December 23, 2010

Hill Country Scenes, Fall 2010

Photos I took in November 2010 at Lost Maples State Park and nearby places in the Texas Hill Country.


October 24, 2010

Some of my favorite photos

Tapestry of some of my favorite photos, mostly landscape and nature photos. All photos by Rob and Sandy Vanya. Texas locations — Bandera, La Grange, Bellville, Chappell Hill, Austin, Enchanted Rock, Lost Maples; Colorado locations — Ouray, National Monument, Million Dollar Highway, Grand Mesa.

December 12, 2009

Rugged Natural beauty

Sit back, relax, turn up the volume, and enjoy a hike through Lost Maples State Natural Area — a showcase of rugged natural beauty secluded in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. Photography by Rob Vanya — For larger views of the photos, please click on the link below —

Lost Maples

August 29, 2009

Color & Light

My reasons for being attracted to nature photography can be summed up in two words — color and light, as indicated by this collection of photos I’ve taken over the past two years.

May 19, 2009

Ode to “Ode to Billie Joe”

Filed under: Lyrics,Music,Mystery,Mystic,people,Songs,South — rnvanya @ 2:02 pm
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This post is an ode to one of my all-time favorite songs, “Ode to Billie Joe,” composed and originally performed by Bobbie Gentry. The song was released in 1967 and literally took the world by storm. To me, it exemplefies the songwriting craft at its highest form — a bouncy, simple beat that’s enjoyable to hear without being obnoxious that provides a foundation for absolutely amazing lyrics that paint a clear picture about a haunting and tragic story set in the rural South.

To me, it’s as though the “Ode” takes an entire complex William Faulkner masterpiece novel and condenses it into one mysterious, mystical song. There’s so much mystery, tragedy, and imagry packed into one beautifully crafted tune. No wonder the popularity of the song has endured through the years. The song poses questions that I, for one, have pondered for a long time and have yet to find conclusive answers for. What was it that the girl and Billie Joe threw off the bridge? What exactly was the relationship between the girl and Billie Joe? Were they romantically involved, or was she just a very good friend, someone considerably younger than Billie Joe who really admired him?

Please share your theory about what the girl and Billie Joe tossed off the bridge into the muddy water.

Here are the lyrics, followed by a video clip of Bobbie Gentry performing the song. She was a little ahead of her time. This clip is actually an MTV piece released before MTV became so popular.

Ode to Billie Joe
It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton, and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered out the back door, “y’all, remember to wipe your feet!”
And then she said, “I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge
Today, Billie Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

And papa said to mama, as he passed around the blackeyed peas
“Well, Billie Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please
There’s five more acres in the lower forty I’ve got to plow.”
And mama said it was shame about Billie Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billie Joe MacAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And brother said he recollected when he, and Tom, and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night?
“I’ll have another piece-a apple pie; you know, it don’t seem right
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
And now ya tell me Billie Joe’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

And mama said to me, “Child, what’s happened to your appetite?
I’ve been cookin’ all morning, and you haven’t touched a single bite
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today
Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billie Joe was throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

A year has come and gone since we heard the news ’bout Billie Joe
And brother married Becky Thompson; they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going ’round; papa caught it, and he died last spring
And now mama doesn’t seem to want to do much of anything
And me – I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

April 3, 2009

Men of Action

Filed under: Family,Grandchildren,people,photography — rnvanya @ 4:17 am
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Two of my favorite photo subjects are my VERY active grandsons — Zac and Joshua. Took these 2 pix of the two “men of action” while they were running and jumping on rows of baled hay at Memom’s & Pawpaw Tex’s farm near Bellville. Here’s a link to a gallery that includes more pix of the 2 boys burning off lots of energy —

Men of Action

Joshua Robert Fuller Superhero to the Rescue

Joshua Robert Fuller Superhero to the Rescue

February 25, 2009

Take a Hike

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Nature video by rnvanya – Photobucket“, posted with vodpod

Here’s a tapestry of nature and landscape photography I’ve taken during recent years. Turn up the volume and enjoy a virtual nature hike. You never know what waits along the next trail.

February 22, 2009

Lost Maples, a Texas Hidden Treasure

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Lost Maples video by rnvanya – Photob…“, posted with vodpod

Here’s a slideshow of photos I took in the autumn of 2008 while tramping around in Lost Maples State Park. Very remote, with no shopping malls, no cellphone service, no crowded freeways; yet it’s a wonderful place to “get away from it all” and enjoy the peace and quiet and rugged beauty of the Central Texas Hill Country. Here’s a link to a gallery that contains more Lost Maples photos —

Lost Maples

February 8, 2008

The Good Old Days

Filed under: Family,Humor,nature,people — rnvanya @ 10:28 pm
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Ah, what aroma

Ah, what aroma

I remember talking to Granny Moudry one day (when she was still alive) out on her front porch. We were sitting together on the swinging bench, just swaying back and forth and looking out on the cattle grazing in the pasture and the chickens chasing bugs around the front yard — just generally enjoying the view of the countryside. She lived in an old house on 50 acres located about 8 miles west of Bellville. She was a sure-enough country girl. Born and raised on a farm and the only work she ever knew was farming.

I said: “Granny, tell me about the good old days.”

“What good old days?” she replied. “Nobody on this farm ever knew about any good old days. The only life we’ve ever known is nothing but a lot of hard work. For six days of the week — Monday through Saturday — all I ever did was work, work, work — from the crack of dawn until dark (and sometimes until after dark). The only rest day we had was Sunday, and that was because you were so worn out that you just had to rest. I hear some people talk about the so-called good old days. I don’t know what they mean. I’m glad I’ve got an electric washing machine and a gas-burning stove and indoor plumbing and air conditioning and a car. I don’t have any desire to go back to any good old days. They were not good old days.”

Granny passed away some years back, but that little chat I had with her about the “good old days” remains as a vivid recollection. Recently, I mentioned it to my wife (who is Granny’s granddaughter. Granny Moudry was not my real grandmother, but I claimed her as my granny anyway). My wife said: “I remember visiting Granny when I was very small and when we would stay a few days we would take our baths in a large washtub. There was no indoor bathroom and no bathtub, so we had to bathe in a washtub. The water was heated up in her old wood-burning stove. It was a real chore to heat up water for bath time, so we had to use the bath water as long as possible. I remember how cold and dirty the bath water was whenever I was the third or fourth person to take a bath. I also remember having to go to the outhouse. I hated that.”

Unwelcome outhouse guest

Unwelcome outhouse guest

That brought to mind once when I was just a child and we visited some kinfolks who lived out in the country up in Rusk. Mother Nature made her call and I went through the house looking for a bathroom. Ray, the man of the house, informed me that the bathroom was outside. That was my first encounter with an outhouse. It was February and, naturally, the outhouse was not heated. I’m here to tell you, it was frigid inside that outhouse. The “toilet paper” was a Sears catalog and the one memory that stands out in my mind was the scare I got when I discovered (while seated on the hole) that there was a wasp within spitting distance, just studying me very carefully. I did not like the icy air flowing around my fanny. I could not stand the gagging stench of the place. And I sure did not like that wasp eyeballing me. All in all, it was not a very pleasant experience.

So, I think I sorta see what Granny meant when she said she did not want to go back to the “good old days.” There were certainly a lot of things about those good old days that were not very good at all.