Go on a Nature Conservancy adventure during lunch

The Nature Conservancy Lunch is one midday repast that I rarely miss.

Folks from worlds of business, government and conservation gather in a big room each year to hear about measurable results around the state from this nonpartisan, science-based advocacy group.

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Drew Brown and Patricia Young Brown at the Nature Conservancy Lunch. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

The Conservancy’s ace in the hole is its leader, Laura Huffman, one of the city’s best public speakers. This day at the JW Marriott, she talked about how the preservation of Hill Country land is now a model for as far away as Africa; how the future of water in the state depends on conservation, not just new supplies; how the Columbia Bottomlands on the Brazos River are faring; how the Conservancy is building a pair of oyster reefs on the coast; and how the group pieced together land through purchase and, more importantly, conservation easements in the Davis Mountains.

RELATED: Natural leader Laura Huffman nurtures the Nature Conservancy.

During lunch, I sat between Deb Hastings, natural resources advisor to Texas Lt Gov. Dan Patrick, and Kristin Vassallo, director of philanthropy and operations for the Conservancy. You can bet that our chat was noteworthy on many levels.

The marquee act, however, was National Geographic photographer and adventurer Pete McBride. My newsroom neighbor Pam LeBlanc interviewed him later that afternoon — I look forward to that article — but I can report on McBride’s spellbinding public presentation, which began with his work documenting the adventures of others — such as walking the length of the Amazon River, not a comfortable assignment for a man from the arid West.

Then he moved on to his passion project, documented in his book “The Colorado River: Flowing through Conflict.” McBride had gone back to his childhood home near the source of the western Colorado and followed it by boat, atop a paddle board, on foot and in the air. The images, of course, are breathtaking, but more important are the ideas, including a long segment on the river’s dry delta. He was able to document the area in Mexico before, during and after a “pulse,” when water was briefly released from the upstream dams.

As readers of this column know, a buddy and I recently finished tracing 50 Texas rivers from their sources to their mouths. Nothing compared to the scale or stamina of McBride’s project, but as a friend texted me during lunch: “You must be in  heaven.” How right he was.

RELATED: How to trace the Medina River.

Dan Jenkins at the Stark Center

Last week, author and dear friend Michael MacCambridge invited me to an early evening event at the Stark Center Physical Culture & Sport, located inside Royal-Memorial Stadium. He told me that news would be broken at this museum and archives, which I very much want to explore more thoroughly.

I walked in to find a couple hundred people milling around a tasty spread. A good two dozen of them turned out to be coworkers from the American-Statesman. So no scoops for me. Other than firing off a few tweets, I could relax and enjoy the company.

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Mark Phillip and Rebecca Feferman at Dan Jenkins Medal event at the UT Stark Center. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

In fact, my colleague from the sports department, Kirk Bohls, quickly and elegantly wrote up the event, including a good number of the laugh lines as well as this two-part news: That the University of Texas has established two awards for sportswriters in the name of the legendary Dan Jenkins, also that the TCU graduate’s archives would land at the Stark Center.

Golf greats Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw were among those who spoke tenderly about Jenkins, but no one was funnier or more timely than the man of the hour. I count myself lucky to have heard him speak just this once.

When I joked to Jim Ritts, former commissioner of the LPGA and current director of the Paramount Theatre, that would I walk out without a scoop, he gave me a hot tip that I immediately took to our managing editorJohn Bridges, who stood nearby.

As luck would have it, Ritts’ well-meaning tip was premature. The next day, our paper reported that Manchester United and Manchester City would most definitely not be playing an exhibition match at Royal-Memorial this summer. Good try.

Joining the revolt against the traditional Austin gala

Austin guests have been in open revolt against the traditional Austin gala for some time. They tell me that the standard black-tie affair is too long, too loud, too starchy and too gabby.

When one of Austin’s top social benefactors, Mary Herr Tally, starts storming the gala barricades, you know that change is in the air.

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Mary Herr Tally with a designer pet collar made by Shanny Lott. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

She calls her upcoming benefit for no-kill shelter and service, Austin Pets Alive, a “non-gala,” a term already in usage, or a maybe “neo-gala,” which better fits her slimmed down, unbuttoned strategy.

RELATED: Breathing life into Austin’s No Kill wins.

Even the name of her April 7 event at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, Tailwaggers  borrowed from Hollywood star Bette Davis‘ animal welfare outings in the 1940s — suggests something spontaneous, serendipitous.

