Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

October 27, 2013

The Oakwood Cemetery Tour

Filed under: Austin,Cemeteries,Genealogy — Janice @ 10:21 pm

I finally went on the Murder and Mayhem cemetery tour that goes on at Austin’s Oakwood Cemetery every Halloween. Well, actually, this was the 7th annual tour. I know you would think that I would have gone to it every year. I think I have avoided it because it reminds me of getting fired! It was 6 years ago today that I lost my radio job. The last blog post I put on my site was about the cemetery tour and how interesting it looked. That was their very first year. When I got laid off, the station deleted me from everything on their websites for the most part, but if you searched my name on Google, my station blog would still come up and that post was there. Yes, I Googled it a lot just to see how inept they were and how long they would let my blog stay available. It was there for a long time!

But I finally got to the cemetery and loved it (of course). I have NEVER even walked around Oakwood. I know that seems weird when I pull my car over for strange cemeteries all up and down the highway.

Before I went to the tour, I went to the Oakwood Annex, which is, technically, a completely different cemetery just to the east of Oakwood (Austin’s oldest cemetery). I knew there was one Cunningham relative in the Annex and I went to see if I could find his grave. I did find where his grave is supposed to be, but there is no headstone. I don’t know if there ever was a headstone. He died when he was only 21, of TB. But he had been living at the Austin State School for the past 8 years, according to the death certificate. From what I read about the school at that time, he must have been mentally retarded and that was where he needed to be in order to be cared for and educated. I believe his family lived in San Angelo at the time, and his father was sick with TB and meningitis about the time he was sent away, so I make up my own stories about what was going on in their household at the time. But poor J.V. Lewis didn’t have a grave marker, but at least I know where he is buried.

On to the tour… Tour guides in interesting costumes led the tour. Apparently the city has requested that the tour not mention ghosts or focus on anything gruesome. I’m okay with that. Instead, it was vivid storytelling by maybe 8 “actors” at gravesites, telling the story of their husband/granddaughter/self who was dead in the grave and how it happened. Some were better than others, but all were interesting.


Our tour guide was Danny Camacho, who has several relatives buried in the cemetery and is a big activist in the Save Austin Cemeteries community. He was quite entertaining.


This was one of the actresses telling the story from the perspective of Bertha Duesterhoeft. Her husband owned Scholtz’s Garden. If you aren’t familiar with Scholtz’s, it is the oldest continually operating business in Austin. It has been in operation since something like the 1860s and still serves great German food and beer. Apparently this owner came home from work unhappy and upset and killed himself.

The tour was fun and a walk in a cemetery is always good. There will soon be a book out about the cemetery with great pictures and stories. Just driving down the “Main Street” in the center of the cemetery is like a history lesson on Texas and Austin. Governor Hogg is also buried in Oakwood, but we didn’t get over to his grave so I would like to go see it. I did see Governor Pease’s big grave.

October 14, 2013


Filed under: At home,Garden — Janice @ 11:07 pm

Ah, we are sad. Mark discovered this weekend (before the floods hit Austin Saturday night) that one of his favorite cacti has rotted away. It’s in a pot without great drainage and that is always a danger with any plant, but especially cactus that are sitting out where it rains on them. This is what it looked like in its glory days:


I have LOTS of pictures like this with it in full bloom because I would come out of the front door, dashing off to work, and spot this beauty and have to stop and take a picture before proceeding. I’m sure Mark has some that are more stunning.

Fortunately, cactus are SOMETIMES easy to get started again. We’ll see if this one can be. I have dissected the rotten parts and have lots of little “babies” curing in the kitchen right now. Some hormone powder and some vermiculite and maybe we’ll have some new baby blooms soon.

September 3, 2013


Filed under: At home,Genealogy — Janice @ 12:12 am

I have spent a lot of time this holiday weekend piecing together pieces of my Cunningham family. I keep thinking I want to branch off for just a bit and look into some Williams history, or Hood, or Hallford, or something…  Then I find myself trying to find a marriage record of some distant cousin who now lives in North Carolina and I lose myself again.

I feel a little bit victorious when I find a birth record of someone that we don’t yet have in the family record and I get to add them. Or even more victorious when it is just names from an obituary that lead me to other clues about who these people are and where I can find them and how they fit into the family. Tonight I found where one of our distant cousins married for the second time when she was 79 years old. She and the husband both were quite wealthy and belonged to the country club set in Dallas. I’m sure they had a few happy years together before he died. I can’t find anything that tells me that she has passed away and she would only be in her early 90s at this point. That makes me want to go knock on her door and get to know her! No, I never EVER would do that. But I do some virtual stalking from time to time.

