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Austin Friends of Traditional Music ~ 2012 Mid-Winter Festival

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Corpus Cristi to Austin, a full days drive for us anymore, had us up early, stopping to get breakfast along the way and arriving to an unscheduled unreserved camping spot at McKinney Falls State Park in Austin. This is one of our favorite State Parks probably due to its proximity to live music.

Sometime recently the heavens opened up on this area and ended the drought with an exclamation mark: 4 inches of rain! Everything is green.

The drive left us tired and beat but we persevered and got ourselves into town to the Austin Friends of Traditional Music Mid-Winter Festival. Got there a touch late and left early but the acts that we saw and heard were great: klezmer fiddle to Chinese zither music, old time music bands to tight bluegrass duos, West African drummers to 16 and 17 year old Texas state mandolin and banjo champs, and a hurdy-gurdy man to boot.

Blue Buckskin Winchers

Sometimes you just have to embrace the mic stands and mics as part of the composition!

Yuan Li Chang

This acoustic duo playing and singing off that single mic hit a home run with me. Very tight. Excellent presentation and musical repertoire.

Hem and Haw

There are gun-slingers and then there are banjo-slingers!

Hurdy Gurdy Man

Judging from the presence and participation of her students this fiddler (FiddLisa ~ Lisa Schneider) must be one hell of a teacher!

Third Rail

Youthful Bluegrass A Capella

Good stuff, all of it!

Kudos to AFTM!


Austin on Dwellable
30 Jan 2012

Morning Light

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Getting up and out with the chilly first light on the Gulf Coast of Texas has its rewards.

This guy was very patient with me.


27 Jan 2012

Goose Island State Park, Texas ~ Back in the Land of the Live Oaks

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Goose Island State Park, Texas just above Fulton/Rockport on the Gulf Coast of Texas is also all about the birds and birders.

Morning light activity.

The drought most of Texas is experiencing is still alive and well here on the Gulf coast.

Listening to people / the birders talk it has not affected the number of bird species being seen but it has affected the number of birds being seen in lots of places. If there is feed and water available naturally or provided through feeders and water stations the overall numbers are good otherwise the numbers are down. The shore birds in particular seemed off to me.

There are lots of bright well-spoken and knowledgeable retirees volunteering as hosts in the state parks of Texas.

27 Jan 2012

Rio Grande Valley to the Gulf Coast of Texas

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Been away from the blog world for a while due to the lap top pooping the bed; that and poor connectivity on the road. This post feels more like a generic update, catching up, rather than commentary with a flow.

Falcon State Park Texas sits on the Rio Grande River below Zapata and Laredo and above the McAllen/Edinburg congestion. Water was very low in the reservoir. Below the dam there was more water in the Rio Grande River than we have seen the entire trip.

Nice folks staffing the park. New Park Superintendent, Carlos Rivas gets high marks. Personable, professional and involved; he was willing to extend himself.

Birders or Fishermen: Either one type of fanatic or the other at Falcon SP. We all have our passions.

Met a number of proud Canadians who have taken offense at our politics. They feel slandered over our treatment and portrayal of the Canadian health car system. I take offense and feel slandered by our politics quite often myself.

Did some bird watching / bird photography within the park and at a site outside of the park. Two very different experiences: The nearby Salinenos site was ‘industrial’ birding – the number of birds brought in by the vast amount of feed and feeders was unnatural and overwhelming. The Falcon SP site maintained by a husband and wife park volunteer couple was well done. There seems to be a marked difference between bird photographers and birders. Birders are pleased to see the bird whatever the environment or background while as a photographer one is as interested in the quality of the environment and background as the bird. Looking for natural bird behavior as well. ‘Industrial’ feeding doesn’t make it.

Route 83 south and east out of Falcon became more and more congested with strip development.  Needed to drive to Donna, Texas to access Jerry Cook, the Computer Doctor: great service, great prices and he knows what he is doing! I did not realize the age and how out of date my workhorse of a computing machine (an HP) was until I spoke with Jerry. Windows XP will no longer be supported by Microsoft and my machine’s Intel Centrino processor is not hearty enough to run Windows 7 as an operating system. Time to update when we return home. Jerry got me back up and running for a reasonable price in a reasonable amount of time. Thank you Jerry Cook; enjoy your retirement!

Makes me wonder what about the rest of me is out dated and has not kept up?!?

No matter where I have been in Texas or how fast I drive, Texas’ drivers always seem to drive faster and pass me at will.