“People ask: ‘How’s your gala?'” Tally reports. “Well, it’s not one. It’s casual cocktails and dinner. You take away all the tedious parts; do your key fundraising prior to the event; and avoid beating your guests down with a live auction or cash call.”

Tally is no stranger to the conventional gala. Since 1994, she has raised money for what used to be called the Austin Museum of ArtLong Center for the Performing Arts and Zach Theatre and Austin Opera as well as Seton Breast Care Center, Center for Child Protection and various animal welfare causes.

She felt Austin Pets Alive needed a signature event. She huddled with social masterminds such as Armando Zambrano and Carla McDonald to brainstorm for Tailwaggers.

A lightbulb moment came when McDonald proposed offering designer pet collars, auctioned silently. Tally was all in: “No painful live auction!”

She described how guests get distracted during the extended bidding of a live auction.

“People get up and walk out,” Tally says. “It’s embarrassing. It’s messed up. I mean, the live auctioneers have the best intentions …”

Cash calls — also known as “fund a cause” or, even more colloquially, “paddles up” — are no better if they last more than a few moments.

“Then you get your food. Finally,” Tally sighs. “We’re trying to redefine the gala that doesn’t have to be about a ball gown and and a tux. Austinites are sophisticated. They know what to wear to a good party.”

If forced to pin a name on the Tailwaggers sartorial style, she’d call it “Austin casual cocktail.”

“Just wear what you wear when you go out to dinner!” Tally says. “That could be jeans and a cute top, or it could be a dress. Austinites know how to dress, even if it has to be different at times to get some people out.”

Tally recently adopted a mixed breed dog from the Austin Animal Shelter that had been pulled from the Lockhart shelter’s euthanasia list.

“Annie Richards” was not what she expected to bring home.

“You think you know what you want,” she says. “Then you find the one.”

UPDATE: The origin of Annie Richards was clarified in a recent update.

Find out why Evan Smith and Gerald Daugherty were at 9 Core Values for First Tee of Greater Austin

We visit the 9 Core Values luncheon for First Tee of Greater Austin for three core reasons.

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Cachele and Steve Spinn at 9 Core Values Luncheon for First Tee of Greater Austin.

First, to learn more about First Tee of Greater Austin, which teaches character while training kids to play golf. Since 1997, more then 10 million youths have gone through the original program, which partners with LPGA, the Masters Tournament, PGA of America, the PGA Tour and USGA.

Second, to find out more about the sport, which I don’t play or watch. (I do, however, love golf courses and clubhouses.) On this occasion at the Hyatt Regency Austin’s smaller banquet room, we heard avuncular radio personality Ed Clements he interviewed PGA marketing guru Ty M. Votow from the stage. He talked about bringing the game to the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro and about the upcoming WGC-Dell Match Play. (Great timing for First Tee!)

Third, to honor outstanding Austinites who, according to an outside panel of judges, exemplify the group’s 9 Core Values. It was gratifying, for instance, to applaud Texas Tribune founder Evan Smith for Integrity and Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty for Honesty. This, despite the current public opinion of the media and politicians.

RELATED: Teresa Granillo followed her heart to Con Mi Madre.

It did not surprise us that Con Mi Madre leader Teresa Granillo would win for Confidence or that Mark Kiester, recently retired from Boys and Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, would be honored for Philanthropic Leadership (not one of the values, but a welcome award nonetheless.

RELATED: Mark Kiester grows the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Austin Area.

No one would argue that Sharon Watkins, hospitable owner of Chez Zee eatery and cultural backer, doesn’t deserve the Courtesy Award. Much-admired retired Judge Wilford Flowers aptly won the Judgement Award and Gilbert Tuhabonye, who escaped genocide in his native Burundi to found Gilbert’s Gazelles, was lionized for Perseverance. Former neighbor and much-admired musician Darden Smith was recognized for Responsibility.

Now up until this point in the ceremony, all the honorees had been subjects and sources for this column. Some had been profiled in this space. Yet the final two, Darren K. Roberts (Sportsmanship) and Ann Howard (Respect) are still somewhat new to me. I can sense two more profiles in our near future.

 

Best Texas rivers: Angelina River

The Angelina was the last of the larger Texas rivers traced during our 10-year program to follow 50 of them from their sources to their mouths, or vice versa. Actually, it was also the last river altogether.

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We had to stop in Looneyville. Had to. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

RELATED: How to Trace the Medina River.

It rises in an area with a lot of history in Rusk County not far from Nacogdoches, winds down into the giant Sam Rayburn Reservoir before wriggling down to join the Neches River at B.A. Steinhagen Lake.