I love documents like this one:


Who traveled from Dallas to Brazil in 1945? Oh yes, this cousin did. Was she traveling alone? Was it a family vacation? I want the answers to these questions, but there is no answer. Or maybe there is. This is the same woman that married at 80 and seems to still be alive in the ritzy part of Dallas. Maybe I can knock on her door and at least ask why she went to Brazil.

August 9, 2013

Amarillo Trip

Filed under: Family,Travel — Janice @ 10:00 pm

If I want to tell you about all my traveling, I have a lot of catching up to do. In July I had a great trip to my hometown of Amarillo for many reasons. What started as a mini-high-school reunion also turned into a family reunion and a great visit/cemetery tromp with an old friend. I haven’t found a good way to share the pictures with the family, so I may as well just share them with the world. These are my mother and sister (who traveled with me) and my 3 aunts (Mom’s sisters) and some of their families. My cousin Sonia is one of those people who can make things happen and she started this and it turned into a nice party. Sonia’s in the pics along with my cousin Patsy and her husband David (and a cool golf club collection that he also came to pick up), and all of my cousin Judy’s kids and about half of their kids. I was glad to get to meet the two newest members of our family:  sweet Harper Jane and beautiful Madyson Lynn. For such a short visit, we squeezed in a lot of fun. We even managed to make a drive through one of my “sacred spaces”—Palo Duro Canyon. It is ever changing and unchanging. The quilt was a really neat gift from Sonia with pictures of another sister trip she engineered a couple of years ago. Aunt Dorothy just had her 90th birthday. That’s a birthday book that Aunt Louie is studying and reading all the cards. So here are the pictures:

And before we left town, Mother and I drove around town and visited cemeteries and we also found this house:


I don’t know how I had never seen this house before or even thought about seeking it out. This was the house my mother and her parents and her younger sister lived in when Mother met and married Daddy. Her younger sister was already married, but Uncle Jay was in the service in Korea so she was living with the family. This house is just a block away from Route 66. I’ve always thought it was cool that I was born on Route 66. It adds to the coolness that Mom and Dad were falling in love on it.

July 1, 2013

40-year Anniversary

Filed under: Family — Janice @ 10:32 pm

Yesterday, June 30, 2013, was the 40th anniversary of the death of my grandfather. He was the first grandparent death I ever experienced and I was only 14. I think most people have their grandfathers in their lives a little longer.

I discussed his death with my mother a week or so ago as the date was approaching and we had one of those “oh I remember it well” moments like in the song where our memories weren’t matching up. She recalled my grandparents’ neighbor calling us that morning. No, I said, he drove over, don’t you remember? And his name was Gallan. No, Mom, it was Mr. Galvan, I remember that. Of course, I see MY memory as flawless and as absolutely the truth! A few days later I compared notes with my sister and she seemed to remember even more details. Of course, we are the only 3 people that experienced it or would even have an interest in recalling those minor details. But then one of us feels the need to share…

Just to orient you, this is Mamma and Pappa Williams. I wish I had a picture of him in his trucker’s uniform.


Pappa Williams was a truck driver, driving an Amarillo to Denver route for Red Ball Freight twice a week. They had a mandatory retirement age of 65, so in January of 1973 he turned 65 and had to retire. They had a nice home, not in the country, but not in town either. Sort of in a neighborhood out in the country. Mamma liked to putter and had a “flower room” with all of her jungle of plants. She also crocheted and embroidered. She had her favorite TV shows and a nice routine in her daily life. Pappa didn’t seem to have anything outside of his work. He would mow the lawn and he enjoyed family visits. He had a garage with tools, but I don’t recall him ever working on an engine or building anything. My point is that he didn’t know what to do with himself as a retired man. So he died. Seriously, he lived five months and just died of boredom or heartbreak or something. Okay, emphysema was certainly a contributing factor. Maybe even alcohol, I was to learn 35 years later.

This picture is really a lot more like I remember him. It is surprising how few pictures I have of him!


