Friday, February 29, 2008

Brain Freeze

Ok, if any of you read the last post in the early afternoon yesterday, I left out the phrase "cell phone" that was essential for my mini-rant to make sense. Jeez, I'm getting forgetful these days.

New favorite quote from a David Sedaris novel - his mother's welcome to David's teacher on a home visit to discuss his obsessive compulsive disorder: "Gawd, you look like I need a drink!".

If you haven't discovered David Sedaris, let me say he's hysterical but weird. It may be that he's an acquired taste, so he might not be everyone's cup of tea. However, if you have an open mind to the idea of an author who is an openly gay man in the entertainment business and who grew up in a dysfunctional (and I mean that in the most humorous sense) family, give him a try. I am currently listening to Naked on my morning commute and periodically shooting coffee out my nose. About a month ago I was listening to Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and feeling mildly depressed about his sad childhood, when I hit a spot in the book that had me laughing so hard I hurt. By the time I got home, I was heaving to get a breath and had tears streaming down my face. I looked like a wreck, but it felt great to laugh like that.

The scary thing about this book is that I can see where I could easily have developed obsessive compulsive disorder. I think I'm glad I didn't, but then on the other hand I might have had a cleaner house.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Beyond Me

Not only can't I figure out why multi-millionaires would waste their time in Wal-Mart, I also cannot fathom what kind of personality would carry on a cell phone conversation in the ladies' restroom from the time they enter to the time they leave. In the stall and at the sink. I mean, really. Were they raised in a barn?


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Buzz

Where does one go to find out what's happening? The beauty shop, of course.

The excitement today was that Angelina Jolie and one kid was spotted at the local Wal-Mart. It was recently announced that Brad Pitt will be making a movie soon in Smithville, so I suppose they are here for some reason connected to that.

Imagine having as much money as they do and still shopping Wal-Mart. Sad, sad, sad.

The lady who brought the news in the door of the salon said she had personally witnessed their presence. She laughed because she had had a microphone pushed in her face and asked for her opinion. "They're just people," she had replied.

But rich people. And still shopping Wal-Mart. The mind reels.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Times They Are a Changing

I was working on my genealogy updates this weekend, in preparation for my spring trip to Alabama. I ran across some notes that I had made for the daughter of a Lentz ancestor. I had received some information awhile back from someone via email, but there were still holes in the family group sheet. I thought to myself, "I'll bet I can find that online pretty quick." I did. In the process I printed off several census records I had not yet pulled and then decided to check the historical newspapers in the event that one of the parents might have an obituary online. I not only found obituaries for both parents, but also for half of their children. With all of this material, I was able to fill in the blanks on the family group sheet in no time.

From there, I checked FindaGrave and had no luck. On a whim, I checked the Abilene Municipal Cemetery listings that have been placed online by the City of Abilene and found the parents and several of their children and children's spouses listed, complete with grave location. In an hour I had a pretty well complete info sheet for this family where I had holes before.

It's remarkable the strides that are being made in the online genealogy arena. Yes, some of the subscriptions are pretty steep, but when you compare the price to the number of years of effort and trips that would have been necessary in the old days to find this information, it's well worth it. My Ancestry and Godfrey and World Vital Records and Footnote subscriptions have all more than paid for themselves in time saved.

The whim to complete this Lentz family portrait resulted in my revisiting the newspaper bank at the Godfrey site and learning that they've added a lot since I was last there. I began digging out obituaries, personals, marriage notices and other odds and ends and spent most of the weekend printing out my finds. Instead of getting on with updating what I had already found, I doubled the stack of unposted records I need to deal with before the trip.

It's a good time to be a genealogist. The newcomers to the hobby will never know how much work it used to take. Of course there's never anything so wonderful as finding that dusty book in the bottom of the courthouse that has the clue that leads you to breaking down a brick wall. The internet is wonderful, but dust up your nose is bliss.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

My 15 Minutes

When I was chatting with my former classmates last week after the funeral, one of them asked if I still played the piano. I had to admit that I don't do much of that any more. It was one of the things I was known for in Smiley. I played for the church at just about every service for six or seven of our nine years there (not that they remembered to even so much as mention me in the church history that was distributed at the recent anniversary doings - and not that I'm bitter about that, but they listed people who had played once or twice, so what gives?). I played for all the baccalaureate and graduation ceremonies, both Junior High and High School, except my own for five or six years. I participated annually in Mrs. Bell's student recital for nine years and in some of her Christmas programs. I played for the combined Christmas contata, The Messiah, one year when the churches from Nixon and Smiley joined choir forces for the season. For about three years I was on call for funeral services where no other musician could be found. I played a lot of piano (and sometimes organ) in Gonzales County.

