Taylor Jacob, Carmine’s professional barrel racer, told me that home looks different when you see it in the rear view mirror. My Aggie daughter would add that home looks different after an airplane ride halfway around the world and back.
She and 40 other Future Aggie Nurses just returned from a 20-day mission trip to Bondo, Kenya. If you’re not familiar with Kenyan geography, Bondo is a small city located about a 10-hour bus ride northwest of Nairobi in the vicinity of Lake Victoria.
We’ve always joked that San Angelo, where we live, is on the edge of the frontier. After living on the true edge of civilization, it’s clear to my Aggie that, despite the presence of a very well-preserved fort, it has been a long time since San Angelo was a frontier town. Real frontier towns don’t have Target, Starbucks or potable water. Real frontier towns require you to get eight vaccinations against dreaded tropical diseases and to purchase a mosquito net before you come to visit.
My Aggie and her friends spent their time in country working in schools, clinics, hospitals and orphanages. Kenya has been ravaged by AIDS, and the country is full of parentless children who don’t have enough food, medical care or educational opportunities. My Aggie, who in her younger years wished out loud that we had the “country club life” of some of her friends, came back very content to have a roof, window screens, running water and ice cubes. Plenty of protein was a bonus. For 20 days, breakfast was bread; lunch was bread; dinner was a potato.
She was particularly taken by a shy four-year-old who, after a diet of not much, was about the size of a two-year-old. My Aggie’s favorite thing is coaxing smiles from kids who are not prone to give them. By the end of their time together, Jackie was a constant fixture on my Aggie’s hip, and they were sharing the international language of laughter. My Aggie, who will be sponsoring Jackie this year, said, “Mom, they don’t have much, but they have joy.”
Indeed, as my Aggie discovered, life is a matter of perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of living and not really see what is around us. Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to help us see exactly what we have.
I remember the first time I looked at the landscape in the greater Roundtopolis and saw something other than home. I was a baby word slinger working for a state agency in Austin. A colleague and I were headed from the Capital City to the booming metropolis of Hungerford. The president of the Philippines had traveled to Texas and purchased a literal boatload of purebred Brahman cattle. We were hosting a press conference to announce the sale.
My buddy, who had served as travel aide to the senior President Bush and as a White House spokesperson, knew presidential protocol. I knew Brahman cattle—and the people who raised them.
Anyway, as we hurtled down Highway 290 in his low-slung German sedan, he took in the scenery through the polarized lenses of his tony designer shades and opined, “You know this is just as pretty as the Hill Country. Different but just as pretty.”
I did a double-take and then took a really long look. He was absolutely right. Rolling hills, sprawling oak trees, scattered tanks shimmering in the heat, big bodied crossbred cows laying the shade. What’s not to love?
It just took an outsider’s perspective—he grew up in Fort Worth and traveled the world—to remind me to savor what I’d had my whole life. My people got here in 1869, so we’d had generations to get complacent about this place that I had relegated to “home.”
As this issue will prove, making a conscious decision to see the familiar through new eyes creates opportunities for fresh starts, different perspectives and a lot of possibilities. You’ll get to see the Roundtopolis through the viewfinder of amateur photographer Cathye Moon’s camera as she made her first trip to the area.
In the feature on Festival Hill, you’ll get to know James Dick and Larry Birkelbach, two of the visionaries who imagined the musical destination and brought it to life. Then, we’ll introduce you to two of the historic dance halls in the area, whose owners and managers have kept them vibrant and alive. You’ll also get to shoot the breeze with Coby Shorter, a Colorado County native who is in charge of things like international protocol and statewide election rules at the Secretary of State’s office.
Of course, fall also means antiques. Last spring, best-selling author Melanie Shankle made her maiden voyage to the Round Top Antiques Shows and she shares her experience. In addition to a line-up of venues, we’ve gathered input from a group of designers who succeed by recognizing how old items can be used in new ways.
Here at the Round Top Register, we’re blessed because there’s a story in every encounter. Every day, we get to see the world through a different set of eyes. Thanks for sharing your stories. Because of you, our perspective stays fresh. Life in the Roundtopolis is just too rich to take for granted.
Friends with Words
by Lorie Woodward Cantu and Katie Dickie Stavinoha