So on this summer Sunday morning my family was all at home, as usual. Maybe we were going to be going to church and this was early, I don’t remember. In fact, in my memory, it was a Saturday, but looking up the date, it wasn’t. We heard a car coming around the house and pulling up at the back door. In the usual frantic manner of our family, there was lots of “Someone is in the driveway! Who in the world would come in the morning? Daddy, you go see who it is, we’re not home!!” Meanwhile, we are surreptitiously peeking around the curtain. “Hey, it’s Mr. Galvan, that’s weird.” We knew Mr. and Mrs. Galvan, the older neighbors of our grandparents, but they didn’t come to the house to visit. We (mother, my sister, and I) were hiding under the bed (only figuratively at this point) and sent Daddy out on the back porch to talk to Mr. Galvan. I only remember Mother coming into the bedroom not long after to tell us that Mr. Galvan had come to tell us that Pappa was dead and we needed to get to their house as soon as possible. Looking back, my view was that Mr. Galvan drove over as a courtesy, but my sister recalls the phone being out of service. It was out of service a lot back in the dark ages, so she is probably right.

Mother and Daddy left immediately to go to my grandmother’s; she lived only about 3 miles from us. My sister could drive at this point so we lagged behind to get dressed and, I guess, give Daddy a chance to assess the situation over there.

Mother recalls that someone did call Pappa’s physician, the good Dr. Low who was the doctor for all of our family. He and his wife were sweet people and they attended our church. He came and pronounced Pappa dead and said Daddy could call the funeral home then. Mother says that was the first time she had ever seen Daddy be indecisive. Of course, he was in shock.

My sister and I got to the house before the funeral directors did. Mom “made us” go back to the bedroom and see Pappa dead in his bed. Mackie remembers this with horror and says Mother has apologized for “making her” go and view the body. I don’t recall it being such a horrible thing in that he was dead, but seeing your grandfather in his undershirt in his bed anytime is pretty horrifying. I do remember Mother saying, “See, he looks like he’s just sleeping,” and my thought was, “No, he looks dead.” Of course, I don’t know and didn’t know what dead looks like.

I don’t remember much of the rest of that day. I’m sure the visitors and food started arriving soon. Since Pappa was relatively young and still had a great many coworkers that were friends, they all brought food and visited I think. We had lots of family members from the area that came. All the neighbors brought food and I think Mamma and Pappa still attended church and so the church family probably also brought food. I remember there was plenty of food available and the counters and table in the kitchen were loaded.

I guess my cousins from Austin, Daddy’s sister and her family, came up immediately. I remember lots and lots of people that I didn’t know expressing their sympathy and saying, “You lost a good grandfather,” and the like and, this will sound mean, but I remember thinking, “Really?” Okay, maybe the expression “Really?” wasn’t foremost in my mind because we weren’t saying that at that point in time, but I kind of wanted to compare notes and question these people about how they came to that conclusion.

Pappa was a nice man and I have some very fond memories of him as a grandfather. If we were at their house when he came home from a run, he always had something for us. Usually it was a stick of Juicy Fruit or Spearmint gum (Wrigley’s, of course). If we were really lucky it was a whole pack of gum. Sometimes we might get a Kennedy half-dollar. He let us ride on the riding lawn mower with him (we didn’t have wonderful inventions like that at our house). And he let us smoke his cigarettes. Now that’s a good grandfather.

Some of not-so-nice memories of him include his pouring a glass of water into my face to wake me up when I slept on a palette on their living room floor on vacation. And when he and Mamma picked me up from school when I was sick and I couldn’t call my mother because we didn’t have a phone. Instead of driving to her house to tell her I was sick and needed to come home, they just came to town to get me … and then ran their errands. Going to the courthouse to get their car tags was one errand I recall. He also liked to tease and bully. “Better eat those carrots, it’ll put roses in your cheeks” with variations on what I needed to eat and what result would come from it (I never understood why I would want hair on my chest). Since I’ve done my genealogy I have learned a lot about Pappa’s family and the atmosphere he was raised in. There wasn’t a lot of affection in his family, so I will accept that giving a piece of chewing gum to a granddaughter may have been his only way of showing affection and teasing may have been his only way of having interaction. He did not have any good role models when it came to family.

The week of Pappa’s funeral was the week I bought the first record album that I ever bought on my own. Once my cousin Wyndy was in town from Austin (Wyndy is a boy’s name in our family, by the way), our cousin Kent, who was one of the coolest teenagers I’ve ever known, took Wyndy and my sister and me into town to get away from all the sadness for a bit. That was really a fun time in the midst of a confusing funeral week. Even though we lived a few miles from Amarillo and I had lived there as a kid and we bought groceries there often, this was my first introduction to the Amarillo that was fun for teenagers! We made the drag and we went to Stanley’s drive-in, which is (was) straight out of American Graffiti. Kent showed us the sights. Somehow we also ended up at Montgomery Wards. I’m always telling kids about my childhood when grocery stores sold albums, but department stores sold albums back then, too. Imagine Penney’s or Kohl’s having albums today. But Wards had a stereo department and they had records and I bought Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player by Elton John because the song Daniel that had been a big hit through the school year (along with Crocodile Rock). That album became one of the most influential albums of my life.

