Friday, March 28, 2014

Taylor's Army Surplus

4042 N. 1st St.
WHAT were these white boots used for??

A hidden gem on N. 1st! Who knew?! Certainly not me. In over 3 1/2 years, I'd never even noticed the rocket suspended from the sign or the cannon displayed in the parking lot.

It was so cool in here that if this place had a donation box like museums do, I would've put in some money.

It's fascinating inside!!

The outside never would've gotten me in the door but our son had been in several times, so I went with him.

Hung around the tops of the metal corrugated walls are jackets of uniforms from all over the world. Fascinating.

In a back room they have a rack of similar jackets for sale for $9.99.

One can also purchase British Pink Military Parachutes for $89.99. If one so desires. (I wonder what could mega-crafters do with that particular item?!)

Mixed with basic merchandise like wool blankets and sturdy plastic buckets with lids, you'll find multicolored, jungle-appropriate (I guess) long rain ponchos and a surprising variety of stuff. There's a full-size army jeep parked in there, as part of an attractive display.

I could go in several times and wander and enjoy myself.

Check it out!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Unique Churches

There are a lot of churches in Abilene, but these architecturally took the cake. Especially the one that looks like a spaceship. Complete with communication tower topped with a cross. They are all active congregations.

 Brook Hollow Christian Church - 2310 South Willis

 Our Savior Lutheran Church - 4933 South 7th Street

 Sacred Heart Catholic Church - 837 Jeannette Street
Sacred Heart stands out because as far as I know it is the only one of hundreds of churches in town having a little color on the outside, with the tile work. I like that tall, thin mediterranean-looking tree growing in front, too.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Buffalo Gap Historic Village

Part of the Texas Forts Trail system, Buffalo Gap village is full of historic structures. Each time we visit, I notice something new. Visitors can make their way through a clapboard house, a jail/courthouse, a doctor's office containing many old tools of the trade, and a school with adjacent playground, complete with seesaws and an old-fashioned merry-go-round. The collection also includes a cabin and railroad depot. Three different areas are separated by date. The 1880's, 1905 and 1925. See if you can place the photos below in their appropriate time period.

[Lake] Fort Phantom [Hill]

About a thirty-minute drive from Abilene proper, Lake Fort Phantom has recreational facilities for boating and fishing, etc. The day we went was extremely windy. Seeing the ruins of Fort Phantom was worth the trip however. It's a collection of outdoor buildings, where you can walk around and explore at your leisure.

Our visit was in the Spring of 2011, following the Big Freeze that happened that winter when a surprising amount of snow fell. Even more surprising were the super-low temperatures that lasted for days after that storm.

Prickly Pear cacti abound in these parts, but at Fort Phantom then it was desiccated in a really strange way -- especially when you're used to seeing swathes everywhere of the plump, green disks with sharp thorns sticking out. The stuff is tough and widespread, but those days of freezing temps along with the snow, did a lot of it in. It was dried and shriveled so that its inner structure could be seen, which looked like netting.

Our dog enjoyed himself, as always - and got in a good shake next to a rusty plow.

Neon Twisters - Jump Rope Team

Teanna Rose is the unexpected coach of Abilene’s only competitive jump rope team, the Neon Twisters.

Eighteen years old and a senior at Cooper high school, Teanna took over as sole coach of the team two years ago, after her young co-leader Kaitlin Copelin died suddenly.

Teanna was a student at Bassetti Elementary and started jumping at age nine. After seven years of competition, the P.E. teacher who coached the team was ready to step down. At the time, the team was named the Jammin’ Jumpers.

“I was captain on my other team, so was already teaching the younger kids,” she explains. She describes feeling bad that they were just getting started, and might not be able to continue in the sport without a coach. So she and another 16 year-old teammate, Kaitlin, decided to take over. Then after a short illness, Kaitlin died.

Teanna wasn’t sure she could go on by herself. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, but she took a step at a time.

The sport itself appears to have brought healing.

The first jump rope team was the brainchild of Cheryl Edgar, who was inspired after finding out about competitive jump rope during involvement with a Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser.

