If you travel just a few miles east, you’ll find yourself at Granger Lake, but the town of Granger, Texas, with just over 1400 residents, is not right next to that body of water. Nevertheless, the town’s annual festival is called Lakefest. This year’s event was number 39 for this Central Texas town about 45 miles northeast of Austin. The festival included a parade, vendors, music, a barbecue cook-off. Back by popular demand this year was a kolache bake-off. The kolache is a Czech-inspired confection. Being a fellow from Northeast Texas, where doughnuts rule, I don’t know much about them, but they’re popular around here. Actress Sissy Spacek’s grandparents are from Granger. As a kid growing up in Texas, she spent copious amounts of time here. A few years ago, Granger doubled as Fort Smith, Arkansas for the remake of “True Grit.” If you take away the cars, trucks and power lines, you could actually imagine yourself back in the late-1800s. In particular, I like West Davilla Street, still paved with bricks, just like where I grew up. The little girl was glad mom was nearby when that gigantic truck in the parade blew its very loud horn. This is Texas, of course, but Granger could be anywhere in small-town America. These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.
Cherokee, Texas is a very small community we passed through on a recent day trip. A recent census has Cherokee, in San Saba County, with a little under 200 people. It was a quiet interlude on a nice Sunday drive. And it translates well in black and white. If you blink, you might miss Cherokee. I didn’t blink.
This is one of those periodic things where I take a peek back in time. East 6th Street in Austin, Texas is a place where I spent I lot of time with my camera in 1973. It was during the time when I was studying photojournalism at UT-Austin. Back then, and for years before, it was a gathering place for a variety of folks. Some were blue-collar workers, catching buses home, or stopping by a bar for a nightcap before heading home. East 6th Street was also an oasis for people facing hard times, dealing with substance abuse and mental illness issues. A few months ago, I visited the area for the first time in 40-plus years. While it’s changed, and become “trendy” for locals and visitors alike, there are still those in pain wandering the same path as 44 years ago. These are 1973 images, just street scenes.
At first glance, you might think this is yet another little missive about corn, but the barn’s the subject this time. You just can’t avoid corn this time of the year. Since we moved to Taylor in the summer of 2009, I’ve had my eye on this barn. The problem has been the barn’s location, a little off the main road. One rule of thumb I try to follow is NOT going on private property for my subjects. Although there’s a house in front, I’d not once seen a soul there. Then, about two weeks ago, I spied a couple tilling a little garden next to the house. I pulled in, introduced myself and asked if it would be okay to occasionally come on their property to take photos. They were quite gracious and welcomed me anytime. The reason I’ve not found anyone there is because the couple lives in Austin, coming to the family farmhouse when time allows. This fits the definition of a “weathered barn” for sure! On my first visit the other night, right up next to one side rested a rusty 1963 (I think) Chevrolet Impala, rode hard and put up wet. I’ll visit this one again, folks. It took almost eight years, but I am a persistent fellow.
Last evening, just before day’s end, the sun managed to peek through a gathering of Blackland Prairie clouds. The day brought little rain, but plenty of soft lighting.
At some point, you may tire of these agricultural posts, but they speak volumes about where I live here on the Blackland Prairie in Central Texas. In this area of the state, land masses can change rapidly. The area where we live, in East Williamson County, about 30 miles northeast of Austin, is rich with very dark and elegant soil. Go west a few miles, cross Interstate 35, and you’ll be coming into the beginnings of the Texas Hill Country, a profound change. At any rate, tonight’s photos are about corn. A waxing gibbous moon, just about full, shows up sometimes, when it’s not too cloudy. Then there’s the little shack, sitting smack dab in the middle of another field, slightly tilting due to the passage of time, and Texas wind. I’m told that shack was at one time for field hands. It’s vacant now, but holding its own. It’s been a hard time for my immediate family. This is most definitely a time for photo therapy.
The clouds have rolled in tonight, but last night the Blackland Prairie skies were vibrant and beautiful. We have, of course, many beautiful bits of sky magic around here, but once again, let me say this: I never get tired of seeing it.
On a warm spring afternoon I wandered to downtown Taylor for their annual festival, Blackland Prairie Days. There was music, food, beer and families having a grand time, even if it was a tad warm. The Blackland Quilt Guild had their beautiful work on display, too. A grandfather from Waco, about 60 miles north, rested on a bench with his two young charges. I enjoyed listening to the music of Mel Peters, fiddler with the Celtaire String Band, from Hockley, Texas. The SETTLERS, a living history group of reenactors from Montgomery, Texas, were there, too, doing a dance around their maypole. The youngest settler, the tiny feet you see here, is only 3-weeks-old! For whatever reason, I like seeing the fiddler, and the baby, in black and white. Both are presented here.
This morning I visited the campus of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas to document their 2017 Spring Commencement. The petite and beautiful university awarded diplomas to 357 graduates today. Southwestern University’s roots date back to 1840, making it almost as old as the state of Texas. The entire student body is small, but it’s a powerful force in Central Texas. These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing novelist/rancher Carol Fox at the family ranch in Circleville, Texas that’s been in her family for many years. The San Gabriel River flows through there. Carol shares the land with her brother, John. She lives in the home where she grew up. These photos are not of Carol, or any of her cattle. They are just the land … wonderful Blackland Prairie land. These images don’t do justice to this slice of Texas, but I do what I can.