At some point in this time span that truly was short, but we seemed to pack a lot into it, we went shopping with Mom and got new clothes for the funeral. This was my first experience with the thought, “Do we have to wear black?” I think Mackie, at just about 17, was well aware of etiquette and fashion and knew that you didn’t and this was a great opportunity for her to get something cute. Because she did.

I don’t have a lot of memory of the funeral itself. I remember it was at Paramount Baptist and he was buried at Llano. I remember playing with my little cousin at the cemetery after the service; she was just 7 at the time. My oldest cousin Mike and his wife Sue did not make it up for the funeral. They were expecting their first child and she was born less than 3 weeks later and they named her Andi after my grandfather.


As I thought about writing this, because of the anniversary, I planned on writing about Pappa and his life, but I never quite got that far tonight. It became, as usual, all about me. By the way, I lost that grandfather at age 14 and didn’t have another grandparent die until 20 years later. One lived to be 91, one to 97, and one to 100. Dying young has not been an issue in my family for the most part.

Thanks for rambling along with me on this one. I don’t know how real memoirists do it. I feel guilty for writing that my grandfather threw water in my face. How do “real” writers write the true stories of people that might be alive to read it?

One last picture, the traditional 4 generations with Pappa and his mother Mattie, my dad and me.

May 14, 2013

Columbus’ City Cemetery

Filed under: Cemeteries,Genealogy,Taphophilia — Janice @ 2:14 pm

I’m going to put more of my cemetery adventures into my blog for safekeeping until I get around to creating another place for them. I need a place for the NARRATIVE of my cemetery visits. If there were a transcript of all my thoughts as I walk through a cemetery it would be a multivolume set. I don’t think, “Oh, that’s a pretty tombstone.” It’s more like, “Hey, that’s a Kuyper, didn’t I see a Kuyper on the other side of the cemetery? Is that a German name? Did this community have a lot of Germans? I don’t see any other names that are German. And she was born in 1810. I bet she came here when it was a Republic, I’m going to have to look that up. Oh, she had 3 children die in infancy, how sad is that? But she had a long life and there’s at least two of her children buried nearby so that’s good…” and it goes on and on and on. Then, if I have any chance at all to investigate further, it gets bigger and more all encompassing. Let’s take the City Cemetery of Columbus, Texas, as an example.

I won’t even go into why I was in Columbus on Friday, but I was and I took a spin through the little Southern town and spied an old-fashioned hamburger stand. They didn’t have car hops, but they did have a drive-through so I decided that was excuse enough for a chocolate malt. In the world I live in, sitting in a car for hours negates all calories from chocolate malts. I circled the block to get back to the malt shop, but didn’t go far enough so I drove up the main road and was going to make a U-turn somewhere. Cars turned into the post office and I started to follow them, but it kind of looked like a bottleneck so I went on up to the next drive/street and turned in, ready to turn right around and come back. And what did I see?


Yes, I think it is a gift I have to stumble upon old cemeteries. There were even beautiful wildflowers, lots of birds and butterflies, and cute birdhouses out front:


Columbus is a really old town, one of the oldest in Texas, and there were some unique, beautiful old graves. Maybe I’ll get back to them someday. These are the ones I’ll concentrate on today:


I noticed them because of this one:


I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a military headstone for a woman outside of a military cemetery. And I also assume that this woman was in the military in World War II since she would have been in her 20s in the 1940s. That seemed unusual and rare, too. It doesn’t specify what she did or when she served.  I went over and saw that it was a family plot so I took pictures all the way down the row of the Woods family.

At home today, I went to one of my favorite sites, Find a Grave, and looked these graves up and was surprised to see there was no photos of these gravestones there. It seems that almost every cemetery has been photographed over and over except maybe for the newest graves, but not this cemetery. It looks like I’m going to have to put every picture I just snapped “for fun” up as a record. I wish I had looked up the site while I was there and I would have been more serious and organized about it all. All of the Woods family graves were accounted for (listed and had information, just no picture) except Mary, so I have added her to Find a Grave now. I couldn’t find any more information on the web about her service or her marriage. It leaves me with questions.

