Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Stills: History

Over Memorial weekend we attended the 65th--and only--class reunion of our ghost town's historic Rio Frio school, the ruins of which are next to our short grass prairie.

 Laurie's Class of '39 ring

Although we don't own the school, the children--who often rode up to six miles alone--tied their horses to trees in our creek. The school also used our land for Easter egg hunts and as their dump; we find all kinds of interesting things when we dig around in our butterfly garden.

I am friends with many of the students, now in their late 70's and early 80's, who still live around here--Willis, Molly, DeLois, Lora B. My friend DeLois--who's pictured on the left--gave me some images taken around our property. The large wooden building in the background was the original school, and was torn down to build the final one. This is the wooden bridge that used to go over our creek. That would be our future property on the right, before the school.

Here it is today. The bridge is gone and large culverts have been installed, with reflectors warning of the steep drop off. You can see our circular drive entrances on the right. DeLois' dad owned the phone exchange and the road grading equipment. This was taken at the end of our future property.

Here's the same spot now. I am struck by how few trees there were back then, and how many we have now.

One new thing we learned was during the summers our place was used to show movies. Everybody came from miles around. A traveling family named Shultz used to set up a tent in the clearing where our house is now. Their little boy, Loyo in his homemade 'car' was photographed on the corner of our property. Behind him is the historic school, and Schoolhouse Mountain. To the left is the historic church, and to the right the school outhouses that either bordered or were on our short grass prairie.

Perhaps one of the greatest surprises was meeting George who lived in our house for 31 years. Our house is still known by his name. Here he is with his daughter.

We had been told he was dead. Not only that, we'd seen his headstone in the pioneer cemetery behind us. As it turns out that belongs to his father (whose front porch has become our greenhouse). George preached at the historic church on Sundays and ran the post office out of the front room in our house (now my art studio) during the week. I inquired about his wife Laurie (who was also rumored to be recently dead).

But we found her very much alive! It just goes to show you cannot believe everything you hear. She attended the historic school which only went to grade 11. But she loved school so much she convinced them to let her attend school one more year. Thus, she is the only student who attended for 12 years. The first photo is of her hand and class ring.

This is my friend Lora B. Her family built the historic church. She once made hats for Lady Bird Johnson, my former employer. She's traveled all over the world and is an excellent historian, storyteller, and writer. She served on the board that renovated the Alamo, and is active with the DAR and Rock Art Foundation. When I was still a visiting botanist to the area she put me up, several years before I would someday come to live in this small community.

Just 22 more years to go before our house might be known by our name. Until then, we'll still honor George.

Ruins of the school at sunrise taken from our short grass prairie

For more historical images, visit Sunday Stills!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Stills: Go Low Looking High

Had a wonderful opportunity on Wednesday to take a shot from the Llano River looking up at sandstone bluffs, but not having a waterproof camera case and already slipping around trying to cross the river on foot I just didn't want to chance it. We all know I already had to bake my camera last year to get the moisture out and I didn't want to make a regular habit of it! As it was I took the camera with me on the kayak enveloped in three ziplock baggies. You can check those panoramic photos out in my previous blog post.

Purple Coneflowers at sunrise this morning

Looking through the patio table (too bad I didn't think to clean it first!)

Looking up through the Speckled Siberian tomatoes

 View from our outdoor shower

For more views up, visit Sunday Stills!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Llano River trip

It's been a long time since we kayaked. Last summer the Frio River dried up almost entirely, and it's still running too low for a trip without needing to portage over rocks. I don't like dragging a boat. On Wednesday the only central Texas river with enough flow was the Llano. Our friends Don and Pat went with us.

(Please click to biggify the images!)

 Pat on the Llano

The adventure got off to a rough start. They got off late and by the time they arrived we had tied our boats on the car only to discover the kayak rack was about to come off and we couldn't find the key. So we had to throw our boats in with theirs in Don's truck which took some rearranging. The guys rode in the truck and us gals rode in my SUV.

After we got 15 miles out of town my check transmission light came on. Ugh! We decided to ditch my car back at their house and pick up Pat's car. Only we forgot their gate key. Fortunately someone else was leaving their subdivision when we arrived or it would have been a walk.

We transferred our gear into their car and met back up with the guys on the side of the road. That's when I realized I'd left the map to the put-in/take-out back in my car. I've done this run many times but not in about six years and it's all on little country roads not found on a highway map. We decided to go forth on my memory.

Which wasn't perfect. We tried a couple roads before it all came back to me. After launching around 2 p.m. the rest of the trip was wonderful!

 Approaching the bluffs

The Llano in Mason is much wider than our river, and not as cold. You can jump in to swim without shrieking first. This five mile run was voted one of the top 20 most scenic paddles in Texas, and graced the cover of Texas Monthly. At 187 cfs it got a little thin in places and sticky on rocks but no portage was necessary. In the past I've run it more around 300 cfs. There are about five easy rapids you could almost run blindfolded. We did have a strong headwind for the first half of the trip but the weather was otherwise beautiful.

Farmer Rick looking great!

The main scenic feature is the sandstone bluffs where cliff swallows nest. The swallows were already gone, but we did see an awesome hawk, mostly light colored, catch something and take it to her nest on one of the ledges above.

A lovely place to relax and swim.

Don at the bluffs

It took us about 4-1/2 hours of paddling, and an hour of playing, but we got off the water in time to catch some Mexican food in town before heading back.

Good ol' Bassett

As we were leaving the take-out this old boy strolled out into the road and sat down so we had to stop. Don and Pat have five Bassett Hounds, so we took it as a good sign. He had a collar and a rabies tag, and probably belonged to one of the nearby ranch houses. His tongue was almost dragging the ground so we tried to convince him to drink some of our water and get out of the road, but upon seeing the truck he wanted to get in and go for a ride. We left him to carry on with his business of getting to where he was going, and got on with ours.

This was so fun we'll have to do it again soon!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Stills: Eyes

OK, I'll admit this one is really more about mouths, since their eyes aren't quite open. But I thought you'd enjoy seeing who hatched out of my last Sunday Stills egg photo.

I'm still not sure what kind of birds these are. The mother is sparrow-like, kind of gray without much marking, no tuft. If I station myself out in the prairie perhaps I'll see more of her coming and going to feed this hungry brood. Too bad none of these are in very good focus.

I thought this butterfly with the big eye looked like part of the Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) I found him on.

After several shots, I realized the butterfly had expired. The flower was looking like it was on the way out, too. Looks like a male Sleepy Orange, Eurema nicippe.

For more images of eyes, visit Sunday Stills!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Where Babies Come From

This one is too good not to share. Used by permission from Doug Savage. Visit for more of his funny cartoons.

I remember as a child asking my mother where babies come from and she got me a book about where hippopatamuses come from. I didn't make the connection, and I thought my mom was pretty stupid for not understanding my question. I stopped asking her important questions after that!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Stills: Black and White

Skeleton Flower gone to seed in the Short Grass Prairie.

Down in the creek, now lush from the rains.

Bird's nest lined with wool.

For more black and white images, visit Sunday Stills!
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