Rosenberg Railroad Museum

Look at that Caboose!

I admit my ignorance; I had no idea what a caboose was until I visited the Rosenberg Railroad Museum.  This bright red MoPac Caboose went at the end of the train and the engine at the front.  It was an office of sorts for the conductor and brakeman.  This one was built in 1972 for the Missouri Pacific Railroad – don’t these railroad company names give you chills?  It brings back wonderful nostalgia of American movies for me.  With the addition of computerized systems, cabooses are no longer used on trains.

Tower 17 was commissioned in 1903 and was a fully working tower until 2004.  This is still the busiest junction in Texas, south west of Houston.  We could see the old Interlocker which operated the switches and signs but perhaps even more exciting we could view the current computerized map of the trains in that area.  There were soooo many and there was even a traffic train jam while incredibly long trains passed.  It is completely normal to sit for 20 minutes while a train passes at a railroad crossing in Texas.  I am always too amped to get annoyed at the delay; what are they carrying; which railroad company is it?  Sometimes you feel disorientated when looking at a train carrying cars when you are driving parallel on a busy highway.

The computer screen looks out of place…

Then there was all the old office equipment – it reminds me how old I am…  The little children looked with fascination at the antiques.  Does anyone remember duplicators, the precursor to photocopies?  You had to type/engrave a document and roll copies out in blue ink (that got everywhere!)  One little boy, in our tour, was 3 years old but looked 6.  He called his grandma, “Oma” which is the German version.  They were utterly Texan but descended from German immigrants, way back.  She apologized for his endless questions because he was really just a toddler.  He was adorable.

The Quebec

The Quebec above, built in 1872, was a luxury business cabin and fully renovated.  I can only imagine how lovely it was eating a proper meal while looking out at the Texas countryside.

Business Class Dining – ‘old school’

The museum was small but really informative with a miniature gauge railroad.  One of my favorite childhood memories was going on a steam train from St Enoch’s station in Glasgow to Dumfries, a city in the south west of Scotland.  The noise, steam and billowing clouds were so evocative of a different age.

Liiliput

This is one of the lovely historic buildings in Rosenberg with the Railroad Café and outside tables.  Perhaps it would be nice in the winter – the heat index was 108 degrees and even I was wilting.

Finally – the piece de resistance…

Whoo hoo – a real train passing at old Tower 17.  We could see it on the computer map just half an hour earlier – can I infuse any more enthusiasm into this train geek post???  This is the Burlington North Santa Fe Railroad Company (BNSF) whose headquarters are in Fort Worth, Texas.  The most common company I see is Union Pacific but I see others from Canada and Kansas.

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Crocodiles, Tortoises and Piggies, oh my!

Kerry with a giant tortoises, more below

He was saying, “I’m not going to talk to you unless you have baby carrots”.  This is a reserve close to Alvin, Texas called Crocodile Encounter.  It was literally in the middle of nowhere on a rough road that had just been repaved.  Even so, there was no room in the car park for me.  It was as hot as hell – 109 head index with humidity through the roof.  The shot below gives you a little feel of the conditions.

It wasn’t raining – this is the humidity on my camera.  I truly love alligators and crocodiles; primeval animals.  To be honest, I don’t know which ones were alligators or crocodiles because the heat had fried my brain.  I prefer reserves to zoos for all the obvious reasons and this sign describes why I liked it.

There are so many predators in the wilds of Texas that small crocodiles could be eaten.  It looked like crocodile heaven and even hog heaven.  I wanted to jump into the pool with the little piggy.

I loved that you could get really close to the animals.  We live alongside alligators all the time in south east Texas and these ones are really well fed.  In Louisiana we saw kittens playing close to an alligator who was basking in the sun.  Plenty of catfish to feed everyone.

This is such a beautiful crocodile, perfectly designed for living in the swamp.

Can you see me?

I love carrots!

On a slightly tangential note, I had a friend in Egypt who kept rescued tortoises, most of whom were endangered.  When they have sex, they moan and groan like they are starring in a porn movie.  It was the most hilarious noise I had ever heard; although the tortoises took love-making very seriously.  I suppose you would, if you were endangered.