I now have an electronic keyboard that I play when I get a sudden need to tickle the ivories. I have a really nice piano downstairs that was the first piece of real furniture that I purchased after I got a job, but the only times that I have to sit down and make music are when other folks in the house are asleep. With my little electronic keyboard upstairs, I can reduce the volume and play to my heart's content. I must admit, however, that I generally end up piddling with the sound effects and make very little actual music. Add to that a chronic upper back issue that starts making its voice heard after a half-hour or so and I don't spend much time sitting at musical keyboards these days.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I stopped at the Gonzales Public Library on the way home from the funeral to make a start at a project that I intend to continue. My father wrote a regular column for the Gonzales weekly newspaper and none of the columns had been retained in the family archives. I could remember one of the last ones clearly, as it concerned my initial trip to Mary Hardin-Baylor, so I knew the approximate ending date of his column would be just after we moved to Bastrop. I hit the microfilm for the year 1972 and started my search. I ended up with twenty or thirty of his columns in my first session and my hope is that I will be able to get all of them before this year is out.

My project had some other benefits. I found articles where he had resigned as pastor of Smiley First Baptist Church. I found articles about my class's graduation. And I found a mention about my final piano recital, the one I don't remember much of because I entered a state of fugue for the duration.

Gonzales Daily Inquirer
May 17 1972
SMILEY--Mrs. Lloyd Bell announces two piano recitals to be given this week. Cindy Wilcoxen will have a solo recital on Friday night, May 19, at 8 p.m. The remainder of Mrs. Bell's students will have their recital on Saturday night at 8 p.m. These recitals will be held in the school auditorium and the public is cordially invited.

Well, it's not true that I don't remember it. I played a Chopin Etude, three Beethoven sonatas, and an encore of Pine-Top's Boogie Woogie. I was not happy about it, because it was not my idea to have a Senior recital. It was Mrs. Bell's wish and my parents backed her. I was an enforced participant. Still and all, it was an experience and I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were folks in attendance other than Mrs. Bell, her students and my relatives. I could not find the picture of Mrs. Bell and me together, but I did find one of me and the piano that night.

This reminds me not only of that night, but of the reason why I bought a Sohmer piano for my own (it is the walnut twin of the one in the picture, a loaner for the recitals from a San Antonio music company). It reminds me of the Beethoven bust that I coveted. It belonged to Mrs. Bell and I would love to know who has it now so I could steal it. It reminds me that once upon a time I had the standard big hair of Texas debutantes. It reminds me that once upon a time I had the ability to play Chopin and Beethoven without stumbling. It reminds me of piano lessons and Mrs. Bell. It reminds me that Smiley High School had an auditorium that would hold just about the whole town on graduation night (it has since been carved up into class rooms). It reminds me that my mother made many of my clothes in those days, including the evening dress of silver and lilac brocade I have on in this picture. Memories.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's All Mine Now

I knew I was coming close to the end of my car loan. If I hadn't known it consciously, I would have known it because I just topped 90,000 miles on the odometer and my eye has taken to window shopping on the highway. (Ever since gas went to almost $3 a gallon, I've been contemplating a Smart Car, but have you actually seen one on the highway yet?)

I've been making my payments through my bank's online payment program for some time now and every month for over a year I've been logging in the details for the car payment. So I was surprised to receive a past due notice in the mail last Friday. We may report your late payment to our credit bureau, and other dire warnings. I was sure I had made the payment, checked my checkbook, where I always log my electronic payments, and there it was. A second, less irritated perusal of the notice revealed that I was a whole one cent in arrears. I had mistyped the amount by one cent and they spent $.41 cents and paper and processing costs to ream me out about it.

I had to laugh because I'm in the collection business myself and I know how these things go. I also know that due to the exact ridiculous scenario I just mentioned, we have a $5 minimum amount due policy before a notice of collection is generated.

