Thoughts & Images from Andy Sharp


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.

Another Barn Study

One of my recurring themes:  barns.   New ones exist, but I really admire the ones that have stood the test of time.   The barn presented here, only 1.5 miles from my home in Taylor, Texas, has been around since 1900.   It belongs to Mike and Deby Lannen, two wonderful folks who allowed me access to this structure.  At one time, says Mike, a farmhouse stood next to this barn.  It’s now relegated to history, but the barn remains.  These photos were taken just after dawn on Saturday.   After climbing the fence to get to the barn, with permission, of course, I found the grass to be quite high, and wet with morning dew.  Deby gave a warning:  watch out for rattlesnakes.   I am no fan of snakes.  Thankfully, none made their presence known.  It’s all good.

The Clouds Lift

Tuesday was a typical late-winter Texas day.  The high temperature, maybe 60 degrees, came early.  From there, the remnants of the rain that came on Monday night and the early hours of Tuesday remained, with a heavy layer of clouds and very high winds.  Temperatures dropped fifteen degrees.   By a little before 6p.m. Tuesday, however, the skies parted, just a bit, ushering in some nice, sweet light.   These are photos from areas you’ve seen before, East Williamson County, Texas.   The opening photo, of course, is Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, atop its hill in Wuthrich Hill.  The last image presented is also the church, but a few minutes later, when the pale green light graced its facade.   Simply stated, Texas is beautiful.

On the San Gabriel River

While at San Gabriel Park in Georgetown this morning, I spent some extra time watching birds.   When I was finished with that adventure, a young fly fisherman from Austin came along to add to the scenery of the always-beautiful San Gabriel River.   This set of photos is nothing more than more wanderings, but it’s what I like to do.

Following the Cyclopaths of Texas

Going into last weekend, I didn’t see many events going on in the area I cover.    On Friday, however, I had a lucid few moments and thought about cycling groups.    The Cyclopaths of Texas immediately came to mind.   This  group has been promoting bicycling in our great state since 1989.   In the Central Texas area, they promote year-round weekly rides where all are welcome.  They’re mostly low-stress affairs.  One of the things I like about this group is their “no-drop” policy.  That means they don’t take off and leave fellow cyclists behind.   They keep it light, and fun.   Saturday morning I met eleven cyclists preparing for a 35-miler starting in the parking lot at Dale’s Essenhaus Restaurant, in Walburg.   Dale’s is a  cyclist-friendly business.  Only guys showed up for this ride, but women are often in attendance.   The rides cost nothing except your time.  The photos you see here takes you through Eastern and Northern Williamson County, to Bartlett, Schwertner, New Corn Hill, Theon, Jarrell, and back to Walburg.   Photographing cyclists is also a good way for yours truly to do landscape photography with a little newsier slant!   Watch out for cyclists, please.

Trains and Tracks (And Light)

It’s been a slow week, but generally speaking, I find something to occupy the time.  Not feeling so well for the past few days, I didn’t want to go too far from home.   Recalling that Amtrak made morning and evening runs through Taylor during the week, I decided to watch the action at the local rail yards.   The play of light on train tracks, when done at the right time of day, is pretty neat.   Most of what you see here are examples of that.  These photos were taken over a four-day period, from Monday through Thursday evening.  I wanted to get the Amtrak train in a few shots, but timing was not always right.   On Tuesday, I got the train as it was leaving the yard, on time.  They usually keep a good schedule.  Wanting to place it somewhere else, on Wednesday, I drove ten miles north, to Granger.   Last night the train, for whatever reason, was running almost an hour behind, but I managed to get it going past a crossing, at County Road 401, just west of Taylor, at 6:30p.m.  Mostly, this was an exercise in watching light.

A Fine February Evening

If you haven’t figured it out yet, a lot of what I do is wander.   These excursions, as my site implies, are ramblings.   Sometimes I have something in mind.   Mostly, however, I’m following, and chasing, the light.   As a first grader, I couldn’t draw worth a lick.   When Miss Bertha White, my first grade teacher at Grim Elementary School, in Texarkana, Texas, asked the class to draw a person, I drew one alright, but left off an essential portion of the anatomy:  a body.   There was a head, eyes, nose, mouth and ears.  There were a set of legs and arms to match.  The arms, however, were attached to the legs, sans body.   I got a D-minus.  Fast-forward to my late-teens, when I discovered photography.  I was hooked, and have been ever since.   I could “draw” with light.   These photos taken last week were the result of 75-minute wandering, in East Williamson County, Texas, from just before sunset, until well after.   Chase the light when you can.

