Thoughts & Images from Andy Sharp

2015 Taylor Rodeo
Library Reptile Program
Hank Williams
2015 Market Days
Field of sunflowers
Herons on the Square
Sertoma Fourth
Parish Picnic & Polka
Sheriff's Posse Rodeo
Blue Hole in June

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An Amazing Young Athlete

After a bunch of years in the business, it takes a lot to impress me.   I’ve photographed rock stars, presidents, heck, even John Wayne.   On Friday night, while covering the 66th Annual Taylor Rodeo, in my little town of Taylor, Texas, I found myself in complete awe of 19-year-old bareback bronc rider Taylor Howell, who hails from Salado, Texas.   You see, Taylor has been blind since the age of 2.  Not long after losing his sight, he got interested in rodeo.   Not just rodeo either, but one of the toughest parts of this demanding sport, bareback bronc riding, an event that’s demanding for a fully-sighted person.   I’d been at the event for quite a while before learning about Taylor.  He’s a pretty soft-spoken fellow who doesn’t ask for any special favors or treatment.    What finally clued me in were his two helpers, his cousin, 13-year-old Blaze Williams, and Taylor’s brother, Dylan Oudekerk, 11. right there to lend their help, and their sight.   The one thing this group of photos doesn’t have is action of Taylor in the arena, but I think you get the idea.   And I may not be done with telling his story.  These few photos are part of my rodeo coverage for the Williamson County Sun.

Snakes (And Lizards) Alive!

The Georgetown Public Library’s Summer Reading Program entertained kids and adults alike last week with a visit by Tim Cole of Austin Reptile Service.  Mr. Cole rolled his big box of goodies into a big upstairs meeting room, unloading an assortment of snakes, turtles and lizards, including the one the boys are checking out in the opening photo, an Egyptian Uromastyx Lizard.  Others for Mr. Cole’s instructional program included a European Legless Lizard, an Albino  California King Snake, a Mexican Milk Snake, an African Bullfrog, a ball python and a pretty, but hefty  Albino Boa Constrictor carefully handled by Bethni King, the childrens’ library director.  The last little critter in this post is a Bearded Dragon, a peaceful little fellow.   Just after covering this presentation, an 18-year-old was bitten by a Cobra he was apparently toting in his car.   The young man went into cardiac arrest and died.   It seemed appropriate  to hold off on this post for a few days, but it’s a really good thing to have folks like Mr. Cole out there to give everyone an idea what’s dangerous and what isn’t.   This group of photos were well-displayed by my friends at the Williamson County Sun.

Hank Williams Comes To Life at the Palace

In his 29 years on the planet, Hank Williams wrote and made some wonderful music.   Sadly, like so many in the public eye, the work took a toll, his life coming to an end far too early, in 1953.    The talented people at Georgetown’s Palace Theatre are bringing Mr. Williams to the stage, with the good and the bad.   The actors playing the musicians are all wonderful, but Robert Banta, as Hank, nails his part.   Go see this one if you get a chance.  It’s playing weekends through August 16.  These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.

Market Days in Georgetown, Texas

Through November, the Downtown Georgetown Association hosts Market Days on the scenic square in Georgetown, Texas.   Market Days are held the second Saturday of each month.   Yesterday, I visited the square to record the action.   Fredericksburg peaches, now in season, were available to shoppers looking for something healthy, Texas-grown, and sweet.  Dogs in strollers were leading the good life, too.  Thankfully, the normally sizzling Texas summer heat has been held at bay, at least for a while.   It was all good yesterday.  One touching moment near the end of my day of image-making was meeting the mom of a 7-year-old boy who recently underwent a liver transplant.   That little guy is shown in the final photo of this post.  The transplant was performed March 30, but he’s making remarkable progress.   He’d love to have a dog though, maybe one like Rascal, available for adoption at the Georgetown Animal Shelter.   Shelter volunteers were on hand at the square to encourage taking home a pet.  Alas, mom would love to have a dog for her young man, but money is tight and so is space in their apartment.   I hope he gets his dog someday soon though.   He deserves it.  These photos were taken for my buddies at the Williamson County Sun.

A Summertime Palette of Color

Sunflowers are growing wild  in fields around Central Texas, but soon they will be gone.   I’ve been passing this glorious display of Mother Nature’s handiwork for several weeks, in a field along Texas Highway 29, not far from Georgetown’s East View High School.   Just yesterday, I determined it was time to find out who oversees this slice of Texas sweetness, knocking on nearby doors.   A second visit late Thursday led me to the home of Francisco Ochoa, who watches over  the 50 acres, adorned not only with sunflowers, but Ochoa’s 20 head of Brangus cattle.  Mr. Ochoa and his daughter, Kaleigh, 11, led me across the street for a closer look, where I visited with the curious cows while  Kaleigh picked a few flowers.  Mr. Ochoa says in past years the field has been home to various crops, but this year, the decision was made to let nature work its magic.  Kaleigh enjoyed her romp, passing along a small gift of color to dad, then offered some to the curious photographer, who at first politely declined.  Not to be deterred, Kaleigh managed to leave a few in my car.   “You don’t  turn down flowers from a child!” my wife explained.  Now I know.  This morning, my little treasures sat in a small vase on the kitchen table.   They’re beginning to shrivel now, but I’m happy to have had them, for at least a while.