A couple of weeks back I had noticed that this particular credit union has a branch office not far from my office, so I set out today to rectify this gross error on my part. My first thought was to just walk up to the teller and hand her the slip and one penny, but I decided that I should just go ahead and pay off the note and be done with it altogether. Which I did, so I'm one less institution indebted to. For the moment, anyway. I know the new car fever is bound to hit in full force now.

But it's nice to know that for a little while, it's all mine.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

They Say

...that squirrels don't like safflower seeds.



Saturday, February 16, 2008

Don't Hate Us

Because we're beautiful....

Is it true blondes have more fun? The ones at this house definitely have it made. Coco has a remarkable tolerance for Boo cat. Could it be that blondes of a feather flock together?


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Emergency Response

When I was driving around Smiley on Wednesday, I passed this relatively new building for the Smiley Volunteer Fire Department. It was just across the road from the Baptist Church, next to the old railroad tracks. It reminded me of the volunteer fire department back in the old days.

In those days there was a pumper truck housed behind an old grocery store on main street. There was a fire whistle that would sound the alarm. I'm not sure who the volunteers were. I can remember a couple of big fires while we lived there, one of them at the feed store across from where this new fire station sits and just down from where we lived.

Anyway, the little fire company had some problems. I can remember one time they were called out and for some reason could not get the truck started. The fire crews from Nixon arrived before the Smiley crew to fight a fire that was just around the corner. Another time, the Smiley crew was first on the scene and discovered that the pumper's tank was dry.

It's nice to see that things have changed for the better.


Driver's Ed

Yesterday when I drove past the newly renovated Gonzales County courthouse, my thoughts drifted back to 1971, a time when I did not view courthouses with any particular interest. This particular courthouse I viewed with something of terror. My one and only reason for darkening its doors was to get my driver's license.

Unless you lived in Smiley in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I'm betting I'm the only person you know who learned to drive from a Catholic priest. Father Charles Pugh from the St. Phillips Catholic Church of Smiley was the local Driver's Education teacher, holding classes in the summer just after the close of the normal school year.

I was a late bloomer in the driving department for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, our family only had one vehicle and there was no reason for me to learn to drive since the vehicle was in the constant company of my father on his appointed pastoral rounds.

Secondly, my father had managed to scare the absolute puke out of me on the one occasion he had offered to let me behind the wheel. For some reason he had gotten it into his head that I should back the car out of the driveway one day, I guess to pique my interest in learning to drive. However, when he told me to step on the gas after instructing me to put the car in reverse, he panicked as soon as the car started moving. (He was standing outside the car, not riding inside with me where he should have been.) Yelling at me to "hit the brake!" and simultaneously hanging onto the open window and dragging his feet like he had a prayer of stopping the car the way you would a runaway bicycle, he scared me so bad that I forgot what a brake was for a few seconds. Which panicked him worse, which panicked me worse, and it went downhill from there. I never cleared the driveway, but it was a tossup which of us was more discombobulated when it was over. I swore off driving for the time being.

When I finished my Junior year of High School, it could no longer be put off. It was my last chance to take Driver's Ed, so I enrolled. I was probably the only 17 year old in town who wasn't already buzzing around in the family car illegally. I was definitely the only 17 year old I knew who had never really even tried driving. I gritted my teeth and told my father that I needed a quick driving lesson so that I didn't go into the class completely ignorant. This time the driving lesson went without incident. (This was not exactly the case later on when Daddy bought himself an old Ford pickup with standard transmission and insisted I try learning to drive a stick shift. He had me drive it to the city dump, probably about 5 miles away, but he drove back. He was afraid he wouldn't have a transmission left if he didn't. I think I might be able to learn now that I know more about driving and gears, but at this point I'll probably never have another chance.)

Poor Father Pugh earned his money that year. After passing my written test with flying colors, I was partnered with 3 younger girls and our driving practice was no end of giggles. We drove the back roads around Smiley, over to Yorktown, over to Nixon, almost to Gonzales, and managed not to kill ourselves in the process no matter how much we tried. I can remember a hair-raising attempt to parallel park that resulted in the one and only time Father Pugh used his teacher brake. I wasn't doing badly, but it was a tight squeeze and he got a bit nervous. I can remember pulling out in front of a chicken truck and then freezing for a second when I suddenly decided I didn't have enough time to merge into traffic. Debating whether to go forward or swing into reverse and back up, I was told to floor it and I did.