Fuzzy Pterodactyl

baby green heron, Texas

When I looked in this nest in Alvin, Texas, I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at.  It was in a crocodile nature park, so I asked the guide who told me that it is a baby green heron.  The mother nests there every year so she must feel comfortable around crocodiles and alligators.

They are migratory and curiously I shot this adult green heron, below, in Merida, Mexico about 18 months ago.  This was also in a nature reserve and there were rare crocodillo living there too.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was the same family?

The male and female build the nest and they are one of the few tool using bird species.  Smarter than the average heron and smaller too.  I think there were 3 or 4 little nestlings.  They are nocturnal and clever little predators that can hover for short periods above prey.  It is not always the same Papa as they are seasonally monogamous.  That sounds like a fabulous idea!  Who will be my autumnal husband??

adult green heron, Mexico

Bibles?

It is always my birthday, the day after our anniversary…until I get a new husband.  😈 After we got home from my birthday dinner, I received this series of texts from my friend who lives a few doors down the cul-de-sac or, as we call it, the ‘hood’.

You can’t make this stuff up – God Bless that auto-correct!

Kerry with ‘bibles’ in elegant negligee and Walmart slippers.

Brunch

I was so fed up with sushi…

…that I thought I would wander into Kerry’s street and check out the lizards.  Found this delicious entree in the neighbors’ yard.

It put up a good fight.  I am 4 foot tall so it was a generous brunch.

Almost down the gullet…

Utterly delicious!

Don’t we all need a change in our brunch venue from time to time?  Especially when wearing our bright white feathers and a burnt orange beak.  I had just come back from grocery shopping when I spotted this great egret in the cul-de-sac.  Ran in to get my camera and voila!

Hope you are all enjoyed brunch on this beautiful sunny day in the sub tropics.  The egret normally lives at the containment pond at the end of our street.

The Seamstress Fairy

The Texas School of Fairies

The Texas School of Fairies brought students from far and wide for its excellence in fairie acadaemia.  Some were in, dare I say, boring subjects such as Fairy Law but the departments of Magick and Apothecary Arts was so popular that there was a long waiting list.  The Art of Textiles faculty was the best of all; so renowned that Fairy Royalty used their services for special occasions such as coronations.  You could study weaving, sewing or design of fairy fabrics such as thistledown and beetle silk.  On the student tour even Flax, the most pragmatic of fairies majoring in beetle husbandry, gasped when he saw the Hall of Fabrics.  Every color in nature was represented in delicate material – fuchsia silk and golden velvet draped the walls and vaulted ceilings.  Sumptuous fabrics were strewn across the sewing tables; reams of sapphire, emerald, sepia, and scarlet fabric.

Most students grouped in their natural color or environment; Pacific fairies group were working with sea foam, marine blues and corals.  Piney Wood fairies were cutting deep green and chocolate velvet.  Some of the more gregarious fairies were working outside their element rejoicing in non-native hues such as New England Fall.  Crimson, pumpkin, yellow and copper fabric gleamed like an autumnal sunset.  One little fairy, named Aiya, felt she was in fairy heaven!  She had travelled from her home in Missouri to the Texas School of Fairies but came from a very special lineage.  Her father was a Japanese Maple Fairy with magnificent copper and flame colored wings.  Her mother was a descendent of the much revered Irish fairies.  Humans have a similar reverence for the Irish…  Aiya’s mother was a woodland fairy with long glossy brown hair and fair of face.  Her wings were gentle shades of green from the old country.  Like many fairy parents they met at school when glimpsed each other the Apothecary Arts class.  Their union was not entirely approved of by fairy society as they came from very different family lines but their attraction was so powerful that they moved to the state of Missouri just to be together.

Aiya, which means beautiful silk in Japanese, was a striking mixture of both parents.  Her long dark brown hair gleamed as did her eyes which were almost black.  Her wings were a melange of her parents coloring – deep amber with the palest cicada green.  She was only 12 so her coloring would change after the blossoming and she would choose an appropriate Forever Name.  Aiya was one of very few students chosen to study Textile Arts and she had already displayed a natural talent for couture and sewing.  Just like every other college you have to submit an application and a sample of your talent.  Aiya sewed the most exquisite coin purse in delicate beetle silk.  It was a simple creation but her color choice of deep garnet red with gold embroidery and tassels impressed her tutors.  Monsieur Marcel, head of design, was quite taken with this young fairy’s skills and envisioned a future with one of the Royal Families.  As excited as Aiya was for her tutor’s vision, it seemed intimidating.