But I learned a lot about her family. These are her parents and they were buried beside her:

DSC00698   DSC00699

French and Bertha. He worked as a car washer at a dealership in 1930 and she was a laundress at their home, raising at least 4 children.  By 1940 he was working as a truck driver for a gas station, which I would think would have been a pretty good job.  Bertha was working now as a maid in a private home. Mary Lee was an “under clerk” for the “N.Y.A.” now that she was 18 and was no longer in school. She had completed high school (I believe) where her parents had only completed 6th and 7th grade, so the family was progressing.  Oh, yes, and this family is African-American and French’s parents were born as slaves and couldn’t read or write:

DSC00700     DSC00701

They were born in North Carolina (Jials – or Giles) and Tennessee (Julia). I wish I knew how they came to know one another, to get married, how they felt as teenagers to learn about the Emancipation Proclamation and what differences it made to their families.  I think he was married once before he married Julia. I won’t go into all the details about why that might be. The item I was most happy to find on the internet was the record that he was registered to vote in Colorado County, Texas, in 1867. How great is that that a man that was born a slave was on the voter’s rolls so soon after the Civil War? Then I read how the KKK forced many blacks to register and to vote Democrat, so maybe it wasn’t as rare or great as I think, I don’t know. I also thought it was interesting that his grave says “He was a member of  Methodist church.” I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an inscription like that on a gravestone.


He had a sad ending to his life. According to a story on Find a Grave, when Jials was in his early 70s in 1914, he was working for a farm east of town and it was after dark and he thought he was walking away from the Colorado River, but he walked toward it, fell in and drowned. Now, of course, I wonder how the writer of this news story knew what a dead man was thinking minutes before he died? Is there more to the story? We’ll never know.

In addition to Mary, her parents, and her grandparents, there is another Woods grave:


It looks like poor Fannie was the oldest of Jials and Julia’s children and she was living at home in her early 20s when he drown. She lived the rest of her life with her mother and never married. A devoted daughter.

Of course, off of these stats and details were pulled from internet sources (though most of them legitimate and actual photos of the real census, WWI draft registration, voter’s rolls, etc), but I’ve also drawn some conclusions. And that’s why I like genealogy and cemeteries, its creating those stories for these people and wondering what their life was like.

May 12, 2013

It’s Mother’s Day!

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family — Janice @ 11:06 am

Here it is Mother’s Day and my friends are blogging about it and everyone is posting their pictures of their mothers on Facebook. It is sweet and nice. I guess I should join the throng.

The trouble with the picture posting is, being the keeper of all the photos in our family, I can’t find THE photo. The one that really shows me and Mother as the Mother/Daughter team it should show. I have plenty of those pictures in my head. How do I get them moved to a digital format?

My sister went off to first grade when I was 3 and so it was just Mom and me together all day long for 3 years. I can “see” Mom teaching me during that time – even while she took care of things. I remember following her while she vacuumed, asking her how to spell words that I was writing. She might have missed a little bit of the teaching opportunity at that point because this was when I knew that the capitol E had to have 3 horizontal marks, but I thought that was just a minimum. Since I usually had lots of time, my beautiful capitol E’s were embellished with dozens of horizontal marks, resembling my drawings of combs.

I don’t know if we had a rocking chair in the living room or not. I don’t have any memories of a rocking chair there, but I do have one of those wonderful “feeling” memories with Mom cradling me and rocking me and singing to me in a chair in that room, probably trying to get me to take a nap and I was wide-eyed. Mom was good at rocking in any chair, though, I’ve seen her do it with the grandchildren, so there may not have been. Like I said, it is a feeling, I remember the warmth, the pressure, the comfort. And the singing, of course. Mom’s favorite lullaby was a Perry Como song Chi-Baba Chi-Baba. I don’t know when I learned that that was a “real” song… possibly when I worked alongside a Stardust format station in the 90s or when Mark and I started going to antique stores and I bought the sheet music. Read the comments under the video I linked. I apparently wasn’t the only kid raised with that lullaby. Perry doesn’t sing it as well as my mother…. she skips all the beginning part and jumps right in with Chi-Baba Chi-Baba.

Mother also read to me endlessly. I have a vivid memory of dragging my book up the hall to her to read to me again. What strikes me is I remember dragging the book. The book was one of the Little Golden books or the like, so imagine the size I must have been to hold it by my side, open, and have it dragging the floor. It was the story of the Wolf and the Seven Little Kids. That was my favorite fairy tale and mother read it to me over and over. I remember dragging the book up the short hall from our bedroom to Mom’s and Dad’s and her saying something like “You want me to read it to you again?” and sitting down on the side of her bed and reading it to me. I think this was in the daytime and I am not even sure I was old enough to talk much at that point. But she read to me. A LOT.