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Angelina River near Douglass, Texas. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

RELATED: Repost: Texas River Tracing: Neches.

We left civilized Nacogdoches early and found the river at Douglass, a not very wide spot in the road that was the location for several Spanish missions. A little collection of historical markers with their backs to the road gave a detailed history of the Spanish presence in this area.

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Lots of history on the Angelina River. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman.

We picked up the Angelina through some gentle bottomlands that glowed with late fall colors.

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Angelina River not far from Lufkin. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

But pretty soon we hit the Sam Rayburn Reservoir, a vast lake that we had spied the day before at the mouth of the Attoyac. Once again, we found the perfect spot to view its expanses, an Army Corps of Engineers park laced with pines and brightly colored hardwoods high atop a bluff.

Related: Tracking down good reads on Texas rivers.

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Sam Rayburn Reservoir on the Angelina River. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

It’s easy to see why this stretch of lake would be a recreational magnet, especially during the summer. But why not in the winter? At every park during this December trip, we were typically the only guests. Couldn’t be a better time for camping, picnicking or boating, as far as we were concerned. The air was comfortably cool and dry, and — more to the point — there were no mosquitos.

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Love the Army Corps of Engineers parks all over Texas. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Right below the dam, we found a river community that rightly hugs the shores of what must be an ideal stretch for fishing and exploring. The Angelina at this point is broad and slow-moving as it approaches the Neches.

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Angelina River below Lake Sam Rayburn Dam. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Finally we ended up at B.A. Steinhagen Lake. We’d been here before on our Neches tracing, when a drought left it a meager patch of water. Now it’s full and clear and ready for visitors.

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Angelina River as it drains into B.A. Steinhagen Lake. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

That’s it. We traced 50 Texas rivers in 10 years. We saw a lot of the state that very few people have seen. We took a lot of backroads and saw a lot of back country. The sense of accomplishment is, needless to say, mixed with nostalgia.

The question comes up now: What to do with all these experiences? Book? Digital guide? We honestly don’t know.

For 10 years, it was just about the roads and the rivers.

Best Texas rivers: Attoyac Bayou

Attoyac Bayou is only 60 miles long. Yet it often appears on lists of significant Texas waterways. So we attacked it with our usual vigor.

RELATED: How to Trace the Medina River.

It rises in Rusk County and flows into the Angelina River in Nacogdoches County at top of the Sam Rayburn Reservoir. For much of its course, we found ourselves in what truly can be called backwoods Texas, including sandy, slurry roads on a rainy day.

Leaving Marshall, we didn’t easily find the Attoyac. We spent over an hour in dense thickets looking for the source our maps said was there. We we saw various rivulets, but without signage, we couldn’t be sure we were looking at the true source.

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The Attoyac outside Caledonia. Contributed by Joe Starr.

Eventually, much farther downstream, we found that it’s a lazy course with soft banks and hardwood overhead.

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Caledonia looking upstream. Contributed by Joe Starr.

We kept getting the impression that this had been cotton country at some point, but it had played out long ago, leaving small, isolated country churches, some of them African-American. But not much else.

Related: Tracking down good reads on Texas rivers.

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Shelby County. Contributed by Joe Starr.

One of the near-ghost towns was Arcadia, a place that seemed trapped in a past life. We wouldn’t have run across it if we hadn’t been forced to take backroad after backroad to reach the river.

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Outside Grigsby, looking upstream. Contributed by Joe Starr.

The Attoyac doesn’t get very big, even as it descends into the giant lake that is the Sam Rayburn Reservoir. The weather got cloudier and mistier as the day wore on.

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The Attoyac just south of New Hope. Contributed by Joe Starr.

You really get a sense of its wildness and isolation here. Very quiet, too, the bird song muffled by the gathing fog; nothing but the quiet muttering of the river.

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Right about here under this misty Sam Rayburn Reservoir, used to be the confluence of the Attoyac and the Angelina Rivers. Contributed by Joe Starr.

We finally found Jackson Hill Park along the lake across from the confluence of the Attoyac and the Angelina. We lingered here trying to take pictures of dewy spider webs. No luck. So we got back in the car and headed for Nacadoches for a nice dinner with an old chum at Maklemore’s Ale House and Bistro.

After several days and nights in East Texas, it was relief to be in a town — or small city — that seemed a part of the 21st century.

