Saturday, June 30, 2007

Rainy Sunday Afternoon

Rainy Sunday Afternoon 8.5" x 11" Pencil

Wouldn't you just know that it would rain.

After church one Sunday, we rode out across the Brazos River into Milam county, where Kathryn's family lived. I looked forward to playing and trying to forget about the dreaded homework that always seemed to remain undone until just before bedtime Sunday night. But, I spent the weekend worrying about it, and dreading having to do whatever the assignment might be. I tried to put it out of mind and have a pleasant time, with friends or alone.
Kathryn had chores on the farm, but she also had a lot of things to do-a horse to ride, animals to care for and watch, land to roam around on, and a big gully that ran to the Brazos River, that was like exploring the Grand Canyon, to little kids. Electricity out in the country was fairly new, and there was still an outhouse, until a new bathroom was added off the kitchen. They had radio, but there were few good programs on Sunday afternoon,at least, nothing that kids would enjoy. We didn't have tv in the area yet.
We looked forward to an afternoon of walking, climbing, exploring, discovering while Kathryn's dad read the paper and her mother finished up in the kitchen after Sunday dinner.
But, then, it poured. Rain slid down the kitchen windows as two little girls sighed and sulked, and felt there was nothing to do. Mud puddles formed in the yard. It was one of those old fashioned days of rain that I remember. No lightning, no thunder, no threatening storms. Just a nice, steady rain that lasted all afternoon. We would have gone out to play in the rain, except for the mud.
On one rainy day, we did go outside to feed chickens or some chore, probably had a trip to the outhouse, too. Of course, I came in all muddy after falling, and had to change clothes. Since I didn't have extra clothes, I had to wear some of Kathryn's, while mine went into a paper bag to go home to the wash.
But, now, we were a little older and splashing in the mud was not so attractive. So, we whined and fumed.
After the dishes were done, Kathryn's mother, Anna, just smiled and said she would make us a treat. We watched as she pulled out a bowl, pan, platter, butter, cocoa, sugar, vanilla extract, and all the makings for fudge. We anxiously watched as she stirred and added ingrediants. Kathryn buttered the platter while I stood beside the stove and watched Kathryn's mother, waiting for a sweet treat.
If I had been at home, our family would have finished up Sunday dinner, then my sister and I would read the funny papers and a catalogue. The kids might have gone to a Sunday afternoon movie at the Eloia, with a treat at Taliaferro's drugstore, or the whole family, sometimes in two or three cars, would have gone for a ride until supper time, and time for bed. (Somehow, that homework often did not get done until I got to school on Monday! Or not at all.)
But, today, we would get to munch on rich, sweet fudge, and I wondered if Kathryn's mother made fudge that tasted like my mother's fudge. I wasn't crazy about fudge. I would rather have a Hershey bar or chocolate ice cream. But, fudge would do. (You would never know that sugar was rationed! )
Finally, the mixture was ready to pour into the platter, and we got spoons to clean out what was left in the pan, as the fudge hardened. Well, we cleaned the pan, dishes were washed and put away, and the fudge was still runny in the platter. It was too far to drive into town and get more ingrediants, and the weather was too bad. We all kept testing the fudge and it seemed to get just a little soft, but still was very runny.
Kathryn's mother talked to us about what might be wrong that the fudge just wouldn't get ready, and our mouths were almost watering, waiting for the treat. She told us that you shouldn't make divinity in certain kinds of weather due to the problem of it never getting hard if the weather was too damp. But she had never had that problem with fudge.
We were beginning to feel like having a snack was a lost cause.
Kathryn's mother laughed with her rich, wonderful laugh, and reached into the cabinet, pulled out a box of crackers, and told Kathryn to get a couple of knives from the silver drawer. We stood at the counter, watching the rain through the window over the sink, spreading fudge on crackers, and munching away. I was not so sure that would work, but found it to be really delicious! We ate until the platter was clean, the rain stopped, and it was time to take me home.
I don't think that my mother was very happy when I told her that I wanted her to make fudge like Kathryn's mother, to be eaten with a spoon and crackers!
Later, in college, my friends and I would go to the movies and get popcorn and a chocolate candy bar to eat during the movie. That reminded me of rainy day fudge!
In my drawing, Kathryn is by the table with her blonde hair in braids that she wore coiled over her ears. Blue jeans, with rolled up cuffs were the style. Girls wore jeans for girls with zippers on the side. While I started with pigtails, and ribbons, my hair had a mind of its own. The ribbons were soon hanging and the braids were loose. We tried to dress alike and would call each other on the phone to see what each one in the class or group was wearing the next day. We weren't allowed to wear pants to school, other than our band uniforms or shorts for P.E. and sports.
My drawings seem to take on a life of their own as I work, with parts just seeming to appear-sometimes things I thought I didn't remember at all show up in my picture.
There is a technique called "mapping", in which you can start with a large piece of paper and a marker, pencil, pen, or whatever is comfortable, but fairly large. Start by thinking of a place, such as a house, then try to draw a floorplan of the house, or focus on a room. As you work, you will start to remember all kinds of details and stories that are hidden deep in your memory. It's amazing how things like vases, doorways, knick knacks, people, and stories will start to come out as you draw. You can go on to map out the whole house, grounds, etc, or stop and write or draw about the one thing that you want to focus on.

Friday, June 29, 2007


Summer Walk 8.5" x 11" ink

Horned toads, roadrunners, turtles, frogs, and other critters crossed the dirt road where this group of young girls walked. The smell of hot dust and dill weed filled the air. In those days, of innocent, long summers, all the kids went barefooted, unless they knew they would have to walk on pavement, or go somewhere that shoes and better clothes were required. A small group of girls gathered in town to walk past the three story school, with the tall chimney on top; across the wood and iron bridge over the dry creek bed; up the dry sand and clay road; past the dump ground and a couple of pastures, to an old house. There, three of the girls went inside to visit an older woman, while one, who didn't know the woman, remained by the gate, hoping that a snake or spider wouldn't appear. The girls walked, most of the time, in silence, occasionally breaking into their thoughts with whispers and giggles about boys, their hopes for the future, things they liked to eat, movies and movie stars, or about things that had happened at home. They didn't mention the woman. Walking to the house in the country and back was just something to do on a long summer day.

This is an ink sketch, depicting a time when friends, slowly walked out in the country to visit a woman. Back then, there were lots of horned toads and roadrunners and big red ants-all kind of wildlife to be found. That was long before fire ants came to this part of the country. There were a couple more girls in the group, but this seemed to be enough for my drawing. One curious, near-sighted girl is closely observing a turtle by the road. Two older girls walk together, sharing secrets. One girl hangs back a little, making sure there are no snakes ahead. You can see the school, which was Calvert High School, and a few rooftops above the trees back in the town.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saturday Afternoon

Tickets Please 8.5" x 11" pencil
Saturday just doesn't feel like Saturday without a good, old cowboy movie to watch. It has to be one of those black and white "shoot 'em ups", where the hero is always the good guy. He has to have a wonderful, loyal horse and a sidekick, or even a small gang of good guys of his own (preferably a group that sings as they ride or sit around the campfire). They fight for right and freedom, but never just to be mean. And the heroine usually gets left behind with not so much as a kiss.
Growing up in Calvert, Texas, we had the Eloia Theatre on Main Street. It's still there, but is not used as a theatre anymore. Wide screens and tv ended their years of providing entertainment. After a fire, it was rebuilt with all the latest features including double wide seats at the end of every other row, and a cry room. You can't miss this theatre with its maroon tile with white paint .
This was a family operation with Miss Eloise (all women were called "Miss") working in the ticket booth . Her husband, Carl, sold popcorn, took tickets, as he is in my drawing, cleaned up, ran the projector, and still looked like he was very casual and not doing much of anything. Their son, Carl Jr., ran the projector and also sold popcorn. We thought he was so cute in his Aggie uniform selling popcorn, although we were much youger. He probably considered us pesky little kids!
The Eloia was named for Miss Eloise. I have shown her here in the ticket booth. She was so pale with a lot of powder, red lipstick, light blue eyes, and red hair softly curled. She always wore soft dresses or suits in pinks, lavenders, light green, colors that complimented her fair skin. I wondered if she might have once been an actress and had fallen in love with Carl, then settled in our small town. I don't really know their story.
As a child, I know that I probably looked at her with my mouth hanging open. I wondered if she were real. Her little booth reminded me of one of those gypsy fortune tellers that we saw in a little booth at the State Fair of Texas and Houston Fat Stock Show. Those gypsy ladies were not real, of course, but we wondered, as they moved their hand across cards, and seemed to look right at us. I was surprised when Miss Eloise would leave her booth and walk into the audience to watch for misbehaving children, budding romances, or people who were sitting through more than one show without paying .
Tim Holt was my hero and I would try to sit through every show when one of his movies was playing on a weekend, then pay to go back the next day. But, usually, Miss Eloise would let me sit through the second movie, if there weren't many people there. That 25 cents was hard to come by and I usually had to go from relative to relative, asking for a nickel until I had enough money. Sometimes I didn't get enough so I had to sadly watch people go into the show from the plate glass windows in my grandfather's dry goods store across the street. I didn't get an allowance, and, occasionally, they would let me work at the dry goods store. But, if I worked, I couldn't go to the show because I would be working on Saturday.
Everyone in town went to the Eloia. It was like a socail thing, and the town was like a big family. Today, family members might have their certain places to sit as they watch tv. Back then, it was like that as they sat in the everyday living room, to listen to the radio. And, the same applied when people went to the picture show, to church, or certain events. Everyone had their own place to sit. At the Eloia, little kids sat on the first couple of rows, and, as they grew older, they moved back. There was a rotund farmer, with great red cheeks, and a hearty laugh, who rode to town on his tractor. He would go to Miss Molly's hamburger place next door to my grandfather's dry goods store, and buy a small sack of hamburgers, which he would take to the show. He would sit on the double seat, on the first row, with all the little kids, eat his hamburgers, and have a great time at the show. They didn't sell drinks or snacks at the Eloia, just popcorn, and had a drinking fountain with cold water in the lobby. I think they said they put those double seats in just for Henry, the farmer, and thought he might choose other places to sit. But he stayed right up front with the kids.
I thought that, when I grew up and had lots of money, I would be sure to go to Miss Molly's, get a sack with maybe two dozen sissyburgers, and spend Saturday afternoon watching Tim Holt shows at the Eloia. But in the back row, not the front.
My parents always chose the back row, where Daddy would sit with his arm around Mama's shoulder. I usually sat in the middle rows, or where the kids my age were sitting. But, if I had a date, and after I married, we would sit in the back, on a side row-not in the center where my parents sat. My parents didn't go to the show so much after I grew up. Like everyone else, they were happy to stay at home, with tv dinners on a tv tray, and watch the shows there.
The picture show family had a beautiful home near Main Street. I was so surprised that they had a home! I, like a lot of kids, thought that people who we always saw at businesses, were always there. Just like teachers. We didn't realize that they were human beings, until we were older. We thought they lived at school, or their business, never ate or slept, drank or went to the bathroom, didn't have families, or a home.
In the front yard, just off the sidewalk, there was a fish pond with gold fish swimming around. For kids walking to town from school or home, stopping by the fish pond was about as good as a trip to the zoo. I think some kids dropped gum wrappers in the pond, so, if we were seen, one of the family would shoo us away. There was another fish pond in town, just like that one, so we had two places to watch the fish swim.
I went to the house at least one time, to see Miss Eloise. I was scared silly and hoped she wouldn't come to the door. I may have gone by to sell magazines or candy, but, I know this one time, I was intent on asking for one of the posters advertising a Tim Holt movie. I got to peek inside the leaded glass door, and I remember beautiful woodwork and hardwood floors in a wide room with gingerbread across an arch, and little wooden beads worked into the design. Miss Eloise told me that if she ever had an extra one that she didn't have to send back, she would save it for me.
I didn't get a poster, but I did have photo albums full of movie star pictures. All we had to do in those times was to write a fan letter to a star, and address it to Hollywood, California. Soon, we would have wonderful photos back, sometimes with a signature. Some started charging 25 cents as postage went up from 2 cents to mail an out of town letter.
The Chatmas Theatre in nearby Hearne got a widescreen when those became popular. Since the Eloia was new, they didn't want to have to make that investment, so they closed after a while. I still think that was one of the best theatres. I'm still not that wild about wide screens.
When I watch an old movie on tv, with the lights out, I can just go back to the Eloia. I can see my friends giggling and whispering secrets, Henry laughing, some kids helping the good guys with "gun noises", older couples holding hands, and the boys in our class making silly noises, like the Three Stooges. I can feel the cool we sought on a hot day in the dark theatre, the warmth in winter. Smell the popcorn from the colorful machine out in front. And wait for Miss Eloise or Carl, to walk the aisles. Maybe they are doing that still.
Cowboy shows, Tarzan, The Three Stooges, those type of movies are Saturday shows. Technicolor was for Sunday movies, and dramas, mysteries, the latest blockbusters or classics are weekday shows. That was the schedule, and I guess it was as ingrained in us as church on Sunday, washday on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, cleaning house on Wednesday, parties on Thursday, shopping or yardwork on Friday.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Cozy Home 9" x 12" watercolor
My sister and I made a short trip to the old hometown today. It's sad to see so many of the old buildings and homes gone, others crumbling, and still others "restored" in ways that seem to take away the dignity that they always had. My sister has commented that, one of these days, we may drive through that town and find nothing but a pile of dust on each side of the street, where bricks have crumbled and structures collapsed.
Still, some places maintain the character that they always had.
Sometimes I wonder what they are teaching in design and architecture classes these days. I don't know why some people consider a "box" interesting, or even an accomplishment. Seems like they just put any old thing together, the easiest and cheapest way possible. It just looks like they didn't really try, to me.
Lightning and rain hit as we were on the highway. There are a lot of memories from years of driving that old highway 6 and spending time in the towns along the way. One little house and old filling station that I used to watch as I drove past, and had, for years, been almost hidden in trees, is no longer in view. I think they may have been torn down as the land was cleared for a commercial property next to them. After seeing so much restoration work done, I feel like the old interesting places could be saved. Instead, people seem to be quick to tear down anything that is old or needs work.
This little watercolor is of a small abandoned house, west of Calvert toward the Brazos River. I painted this before the house became covered with vines. I always thought it was a cozy-looking little house. Typical of many homes for workers on the farms in the area, in times gone by. A few of those little houses are still in use, but many are used for hay storage, or, like the one in my painting, are just left for nature to reclaim. Many are gone, however, as seems to happen to so many things, and people, as they grow older.
Cozy Home was done on 140 pound Arches watercolor paper, using Winsor Newton watercolors.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hearne Golfer

Hearne Golfer 22"x 30" watercolor
Early morning at the Hearne Country Club, a distant golfer is ready to tee off.
The curving entry gates of rock repeat the materials used in the club house and swimming pool dressing room.
I've been talking, via internet, to several people about memories of Hearne and Calvert, and when we were growing up. I still wonder what kind of rocks these are. When I asked about the rocks, I was only told that they came out of the ground somewhere! I knew that much already. They remind me of iron.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lunch Time

Lunch Time on Grandma's Back Porch 8.5" x 11" pencil
My grandson and I were making grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch the other day. I have him help me whenever possible. Not only does it pass on skills, but it also gives us some time to talk and share. I remember spending a lot of time with great-aunts, grandmothers, neighbors, talking as they went about their chores, and picking up their tricks in, not only keeping house, but in living.
One of my favorite places was the wooden kitchen step stool that most women seemed to have in their kitchens. I grew up on those stools and, no matter how old I got, it was the place to sit and gossip and learn. I still have my great-aunt's kitchen stool. My grandmother's stool, which was identical, is still in the family. Mine isn't in the kitchen, as it needs some work after a move in which it lost the steps. But my kitchen does have stools at the island, where my grandsons and I have shared many lunches, breakfasts, making things, painting, doing projects, and even doing a bit of sculpture with clay!
As we made our sandwiches and soup, I remembered lunch time at my grandmother's house. I sat on the stool while Grandma and the maid/cook hurried to get cleaning done and dinner (remember, this is Texas, where we have breakfast, dinner, afternoon lunch or a party, supper, and a snack before bedtime, or while visiting on the front porch.) on the table for when the men came home from the dry goods store at noon. Not only did she have me to feed, and the men, but also people who came to the back steps to eat. There were the men who might be working in the yard, or working cattle in the back pasture. And there were the hoboes who came from the trains, looking for a meal and any work they might find.
In my sketch above, I was remembering Grandma, wearing a dress and apron, her hair in waves as they wore in the 1920s and '30s. She had on "Old Lady Comforts", black oxford type shoes with a thick heel. (I have a pair of those like she wore, only mine were never worn. I don't know how they could call those comfort. Nothing comfortable about them. They're stiff, and can you imagine doing housework all day in those heels! Well, I had to wear higher heels when I started teaching in the late 1950s, and my feet were killing me!)
Grandma and the cook would make up servings of food in pie plates to serve to those who ate on the back steps. Whatever they had cooked for the family. It might be roast, mashed or sweet potatoes, gravy, green beans or English peas, canned pears or peaches, white bread or corn bread, some kind of dessert-pie, cake, or pudding, and iced tea or water with ice tinkling in it in hot weather, coffee if it happened to be cool that day. Sometimes she gave them a glass of milk.
I was picky and usually wouldn't eat. But Grandma got me to eat vegetable soup by playing with the alphabet in the soup. I had to spell something, then I had to eat what I spelled. All I wanted to eat was milk, fruit, and cereal. I'm still picky, but I do eat a few more things these days.
The men who were working outside would come to the porch for their dinner. Some would go out in the yard to eat, others would sit on the steps.
Hoboes would come to the steps, silent, but waiting for a plate of food. Some would ask if Grandma had any chores they could do, but most just were quiet, took their plate, sat on the steps, eating, then would leave their plate on the steps and go on their way.
I was warned to stay in the house, away from the porch and the men. I heard conversations that included the word "kidnapping", and I knew that my safety was of concern. I wanted to go up to the men and get them to talk, or to sing and dance and bring a smile to their sad faces. I loved to sing and dance, and entertain at the store, or anywhere I thought people would watch.
There were no chores that weren't already being done by local men and women, or by Grandma or the great-aunts, my mother, my uncles and great-uncles. Times were hard and people were still struggling to recover from the Great Depression. Hoboes "rode the rails", hitched a ride on the trains, and got off wherever they thought they could find a little work or food. Or maybe they just jumped off to avoid the law.
Grandma's house was a block from the railroad tracks, with a large home that had belonged to my great-grandfather on Railroad Street, and on the last railroad crossing. A field, often planted with tall corn, separated the two story house on Railroad Street, and Grandma's house. Great-Grandpa had died, so I guess there was no one there to provide a meal for the men passing through town.
Grandpa told me that there was a way the hoboes had of marking a house where they knew they would get food. He and I searched for any markings on the fence and around the house, but we couldn't find anything. Times were hard for him, too, and I'm sure he would have preferred to not spend so much on groceries every day. They cut corners, did without, and went through rationing, like everyone else, when we went to War. We never did find out how the men found their way from the railroad tracks to the back yard. But, they probably could see it from the train.
After all the men were fed, and things pretty well wound up in the kitchen, Grandma would sit down with me to eat while the cook took her food out on the porch where she talked with the men who were working outside. And I scooted out to the yard or the porch to play, when all the men had gone. When I was a child.
Before Grandma died, when she was in the hospital, she liked for me to feed her, so I tried to be there at noon, every time I could. By then, she had hardening of the arteries and was deaf, so we didn't get to have the tips on housekeeping and gossip. But I did play games with her, to get her to eat her food, just as she had done with me and the vegetable soup.
My drawing of Lunchtime at Grandma's House, shows Grandma serving the food, one worker in the yard, with a big straw hat, looking at the hobo reaching for a plate of food from the steps. Through the gate in the picket fence, two more hoboes are coming for their food. Smoke curls from the smokestack of the train about to pass through town. The two story house of my great-grandfather and the cottage he built behind it for his only daughter, are shown across the corn field. A catch pen for cattle takes up the back part of the corn field.
If I were to do this as a larger picture, I would turn it into a painting, and I would add myself, maybe peeking around a corner, the cook with more plates of food, and, perhaps, my grandfather, and other family members, coming home for dinner. Still, it probably has enough going on in the drawing.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sad News in Stork Land

Looking For Family 8.5" x 11" pencil

There was sad news in one of the stork nests, in Ustron, when the last baby died. Two babies seemed as if they were going to survive out of the four eggs in the nest. One baby died as it was being hatched. The last egg had not hatched, when the babies showed signs of being ill. One baby died, and was removed. The autopsty revealed fungi as the cause of death, so the nest was disinfected, and the last baby removed for treatment . It looked like it had a chance to survive, when it, too became ill, and died. This one died of ringworms in the trachea.

The parent storks had left the nest and everyone was watching to see if they would return. The father returned and looked around the nest, as in my drawing above, seeming to look for his family. He sat on the nest, as he had done to protect the eggs. He also stood on one leg a while, as he often did overnight while the mother stork sat on the eggs.

It became very windy, as I watched, and Papa Stork had to really brace himself against the wind. At one point, he seemed to jump up in the air, flap his wings, and fuss at the wind that was blowing him about.

The next day, Mama Stork returned to the nest.

It was so sad to watch pictures of that empty nest. Poor little things.

It has been very interesting to watch the storks on various webcams, and to read discussions with genealogy groups who have been sharing the links to the stork webcams. This was something I would never have been able to see without the webcams.

The storks remind me a bit of the Whooping Cranes that winter on the Texas Gulf Coast. In reality, they may be quite different. I haven't studied birds that much.

Back in the 1960s, I went to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, but I don't remember actually seeing any Whooping Cranes. We did see wild turkeys and large bushes with sage. I think I may have seen some flying over Central Texas one time, as a flock of large white birds flew over and circled the school where I was teaching. I was in the parking lot at the time. They were making the strangest noises. I guessed they were Whooping Cranes, or Canadian Geese going back north as the weather was warmer. I stayed in the parking lot as they circled. For some reason, they reminded me of Indian designs. I thought of them along with turquoise and silver and incised designs.

On a happier note, the drawing below is of a different nest, this one in Germany. These babies are thriving and growing. They were so cute. They look like they have on fluffy little bloomers! As I watched them and sketched, it seemed to be raining. I couldn't see any rain, but the wind was blowing the trees behind them. This mother stork pulled her neck in and provided protection for the babies. After a while, the wind let up, and she stretched and the babies spread out a bit, until it started again.

There seem to be several stork projects in Poland and Germany where there are webcams. Another group in Germany has a webcam on a nest of Black Storks in a forest. The light and colors, as well as the sounds, are really interesting. I haven't been watching that site as long.

Of course, while it is the wee hours of the morning here in central Texas, while most people are asleep, it is daytime overseas. Fortunately, we can see the storks with the webcams at night, there, although the pictures are in black and white.

I had intended to post something different, but I was thinking of the loss of all the baby storks in that nest, and the parent birds. They have given so much pleasure to so many, I wanted to remember them.

Rainy Day in Germany 8.5" x 11" pencil

Thursday, June 14, 2007

More Storks

Distant Thunder 8.5" x 11" pencil

One night, way up there in their nests, both stork parents stayed strong as the wind blew their feathers. Papa stork seemed to keep watch through most of the night, while standing on one leg. Mama stork curved her body around the eggs.
As the winds increased, Mama Stork seemed to slide over, and took refuge under Papa Stork as he balanced on one foot. He pulled his neck low, and tucked his beak among his feathers. I wondered how those thin little legs could stand so strong, for so long, against the wind.
Through my speakers, I could hear the thunder rolling and the wind blowing, so far away, in a distant land.
I thought that, perhaps, my great-grandparents, who came from Prussia in 1867, might have witnessed a similar scene in their homeland. Storks, raising their young, gliding about the countryside, perched high on chimneys, towers, or in trees.
During the night, the webcams switched to black and white, which still worked well for pencil drawings.

Pacing Stork 8.5" x 11" pencil

After watching the storks on web cams from Poland and Germany for a while, I can see how they might have been given character by cartoonists and writers. This stork seems to be pacing, hands behind his back, as we see in movies of worried, about-to-be fathers, or even doctors. I'm sure that I have seen storks given such human characteristics in cartoons. He seems to be patting his foot with anxiety, waiting on the eggs to hatch. Maybe he was waiting on his turn to sit on the eggs. Or, just possibly, he was waiting to bring a human baby, suspended from the stork's long beak, hanging in a diaper, to waiting parents on the ground. Just as in the stories a lot of people were told when they asked where babies come from.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Studying Storks

White Storks in Poland 8.5" x 11" pencil

As I have been watching several nests of storks in Poland and Germany, and one nest of black storks in Germany, like many others, I became fascinated with their grace, strength, loyalty, and abilities. High up in their huge nests, they swooped in to balance on the edge of their lofty home, tidied up the nest, touched and rolled the eggs, endured strong winds, heat, and even attacks from another stork. An online group has been sharing information and events as the eggs approached time for hatching, and the subsequent efforts of the parent storks to care for their babies.
I couldn't help but think of the old cartoon at the movies in which an elephant was tricked into sitting on a bird's nest while Mama bird was out having a good time. Through fair weather and foul, the elephant sat there, waiting for the mother bird to return. The elephant would say, "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, 100%." These storks have certainly been faithful.
But in one nest, which was online as a school project, there was sad news, and now there is an almost empty nest. Out of 4 eggs, two eggs hatched. A third egg hatched, but the baby died before getting all the way out of the egg. The last egg has not yet hatched. Then, one baby got sick and died. A crew went in and took the dead baby and removed the remaining living baby to go to a veterinary hospital. An autopsy revealed that fungi had attaked the nest. The remaining baby is undergoing treatment now. The nest was disinfected and there were plans to take a baby from a zoo in Poznan so the parents would have a little one to raise and migrate to Africa with, when the time came. But it was decided not to try that plan, thinking that the parents might kill the strange baby.
One stork did return to the nest. He really had a lost look about him. I guess it was a him. I really can't tell. Maybe one stork flew off in grief, looking for the babies, or just gave up and moved on. One stork went back to the nest, not knowing what else to do.
Looking at the empty nest was really sad.
I didn't know much about storks, and really had not looked at them much, but, once I started drawing during a couple of evenings, I did about 14 sketches. I need to do more. They really are beautiful creatures, and very interesting to watch.
I don't usually draw animals, but I think that these drawings turned out pretty well. Sometimes, I could swear that those storks were posing for me, or looking at me! They made excellent models.
Most of the time, I think that I can't really do justice to beautiful animals. Sometimes, my animals have the expressions of people, or a cartoon look. Other times, they turn out very well. I usually try to capture animals with a camera, if I see something I really like; but, occasionally, I do try my hand at drawings or paintings with interesting poses. I had to sketch these storks, if I wanted to capture them, because I couldn't take a picture over the internet. It was certainly good practice for me.
I do need to do some more stork sketches as the babies grow stronger and will fly away before we know it, just like our own children.
The drawing above is of the nest where the babies died. One parent had just flown in and was checking the babies, and turning the unhatched eggs.
I began with a gesture drawing, using a Sanford 314 Draughting pencil. I thought that it should be kept fairly simple, just to capture the pose as other interesting movements were happening about the time I would get a quick sketch done.
By the way, be sure to check out the Links section of my blog. I've listed the websites of some very interesting artists and writers. I know that you will enjoy those. At this point, I am listing websites of people whose work I admire or who have some connection, possibly through their art, to my hometown of Calvert, Texas.
I hope you are enjoying my blog. Be sure and tell your friends to come by. I don't have that subscription link on, yet, but, I think I am getting close to figuring out that feature, with some help. Until then, just click on my link. I'm trying to put something new on daily.
As my grandmother used to tell people as they finished shopping at the dry goods store, "Call again!"

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hanging Out

The Drugstore 8.5" x 11" pencil

This is the drugstore on the corner by the red light in my hometown. One of our places to hang out, especially before or after an afternoon movie at the picture show. All ages went to the drugstore for treats, special purchases, and medicine.
The drugstore was a bit on the dark side, with dark woodwork, and a pressed tin ceiling, a mirror behind the soda fountain that looked like it came from an old western saloon. (It probably did, as there had been quite a few in town, in the olden days. And most grocery stores also had a bar in them, with one of those old fashioned mirrors and shelves for glasses, etc.) But, the big windows on the street and around the side let in enough light to make the place feel cozy and welcoming. Traffic watching was a big thing in town, too.
In this sketch, my good friend, Peggie, is working behind the soda fountain to prepare a special treat. A teenage boy is sipping his soda, served on the always cool marble counter. Peggie's sister, Sue, is behind the cosmetics and jewelry counter showing the latest perfume to a customer. Another customer is looking at beauty products on the lower shelf.
On the left side of the store, by the windows, at the wire with glass topped tables, people are sharing a Coke with two straws as we used to do. (Two or three people could enjoy a small Coke that way, for 5 cents, and it would last for hours!)
On the right side of the store was the magazine rack, which covered up part of the window. All the latest magazines were there, and kids spent a lot of time reading those magazines, especially if they didn't have a nickel to buy a Coke or an ice cream cone, but still needed something to do. Most of the time, the druggist didn't say anything. We would eventually buy something. I guess he knew we were staying out of trouble in his store, and our parents were customers. I couldn't wait for the latest movie magazines to come in, especially if they had Tim Holt or another one of my favorite stars in them. And, this is where I got my beloved comic books. I read and reread my comic books and had quite a collection. When I went away to college, my mother put all my dolls, comic books, scrap books with movie star pictures, and toys in a big toy chest, and moved them out to a shed, where they were all ruined. She thought I was too old for such things at age 16. I guess that part of the reality was that they needed the space for my sister to have a room that we had always shared, now that I was away at college.
In the center of the picture are a trio of youngsters, coming into the drugstore before or after the movie. They are dressed in jeans with the legs rolled up, and one is swinging a drawstring purse.
Passing by on the sidewalk there is an older couple, a tall Texan and his wife. They enjoyed this drugstore and others when they were youngsters, for the town was much larger with many more businesses, in times past. At this time in their lives, treats became rare in the drustore for them, but they were there often for medicine. They didn't hesitate to pay for the treats that the youngsters enjoyed, as they paid for their own purchases.
I was glad to see some of the others who used to hang out at the drugstore at the reunion last weekend.
Kathryn reminded our group of when the POWs from the German Prisoner of War Camp near the next town, went past the drugstore in trucks, on their way to and from the fields where they worked. There were all of these blonde men with blue eyes, some of them really cute, we thought. This was during WWII.
Sadly, the drugstore is now gone-torn down, and there is a vacant spot where we once spent so many happy hours, hoping to catch a beau, dream of a special gift or cosmetics (which our mothers wouldn't let us wear), read a magazine, spend some time with friends, or just enjoy some delicious ice cream, a banana split, a malt or soda, a sundae, a lime ice, or a Coke with a straw for two.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Come On, Let's Get the Eggs!

Come On, Let's Get The Eggs 11" x 15" watercolor

I've been showing some pencil drawings and thought I would throw in one of my watercolors, just to add a bit of color and interest. This one, too, is from a memory of times past.
We just had our all school reunion for our small school last weekend, and, of course, memories were flowing. It's always so good to get together with the people we grew up with, and spent so much time with in school. Our numbers are dwindling, though, and quite a few people didn't make it this year, due to changed plans, illness, etc.
My good friend, Kathryn was there, though, and we got to spend a little time together.
I did this painting a few years ago, remembering spending time with her when we were growing up. She lived on a farm, while I lived in the small town where we went to school. Wonderful memories of being with her family and our friends out there.
She was out-going, fun, and a bit of a tomboy. I was shy, quiet, dainty, and scared of everything!
I had my daughter drive around while I took photos out of the car, before I did this painting, and tried to sketch or paint with my travel set of watercolors. We made a tour out by my friend's old homeplace, where I took pictures. Later, I did sketches, then several watercolors. The goose in front of a tree was actually in a yard down the road.
I enjoyed painting the barn, and the goose in front of the tree, especially. I also love the effect I get with Cobalt Violet. Now, I feel like I just have to use some Cobalt Violet in my paintings! The most expensive watercolor, as it turned out. I'm not sure that the Cobalt Violet is quite true in color over the computer. I liked the way it worked out, anyway.
This painting shows my memory of my friend's back yard, outside of the fenced area. There was the outhouse, with a path, the chicken yard, a couple of sheds, the barn with the henhouse on one side, where we were going to get the eggs, and a shed and fenced area for her horse on the other side. There was also a tree stump with an axe in it, which I remembered her father using to split firewood, and also to dock the tails of Cocker Spaniel puppies. Her Cocker Spaniel is in the picture, along with a couple of cats, hiding beside some flowers. My friend's father is looking out over the fields, checking the soil to see if it is ready for planting.
My friend is shown by the barn, holding a basket, and urging me to come on and get the eggs with her. I was afraid to go, especially after being warned that there might be a snake in there. They patiently explained that chicken and garter snakes were not like rattlesnakes, and would probably run from me. I never was sure about that, but, eventually, went along with my friend, as I usually did, trying to show that I wasn't such a coward. But I was terrified. And we did bring in some eggs to her mother, eventually.
In this painting, I used Winsor Newton watercolors on 300 pound Arches watercolor paper. I really like using the heavier paper, and the results I get with Winsor Newton watercolors.
I like purples. And color. Can you tell!
Hope you enjoy looking at this painting.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Reunion Time

Making Toad Houses
Pencil 8.5" x 11"
This is the time of year for our all school reunion. And a time when memories flow, of place and home, of friends, and hopes, of good times and bad, little incidents and big moments, of youth and aging, those who are far away, and those who are no longer with us.
I've been drawing some of the memories that have stuck in my mind over the years. This pencil drawing is of one of the big oak trees on the south side of the playground at our school. It provided us with shelter from the heat on warm days and offered a place where we could play games or just sit and talk with friends as we grew older.
We played things like "London Bridge", "The Farmer In the Dell", and "Drop the Handkerchief" under this tree. Some days, it was the perfect hideout from the bad guys in playing cowboys, or it might be a stage where we could sing and dance to the songs from the latest musical movie at the picture show. In this drawing, it shows the toad houses we built. At the end of the day, the area between the roots of the old tree, were filled with lumps of dirt with an open door, like a little cave.
To make the toad house, one person had to remove their shoe and sock, while another person covered the bare foot with mud. This was done usually after it had rained. But, sometimes, when we played on the playground after school hours, someone would carry water in a sandpail from the faucet near the building to make a nice mud puddle under the tree. The person whose foot was being used for the construction had to stay there for a few minutes until the house had dried a bit. That was not good when the bell rang to go in the building for school and one or two people were trying to keep their toad house from falling in. You really couldn't tell the teacher, "I can't come right now. My house isn't dry yet!"
In my picture, I show one pair of children making a toad house, with other houses among the roots of the tree. One little girl digs for dirt for a house while a little boy sits on a root and watches. A trio of girls has gathered on the other side of the tree to talk.
I always imagined that, when we went home, and night came, frogs would come to the tree and occupy the houses we had built. Then, before we came to school, they would be off to hunt for bugs and we would find the abandoned houses during recess. We always rushed to look at our houses and were so disappointed if we found them crushed.
Our school was a three story building, built in the 1920s. An imposing building with a tall chimney on top. It was just 1/2 block from my house, so I saw a lot of that building. And, it was, like the rest of our small town, like one big playground for me and the other kids in town. The basement, or first floor, housed the elementary grades, ag and homemaking classes, cafeteria, and restrooms. The second floor housed the office and middle grades . The third floor was high school. We didn't say that children were in elementary, jr high, or high school. Instead, people asked "What floor are you on?" I always wondered what people did when they ran out of floors.
The south and east side of the school, where there was a playground, and a wide area to play games and even softball, was the area assigned to elementary children. Middle grades gathered at the front of the school, on the west side. And high school students hung out on the steps, cars, or sidewalk on the north side of the school near the gym. Part of the east side was taken up with the band hall, an ag shop, and the football field.
Looking back, it seems we had just about everything we needed in our small school and, in fact, our town, except more people and opportunities for subjects like art. Life was like a "Little Rascals" or "Our Gang" movie, but we didn't think so. I related those more to my father's time, until recent years as I looked back and listened to stories.
We truly were of that Golden Age of the 1950s.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