All the above bird images were captured at the viewing site out back of the Rec Hall at Falcon State Park Texas.

We are now on the Lamar Peninsula  just above Fulton/Rockport at Goose Island State Park Texas.

God Bless Public Libraries ~ connectivity life savers!

25 Jan 2012

The Siekers ~ Sunday Bluegrass Gospel Brunch ~ Threadgills South, Austin, Texas

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Back in the day German immigrants settled the Hill Country of Texas.

Latter day Teutonic bluegrass tribes have continued to settle the Austin area in the persons of Rolf and Beate Sieker and their bluegrass bandmates Howard Kalish and Vance Hazen.

Beate plays rhythm guitar and provides vocals, Rolf plays the banjo and provides vocals as well, Howard on fiddle and Vance on the bass. Together they comprise the Austin-based bluegrass group, The Siekers.

The Sieker Band played Threadgill’s Sunday Bluegrass Gospel Brunch.

They presented a lively repertoire of bluegrass gospel tunes as well as a number of  get-up-and-go bluegrass tunes.

Finally a big enough stage to access and work different angles.

Tim and his sound machine!?!

If the spirit moves you (and it did)!

Good music played well.

Good clean fun!

17 Jan 2012

The Studebakers ~ Vintage Swinging Harmonies ~ Austin, Texas

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Friday the 13th of January.

We came in through the back entrance of Artz Rib House in Austin, TX: quite the multitiered ramshackle entrance. The hostess made a beeline to us to escort our entry. Apparently the back entry is not where one is supposed to make one’s entry. The food, slow cooked meaty ribs and hearty sides, was good and plentiful. The barbecue sauce had a hint of citrus. The Shiner Bock was cold.

Jill, Becky, Sharon, Marilyn and Randy – The Studebakers, are musical purveyors of fine vintage swing harmonies, wry to ribald humor, ‘dance routine’s and good times.

They coalesced at (once again) a poorly lit and cramped stage area but more than made it work for them.

Their first song was a cappela, and good a cappela. From then on I split my time and attention between capturing their performance images and enjoying their music and stage presence. ‘Mr Sandman’ gets my vote. We recognized lots of the music but had never really paid that close attention as we did last night. Any music played or presented well is good music in my book.

This was and is good music!

This group has been harmonizing together since the early 90’s and it showed: very tight and very comfortable with one another.

How do you say it?  “Thank Heaven for little girls!”

This from a musician whom they all referred to as Randy!

Our apologies to Marilyn: The vagaries of the lighting, the tyranny of mic stands, and the quest for backgrounds that are not distracting drove the image capture and editing process.

The Studebakers ~ Good Clean Fun!

14 Jan 2012

Second Thursday of the Month – CTBA Open Mic at The New World Deli, Austin, Texas

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Austin, Texas: The Live Music Capital of the World

Second Thursday of the month, Open Mic Bluegrass Night with Eddie Collins managing the flow and The New World Deli graciously providing the space. We went expecting  college kids and young people shopping their bluegrass chops but instead found a bunch of second-lifers similar to ourselves ‘a pickin’ and a grinnin”. The three man bluegrass string band Flatiron shared the stage with Eddie Collins and any number of folks with stringed instruments willing to jump in for a song or two. The range was from ‘one and done’ to a number of folks with very polished presentations.

Capturing images was another case of ‘the tyranny of mic stand and cords’ combined with low light and a small stage space. We did our best.

The ‘crop tool’ earns high marks here.

Duane Calvin & Alice Moore of ‘The Better Late Than Never’

Bluegrass-Gospel Band

Mr. Eddie Collins, CTBA

Wide bluegrass envelope here : bluegrass flute!

Amazing number of banjo pickers in the crowd: Why is that?

‘Tie-Dye’ Jay Blincoe!

Her own words: ‘high maintenance ‘ and ‘naked without the guitar’!?!

We tried to do a fair and balanced job of capturing and presenting all the talent.

My apologies to the one bass player I know I missed.

Could have done better with folks names but maybe folks will supply me with names through their comments.

Great place: serving a good and hearty reuben sandwhich.

Good talent and friendly people – a super supportive atmosphere!

Nicely done Mr. Eddie Collins!

I would come back next month were I in town.