The Winter Special Olympics Comes to Georgetown

On another very busy Saturday for the Williamson County Sun, my cameras and I visited Mel’s Lone Star Lanes, in Georgetown.   The occasion was the bowling competition for the statewide Special Olympics Winter Games.   My main focus was on a Georgetown team, the Cen-Tex Rockets, but included in this post is the final photo, a father (and coach) giving encouragement to his son before taking another turn on the lanes.    Another image, next to the last one, demonstrates another dad’s love and support for his son.   And don’t forget volunteers, like the young lady helping a bowler through a tough time. Or John (in yellow jacket with two Rocket team members), a guy who gives his time as a volunteer coach for the team.   It’s not just about the game.

Grace in Motion

These few photos were taken the other night on the way home from Georgetown.   I really know little about horses, but watching them in motion is visual poetry.   The work presented here was done over about a ten minute period, my car pulled to the side of the road while snapping away at these amazing animals.

Monday Night Ramblings

These photos taken last evening are just as the name of this blog indicates, ramblings.   When I got old enough to drive, I’d tool around in my car, often with no goal in mind.   That’s what I do now, too, but with a camera.   Always with a a camera.

River Reflections

After several hours of doing battle with photo printers Saturday, I needed some photo therapy.   It’s not a certainty I’ll find something to relieve the stress, but thankfully, the San Gabriel River provided a peaceful balm.   Taking a drive through San Gabriel Park a while before sundown, I recalled enjoying the way trees sometimes reflected onto the river’s surface.   The ever-present wind around here can readily  squelch that idea.   Like a gift,  the wind abated for a while.  Apparently, a park visitor, her headphones attached  liked the view, too.   After a while, she gave up her rock seat, but I stayed until the light left the sky.

The Moon Above the Trees

Berry Springs Park and Preserve, just east of Georgetown, is a magical place, adorned with old-growth trees, many of them of the pecan variety, from the days when this was an active pecan grove.  These days, it’s a beautiful park, with walking trails for cyclists, hikers and runners.  Birders, as well as fishermen, enjoy its delights.   When possible, I tote a small bag of mini-carrots, stopping by there to feed the park’s resident donkeys.  Last night, near dark, while paying a visit to my four-legged friends, I noted the moon, almost full, hovering over the trees.  This was worth documenting.  Additionally, I took a few photos without the lunar presence.  All are included here.

Just One More Livestock Show Post!

Before leaving the topic for another year, I wanted to share with you some more photos from the 70th Annual Williamson County Livestock Show.  These photos, taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun, were recorded throughout the day on Saturday at the Williamson County Show Barn in Georgetown.   It’s difficult to put into words how much I thoroughly enjoy these shows, to see the results of these kids’ hard work.  Saturday’s judging included poultry and rabbits, with hogs moved into the barn in advance of their Sunday event.   In Texas, in counties large and small, you’ll find youth livestock shows a huge part of the culture.   That’s a good thing.

Xanadu Arrives at the Palace Theatre!

If you’re looking for a production that takes  you back to the 1980s, the Georgetown Palace Theatre’s first play of 2016, “Xanadu,” will be right up your alley.   It’s based on movie of the same name and focuses on a Greek muse sent to Earth to inspire Californians.  While on Earth she meets and falls in love with an artist and helps him achieve his dreams.   Palace artistic director Mary Ellen Butler directed it so you know it will be good!  “Xanadu” will be playing weekends through February 14.

The Livestock Show Is Here!

After the usual slow beginning of another year, things are picking up in my world of photography.   One of my favorite things to cover, the Williamson County Livestock Show, is in full swing at the Williamson County Show Barn, in Georgetown’s San Gabriel Park.   This is the 70th year for the show, with kids from all over the county toting in their lambs, goats, poultry, pigs, steers, heifers and rabbits.   On Wednesday, participants were bringing in their lambs and goats for weigh-ins before their actual competition rolled around Thursday.   The show continues through the weekend, with a premium sale held on Monday.   As I was getting ready to pack up my gear Wednesday, a group of F.F.A. students from Georgetown High mentioned going for a walk with their animals.  Intrigued, I asked where?  “In San Gabriel Park,” they said.  Of course, I had to tag along.  Goats, being goats, wanted to climb trees.  At the end of the park stroll, one young participant and her lamb hitched a ride back to the show barn with mom, once she got her 120-pound sweetie pie safely on board!    Here are a few photos from Wednesday’s fun.  More to come later on the show.