The other day I had to go out to work at seven in the morning on Saturday. I didn’t have to stay long and as I was leaving I stopped by the Gas Station in front of the Wal-Mart across the highway from where I work. As I stood there, holding the nozzle, I watched some quick news bits and commercials (Soft Drinks and Candy – stuff for sale in the Gas Station Convenience Store) on the flat screen television attached to the top of the gas pump.

I looked closer and found that there is a network and web site for the programming that services the screens over the pumps – Gas Station TV – GSTV.

I have lived long enough to see society “progress” from when we were lucky to pull in three black and white channels on rabbit ears wrapped with aluminum foil to boost the signal to now when there is a special network dedicated to delivering programming to people while they gas up their cars.

This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

A Snickers ad on GSTV. My little car doesn’t look very cool, but it gets good gas mileage.

I had no idea what an EBT Cash Benefit Card was. I had to google it. I guess that’s a good thing. I guess people that go in to work at seven AM on their days off don’t get EBT Cash Benefit Cards.

Blacksmith Lessons

When I went down to the Dallas Heritage Village and the Cedars Food Truck Park I took a little walk around the village. Back in the corner is a blacksmith’s shop. The master blacksmith was giving lessons to two students.

I stood and watched for a while. They had a coal fire going and would reach overhead and pump a huge pair of bellows to feed the fire and get the heat they needed. The students would pull their iron out of the fire and hammer it red-hot against an anvil.

This was really interesting. Maybe I’ll save some money up and buy myself a blacksmith lesson some time. It wouldn’t be very useful, but might be an interesting experience.

A blacksmith student hammering his work.

The teacher and the student.

Working at the forge.

Near the blacksmith’s shop -a woman running a spinning wheel.

I was reminded of the blacksmith shop when, a couple weeks later, I was riding my bike around Fair Park. I was looking at and trying to photograph the series of amazing art deco murals on the six porticos along the Esplanade (I’m working on a blog entry… patience).

One of the murals shows a bare-chested smith hammering a piece of iron against a huge anvil. He is holding his hammer over his head, while next to him a helmeted welder is working away. A little more dramatic and artistic than the little blacksmith’s shop – but it’s the same general idea.

Art Deco mural from Fair Park in Dallas

Men Between the Ponds

One of the comfortable, reliable, everyday things in my neighborhood is the man between the ponds in the park down at the end of my block. Most mornings (not all) there is a man standing on the concrete apron between the flood control ponds doing exercise – somewhat like Tai Chi Chuan, but a little more violent and martial-arts like. I see him when I drive down my alley to go to work. My son, Lee, has said he saw him years ago when he was running cross country before school.

I have paused on my commute and snapped a photo of him, written a quick blog entry, here and here. But I’ve never been able to get a good look because I’m always late for work and don’t have the time. The other day, however, I saw him for the first time on a weekend morning while I was leaving for a bicycle ride and had time to circle around into the parking lot and get a shot from the other side. By that time… another man had joined him.

I’d like to talk to him and find out exactly what he is doing – but I respect what he’s up to and don’t want to disturb his concentration.

Usually, I see the man standing still, but sometimes he’s moving quite a bit.

I drive across the little bridge beyond the man on the right every day on my commute to work.


Any one that goes down to the Dallas Arboretum this summer will, understandably be wowed by the glass sculptures that Dale Chihuly has placed among the gardens. However, there are some other sculptures down there that are also worthy of looking at and blogging about.

One of my favorite little hidden spots is the Sunset Garden – with its particularly uncomfortable bench which looks down into the Pecan Parterre Garden and its century old pecan tree.


The view from the bench in the Sunset Garden, down past the fountain into the Pecan Parterre Garden, its Pecan Tree and the bronze Playdays.

Next to the tree is a wonderful bronze statue of a girl delighted to be stepping among a bunch of frogs. The sculpture is Playdays, by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth.

Playdays, by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth

The sculpture must be intended as a fountain… although it is dry now.