14 Jan 2012

Cooped Up in Marathon (TX)

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Winter has tracked us down again. Chilly, windy and dampish here in the Permian Basin. Had some precipitation last night but not sure what; Debbie claims sleet and freezing rain. I was asleep. So the cold temps and wind have us cooped up inside the RV today, Monday. Still waiting on parts. MB of SA responded to me Saturday with profuse apologies. Seems the wheel and tire ended up in Fort Worth (?!?) via Fed Ex and will not find their way to Marathon, TX until late in the day Tuesday, tomorrow. My guess is MB of SA put the low-man-on-the-totem-pole in the Parts Department in charge of our parts order to begin with and this is how that ends up. Profuse apologies from management! Oh well … I have ridden all over Marathon, TX  on my ‘bent bicycle and have seen many interesting sights (a side yard pygmy pony, wildly colorful and seemingly out of place B&B, a junk yard masquerading as a classic car depot, high end tourist hotel as destination resort) and met people to go along with those interesting sights. In turn the towns folk are probably commenting on the interesting sight that would be me riding a recumbent bicycle all over the back and side streets of Marathon.


We met ‘Talkin” Ted Thayer out at the county park, the Post Park. We (He) spoke at length about the Thayer family  genealogy and their connections to Dublin and Keene New Hampshire. Ted spoke, as we all should, with pride and knowledge of his New England forebearers. Dr. Willam Henry Thayer, a civil war surgeon, and his son Abbott Handerson Thayer, an artist of some reknown, figured in Ted’s reminiscences. William Henry Thayer the civil war surgeon wrote letters home during the war that were eventually bound and kept within the family. More recently the family heirloom, much to Ted’s disappointment and chagrin, was sold outside the family to settle a disputed family debt. Abbott Handerson Thayer, the son of the Civil War surgeon, interestingly enough, on top of his artistic accomplishments completed an extensive study, with the assistance of his adult children I believe, of protective coloration in the animal world. Abbott Handerson Thayer proposed the idea of military camouflage to the US government. As for many forward thinkers and visionaries Aboott Handerson Thayer was roundly pilloried and derided by many of his peers, among them President ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, for his ideas and theories.

A little time on the internet supported all of Ted Thayer’s family remembrances. Ted also happens to be the owner of the Classic Car (and Antiquities) Depot on the eastern end of Marathon.

Later we met brother Tim Thayer at the sole affordable dinner place in town, Guzzi Pizza. Tim being a local volunteer fireman and contractor/handyman was taking his dinner meal break after working to get the newest business in town, the Snake Bite Saloon, ready for it’s upcoming mid-week opening ‘gala’. After chatting for awhile we began to put two and two together. Tim smiled knowingly and offered up the nickname ‘Talkin’ Ted’. He also referenced two sisters, only one remaining in Marathon running a B&B known as ‘Eve’s Garden’. (Eve’s Garden FB)

In a fit of anti-boredom yesterday, Sunday I went out along the back fence line of the Marathon Motel and RV Park (nice people, nice place) with a long lens looking for wildlife.

From the grab shots of the avian life among the desert’s thorns you can be the judge of Abbott Handerson Thayer’s theory of protective coloration in the animal world.

Not sure it holds when they are coming in to a feeder or hanging out next to a steel fence post.

US 90 parallels the Union Pacific Railway line and they both run through the center of Marathon, splitting it in two. The town cemetery is across the tracks and is split in two as well but not by a railway/road corridor.

The Union Pacific Railroad is a busy rail corridor, more than just a train morning, noon and night. This is no doubt a good indicator of the economy beyond  Marathon.

Bar none, everyone that we have met in Marathon has been gracious and friendly. Not a bad place to be stuck in waiting for parts.

9 Jan 2012

Randon Marathon, Texas Images ~ Randon West Texas Observations

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Marathon, Texas

Not a bad place to be marooned waiting on Smart Car parts once again. Not happy with the parts people at MB of SA. It would have been cheaper to go get them in San Antonio and bring them back here but, oh well …

Small railroad, ranching and get away from it all town along RT 90 above Big Bend NP. Not far from a US Customs & Border Patrol Station (C&BP). My experiences there have left me feeling that we live in a police state. Now this may sound extreme but it is not far off: My mother used to talk about traveling in Europe before the break up of the communist states. She recounted when crossing borders their car being surrounded by unsmiling uniformed gun-toting state police. Questions where asked and answered and paperwork was demanded. On our way up from Big Ben NP and the borderlands on approaching this check point four olive green-clad gun-toting representative of the US Customs & Border Patrol sprinted out of the building. One at the driver’s side window two in back and off to one side of the passenger side and the fourth positioned where we could not see him. Questions were asked, no paperwork was demanded but I had my ID ready and handed it over. Eerily similar to my mother’s description of  her experience in eastern Europe.