Her new friend Ria, from Brownsville on the Texas border, had told her about Selina the seamstress’s workshop in Mexico and to Aiya that sounded exciting enough.  It was a trip to meet family in Japan that sparked her love of fabric and sewing.  One glimpse of a fairy kimono made with spider silk and embroidered with chrysanthemums made Aiya’s heart race.  For years after that she would sketch kimonos and make miniature outfits for her little willow twig dolls.  Aiya had the great fortune to attend a royal fairy wedding in Japan and her grandmother made her a special kimono to wear.  It was silk in a delicate Celadon green with copper leaves embroidered on it. Her Jiji, or grandma, had spent many hours lovingly sewing it for a precious granddaughter that lived so far away.  Aiya’s loved the kimono but was terrified by the pomp and ceremony of the wedding.  She had been instructed to be absolutely silent and bow very deeply when the royal couple walked past.   They didn’t seem like real fairies.  The Princess bride’s formal makeup created a solemn mask – there was no twinkle or sparkle.  Their wedding robes, in scarlet, gold and black for the Prince, were magnificent but stood stiffly to match the seriousness of the occasion.

Aiya’s Dolls

One day, Ria, Blu and Aiya walked into the Hall of Fabrics to a stunned silence.  “What has happened?” whispered the girls.  Just then Monsieur Marcel coughed loudly for attention, “Attention, étudiants féeriques!” Blu, who loved all things French, translated “Attention Fairy Students!” “By Royal Decree, it is my pleasure to announce the arrival of a new student for one semester – her royal highness, Princess Kaida from Japan.  She will arrive tomorrow with her entourage and you will all behave respectfully.”  Aiya blanched as every other student chattered excitedly about this noble arrival.  Ria and Blu were already discussing what outfits they would wear but all Aiya could feel was panic.  Just then, Monsieur Marcel appeared in front of the three girls and said, “I understand that you have attended a royal wedding in Kyoto, Aiya?”  Ria and Blue looked at their friend from Missouri in stunned silence.  Aiya blushed furiously and looked at the floor.  “It would make me very happy if you could accompany Princess Kaida during her visit with us.  We have arranged for her hammock to be put next to yours in the dormitory.  Her parents want her to be treated like any other student”. “It would be my pleasure” whispered Aiya in response to Monsieur Marcel.

As soon as he walked away, Ria and Blu had a torrent of questions for Aiya.  “Was Aiya a Princess?” “What does Princess Kaida look like?” “What was it like to attend a royal wedding?”  She briefly, almost tersely, responded that she was a distant cousin of the Japanese Royal Fairy family, she had never met Princess Kaida and that the Royal wedding was AMAZING (because overwhelming and terrifying did not sound right.)  Aiya ran off to prepare for the next day.  She sat on her hammock and tears rolled down her pretty face.  This whole situation was so embarrassing; she just wanted to be a regular student.  Now she had to babysit a spoiled Princess whose name meant “Little Dragon”.  She slept fitfully that night, endlessly playing out her meeting with the Princess.  Her family would be so disappointed if she didn’t welcome Princess Kaida gracefully.  “I hope she doesn’t breathe fire…”was Aiya’s last waking thought.