My night driving practice was a trip. I have a bit of night-blindness and I am a very cautious driver after dark. I was paired that night with a boy a year behind me who probably had been driving for years. I did my pokey little lady routine for a 20-30 minute period while Shannon sat in the back seat and didn't say a word. When he took over, we made the trip back to our starting point in a third of the time. I have to hand it to him, he never snickered once.

The day finally came when the class was over and we were ready to take our driving tests. I was escorted over to the Gonzales courthouse by my parents and even though I was nervous, I really had never met a test I couldn't pass. Until that day, that is. Later on I learned that they made it a standard practice to take the new drivers straight into the parallel parking test, where if you made it through, you pretty much had the rest of the test made. The weird thing is that I did the parking part flawlessly. But then, in my nervous state, I forgot to put the car into parking gear. When I started to exit the space, it rolled backwards briefly because I was still in reverse. He flunked me, even though I immediately caught it and did the rest perfectly.

It was a hard pill to swallow, but it turned out that about 50 percent of the new drivers did something unforgiveable while parallel parking, so I wasn't alone. A couple of weeks later, I was not so flawless in the parking part, but I didn't forget any of the steps and I passed. In the years to come, I became a professional parallel parker and I can put my vehicle into a spot with 2-inches to spare on each end. Not that there's much opportunity to parallel park anymore.

I heard someone say one time how many miles a driver has to drive to become a competent driver. I've forgotten what that number is, but I estimate that I've driven about 3/4 million miles at this point in my life and regardless of what the men in my circle think, I'm a good driver. I wonder sometimes how Father Pugh managed to live through the years he sat beside the students taking their first driving steps, and I think of him every now and then when I see something on my way that reminds me of things he taught us. And every time I pass the Gonzales courthouse, I remember the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Middle Ages

Do you remember back when you were in your twenties and visiting your grandmother and the talk always turned to who just died, who was about to die or who was sick and might die? And do you remember wishing they would find some other topic of conversation?

A sure sign of middle-age must be when you find yourself attending funerals way more often than you ought to be. You do begin to view each serious illness that comes along in your circle of friends as a possibility that you may lose that friend. In our twenties we were immortal. In our fifties, not so much.

While you realize and accept (however unwillingly) that the older generation is bound to start disappearing on you as you hit your middle years, it is a severe shock when you lose someone your own age. A few months back a friend from Smiley had let me know that one of our classmates had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. I had not seen this classmate since we graduated in May 1972, so he remains frozen in my memory at a robust 18-years-old and full of vinegar. It was hard to imagine him nearing the end of his life.

Today I made the trip to Nixon to attend his funeral. He was the second loss to our close-knit class of 22. The first, a young man of fragile health, was lost in 1988 when he was only 34 years old. It was a shock, but not a completely unexpected one. Each time the class holds a reunion, we take a few minutes to remember Paul. While there have been tragic losses in the families of the class, we've been very fortunate to make it this long before losing another one of our own.

The Catholic church was filled almost to capacity with the family and friends who came to pay their respects. After the bulk of the attendees had left for the cemetery, two of my classmates and I stood outside the church and chatted. There were four of our class at the funeral mass and one of the men (I really wanted to say "boys" there) told me that the rosary the night before had been attended by several others of our class. We hugged and parted ways, hoping that the next time we see each other will be at a reunion and not at a funeral.

I naturally had to make the drive over to Smiley and wander about town a little, checking old landmarks, clucking over houses going to ruin from neglect, taking a picture here and there, and then stopping at the old grocery for a soda and packet of nuts for a snack.

Inside the old grocery, it's a shell of what it once was, which wasn't all that much to be honest. But the building gives off that familiar smell and the old meat display counter is still in the same place. The cashier remarked on how dressed up I was and when I mentioned I had just been to a funeral, she nodded and said "Frank?". "Yes, he was my classmate. He was a good guy." She mentioned who she was, the daughter of a lady I knew way back when.

When I left, I glanced at the outside wall and the outbuildings and thought to myself that some things never change. The painted parking dividers. The sign. Home.

I left Smiley and headed toward Gonzales where I planned to spend some time at the public library on a project that I'll speak more about at another time. On the way to Gonzales, I passed the Wrightsboro Cemetery where the burial was taking place. The crowd was still thick under the green canopy and cars parked all up and down the highway. I thought to myself that I'll come back and visit his grave on my next trip home.

Rest in peace, Frank. You were a good guy.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Am I the Last?