 

Best Texas rivers: Big Cypress Bayou

Big Cypress Bayou is perhaps best known these days as the source of scenic Caddo Lake, often called the only natural lake in Texas. Yet, as the displays on the walls of Caddo Lake State Park demonstrate, its water level has been manipulated by man more than once, including the current Caddo Dam in Caddo Parish, La. So natural? Not really.

RELATED: How to Trace the Medina River.

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Stately cypress and pine trees along the edges of tamed Caddo Lake. Contributed by Joe Starr.

Before we got to Caddo Lake to begin the tracing, we couldn’t resist stopping at Lady Bird Johnson’s childhood home in Karnack. While a historical markers stands in the center of this scruffy town, it is nowhere near the house, and there was no indication of where it might be. We were not deterred! Once we found the stately manse on a highway to the south, we discovered that the current owners of the home did not take kindly to unannounced visitors, or so their signs screamed. Still, we pulled over to take a quick snap in Lady Bird’s memory.

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Childhood home of Lady Bird Johnson (née Taylor), Karnack. Contributed by Joe Starr.

Caddo Lake might be the best place to find archetypical East Texas swamp scenery. Stands of bald cypress line the shore and rise from the shallow lake. There are pleasant lakeside paths and boardwalks extending over the lake for unobstructed views. The main entry point, however, in the state park is an oxbow lake should make for a pretty tame, but beautiful boat ride.

Related: Tracking down good reads on Texas rivers.

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Bald cypress in Caddo Lake State Park. Contributed by Joe Starr.

The bayou also famously served the river port of Jefferson, which, before the arrival of the railroads, was the fulcrum for East Texas transportation and distribution. Now a tourist magnet, among its many improved, renovated or restored sites is a park at the turning basin on the bayou. In Jefferson’s historic district is Excelsior House, a hotel in continuous operation since the late 1850s where Oscar Wilde once stayed during one of his American tours.

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Excelsior House Hotel, Jefferson, TX. Contributed by Joe Starr.

To confuse matters at this point, three miles west of Jefferson, Big Cypress Bayou is met by Big Cypress Creek. Which to follow? We followed the creek to Lake Bob Sandlin. More on that later.

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Defunct railroad trestle bridge at the turning basin, Jefferson. Contributed by Joe Starr.

Upstream of Jefferson, we stopped by the gorgeous Lake o’ the Pines, which attracts anglers and recreational boaters and gave us the opportunity to do a little nature watching. Amazing how the river changes so quickly once a few hills begin to define the terrain.

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Lake o’ the Pines on Big Cypress Bayou? Creek?

We remained uncertain — and there was a town, Uncertain, that echoed our concerns — about the bayou/creek designations at this point. But we ended up in Bob Sandlin State Park, a quiet place with, this December, an unusual number of large seasonal decorations. It also features an historic cemetery near a now-disappeared fort. We asked at the front desk, of course: Who was Bob Sandlin? Turns out he was a car dealer from the area who lobbied for years for the lovely lake that accompanies the park.

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This day of river tracing was fairly short. After two nights in Texarkana, we took refuge in Marshall, which turns out is not a very welcoming place for tourists. Dry as a bone, it did offer a tiny barbecue place, Porky’s Smokehouse and Grill, which reminded us how far away we were from Central Texas.

Best Texas rivers: Sulphur River

Like the Nolan and the Pease, the Sulphur River was unknown to us before we began to systematically trace the state’s waterways.

RELATED: How to Trace the Medina River.

For much of its course, the Sulphur tracks the more northerly and much larger Red River, running generally east from Lamar and Delta counties, while flowing into Wright Patman Lake in Titus County. Almost right away, it then wanders into the state of Arkansas and ultimately into the Red River.

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Cooper Lake State Park, just below the confluence of the South and Middle Forks of the Sulphur, Birthright. Contributed by Joe Starr.

At 183 miles, it’s not a particularly long stream, and, like several other East Texas rivers, it rises among hardwoods and prairies before cutting through pine forests and swampy lowlands.

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Just east of Copper Lake looking upstream, Hagansport. Contributed by Joe Starr.

Before hitting the river, we made a base camp at the Hampton Inn in Texarkana. There, we had the good luck of finding two local eateries — Cattleman’s, a traditional steak house with a traditional clientele and satisfying food, and La Fogata Bar & Grill, a family spot on highway on the Arkansas side of the border.

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Hagansport, looking downstream. Contributed by Joe Starr.

At our first stop in the morning, Cooper Lake, we ask the state park warden about water levels. She told us that they had been low for a long time and that the lake was vulnerable to yo-yo-ing supply. Now, however, the water line was pretty high and we lingered at a high point by the lake.