Herons In A Tree

A few days ago, a friend asked me if I’d seen the Green Herons perched in a tree on the Georgetown square.   Of course, I had no idea, but determined to find out if my friend was seeing things.   Herons, for the most part, are water birds.  They stay close to areas that will provide an abundant supply of food for their families.   That would be lakes, ponds or “tanks,” and rivers.   Well folks, we’ve had a lot of rain lately in Central Texas, but downtown Georgetown has not become that waterlogged!   The Williamson County Sun’s managing editor, Will Anderson, joined me the other day for a stroll down to 8th and Main Streets.   After staring into the tree on that corner, Will pointed up into the high branches.  Sure enough,  we spotted one, then two, three, and so on.   When I took these photos late last week, I counted six birds, not all of them quite grown, plus a few babies in nests.   Green Herons are quite a bit smaller than their cousins, Great Blue Herons, but nonetheless they were (and are) delightful sights to see.  Even out of their habitat.

A Fine And Relaxing Fourth of July

When I say “relaxing” in the headline, that is directed at the revelers who spent Saturday’s Fourth of July holiday in Georgetown’s San Gabriel Park, enjoying a happening conducted for years by the city’s Sertoma Club.  For yours truly, it’s a long, but fruitful bit  of work.   The day included a Hometown Parade through the park.   This parade, always well-attended, speaks volumes about communities coming together.   After the parade, attendees filled the park, staying cool and relaxing close to the banks of the San Gabriel River.   Thankfully, organizers provided water sprays, a very popular spot when temperatures took their toll.   One grandma, a wee bit pooped after accompanying her grandkids in the Hometown Parade, found a shady tree and had a nice nap.    As evening approached, the crowded park got really packed in anticipation of the grand finale fireworks show.   A sweet scene that night was a grandpa relaxing with his 11-month-old grandson, his first grandbaby.    The July 4th holiday has been a long day of labor  for many years, but it’s certainly a precious  slice of life.   These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.

A Picnic and Polka Music in Granger

Since the mid-1950s, Saints Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church, in Granger, Texas, has been home to a rite of summer in this small Texas town, their annual Parish Picnic and Polka Dance.   Church members arrive at the parish recreation center around 5a.m. to prepare the food, which this year included about 1100 pounds of fried chicken.  Once the feasting is done, the hall is cleared to make way for kicking up your heels to traditional Polka music.  On stage this year were Fritz Hodde and his band, followed by the Ennis Czech Boys.  Granger is a rather tiny community of just over 1100 people a little over 40 miles north of Austin, but don’t let its size fool you.   It’s a town steeped in Czech culture, with a little bit of German tradition thrown in for good measure.  These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.

A Fine Evening For Rodeo

The Texas air was heavy with humidity, but the skies remained clear at the annual Williamson County Sheriffs Posse Rodeo on Friday night in Georgetown, Texas.   An added attraction at this year’s event was an appearance by members of the First Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment, based at Fort Hood, Texas.   After a very loud cannon blast, riders and horses demonstrated their skillful riding, followed by the main event in Georgetown’s venerable rodeo setting.   The  night’s competitors, some, like Jason Griffin of Dallas, a bareback rider, were  sporting bandages and braces, but it didn’t hold them back at all.  Mutton Bustin’ gave youngsters a chance to show off their skills.   5-year-old Liam Brown,  pictured in this post three times, came away the clear winner, riding that sheep like an old hand.   And let’s not forget cowboy fashion statements, either, from both ends of the age spectrum.  In the last photo, 4-year-old Jay Griffin stays close to his dad, Jason Griffin, the bareback rider  also pictured in this post.  Jay was occupied with his sword, adding a nice glow to an already sweet evening.   These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.

A Refreshing Summer Place

With temperatures beginning their upward trend in Central Texas, area residents are finding the cool waters of Blue Hole, a lagoon on the South Fork of the San Gabriel River, a nice place to visit.   I stopped by Thursday afternoon for a while.   The actual temperature was around 95 or 96 degrees, but the heat index made it feel like 107 out there.   Thank goodness for free places like  Georgetown’s Blue Hole.   These are a few photos taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.