The good news is that I finally finished Angela's Ashes. The bad news is that I want to know how the story continued, which means listening to the sequal 'Tis, but I don't think I'm going to do that for awhile. It certainly couldn't get any worse, but then again maybe it does. I've been feeling dirt poor for a week now and thinking of things like fried bread for supper.

Dave Barry was the perfect antidote and raised my spirits considerably.

Last night I caught a movie that was released back in 2000 and I just had never had the opportunity to see. Am I the last one to discover what a terrific move Chocolat is? I shall be getting a copy of that one on DVD, it's that good. I hate that I didn't find it sooner.

I am becoming quite a fan of Johnny Depp's work, though I don't think I'm up to seeing Sweeny Todd. Probably send me back into the depths of depression. I highly recommend a viewing of Benny & Joon for another excellent Depp performance.

Today's agenda includes dog baths and fish tank cleaning. What a mad whirl of excitement is my life. (I'm not completely kidding. Mojo may take my arm off in the process.)


Friday, February 08, 2008

A Message From Above?

So, when a person is a little bit of a fatalist, a little bit superstitious and leans a little toward the idea of predestination, and that person glances out the side window on the commute to work and sees this:

What should that person think? Is this a cosmic "stop thinking that way" or "I'm not happy with the world" or "I vote no!"?

Yeah, I know that it's just vapor trails, but it made me pause briefly and think. What if somebody up there is trying to tell me something?


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fighting Depression

I have a real problem with depression this time of year. I hate the holidays, to begin with. I'm also fully convinced that I am one of those people who react to the reduction of light with the short days of winter. I love light and lots of it. Come spring time when the days begin to lengthen, my mood usually takes a dramatic swing for the better. {sigh, only 2 months to go}

So, I already had my usual post holiday slump in progress. Then I had a small dust-up with an EBAY transaction that turned sour. I purchased two items from a lady back in the early part of December. She only took money orders, so I trudged to the grocery store and got the money order. When I got ready to mail it, I realized that I had not been given an address. I emailed her. No answer. I finally combed through every notification I had received during the process and found an address that was sort of tacked onto a message as an afterthought. I sent the payment and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, a month later, I sent emails asking her if she had received the payment. No answer. I filed a dispute with EBAY.

Well, that got her attention and she finally responded that she had never been paid. So I sent her the details of the money order and the address I had sent it to, only to be told that she had moved from there ages ago. EBAY had not updated her account to her new address. So we settled on my resubmitting payment to her correct address. Thankfully, she had obtained a PayPal account in the interim, so I paid again. (Does anybody know how to cancel an money order? It's floating out there in California somewhere.) And I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. I finally emailed again to inquire. No answer.

I am not the most patient of persons in these kind of circumstances. None of this was my fault and I had actually paid twice and still had nothing to show for it. And I had stupidly not fully read the instructions for EBAY disputes and had closed the thing after completing the PayPal transaction and you can't reopen a closed dispute. I was hacked and yet I knew that as soon as I lost my temper and posted negative feedback, the package would show up and I would feel even worse. So I finally told myself to forget it and consider myself fortunate that with over 400 successful EBAY transactions in my history, this was the first one that had blown up in my face.

So I had this niggling aggravation in the background for two months. I had more aggravation when I had to make repeated telephone calls trying to get one of Mother's prescriptions renewed. And let's not forget that this was the same time period involving the broken heater, stopped up toilet and flaky sewer alarm.

So then I did something really stupid. I started listening to an audiobook that I knew was a sad story, but I figured I was already depressed so what could it hurt? Let me tell you, if you ever want to sink to suicidal levels, pick up a copy of Angela's Ashes. Good Lord above, this has to be one of the all-time saddest memoirs ever written. I should have stopped after the first CD, but the dratted thing is an enthralling story. I couldn't stop. If I live through the final 2 CDs (a total of 12), maybe the sun will peek through and I'll find a reason to keep going.

Well, let's see. What else has been going on? I arrived at work Monday morning to the most foul, acrid smell imaginable pouring out of my office. The old computer system that is my roommate until we complete the transition to the new system had had a meltdown over the weekend. It was barely limping along and died completely shortly after we had moved the backup unit into place. We spent the better part of Monday and the early part of Tuesday getting all the files moved over to the backup unit so that people could get back to work, then calling the various support numbers to begin the repair process. All day Monday I had people walking by my office holding their noses and the programmers all decided to work at home because it smelled so bad. I SPENT THE ENTIRE DAY IN THE ROOM WITH IT, FOR GOD'S SAKE!! And I'm an old lady. What's wrong with this picture?