It begs the question: Are we becoming a police state?

We had the opportunity to socialize with a C&BP guy and his family in Terlingua. He works in Big Bend NP and his presentation was very different from what I experienced outside of Marathon.

Lots of borderland locals and old timers talked about the pre-911 state of affairs at the border. The Anglo and Mexican communities freely mingled back and forth across the border with commerce, friendship and families shared back and forth. Everyone to a person decried the current state of affairs along the border. 9/11 and our politics since has changed all.

I am not sure about the immigration issue and do not want to spark any outrage. It seems to be fences and police states are poor solutions affecting our liberties as much as anyone’s. If employers did not hire folks in the States illegally there would certainly be less cause to be here illegally. Buttoning up the hiring of illegal aliens ought to be the first step.

Marathon is a nice place, maybe a little down on its luck of late but still a nice place. There is more green here than further south in the Chihuahuan Desert. Again a town of all sorts and all stripes. Closed up gas stations on both ends of town. The towns chief employer is the Gage Hotel, with the Marathon Independent School District and Texas DoT in second place. There is an elementary school and a combined middle-high school. No football team and small graduating classes. A recent senior class ended up graduating no one after the lone senior dropped out. Most of the town folk that work at the Gage Hotel probably could not afford to eat or stay there.  We can’t. Pricey place for those from away. So once again both extremes. Lots of homes for sale, a number of businesses for sale. Friendly people: Anglos and Mexican-Americans. The businesses in town that seem to be doing well cater to the crowd that the Gage brings in or those passing through to Big Bend NP. There seems to be a healthy service industry with lots of folks wearing lots of hats. Three churches for a population of 430: one Catholic church and two Protestant churches all on the same street. A library (a branch of the Alpine Public Library) and a town museum. Some galleries, a beer and liquor store, a number of breakfast places. One grocery store: the French (Company) Grocer, not what one would think given the name but well stocked with the essentials. There web site probably sums up Marathon, Texas best when they say “Reflecting the Diverse Culture of the Town and Visitors.”

Some Random Marathon, Texas Images

Hand carved doors by local Marathon artisan Maize Lee.

Carving detail.

Main street Marathon gas station buildings headed in different directions.

Images from in and around the Gage hotel.

The Gage Hotel waters their plantings.

Residence out back of the Gage Hotel, may well be part of that property.

Marathon is a quirky but thoroughly enjoyable west Texas town!

6 Jan 2012

Marathon, Texas – Burnt Biscuit Bakery : Don Knows Baking!

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Having found ourselves in Marathon, Texas thanks to a piece of serendipity (the optimist’s take on some extremely bad luck) we set about exploring the Texas frontier ranching and railroad town: a small way station on the Southern Pacific Railway. The railroad turned Marathon into a shipping and supply point for area ranchers. The Circle Dot Ranch of the Halff brothers being the most well known.  As of the census of 2000, there were 455 people, 198 households and 126 families residing in Marathon. The 2010 census showed a population decrease to 430.

Small Texas town on the desert among the mountains with its share of very friendly people and out of the ordinary stuff.

Our hunt for breakfast the day after we got into town led us to Don Boyd and the ‘Burnt Biscuit Bakery’. Don is a way interesting  individual retired from a number of hands-on professional positions. The first was with the Houston Chronicle right out of commercial art school doing all the color printing for that newspaper. Twenty odd years later Don retired and found himself relocated and working for Sul Ross University. He was the only soul in the area that could run the commercial cameras that they had on campus. Twenty odd years and a second retirement later, Don, having a past life tradesman’s appreciation for apprenticeships, apprentices himself to a baker by the name of Shirley in the West Texas town of Marathon. Don emerges from that late in life apprenticeship to Shirley and a number of years later he owns and runs the bakery and coffee house, Burnt Biscuit Bakery, on Highway 90 in Marathon, Texas.

Shirley was known for her ‘fried pies’: fruit filled pastry turnovers dusted with sugar. Don has improved on Shirley’s original and subjects them to his exacting tradesman standards which makes them ‘oh, so good!’  The Burnt Biscuit Bakery offers other goodies as well but are known for their ‘fried pies’.

Pecan filled pies.

My Dad would have been in ‘7th Heaven’.

Don’s bakery built to his specifications.

Scones out of the oven.

‘Fried Pies’ coming out of the fryer.

Don remonstrating!

Sugaring the ‘fried pies”.

Fried pies on display!