The next morning Aiya put on her best green silk pinafore with an ivory blouse; Ria was in a chocolate velvet pinafore and Blu in the palest blue linen.  At 7am, all the students gathered in the Hall of Fabrics anxiously awaiting Princess Kaida’s entrance.  Most Texan students had never even seen a sketch of a Japanese princess so the excitement was tangible.  There was a fanfare of fairy trumpets fashioned from bluebells and Princess Kaida fluttered down with her consorts.  There was an audible gasp from the assembly at her vivid peacock blue kimono embroidered with a red dragon.  Her face was painted with formal white makeup with red lips and her black hair was coiled all over her delicate head.  The principal of the school welcomed Princess Kaida and after the formalities, Aiya was called over to accompany the Princess to the dormitory.  Two of her royal servants followed behind with a golden trunk.  Aiya bowed deeply to the Princess and greeted her formally in Japanese.  Princess Kaida bowed in return and followed Aiya to the dormitory.  Once they arrived, the servants were dismissed and the Princess collapsed laughing onto her new hammock, “Oh, I am so glad that is over, Aiya.  Can you help me out of this kimono?”  Aiya looked at the Princess perplexedly but immediately jumped up to help her.  Princess Kaida then looked her trunk to find a light turquoise pinafore with a similar ivory blouse to Aiya’s.  Then she grabbed Aiya’s hand and rushed to the bathroom. “You take my hair down and I will take off my make-up.”  Aiya carefully took out what seemed like hundreds of pins until the Princess’s beautiful long black hair lay straight to her waist.  With a wipe of a flower puff and witch hazel, Princess Kaida soon washed all remnants of her make-up off.  As she turned around, Aiya gasped in astonishment! Princess Kaida was just a little girl fairy not unlike Aiya, who was a relative after all.  “So, cousin Aiya, what are we going to do first?  Can I meet some of your friends?”  Almost inevitably Blu and Ria were right outside the door and within minutes the four fairy girls were chatting like they had known each other forever.

It was a very busy day, exploring the campus, watching Princess Kaida’s face as she tried Texan delicacies such as root beer and deep fried cactus.  Princess Kaida’s English was perfect but she really enjoyed all the local accents y’alls.  When the sun set Aiya and Princess Kaida settled down into their hammocks.  Within minutes the Princess fell into a deep slumber – even fairies get jet lag.  Aiya reflected with surprise upon her day.  Despite her name and nobility, Princess Kaida was just as much fun as Ria and Blu.  She realized that the pomp and ceremony was just that.  Fairy Princesses were just as real as anyone else.  Aiya fell into a happy sleep dreaming of designing royal kimonos…with dragons on them.

The End

Postscript

All of my fairy stories were written to celebrate a friend’s birthday and include elements of their life.

 

Germany or Texas?

It is Texas, of course, Tomball to be precise!  The closest I have been to Germany was Frankfurt airport in the middle of the night  but there is a distinct German feel to our local area.  We live north of Houston and in the past it was home to German settlers who farmed the area.  Most of the local roads are German or some corruption of such.  The Kuykendahl Road has been mangled into submission by locals who call it Kirkendall.  I think I pronounce it slightly better with my Scottish drawl but am constantly corrected.☹ To be honest I pronounce most things better…

Teddy was off last Friday and we decided to go to Tomball for lunch.  When we first moved here it was even more German, with many descendants of the original settlers.  Most of them arrived in the late 1800’s by ship to Galveston, TX.  There is a Lutheran High School and a sweet little Main Street that has been kept intact.  It slumbered during the recession but now it is vibrant with new restaurants and antique shops.  To our surprise, they were setting up for the spring German festival.

One of our favorite restaurants was empty because it was difficult to maneuver through the vendors trucks and equipment.  America and Texas, to be frank, has a terrible reputation for food.  Some of that criticism is worthy when you look at the amount of fast food franchises.  Life is changing, however, and below you can see the freshest local blackened catfish served with sauteed vegetables.  Just a touch of butter made it delicious.

Blackened catfish with sauteed vegetables

The restaurant was originally a meat locker and the original signs are intact.  The German flags were just for the festival.

 

Teddy and Bunny

We sadly declined to eat the apple cobbler and wandered outside to see what was going on.  My eyes were immediately drawn to a petting zoo from a local farm.  Oh how I love goats!  I would have some but they are little gremlins, always getting into trouble.

Isn’t he perfect. Look at his tiny little horns!

Look at those ears! They are fat little goats.

I was surprised at the amount of goat products in Texas but I think there was some money benefit to having goats at one point and now we all love goat cheese.  Goat’s milk – gaaaaa!

Loved this shot – the water is just a few inches deep.  It gets so hot in the summer here that I guess some liquored locals took the water!  Finally, a happy Teddy is enjoying a flight of local German style craft beer.  I despaired of the regular beer in Texas when we arrived but thank goodness for the current craze of craft beer!  Decent European style beer at last.  We also have some very good wine, vodka and bourbon now.  Moonshine too – that will get you swimming!.