This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for May 30, 2019, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.
In order to make my experience with Facebook more interesting, I will frequently “like” and “follow” a Page, or a Community, or a Group, an action which often brings me enlightenment, entertainment, or inspiration. If the “Page” turns out to be uninteresting, I will “unlike” and “unfollow” it.
Not long ago, I discovered and “liked” and “followed” a Page which I have enjoyed so much I wanted to talk about it in this column. When I “liked” the Page, entitled “Lone Star Back Roads/Photographer,” I had no idea that the person behind the Page was the Webmaster for Wendish Research where my Blogs are posted. The Page is not to be confused with “Texas Back Roads,” “BackRoads of Texas,” and a couple similarly named sites. The photographer and the Page-Master is Jeremy Clifton, who lives in Hutto, Texas, but roams all over the State.
I tend to “like” all of the sites such as this one that contain Texas history, Texas lore, Texas ethnicity, and Texas photographs. “Lone Star Back Roads/Photographer” was different, however, from the others, and the photographs were done with such artistry, they seemed to reach out and grab you. I felt that the photos of small Texas towns on the “back roads” of the Lone Star State captured the very “soul” of the town, the community, or the church. Jeremy also posts pictures of County Courthouses, Texas eateries, and historical sites like the Alamo. He displays commendable photographs of many of the old churches, other old buildings, and festivities of the Wendish people of Texas. He grew up in North Carolina (parts of which remind him of rural Texas), and while he doesn’t have a drop of Wendish blood in him, he has two children who have a Wendish mother and grandmother, and who very likely are descendants of Rev. Jan Killian. Along with that, he has a passion for Texas, our history, and our ethnicities.
As an artist (at least I think I am), I view his photographs as works of art, not only as they capture the light and shadows, the forms and colors, or the black and white starkness, but also as they capture the spirit, the mood, the essence of the churches, the towns, or the landscapes photographed. The photos tell a story.
One example that touches me is a black and white shot of Loebau, Texas, photographed as it looks today, now that only about 20 people still live there. The empty look of its one and only country store haunts me as I remember the town like it was during my childhood, when it was a thriving, bustling place where we Wendish Lutherans gathered for church and school picnics, oompa-pa music echoing through groves of pin oak trees.
Another of Jeremy’s photographs is a picture of Salty, Texas, consisting of a photo of the Salty Community Church (originally a Methodist church in the 1800’s), the strange, horizontal shape of the tree limbs, the diagonal cloud formations, and a cemetery barely visible in the background, all of it suggesting a long forgotten history. Jeremy comments that it once had three schools, three doctors, and a post office.
Jeremy’s night time photos make an incredible use of light in the darkness, such as the black and white photograph of the Lutheran church in The Grove, and the nighttime color photo of Trinity Lutheran Church in Fedor, Texas, the church of my forebears. This is a dramatic capturing of an old white church building, with lighted emerald green windows, the inviting structure surrounded by a splendid semi-darkness of purple, lavender, and indigo. He also captured the insides of old churches with elaborate altar work dramatically lighted in the darkness. In another shot, he caught the organist and his wife pulling on the multiple ropes ringing the delightful sounding bells in the stone bell tower. Often Jeremy gives descriptions and explanations with the photographs, and sometimes he lets the picture tell its own story.
Even though I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, I recommend if you enjoy Facebooking that you pull up “Lone Star Back Roads/Photographer,” and that you “like” the Page and you “follow” it. You’ll enjoy its artistry.
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired teacher and pastor, and author of It Must Be the Noodles.