Today I decided to eat my lunch in the break room and that was a disaster. I am a Democrat in a sea of Republicans and guess what was the primary topic of conversation on this Super Tuesday? You know, all the Democrats I know respect your right to have a differing opinion. Have you ever known a Republican that can fathom that someone else might not agree with them? I gave up and went back to my office as soon as I had finished eating. If it's not politics, it's religion or it's the new mothers discussing various post-partum issues that this old spinster would just as soon not hear. My kingdom for someone to have a real conversation with.

So my mood is blacker than soot right now. If it weren't for the kindness of strangers, I'm not sure I would have faith that things will get better soon or later. For instance, I picked up some fried chicken this afternoon on the way home and asked for some fried catfish, only to be told there would be a wait for it. I told them to never mind, but then at the window she passed over a sack with the last of the few pieces of catfish they had on hand, no charge.

After beating about the bush, let me finish my EBAY story. I had decided that I would wait another month and then post the negative feedback. Lo and behold, after 3 or 4 days since my last email asking for an update, I finally got a brief note apologizing and assuring me that the items had been sent. Today they arrived and I can finally remove this one item from the pile of things that are irritating me these days. Every little bit helps.

And tomorrow I should finish Angela's Ashes. That will help. I plan to start a Dave Barry book next to get the taste of out my mouth.

And my puppies meet me every day with slobbery kisses. That helps tremendously.

This too, shall pass. Spring isn't far away.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Through a Bird's Eye

The past few weeks have been a drudgery, consisting of paperwork, doctor's offices, heating repairmen, plumbers and insurance salesmen (enforced sales pitches at work - I don't let insurance salesmen within 100 feet of my house). My usual stand-by diversions of bookstores and little shopping trips have been tabled in the interest of paying off Christmas and repair bills, so there has been little to distract me in recent days. Last week's cemetery excursion notwithstanding, I've been basically sitting in the corner since Christmas, playing my lower lip. Blbbb, blbbb, blbbb.

Last night was a welcome reprieve. I cajoled little brother into coming down to mother-sit so I could attend the quarterly meeting of the Bastrop Historical Society. I always enjoy their programs, but had missed the last couple due to schedule conflicts. The speaker last night was Ron Tyler of the Amon-Carter Museum in Fort Worth. His subject was Bird's Eye View maps that were popular during the post Civil War through about 1910.

I've long had a print of the Bastrop Bird's Eye View map hanging on my bedroom wall. I've wondered through the years just how the maps were created and admired how much detail is shown in them. A Bird's Eye View map catches little towns in the late 19th century, showing the terrain and including minute details of the buildings.

Bastrop Bird's Eye, 1887

Last night I found out how these maps were created with such accuracy. They were drawn by travelling artists during a twenty year period of roughly 1870 - 1890, with a few still appearing on the scene as late as 1914. The artists traveled all over the United States, taking subscriptions for the prints. If enough prints were ordered, they would sketch the town and then send their finished sketch off to be printed up and delivered a few weeks later by another traveler working in tandem with the artist. The artist would have moved on down the road and would be working on the next little town where enough orders had been placed to make the work worthwhile. Sometimes the sketches were funded by local businesses and used as PR to attract new citizens. The artists apparently traveled by train, as the maps seem to follow the progress of the laying of train tracks westward.

Using a combination of available local maps, probably insurance maps, and sketches of every building in the town, the artists were able to create their Bird's Eye map giving an almost 3-D effect. While some of the outlying details were sometimes figments of the artist's imagination, for the most part the maps are incredibly accurate for the time and give historians a snapshot of a town at a particular time in its history. Our speaker presented a Power Point program that enlarged details and compared buildings in the maps with photos of the buildings from the same approximate time. It was obvious that these were real artists who paid attention to details that no regular cartographer would.

It would be really easy to be sucked into collecting prints of these maps now that I know how they came into existence. Fortunately there are museums and history centers who have collected them. For examples of the Bird's Eye View maps of Texas, follow the link to the Amon-Carter collection given above. To see some of the examples available from other states, check out the Library of Congress Panoramic Map website.

I will be studying the two in my collection with a little more respect.

Austin Bird's Eye, unknown date