Related: Tracking down good reads on Texas rivers.

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Near Talco. Contributed by Joe Starr.

As we headed downstream, the only access to the Sulphur was usually along lonely county roads and bridges of dubious integrity. At places, it looked like recent floods had inextricably tangled the trees and brush along the shore. Slowly the hardwoods turned to pines as we reached Wright Patman Lake, a lovely spot, if empty on this winter day. We did encounter a flock of pelicans on an arm of the lake, an exciting turn of events.

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White Pelicans sailing out into Wright Patman Lake. Contributed by Joe Starr.

We made sure to stop at a little park just below the dam that impounds Wright Patman. It was there that we were reminded that the spillways enrich the water with oxygen, which attracts fish and, thus, fishing humans. This is a weird little park off a busy highway, but that didn’t stop us from exploring.

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Spillway from Wright Patman Dam. Contributed by Joe Starr.

We never really saw Lake Texarkana — couldn’t even find it on maps –but rather we stopped at a location downstream of Wright Patman just this side of the Arkansas border.

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A few miles farther east and the Sulphur flows into Arkansas and out of our purview. Contributed by Joe Starr.

We’d wager that 95 percent of our state’s citizens have never heard of the Sulphur River, but in the world of far northeast Texas, it’s a pretty significant waterway, our 47th to trace.

UPDATE: A reference to Lake Texarkana could not be confirmed.

Best Texas books: Recent on rivers

As many of you know, Joe Starr and I have traced 50 Texas rivers — by car and on foot — from their sources to their mouths, or vice versa.

RELATED: How to trace the Medina River.

Texas A&M University Press, teamed with the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, noticed our progress. And the good folks at the Press now send us their latest releases related — sometimes tangentially — to Texas rivers.

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“Neches River User Guide.” Gina Donovan. Texas A&M University Press. Oh, how we wish there was one of these guides for every Texas river. This is the gold standard. Handy in size and format. Clearly delineated maps. Carefully notated river access points. Helpful nature samples with color photographs of many of the mammals, birds, reptiles and the trees you’re likely to see. Now, the Neches is an East Texas river that cuts through the Big Thicket and its bottomlands are periodically at risk. Getting to know the river through this guide should help the general public make a case for its preservation.

RELATED:  Repost: Texas River Tracing: Neches.

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“Of Texas Rivers & Texas Art.” Andrew Sansom and William E. Reaves. Texas A&M University Press. Virtually an exhibit catalogue, this volume is a handsome collection of representations of Texas rivers — paintings, lithographs, pastels and linocuts. Aspects of Texas’s history and culture are tied together with a riverine theme. It is particularly gratifying to see how artists saw some of the exact same views we enjoyed during our 10 years of Texas river tracing. We are also pleased to see some of our favorite artists — Margie Crisp, Fidencio Duran, Robb Kendrick — represented here. Essays by Sansom and Reaves serve as natural introductions to the subject of Texas rivers.

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“The Blanco River.” Wes Ferguson. Texas A&M University Press. While much of the book is a survey of the history and geography of the Blanco River, the final chapters are a very personal recounting of the devastating Memorial Day Flood of 2015. It bears a family resemblance to Jim Kimmel’s fine “The San Marcos: A River’s Story,” also published in the Texas A&M Nature Guides series. It tracks the trajectory of observations we made of this Hill Country river — so rugged and beautiful for much of its run — and how its final stretch onto the plains around San Marcos is not a thing of beauty.

RELATED: A healing line a year later: The Blanco River.

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“Why the Raven Calls the Canyon.” E. Dan Klepper. Texas A&M University Press. Less focused on the nearby Rio Grande River than on the Fresno Ranch, this collection of photographs can still be grouped with these other books, for the river’s presence is never far offstage. Divided into chapters such as “Labors,” “Dogs,” “Horses” and “Haircuts,” each introduced by a brief commentary, the book’s images nearly form a narrative of the years that the author and the ranch’s caretaker spent “Off the Grid in Big Bend Country.” It’s a gorgeous book that will be appreciated by anyone who savors travel in West Texas.

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“Discovering Westcave: The Natural and Human History of a Hill Country Nature Preserve.” S. Christopher Caran and Elaine Davenport. Texas A&M University Press. With everything from caretaker families’ photos to highly technical geological and topographical charts, this book should satisfy your various curiosities about this stunning seventy-six acre preserve on the Pedernales River. We’ve visited at various stages of the rescue of this box canyon, once trashed out by casual visitors and campers. It’s now a paragon of natural education.