A classic coffee roaster made in Germany and located in Mexico.

Next up Minced  Meat Fried Pies.

An acquired taste if you ask me.

Check out the Burnt Biscuit Bakery the next time you are in Marathon, Texas.

You won’t be disappointed.

Be quick about it though, at age 71 Don is looking to retire for the third time.


5 Jan 2012

Marooned in Marathon ~ Warning: Contains Images of Tow Car Destruction Not Fit for Viewing By the Timid or Weak of Wallet

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Yikes – A beautiful morning for travel ends up to be a day filled with frustration, unanticipated expenses and unanswered questions.

As best we can piece together (no pun intended) the passenger side front tire of our tow car blew out, shredded and wrapped the remains of itself around the inside of the wheel apparently locking it up. Wow!

Sixtos Towing hooked us up and got us off of TX FM 118 and out of  Big Bend NP and onto TX 90 at Marathon. A days worth of phone calls to the Smart Car dealer in San Antonio gets us tires and a new wheel maybe by the next day.

So here we sit in Marathon, Texas waiting for a tire and a wheel to be shipped from San Antonio.

Waiting for answers as well.

The following images need no commentary.

White marks are gouges from the wheel rim in the road surface, made as we got the rigs off the road.

Oh my!

Chisos Mountains across the Chihuahuan Desert. Debbie and Sixto tend to the flatbedded Smart Car.


4 Jan 2012

Viva Terlingua ~ Terlingua, Texas

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Two for one burger night at the Starlight, then off to the Fiddle Circle at the Ghost Town Saloon.

Heard Jobuk Johnson (Doug S …) at the Starlight ~ good cowboy singer. The Fiddle Circle offered the same from last Monday night and more, once again a free community feed in Terlingua. Many more stringed instruments and many more musicians, twice as many as this past Monday.

One of Brewster County’s Peace Officers.

Moses pickin’ banjo!

Good people all.

Viva Terlingua!

As it was we missed seeing our new friends Pat and Larry and Terlingua almost didn’t let us go.

Stayed tuned for “Big Bend Spits Us Out” or  “Marooned in Marathon”!

3 Jan 2012

Black-Eyed Peas : New Year’s Day in Terlingua, Texas

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Black-eyed peas and cornbread abound throughout Terlingua, Texas on New Year’s Day.

Word has it that the black-eyed peas bring you luck and the boiled cabbage bring you money; not sure what the cornbread prompts in the mix.

Folks, that we feel pleased to call friends, put together a free feed for the community out at Long Draw Pizza: Nell and Milton Mow, Pat and Larry Neff, and Nancy. Light-hearted and loving attention went into preparing the meal: boiled cabbage a la Milton, black-eyed peas by Nancy and Larry, cornbread from Nancy and Nell, and last but not least Mimosas by Pat.

Arriving at what I thought would give me enough time to catch the prep happening, Milton and Larry beat me to it. The cabbage was prepped and on the boil.

There was a lone vehicle out front, a left over from the Sheriff’s intervention  New Year’s Eve.

Come noon New Year’s Day 2012 the community arrived.

Terlingua is full of and attracts all sorts.

We were amazed at the number of community people that turned out for this meal. Come to think of it, this was the third or fourth free community meal we had experienced in our time in Terlingua: a community and they look after one another. Lots of hale and hearty greetings and well-wishing for the New Year: people catching up!

Manitoba Larry the Thursday night music guy provided the New Year’s Day music as well.

Pat and Nell served, Nancy surveyed the bar, while Milton and Larry dished up the plates.

Proud to be from Tennessee!

Tennessee Stud in his day? Certainly a Tennessee Gentleman!

By 2 PM the gathering was winding down and moving into town. Thank you Nancy et al for a great community feed.

There is another annual black-eyed pea based event in Terlingua.

This one is a touch more intense and is a fund raising event for the local high school. It is fondly known as the ‘Terlingua Pea Off’. Like many other happenings in Terlingua, the Pea Off takes place on the ‘Front Porch’ of the Starlight Theater and Terlingua General Store.  A fair number of folk cook up their own black-eyed pea recipes and then by 2 PM a portion is turned in for judging. The remainder is offered up for consumption via a $5.00 donation bowl purchase.

The crowd and my choosing to sit offered me a limited perspective on this gathering.

Once again, Terlingua offers up all sorts and all sorts are accepted and appreciated.

“Nobody turns their nose up at a ‘Big Red’.”

‘Minnesota Pat’

Viva Terlingua!

1 Jan 2012