I really like this sculpture, for its grace and for its joy.

I did a little online research and found that the sculpture is modeled after the dancer Desha Delteil. The sculptor used Delteil for a number of her works – her favorite model.

There is a series of photographs of Desha Delteil as a model in the George Eastman collection of photographs – you can see why she would be popular for a sculptural model.

Desha Delteil, from the George Eastman Collection

Information from

In 1916, Desha was hired to pose for sculptor Harriet Whitney Frishmuth and modeled for several of Frishmth’s female bronzes, which Frishmuth entitled Desha. She became Frishmuth’s favorite model, posing not only for a number of her best pieces but also for her studio art classes. She is known to have posed for The Vine and Roses of Yesterday, and is presumed to have posed for The Hunt based on similarities of form and figure. [1] Delteil modeled for other artists as well, being highly valued for her ability to hold difficult poses for extended periods.

The dancer seems to be best known for doing the “Bubble Dance” in a 1929 musical comedy/revue, “Glorifying the American Girl” featuring the Ziegfeld Follies. I was able to find a copy of the film online – here.

However, Desha Delteil’s “Bubble Dance” is nowhere to be found. There are little bits of a very graceful dancer carrying a large transparent sphere moving in and out of scene, but no extended “dance.” And yes, if you were wondering, I did sit down and watch the whole thing. I like old movies.

The thing is, “Glorifying the American Girl” is a pre-code production from 1929 and in the decades since it has been cut down to remove any nudity or other morally unacceptable scenes. It could be that the Bubble Dance was simply too racy for the future.

This appears to be a theatre advertisement for Desha Delteil doing her famous bubble dance

Again, research online seems to indicate that UCLA has restored a complete, uncensored version of the film but hasn’t released it to the public. Maybe the famous “Bubble Dance” is in there somewhere.

I know this is way too much information about a simple little bronze sculpture in an obscure corner of the Dallas Arboretum – but you know how easy it is to fall down that rabbit hole once you start clicking away on the Google Searches.

Dart Sunset

The other day I drove down after work to the Forest Lane DART station, parked my car, and went for a bike ride on the White Rock Creek trail. I didn’t feel very good and wondered why – later I found out the temperature was 108 F (42 C). That was the problem – even though I had plenty of cold water – that sort of heat will suck the energy out of me.
As the sun set I stopped to catch my breath near where my car was. I watched the DART trains cross the old railroad bridge near the Urban Reserve development. Some of the cool people that live there were out walking their dogs and we chatted while I snapped some shots of the bridge and the sun. I thought of the hundreds of times I’ve ridden that train and looked out the window over the trail.

Routh Cemetery

North of where I live is a patch of thick creek-bottom woods known as the Spring Creek Nature Area. I’ve been going there for years – to walk around or ride my bike on the complex of paved trails that loop through the forest. It’s a nice spot… a place to forget that you are in the middle of a giant city.

The looping trails through the Spring Creek Natural Area converge on a little footbridge over the creek. There is a nice bench there – a good place to rest and get away from the city for a few minutes.

I had read rumors that there were a couple of old cemeteries within this woodland stretch. A little bit of web searching and careful observation of the Googlemap aerial view of the area and I was pretty sure I had spotted the locations. I am not obsessed – but I find old cemeteries to be interesting. They are the only remaining mark that a lot of the early settlers left on the land here.

I had stopped off at one in the middle of a Plano neighborhood a month or so ago and now I thought I’d take a look at the one in Spring Creek.

So the other day, once my bike ride had been cut short by an unexpected flat, I left my car at Renner and 75 and walked down to where I figured the graveyards might be. It was a hot day and walking was not easy, even though I had brought a bottle of cold water. The cemeteries are not in the Nature Area exactly, but on private property, but judging by the trails and dirt roads penetrating the scrub and trees, I was not the first to venture back there.