Says the former coach and advisor via email, “… the [Neon Twisters] carry on in honor of Kaitlin … [and are] preparing for the national Jump rope competition in Long Beach, California in June of next summer.” 

Teanna says, “It’s a super competitive sport, but we all kind of cheer each other on because we go to the same camps. There are workshops and camps all over Texas and the U.S.”

Going far beyond simple rope skipping or playground double-dutch, competitive jump rope moves include the diamond, the eggbeater, and the rainbow.

“Freestyle jump rope is gymnastics, in the rope,” says Coach Rose.

She comments on four different aspects being judged: accuracy and flow, diversity, multiples – which include repeat movements and footwork, and creativity.

The team practices for two hours at a time, twice a week at Bassetti Elementary. Beginners start off learning basic footwork and then “work their way up to the fitness.” They also learn how to be good turners. “Turners have the hardest job,” says Teanna.

“People are surprised at how good it is for you – jump roping for 30 minutes is like running 40 miles or something.”

The Neon Twisters team consists of girls and boys, ages kindergarten through teens. The sport has no age limit however, and Teanna says she’s seen 70 year-olds out there.

To make possible travel to competitions, the team solicits sponsors from businesses. They haven’t been able to afford to attend all events.

“My favorite thing is meeting all the new people,” Teanna says wholeheartedly. “We’re all part of USA Jump Rope.”

When asked how she manages coaching, being a student, and working part-time, Teanna answers, “Oh, um, it’s craazy…”

She relays that she’d originally planned on attending a university out of town, but is now considering Cisco College in Abilene to begin her studies, so that she can stay on as Neon Twisters coach.

Fun videos of team jump rope routines. One set to Beyonce’s “Move Your Body” song.

12th Armored Division Museum

This is a World War II museum, and a surprisingly good one. Its building looks like nothing much from the outside and is easy to drive right by, but is worth going in - and plan for some time to investigate. I'd say about an hour and a half to get a good look.

The museum's name put me off because a) I don't relate to numbers and b) I don't relate to military references. For instance, I didn't know that "armored division" meant tanks.

After touring this museum though, I have a better awareness of why those very numbers -- of groups, 'divisions,' or squadrons, did in fact and do still, mean a lot to some people. It's because the numbers represent friends. They represent comrades-in-arms, those who've served together in battle and experienced some of the most dramatic, traumatic, life-changing moments of their lives together.

This place is a lovingly assembled and surprisingly professional collection of artifacts and memorabilia which paints an interesting picture of the people and the times. The 12th Armored Division served in Europe, but they received their training in Abilene, Texas.

Outside in the back, you'll find an area containing old vehicles, including a tank. You can walk around them and get up close for a good look.

There's a small separate room with several items representing the Nazi regime and the S.S. the likes of which I'd never seen, especially that up-close - which is where the small, homemade feel of this museum is nice. Those really brought home for me that this stuff was not the subject of a Hollywood movie, but real-life.

Hitler Youth belt buckle with the inscription "Blood & Honor"

Jewish Gypsy prisoner armband (Auschwitz)

In the basement, you'll find a number of detailed dioramas. These small scenes recreating the place, time and action experienced by members of the 12th Armored Division really bring the experience to life.

There are a few samples of wall posters from the era. I found the subject matter and graphics interesting, especially when compared to today's mostly computer-generated art.

Find out more too, about this black veteran, who was posthumously awarded a medal for courage and ability.

Honoring Sergeant Carter: Redeeming a Black World War II Hero's Legacy

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hometown 4th of July

River Oaks Circle 4th of July

The best little parade you’ll ever experience. Takes about 20 minutes. The fire truck (whoop, whoop) leading the kids who are riding decorated bicycles and little open-top jeeps -- followed by the antique cars and hot rods, a couple of clowns, a few dogs, and some teens in a golf cart throwing candy.

Flags line the street from Elmwood all the way up and around the River Oaks circle. A couple ladies brought rocking chairs down to the end of their driveway to watch. Other families made a party of it, with blankets on the lawn and babies wearing red, white and blue. So much simple fun.

Then finish off the day, with an outdoor concert on the lawn of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest.