The Fallen Rocks of Cedar Park

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April 3, 2011 -

Why did they leave them there?  That was my first thought as I gazed in wonder at the jumble of enormous pink granite slabs lying along the banks of Brushy Creek in Cedar Park, Texas.  Mountains of such granite exist in the Hill Country beyond Cedar Park in places like Marble Falls, Burnet, and Bertram.  But to see pink granite in the creekbed of Brushy Creek is an oddity.  How did it get there?

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My Revolutionary Ancestor

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March 18, 2011 -

In December 1775 a 41-year-old Philadelphia merchant bade his wife and children farewell and marched off to war.  What happened next is of little interest to modern historians.  After all, thousands of the man's contemporaries made the same decision.  Their fates are mostly forgotten, their individual actions inconsequential.  Yet the fate of Matthew Kerr, for that is the merchant's name, is inexctricably linked to my own existence and thus of very great importance to me.  For Matthew Kerr begat George, who in turn begat another George, who begat Jasper, who begat Ed, who begat Don, who begat another Don, who begat me.  And on a recent trip to New York City I hiked to the highest natural elevation on Manhatten Island to pay tribute to my long-dead ancestor.

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The Jaybirds and Woodpeckers Go to War

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March 9, 2011 -

Nobody paid Bob Chapel much mind.  The old black man wandering the streets of 1888 Richmond, Texas singing rambling songs about jaybirds and woodpeckers seemed harmless enough.  Many locals assumed Chapel was mentally unbalanced.  Most ignored him.  But when an anonymous Richmond resident derisively labeled local Democrats "Jaybirds," party members latched on to the term and began using it proudly.  They also began calling their political opponents "Woodpeckers," for their supposed habit of hiding in their holes.  By the fall of 1888 Richmond Democrats referred to their organization as the "Jaybird Club."  And thus, crazy old Bob Chapel earned himself a place in history by naming the two sides in the violent Jaybird-Woodpecker War of Fort Bend County, in which the dominant Reconstructionist Woodpeckers strove to hold onto power against angry Jaybirds intent on restoring southern white dominance.

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A Lost Grave Found Indeed!

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February 26, 2011 -

Last May I wrote an article about Texas Ranger James Coryell, who was killed by some Caddos in 1837 near the colonial settlement Sarahville de Viesca.  The precise location of Coryell's grave had been lost over time.  But James Crain of the Summerlee Foundation of Dallas had reason to believe that land recently purchased by the organization held Coryell's remains.  Now an article by Mike Ward of the Austin American Statesman summarizes results of an archaeological excavation of the suspected grave.  A 92-year-old Missouri woman descended from Coryell has agreed to donate a DNA sample, which researchers will then compare to DNA extracted from bones recovered from the site.  James Bruseth, chief archaeologist of thte Texas Historical Commission team conducting the dig states, "Right now, we're just about 99 percent sure [that the bones are Coryell's]."  One of the pieces of evidence supporting Bruseth's claim?  The shard of metal stuck in one of the ribs.  No matter the identity of the man lying in the grave, he died a violent death in a violent time of our history.  May he, and all the victims of the violence of those days, rest in peace.

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Spreading the Word

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February 16, 2011 -

One of the fun parts about writing a book is telling people about it.  Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed by KUT's Jennifer Stayton to promote an appearance at Austin's Book People.  The interview was taped, which is a much more relaxing experience than a live interview.  Knowing that somebody will be able to edit out your mistakes and ramblings actually makes for a much easier session.  Jennifer had done her homework.  I was impressed by her technique of asking questions that led me directly into discussing important aspects of the book.  She also exhibited agility and flexibility by truly listening to my replies and following up with relevant observations and questions.  Anyway, it was fun.  You can listen to the interview here.

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Death Amidst Beauty

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February 4, 2011 -

I followed Highway 55 northwest out of Uvalde and turned left on Chalk Bluff Road.  I didn't know what to expect as I followed the dusty lane toward the Nueces River.  Suddenly an immense wall of rock loomed before me.  Stunned at its brilliant blue color, I hit the brakes, grabbed my camera, and got out of the car.  At first I thought that my polarizing sunglasses were playing a trick on me, fooling my eyes and brain into perceiving a richer color than nature had provided.  But removal of the glasses left the deep blue of the rock intact.  Here is something unique, I thought, something I haven't seen before.  Noticing some horses in the mid-distance, I adjusted the zoom lens and began clicking the shutter release.  The result proved to be one of my favorite photographs. 

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