Mom let me cook. Again, this was when I was little, at most less than 5. Mom was cooking so I wanted to cook, too. She got me the chair to stand on, the bowl, the tools, and allowed me to combine whatever I wanted to combine. I recall torn up bread, milk, and pickles going into my mixture. I recall putting it out for Maisie, our collie, to eat. Maisie was not interested. I knew at that point there was more to cooking than just putting ANYTHING together. Somewhere along in there was when she ordered us a Betty Crocker kids’ cookbook, the kind you would mail off for from a flour sack. We then learned to make Roly-Polies (again, before I was 5, but Mackie was grown up at 7 or so). The world calls them Snickerdoodles, I believe, but this book – and therefore we have always – called them Roly-Polies.

The story Mother will probably not want me to tell, but it tells a lot about me, is how she let me be independent. Once we had moved to the country when I was 5, Mother would have to drive to town to get my sister at school from time-to-time. When I was happily playing with my plastic cowboys and horses and their barn made out of a book made into an A-frame, I did NOT want to be interrupted to run this errand. I was happy. Leave me alone. I like being HOME. And she let me. She sometimes would make that trip into town and back without me so that I could stay home and play. Yes, in modern times that would be called child abandonment. It would have been called that then, too, if I had set the house on fire, I suppose. But she would return in 20 or 30 minutes and I would still happily be on the living room floor rounding up the imaginary cows (my cowboys didn’t have any plastic cows).  I like that story because it shows that my desire to stay home and be by myself, happily playing alone, is not something I developed in response to anything in this world. It was there from the start.

I’ve written all these stories about an age in life most people can’t even remember. If I started in on the things Mother taught me once I started school, grew up, married, etc., we would be here all day long. She still teaches me things every day about how to live life. While I can laugh about the caricatures on TV or movies about overbearing, irritating, meddling mothers, I cannot to relate to them. I hate to even write a blog post like this because I know I was super lucky in getting the mother I got and I don’t want anyone to feel bad because they DIDN’T have a great mother, but maybe it will be instructive to someone who doesn’t have a kid yet. Teach, read, rock, comfort, sing, play, and let them be independent. That’s a pretty good foundation to work from. Thank you, Mama.

old box from Mackies house scanned 9 10 2011 007c

May 5, 2013

Too Many Stories

Filed under: Bluebonnets,Cemeteries,Family,Taphophilia,Travel — Janice @ 9:43 pm

I have too many stories rattling around in my head. Every time I think about putting one down, another crowds in and says, “What about me???? You were going to tell about me a year ago. Surely my story is of more import to your thousands of readers and the generations to come than THAT one.” And as soon as I start to consider that and move my thoughts that direction, another demanding, irritating story comes begging in an even more sniveling whiney tone and before long I shut the whole process down and eat chocolate.

I call it my “artistic process.”

Trouble is, time passes and the weight increases, but there are no blogs in the pipeline, no pages piled by the typewriter, no checks in the mail from New York publishers.

So let me tell a story. ANY story. The first story that comes to mind, the closest at hand, the freshest. All those stories of my ancestors can wait a day or 10. Or until I run out of chocolate.

Mark and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on April 24th. We are both a little bit gobsmacked (I am not certain that is the word, but it feels right) that we have achieved such a momentous occasion. Him more so than me because I always believed I would get to a 20th anniversary. Since he had had some rough starts and do-overs, he is especially pleased to prove that he could do it. Do it he did. The 20 years flew by and we are still happily doing lots of the things we were doing when we fell in love and started this adventure.

On the weekend after our anniversary we did some of those fun things. On our honeymoon trip we went in search of antiques and bluebonnets and small towns and cemeteries. We did that again.

Our main goal on the first trip was to go to Pontotoc and see the Union Band Cemetery. Mark had discovered it online somehow and had seen a beautiful picture of it in the bluebonnets.  Last year we stopped in Pontotoc on our way to Santa Fe and Taos. It is an interesting small Texas town because it has ruins like few towns have. There are walls and window sills of an abandoned academy that operated there in the 1870s and 1880s. Across the road is another brick building, empty and abandoned. The academy stopped operating in the 1880s when a typhoid fever epidemic wiped out lots of people in the town. In the 1940s, a fire destroyed most of the buildings in the town. The town never recovered and the ruins are still there and are incredibly picturesque.

Sadly, a little abandoned cemetery lies just north of the town. And when I say abandoned, I really mean abandoned. There is no sign or indication that it is a cemetery, only the fact that you can see some graves there. It did look like someone had cleared some mesquite and prickly pear at one time, but they are really fighting a losing battle.