After a short hike I came across a small family plot, with a rusting iron inner fence and a new black wrought iron palisade around that. This was the burial place for the scion of the Routh family, Jacob Routh, his wife, Lodemia, and two unmarried daughters. The plot is overgrown with vegetation and I didn’t feel like climbing the fence, so I never was able to see the daughter’s tombstone. The Routh name is still heard all over the Metroplex, especially now that Routh street pierces right through the heart of the uptown entertainment district.

It’s a very peaceful spot, perched right above a steep, deep, dropoff of native limestone down to the creek below. I can picture it over a hundred years ago, part of a ranch made of rolling hills rising up from the creek bed. It’s where a pioneer would choose to spend the rest of eternity. Somehow, I don’t think they would mind the fact that the plot is being overgrown, slowly returning to the way it used to be.

Around to the side of the tombstones of the four family members are two small markers. I could barely see these through the underbrush – couldn’t make out the dates. One had three names, Sharon, Rinnet, and Theda. The other simply said “Fluffie.” These are obviously pet graves… horses and a dog, probably. In those times, a family’s animals would have been very important, worthy of a carved stone in the main cemetery plot.

Jacob Routh’s tombstone in the family plot deep in the woods at the Spring Creek Nature Area in Richardson, Texas.

Pet grave marker.

I couldn’t get a good shot without climbing the fence… but it says “Fluffie.”

I left the small cemetery and followed an old road down through a little creek and up a hill, almost emerging onto a new road that winds through the glass and granite high-rise office buildings of the Richardson Telecom Corridor. Shielded from civilization by a thick grove of trees is a larger cemetery, containing about a hundred or so graves. It was fenced – I did not enter even though there were some gaping holes in the wire. Near the locked gate was a couple of crumbling benches and an official historical marker.

It reads:

Marker Number: 14532

Marker Text:

Brothers Jacob, George Washington, Joseph and Thomas Jefferson Routh, and their sister Elizabeth Routh Thomas, were cousins of the Vance Family which held the original land grant that encompassed this site. Jacob Routh (1818-1879), a Baptist minister, acquired the 440-acre J. V. Vance survey in 1851, and brought his mother and other relatives from Tennessee to Texas. The Routh family were instrumental in the establishment of the community surrounding their land. Routh family members helped to organize a school, church, and store in addition to the family cemetery.

Early Collin County settlers Nancy De Lozier Beverly (1806-1851)and seven year old William Klepper, along with an unknown child whose parents were camping nearby at the time of his death, were already buried on this site when Jacob Routh set aside one acre as a family burial ground. Jacob’s mother, Elizabeth Mashman Routh (1788-1852), died soon after her arrival in Texas and was the first family member to be interred here.

Jacob Routh, his wife Lodemia Ann Campbell, and two unmarried daughters, Rose and Clara Routh, are buried several hundred yards north of the cemetery in a private plot. Of the approximately two hundred graves here, fewer than one hundred are marked. The last burial to occur here was that of Serefta Ellen Campbell Miller, who was born in 1836 and dies in 1922. The Routh cemetery continues to serve as a record of the pioneers of north Texas. (1998)

I walked around the fence and snapped a couple shots through the wire. Like the smaller plot this one was overgrown, with large mature trees grown up between the crumbling markers.

The sun was burning down and I had seen what I wanted and returned the way I came, taking time to explore a couple side trails that meandered through the woods down to the creek in a couple different spots. I hope that land doesn’t get developed any time soon, I’d like to see the the Spring Creek Nature Area expand… I’d like to see those cemeteries both protected and also, paradoxically, continue to return to the wild state they started from.

Stack of Stones

Stack of Stones

Walking through the Cedars Neighborhood I was struck by all the open space. Block after block had been torn down, leaving vacant lots – some with concrete steps where a stoop used to be, now leading nowhere. In many cities, this is the hallmark of urban decay – but in Dallas, this is the sign of a giant multi-use development getting ready to launch, simply waiting for the market to be just right.

One stretch of street was lined with a wall of heavy welded steel plates. I peered through the gap between two slabs of slightly rusting metal and saw this sight. What is it? I don’t know.