Category Archives: Photography

Historic Ben Wheeler, Texas

Pink Ben Wheeler, Texas, Hogfest Bus Photo Print

Pink Ben Wheeler, Texas, Hogfest Bus

Mailmen don’t usually get the attention they deserve. The founders of Ben Wheeler, a community in East Texas, did value its first mailman by naming the community for the man who carried the mail.

Benjamin (Ben) Wheeler, a late 19th century mailman, carried mail from the Van Zandt county seat of Canton to Edom, Texas.

In 1876, a post office was established in the home of George W. Clough.  This spot along the mail route was then named for Wheeler, who stopped to spend the night at Clough’s home on his route.  Clough’s house was about half-way between Canton and Edom.  At Clough’s, Wheeler also got water for his hard-working mail-carrier mule.  Clough later built the first store in Ben Wheeler, and he and his neighbors built a school house on his land.

 

 

The Ben Wheeler Pink Hog Bus has advertised the Ben Wheeler, Texas, HogFest by participating in the Tyler, Texas, Rose Festival Parade. Here is the bus when it drove in the 2011 parade.

Welcome to Historic Ben Wheeler Sign 24x10

Welcome to Historic Ben Wheeler Sign

 

Learn about the history of Ben Wheeler, Texas, and its many activities, including music and food and its annual Fall Hogfest, on the Ben Wheeler Official Website. Watch the video on the site, too! Ben Wheeler is known as the Best Hidden Small Town in Texas.

Ben Wheeler Facebook Page.

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Strangler Fig in Big Cypress Nature Preserve

Strangler Fig, Big Cypress Swamp, Florida Poster

Strangler Fig, Big Cypress Swamp, Florida.

In the photograph above, a strangler fig embraces a cypress tree in Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida. The strangler fig is (Ficus aurea) one of the most striking plants in the Big Cypress swamp in Florida. It grows around the host tree, actually strangling its host over time.

The strangler fig is an epiphyte, a plant that grows on another plant but is not parasitic, such as the numerous ferns, bromeliads, air plants, and orchids growing on tree trunks in tropical rainforests. However, the strangler fig is the only epiphyte that will affect the host in which it grows. The strangler fig grows very slowly as it matures, extracting water and nutrients directly from the atmosphere. As the plant gets larger, it may grow both up and down the trunk of the host tree. Eventually, the strangler fig will reach the ground and start growing more rapidly. The strangler fig encircles the roots of the host tree, eventually killing it. As the host tree rots away, a hollow void is left with the strangler fig standing alone.

Each of the 750 fig tree species found throughout the world are pollinated by a wasp specific to each fig, according to the Big Cypress National Preserve official website. The fresh waters of the Big Cypress Swamp, essential to the health of the neighboring Everglades, support the rich marine estuaries along Florida’s southwest coast. Protecting over 729,000 acres of this vast swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities that are home to a diversity of wildlife, including the elusive Florida panther.

Big Cypress National Preserve official website.

History of Big Cypress Swamp

The Fascinating Strangler Fig of Florida. 
Click on the thumbnails to see a full-size photo.

David Attenborough, BBC Wildlife:

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Filed under Biology, Environment, National Parks, Natural History, Nature, Photography, Travel

The Smallest Post Office in the United States

Customers visit the Ochopee, Florida, Post Office.

Traveling on Highway 41 in southern Florida, if you don’t blink, you’ll see the smallest post office in the United States. The 7- by 8-foot building, formerly a storage shed for irrigation equipment to water tomato plants, now houses a fully functioning post office.

Ochopee, Florida, Post Office Historical Sign.

The shed was pressed into service after a fire in 1952 destroyed the Ochopee general store, which previously had housed the post office. The post office is in Big Cypress National Preserve.

The building is small, but the Ochopee mail route is large, covering three counties and is about 132 miles long, according to Roadside America.

 

Ochopee, Florida, Post Office, Smallest in U.S. Postcard

Click on the thumbnail to see the full-size photograph.

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Key Lime Pie

Image may contain: dessert and food

Key Lime Pie is on almost every menu in Florida.  The original version with meringue is more difficult to find.  The more available version uses whipped cream, which is easier to serve.   My husband and I found the meringue key lime pie at the Key Lime Pie Factory on Tavernier Island just west of Key Largo. It was delicious! You can buy slices and whole pies, as well as a wide range of key lime flavored treats, including frozen key lime pie dipped in chocolate on a stick

Key Lime Pie is thought to have been invented in Key West by “Aunt Sally,” the talented cook of William Curry, a prominent Key West resident and Bahamian-born immigrant who became Florida’s first millionaire. In the late 1800s, Aunt Sally used ingredients available on the island, which is at the end of the Florida Keys archipelago — easy to store sweetened condensed milk in a can (no cows anywhere near the island), local eggs (there are chickens everywhere on Key West) and the locally grown key limes.  Key limes are yellowish when ripe and are smaller and have more seeds than the bright green limes you commonly find in the grocery store throughout the United States.  In the original recipe, egg yolks go into the filling, and the egg whites are whipped into a meringue topping. More commonly now, restaurants and bakeries skip the meringue and use whipped cream, but the Key Lime Pie Factory in Tavernier Island in the Florida Keys still creates its pies with meringue.

History of Key Lime Pie.

Authentic Key Lime Pie Recipe.

What Makes a Key Lime So Special.

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The Miraculous Stairway in the Loretto Chapel

 

Loretto Chapel Miraculous Stairway, Santa Fe, N.M. Poster

The Miraculous Stairway in the Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

I took these photographs in April 2014 when I visited the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The chapel is famous for its “miraculous” staircase. The staircase has two 360-degree turns and no visible means of support.

