Here are my best stories on Austin culture published in June and early July.
June 24: How to read old country cemeteries in Austin’s backyard.
Parts of the wooded hilltop look positively Amazonian. “I had volunteers up here not long ago,” graveyard expert Karen Thompson says. “Now look at it.” Despite the overgrowth, many ancient gravestones — more than 150 years old — told their intimate stories in crisply preserved lettering. “A cemetery is like a book,” Thompson likes to say. “You just have to learn how to read it.”
June 25: A deep dip into Lockhart from 60 to 70s years ago.
“Over there was Friendly Joe’s place. We’d buy hundreds of malt balls there.” “This spot was the A&P. Lockhart had several small grocery stores back then.” “A barber shop stood here and a newsstand over there.” “This was one of the Glosserman stores. They owned several businesses.” “Close by, you can still find the Catholic, the Baptist, the Lutheran, the Christian, the Methodist (churches). I don’t think we ever had a synagogue, but we had Jewish families. I didn’t know there was such a thing as prejudice against Jews until I got to medical school.”
June 29: Amy Mills takes Emancipet’s animal mission national.
“Many years ago, when Amy Mills was volunteering at an animal shelter, she visited a dog that was in pretty bad shape. “It was the first time I’d seen something like that,” says Mills, now CEO of Emancipet, the fast-growing Austin-based animal welfare charity. “Her name was Rose, and she looked terrible. She smelled terrible. When I went to take her for a walk, she was curled up tight and sleeping on a blanket in her kennel.” When Mills opened the door, Rose didn’t look up. “I went into her kennel,” Mills recalls, “sat on the floor with her, petted her and started crying. I just kept saying: I’m so sorry.” After a few minutes, Mills took a leash out of her bag.”
July 2: The Austinite who discovered the origins of writing.
“A Pulitzer Prize winner pulls up a chair near the front row. Not far away sits a distinguished university dean. Just beyond him, at the back of the big Austin bookstore, is a writer of several popular volumes. Just as the evening’s author starts to speak, a stylish woman with short hair and bright eyes takes the last empty seat up front. “Look who’s here!” gasps the speaker. “The person who discovered the origins of writing!” The crowd chuckles at what they assume is a joke. The woman just smiles. “I know,” says Denise Schmandt-Besserat, nodding to the full house. “Always at parties, when I tell people that, they laugh. They don’t believe me.”