watched the action.   Presented here are a few from that visit.   Welcome to my visual therapy.

A Slice of Spring Break in Texas

This coming week is Spring break in many schools in Texas.   On Saturday afternoon, I visited a few settings.   In this post, I’ll concentrate on just one place, my very favorite by far.  As I parked at Berry Springs Park & Preserve, my eyes immediately glued in on a gentleman, a boy and  a dog, enjoying a lively game of fetch.   With an abundance of rain last week, some of the park’s grassy areas became little ponds, perfect, it seemed for stick-tossing.   The original idea was to wander a few areas at Berry Springs, but the obvious connection between man, boy and dog was special.   After a few minutes, I stopped long enough to introduce myself and explain the camera’s presence.   All was fine.  The young fellow is 11-year-old Elliott Taylor, a 6th grader at Chisholm Trail Middle School in Round Rock.   Joining Elliott was his granddad, Tim Stewart, and Tim’s dog, Molly.  Elliott is spending Spring break week with Tim and his wife.  Oh, and let’s not forget Molly.  Between photos, we all chatted.   It turns out that Elliott is already an aspiring photographer.  Showing me some of his photos taken with his iPhone 5, I can see he’s got an eye.   I couldn’t help mentioning that one of my all time favorite photographers is also an Elliott, as in Erwitt.

Young Elliott and granddad were going to take a peek at the elder Elliott’s work.  I hope they do.  This is a nice family.  I’m hopeful one or more of these images will find its way into publication.

A Church, Once a School, and Horses

So much of what I do is exploring the area close to where I live.    One of my favorite subjects are churches, mostly those that have been around a long time.  On a recent outing, I left my Taylor home, this time going south.   The trip on this evening took me about ten miles from home, to a tiny community called Norman’s Crossing.   I’d passed by Brushy Creek Baptist Church a time or two, but hadn’t stopped.  For some reason, it didn’t look like a church.   The sign out front, however, indicated it was also home to the Norman’s Crossing Community Center.    Camera in hand, the first thing I noticed, in back, were several really pretty horses.   They (the horses) and I visited for a while.  Sadly, I had no carrots or apples to offer.  As light faded, I turned my attention to the reason for the visit, the building itself, snapping a few photos.   Once back home that night, I did a search on the Internet and was surprised to find the reason for its non-church-like look:  it began life as a one-room school house, specifically Walnut Springs School.  Returning the next day, I met 90-year-old Jock Norman, who lived nearby in the home built in 1904 by his grandfather, Martin Norman, the community’s namesake.  Martin moved here from Alabama in 1872.   His grandson Jock, as it turns out, actually attended the old school, in the 1930s.  Back then, its walls were filled with 56 students and one lone teacher, for grades 1-7.  After that, they moved on to the Hutto school district.  Jock, a lively and jovial fellow who loves his aromatic cigars, was a member of the Norman’s Crossing Community Center.  The best part for me is he had a key to the inside.  The church, you see, rents the building from the community center.  Jock and I paid a visit and got a few photos.  It does have church pews now, but it also has the stage that was there back when Jock was a student here.  He recalls performing on that stage in a school play or two.  Still intact are  the original blackboards, too.   The old black and white photo is a class photo taken in 1935.  The class, says my tour guide, was posing in front of yet another one-room school house that pre-dated the one still around, that one long relegated to history.    Jock’s  in the middle row, third from the right.  The last two photos in the post are Jock at home, on his very pleasant back porch, enjoying a cigar and a pretty afternoon.   This was a fun outing.  What began as an addition to my collection of church photos became much more.   I still plan to return, however.   The horses are expecting carrots.

The Poppies Come Early

Red poppies are already making their presence known in Georgetown, Texas, much of it due to a winter where the rain has been plentiful.   Although their numbers are few so far, they’ll come in abundance very soon.  These photos were from Edwards Park, taken just last evening.