D-Day, The Sixth of June

"Just A Memory" is an exerpt of a longer work, inspired by the D-Day 50th anniversary reunions. The story reflects the frustration and confusion of one soul that didn't make it home after WWII. This is one of my tributes to the men and women who have served our country. Tonight, I sketched a soldier with his "friend", his gun. He has no eyes because he is lost in the country where he died, still trying to find his way home, and answers to what is happening to him. I may add his eyes later, but, I wanted to give him an empty, unseeing look, at this point.
I was only about six years old, living safely in Calvert, Texas, surrounded by family, when D-Day took place. I have very distinct memories of those times. During the D-Day reunions, my high school class was also having our reunion, and we will be getting together again in the next few days.
A special recognition goes out to Margaret, who was an Army nurse in WWII, and was involved in D-Day, among other historic events of the War; her husband, Clarence, who was in the Air Force and had his own adventures ; and my uncle, Irvin, who was in the 88th Infantry Division, the Blue Devils; and Reba, who was in the Army. There are many more who I knew as those glamourous people in uniform, who loomed over me, who went away to do their duty. Some did not come home, some came home with injuries, and all came home changed, but bound to others who went through the same things.
I saw very little on tv this year about D-Day, other than a few old war movies. If they showed "The Longest Day", I missed it. I guess they are waiting on another milestone year to do more reunions and recognition.
Look in my links section, and you will find a link to click on for my friend, and author, Esther Reed. She has written a book on Hispanic WWII vets titled "After The Blessing".
For some reason, we have an interest in WWII and those times. I thought that, perhaps this is because we were small then, and so many things were secret. Now that time has passed, some of those things that were kept in secret, not only from children, but also the adult population, can be told.
I salute you, Veterans!

Monday, June 4, 2007


Graduation time is here. Time for ceremonies, reflection, class and family reunions; looking forward to parties, old friends and newfound relatives, new careers, more years of school.
Many of the stories I write have images fixed in my mind, while my art work often has a little story that goes along with it. I hope that you will enjoy my musings and my art work.
The picture I posted is a sketch of Simba, our fluffy, yellow cat, the most playful and affectionate of the bunch. After my oldest grandson's graduation activities, he brought home balloons which floated in the living room or were carried around to the den by the youngest grandson. As our graduate headed out for his new job, Simba was sitting, calmly, by the balloons, waiting. I thought it might be for his chance to escape into the outdoors. (So far, we have been able to keep him inside, except for one adventure when he was gone for a month.) However, Simba was just waiting for his chance to.....grab the ribbons on the balloons in his mouth.
Away he ran across the living room, trailing balloons behind him. His tail was crooked as he does when he is showing off and being very proud of himself. He had a big grin on his face. That is, until the balloons hit the ceiling fan, which was revolving, at the time. The ribbons wrapped themselves around the fan blades, and Simba kept going through the dining room and into the den. Fortunately, I was standing by the switch and had cut off the fan as I saw the balloons about to go into it.
Took a while to go up there and pull those ribbons loose with the scissors.I guess the deflated balloons can still go into the graduation memory book.
As I watched my grandson's graduation activities, and have sat through numerous other graduations as a teacher over the years, I thought of my own graduations, and of our upcoming high school reunion. It's very interesting to compare my grandson's class of 745 to our class of 19. We wouldn't have filled up even one row in that big arena. And, it's very strange to think of going from the "baby" of the class to being one of the older generation.
I will be posting some of my sketches of memories, along with more finished pieces. I like to use a Sanford, formerly Berol, Draughting #314 pencil and a Magic Rub eraser. The Draughting pencil is very soft and smooth, and you can get many variations in shading by using just the one pencil.
Congratulations, Graduates, and Families!

Graduation, Reunions, Memories