 

1920-2017: Longtime Austin restaurant supplier Sam Shanblum dies at age 96

Sam Shanblum died after a short illness Sunday morning. He was 96.

The longtime Austin restaurant supplier knew all the old lions of the city’s eatery game, having opened up shop downtown in 1946. He retired in 1985. Among his regular customers were Cisco’s Bakery — his regular twice-a-day hangout — the Nighthawk, El Patio, La Tapatia, Threadgill’s, the Chicken Shack and Fonda San Miguel.

RELATED: Austin couple, once everywhere around town, stay busy into their 90s.

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Sam and Bertha Shanblum, taken in the Northwest Austin home in 2016. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

Given a chance, he told tremendous tales about Old Austin businesses and characters, such this one about the Hoffbrau, the unreconstructed steak spot on West Sixth Street.

The owners of Hoffbrau habitually took off two weeks each fall to go hunting. Once during this regular break, they brought their iron griddle — where everything was fried — into Sam’s shop to be cleaned.

“We got two or three layers of accumulation off of it,” Sam said. “Later, customers said: ‘Hey, the steaks just don’t taste the same for some reason.’ ‘Yeah, we got the grill cleaned.’”

He is survived by his wife, Bertha Shanblum, who pursued her own long career as an assistant to a University of Texas academic psychologist, Ira Iscoe, as well as by their daughters, Lynda and Laurie.

The elder Shanblums grew up in Fort Worth and their families had immigrated in previous generations from Eastern Europe.

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Bertha and Sam Shanblum on their wedding day in 1947.

A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 14 at Congregation Beth Israel , 3901 Shoal Creek Drive.

Here’s the obituary.

UPDATE: The original headline for this post contained the wrong death year.

Wrapping up the Texas Film Awards

“I’m not going anywhere,” Shirley MacLaine quips. “And anyway, I’d be right back.”

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The stae was set for the Texas Film Awards at Austin Studios. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Pound for pound, there’s more glam at the Texas Film Awards than at any other Austin social event. And that’s a good thing, since the Austin Film Society fundraiser is a marathon. Photographers show up around 5 p.m. Guests linger long after 11 p.m.

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Tim and Taylor Taliaferro at the Texas Film Awards. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

It starts with a red carpet that’s worthy of the name. Not just award winners, but Austin film and philanthropy royalty. Then there’s a tasty dinner and a heady if extended live auction, which included precious time with the makers of Showtime’s “The Circus,” donated by Mark McKinnon, a gift which brought in a cool $60,000o. A double package allowing two bidders to appear in a Richard Linklater movie with Cate Blanchett went for a total of $42,000.

Tens of thousands were also raised for filmmaker grants.

Austin actress Olivia Applegate got things going with a tribute to the late Debbie Reynolds, an El Paso native, while Suzanna Choffel put her own spin on “Singin’ in the Rain.” Later, director Robert Rodriguez saluted the late actor Bill Paxton, then showed a video of tributes from colleagues Tom Cruise and Kevin Bacon.

Film Society leader Rebecca Campbell touted two top-quality screens aimed for the group’s upcoming art cinema, as well as programs that set Texas apart as a “film culture.”

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Actor Tye Sheridan picks up the Rising Star Award at the Texas Film Awards. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Tye Sheridan, winner of the Rising Star Award, stumbled and choked up charmingly as he admitted this was his first acceptance speech ever. It won’t be the last for the star of “Mud” and other Austin-linked movies.

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Producer Sarah Green at the Texas Film Awards. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Later, of course, the movie’s director, Jeff Nichols, and its producer, Sarah Green, were also honored. She was lauded as somebody “who gets movies made,” while he talked about his Texan wife, who convinced him to cast Matthew McConaughey in “Mud” and also to make his Academy Award nominee “Loving.”

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Director Jeff Nichols at the Texas Film Awards. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Henry Cisneros, the first Hispanic mayor of a major American city, introduced Hector Galán, the first documentary maker to win a Texas Film Award.

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Hector Galan, the great documentary maker, at the Texas Film Awards. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Galán gave a great speech, rich with history, apt for the man who has told us more than almost anyone else about the Mexican-American experience.

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Hollywood Golden Age actor Shirley MacLain at the Texas Film Awards. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

“I’m glad to be anywhere!” proclaims honorary Texan MacLaine as she picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award and also the Star of Texas Award for “Terms of Endearment.” “I’m going to pin this up into earrings.”