Most of the graves were like this… rock enclosures with no markings or identification. Some were upright and in place like the one on the left, but most were tumbledown. Mark noticed that the death dates all seemed to be about 1888. When I got home I looked up the cemetery and read that the typhoid epidemic was about that time and a local doctor was worried that the cemetery was too close to the water supply and the city established a new cemetery on the other side of town. Another account said that the first cemetery got full and they had to start the second. We went to it, too, and it is the “new” cemetery and was founded in 1885. So I don’t know the full story of the change in cemeteries. The new one was very nice and grass and a few bluebonnets. It was a mix of old graves and new.


I always feel sorry for gravestones that are totally crowded out by trees.

And we did make it to the Union Band Cemetery, which had more bluebonnets than any, but they were going to seed. Notice that this grave has a Texas Ranger marker to the right. Ranger Miller would have been a ranger in the early part of the 20th Century. I’ll have to look him up. He may have been on the border watching out for Pancho Villa.


We didn’t JUST visit cemeteries with strangers in them. We went through Llano on the way out (and, yes, ate at Cooper’s Barbecue) and I had Mark swing through the huge Llano City Cemetery. I had looked up the location of an aunt and uncle, but didn’t know if I would be able to locate them. Having a location and looking at it on Google or a map is a whole different experience than finding it on the ground, I have discovered. But we got to the area and Mark spotted the Hallford grave right off the bat. He has the pictures with that grave so I can’t post it yet. It is the grave of my great-grandfather’s brother Johnny. I have a transcript of a diary or a life story that his wife, Mattie Phillips Hallford wrote about her young life and their courtship and marriage. It is the sweetest document. I was glad to get to see her grave.

So that was just a small portion of one day of our long weekend celebrating our 20th year of marriage.  I guess I’ll steal Mark’s Facebook photo he took of us in Pontotoc. This is the ruins of the Academy that we’ve watched deteriorate over the years. I guess it could same the same about us.



April 7, 2013

Playing a Record

Filed under: At home,Music — Janice @ 8:01 pm

I played a record yesterday. A real, vinyl record. It’s one of those things I think about doing often, usually while I’m at work or in the car. By the time I’m home and settling in, there are other things to do besides listening to a record.

I miss listening to records like I did as a teenager and it’s not something that I can do again. It’s a thing of the past. In those days, if I bought a new record, I had probably desired it for a while. Or maybe I knew one song from the radio and was intrigued by that one song enough to invest the $7 or $8 it cost for the album (later $13 to $15!). I would buy an album and then I would LIVE with that album for a long time before I invested in another. I would listen to it, sometimes on headphones, and look at the liner notes, the lyrics, the pictures, the cover… and absorb everything. Usually my mother got a good dose of an album when I bought it, too, because I would have it blasting through the house. I remember specifically that she did NOT like Billy Joel’s “Anthony’s Song” (was that on The Stranger or Glass Houses? Probably The Stranger since I know I listened to it a LOT). It has that chorus about “heart attack-ack-ack-ack…” and that got on Mom’s nerves. On the other hand, she did like Jerry Jeff Walker’s song “Will There Be Any?” from Walker’s Collectibles. The full lyric of the song, sung hymn-like, was “Will there be any, up in heaven? Will there be any, I’ve got to know. Will there be any, up in heaven? Lord, before I go I’ve got to know… I’ve got to know.”

I lived with Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player by Elton John, The Stranger by Billy Joel, Viva Terlingua by Jerry Jeff Walker, one of the Asleep at the Wheel albums, Best of Bread, Rocky Mountain High by John Denver, Chicago VII, and many more.

The album I put on yesterday was Linda Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams. That was a HUGE album as I started college. There was a big poster from the album in our studio at the West Texas State radio station. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately after seeing the great documentary about the Eagles that is on Showtime right now. She was every girl’s ideal and every man’s dream. Gorgeous. Gorgeous voice. The song “Blue Bayou” was on that album along with “It’s So Easy,” though I had forgotten “It’s So Easy” was from that album.

We have an old record player that Mark had refurbished. It had belonged to his mother in college, so it is a true record player from the beginnings of LPs. Putting a record on it brought back so many memories. First, I realized how it isn’t easy to put a record onto a spindle! I don’t know how long it has been since I’ve done that. Even over the last 20 years when I’ve played records they are usually played on a turntable with just the short spindle and you play one record at a time. This was the kind of record player where you can stack them up and the arm holds them all steady and somehow manages to drop only one record at a time to keep the music going. But trying to make that little hole fit over that tall spindle was a challenge. I’m sure it was never a challenge in my young days.