When the church was completed in 1878, there wasn’t enough room for conventional stairs, and the Sisters of Loretto didn’t want to climb a ladder in the long skirts of their habits. They prayed for a miracle, the legend goes, and a mysterious carpenter came, who built the staircase. He asked for no pay and disappeared as mysteriously as he came. His identity is still unknown, and even some of his methods in building the freestanding spiral stairway have not been discerned, so it is indeed a miracle still. To read more about the Loretto Chapel and its staircase, click on the links beneath the photographs.

The bottom link is about Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy (October 11, 1814 – February 13, 1888). The archbishop commissioned the building of the Loretto Chapel. He was a French Roman Catholic prelate who served as the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the United States. The American writer Willa Cather’s novel “Death Comes for the Archbishop” is based on his life and career.

The miraculous staircase leads to the choir loft at the back of the Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Musicians practice for Holy Week events at the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in this photograph from April 2014.

 

The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was designed by French architect Antoine Mouly in the Gothic Revival style, complete with spires, buttresses, and stained glass windows imported from France.

 

About the Loretto Chapel Staircase

About the Loretto Chapel

About Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy

Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy Statue Postcard

Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy

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Jacksonville, Texas — Tomato Capital of the World

Customized concrete tomatoes in Jacksonville, Texas, the “Tomato Capital of the World.”

Jacksonville, Texas, was once known as the Tomato Capital of the World in the 1930’s. The town still celebrates its tomato history with a Tomato Fest the second Saturday each June with many activities, including a tomato eating contest, tomato peeling contest, tomato packing contest, best home grown tomato contest, tomato archery — you get the picture! All things tomato. More than 200 vendors sell tomatoes.

A metal flamingo and a concrete tomato hang out at a Jacksonville, Texas, restaurant.

Visitors can take a tour of the at least 175 concrete tomatoes throughout the city, which were sold to businesses and other institutions in the city by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce to promote its tomato history.

It’s fun to see how each business and public office decorated its tomato, each of which weigh 665 pounds. A Dairy Queen tomato looks like an ice cream cone, a business with a tropical decor decorated its concrete tomato to look like a beach ball, the McDonald’s tomato looks like a box of french fries. Other businesses feature their logos on the tomato.

Love’s Lookout Park is north of Jacksonville, Texas, and is worth a visit, especially if you’re on your way to or from Tyler. The park features a landscaped rest stop, a great view and concrete tomatoes.

About Jacksonville, Texas, Tomato Fest.

See more tomatoes at Love’s Lookout Park, north of Jacksonville.
Love’s Lookout Park.

Jacksonville, Texas, Tomato Capital of the World.

Jacksonville, Texas, the Tomato Capital.

In the fall, this Jacksonville produce stand featured tomatoes along with pumpkins.

Click on the thumbnails to see a full size of each photo.

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The Hoggs of Texas

The Jim and Sallie Hogg Honeymoon Cottage is located in the Governor Jim Hogg Park in Quitman, Texas, which was the first home of Governor and Sallie Hogg (Sarah Ann Leannah Stinson).

Americans might not know the names of many governors from states other than their own, especially not from decades ago, but Governor James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg (March 24, 1851 – March 3, 1906) of Texas could be an exception. Hogg was known to be a great governor, but non-Texans might recognize his name from the name he gave his only daughter: Ima.  Some joked that he had a second daughter named Ura, but Ima had only brothers, who had ordinary names — Will, Mike and Tom.

Ima’s name was taken from The Fate of Marvin, an epic poem written by her uncle Thomas Hogg.  Ima (July 10, 1882 – August 19, 1975) didn’t like her name, and had no middle name, so she often used only her first initial.   As soon as he heard of his new granddaughter’s odd name, Ima’s maternal grandfather raced to his son-in-law’s house to protest, but Ima had already been christened. She never married and kept her last name until she died.

Ima Hogg, around 1900, from Wikipedia.

Ima was known as “The First Lady of Texas.” She was an American society leader, philanthropist, patron and collector of the arts, and one of the most respected women in Texas during the 20th century,  Her father  was a lawyer, state attorney general and the 20th Governor of Texas.  He was the first Texas governor to have been born in Texas and was governor from 1891 to 1895.  I first thought of writing about Jim Hogg when I saw a highway named after him near Tyler, Texas, which I often visit.  Other places in Texas are named for him, too.

 Jim Hogg County in southern Texas is named after him.  There is a Jim Hogg Historic Site near Rusk, Hogg’s birthplace.

In 1906, Governor Hogg asked that a pecan tree be planted at his grave instead of a traditional headstone, requesting that the seeds be distributed throughout the state to make Texas a “Land of Trees”.  His wish was carried out and this brought more attention to pecan trees. In 1919, the 36th Texas Legislature made the pecan tree the state tree of Texas.  The Texas town of  San Saba claims to be “The Pecan Capital of the World.”

Governor Jim Hogg became his political career in Wood County, a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 41,964. Its county seat is Quitman. The county was named for George T. Wood, governor of Texas from 1847 to 1849.

Wood County Courthouse, Quitman, Texas.

 

To learn about the Hogg family’s contributions to the state of Texas, as well as what Ima thought about her unusual name, click on these links:

About Ima Hogg of Texas.

About Texas Governor Jim Hogg.

About Governor Jim Hogg Park in Quitman, Texas.

Jim Hogg Historic Site, Rusk, Texas.

About The Jim Hogg Highway, near Mineola, Texas.

Another famous name associated with Quitman, Texas, is the actress Sissy Spacek, who was born in the town and has a street there named after her.

A street in Quitman, Texas, is named for the actress Sissy Spacek, a native of the town.

Click on any thumbnail to see a larger size of the photo.

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