The sound that I really loved and would never have thought about it again was the sound of the needle when it first hits the vinyl. It hits on the vinyl, but not in a groove and there is this moment of hesitancy as you wait for it to hit the groove. Then, there it is, it “gets in the groove” and there is another second or split-second of riding that groove before the first notes hit. Big bass notes in the case of “Blue Bayou.”

I had also forgotten about the turntable rumble. This record player was not made to be turned up loud enough to be heard off in the kitchen. It was designed for listening in the same room, maybe rolling up the carpet and having a sock hop even. But trying to turn up the volume so I could hear it further than 10 feet away didn’t work. Rumble rumble. The mechanics at work underneath that record were coming through loud and clear. That was always a concern at a radio station. Program directors did not like it when the quiet part of a record played and you could hear the turntable running underneath.

I listened to Linda all the way through a few times. We’ve gotten accustomed to albums being about 55 or 60 minutes long now, but back then a side was usually about 20 to 22 minutes long. It goes by pretty fast before that needle picks up and starts that side again. Or in the case yesterday, the needle picks up and then sets back down at the 7-inch point where it would sit down if it were repeating a 45 instead of an LP. It wasn’t the fault of a setting, it was a fault of the mechanics that we need to look into.

Finally I turned the “reject” knob so that the tone arm picked itself up and set itself down on its dock and everything shut off. One album was enough for this experiment. There is a lot of talk about whether vinyl sounds better than a CD or an mp3. I agree it CAN sound better on the right stereo equipment. For me, yesterday, it wasn’t so much a matter of the sound I was seeking, it was a matter of the memory. I didn’t need to live in my old house again, I just needed to drive through the neighborhood.

March 3, 2013

March Fourth

Filed under: At home,Cats,Normal Life — Janice @ 11:55 pm

March forth we shall.

It appalls me when I see the length of time that has gone by sometime on this blog. And then that, of course, brings with it pressure. Pressure to write something good or worthwhile, or go back and finish the stories of the San Antonio cemeteries, or tell about the company we’ve had the last couple of weekends, or write about the great “last show” we saw of the Lucky Tomblin Band last night. I write plenty of blog entries in my head.

But, sigh, that does all sound like work and I have had a full day of work. I have mulled over taxes all day. ALL DAY. And it isn’t like I have been pushing a pencil to the paper figuring and cyphering and actually DOING taxes. I was just gathering info for the accountant. But, geez, there is a lot to gather. We each have jobs and those jobs are simple enough because the owners are nice enough to employ people who take the taxes out of the paychecks and keep track of all of that. But we also each work for some lousy employers who are not good at keeping track of the tax situation at all and we get to the end of the year and we are just in a muddle. Those employers are, of course, ourselves, as we are each self-employed in multiple ways and I must cobble together all the details I can about the money we have earned and the expenses we have had. But it is done and I feel a great sense of accomplishment that I did it and I did it this early. A full MONTH earlier than last year. I’ll celebrate more when the CPA tells me if we might be getting some money back and it gets filed.

Last week we had a celebration of the first birthday of our cat Flaco. He has been such a sweet boy. Having 3 cats is a houseful and I sometimes wonder what I was thinking when I adopted #3, little Flaco. But he is adorable and has a whole different personality from the others and I’m glad he’s a part of our family. Mark takes some wonderful pictures of him. Here’s Flaco back when we first got him in about May:


And here’s a more recent picture with his brother Phil the Cat. Flaco was a little sleepy eyed.


And tomorrow will be the 10th birthday of our oldest, Willie. While Phil and Flaco were both adopted from Austin Pets Alive from their bottle baby program, Willie was born in our closet to our sweet cat Miss L Toe, who showed up on our doorstep on Christmas Eve 2002. She had the most adorable kittens you’ve ever seen. We found homes for all of them and for her, too, but decided to keep Willie for our very own.  We went to San Antonio for Mark to play a gig with Guy Forsyth at Casbeer’s. Miss L Toe was as big as a basketball and that is not hyperbole. She was one HUGE miserable cat. But we came home at 4 a.m. and found her with 6 squirmy little angels in a box in our closet.


Willie quickly became the most recognizable of the kittens, since he was the only Red Headed Stranger among them. But he also was the absolute cutest.


That is a charmer!

Here he is with his Mama and some siblings. See how it is easy to pick out Willie?


This is the picture of Willie I would enter in a beauty contest. He is a big beautiful 17 pound cat now and rules the roost.


Happy Birthday Willie! But how about a picture of all three of the cats?


So it has been a picture essay instead of a lot of words words words tonight. Maybe some words will come next time.

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