Bartlett is about 45 miles north/north-east-ish of Austin. It's actually a bit closer to my home, since I live north of Austin, although I'm on the west end of things. Even so, it's not a bad drive, straight up Interstate 35 and it's well marked from the highway.
Bartlett also has the distinction of being one of the first towns where I really did a lot of photographing. When I was just starting out as a photographer, my photography group would frequently meet on Sundays and go out to shoot the small Texas towns. Bartlett was the quintessential small Texas town back in those days. It didn't really have a stoplight, but it had a Main street (of sorts) and it had all of the small town markings. There was a Dairy Queen, a stop-and-go type of gas station/convenient store place, and the downtown area was littered with antique shops, small mom-and-pop style businesses, some cafes, and the like. Bartlett is also a bit of an artist colony, at least it was back in those days, with artists purchasing some of the storefront shops and using them as gallery/studio type spaces. I always loved visiting Bartlett back in those days. I have many fond memories of visits there-everything from seeing it in the hot summertime, where shorts and flip-flops were the norm to shooting it at night with a winter coat (well, what passes as a "winter" coat in these parts.) Yes, it's probably safe to say I know Bartlett pretty way, even though I haven't actually been back up that way in ages. So, today I decided it might be fun to head back up to Bartlett to see how it's changed over the years. Would it still be the same? Would I even recognize the place? Today was a day to find out, so I ventured north to see what Bartlett had in store for me.
For starters, I almost got lost getting up there. It's in a very rural place and I had forgotten exactly where it was. I must admit it was also kind of weird driving up there, and being up there, with a cell phone. Not what I had remembered at all. Modern times jarring me back to reality, for certain. I didn't need the cell phone all too much, as I would often find myself driving, with the feeling I was lost, only to then recognize some familiar bend in the road, twist, turn, or farmhouse and then set myself back on course.
The light was really interesting today. As I was driving up, it was still earlier in the afternoon and the sun was a bit bright, so I kept hoping the clouds would hold and not clear out. The recent storms had blown though and the sky and weather today were fast moving and frequently changing. Over the years, being a photographer here in Central Texas for so long, I've learned the roll with those type of punches. I kept one eye on my speedometer and one eye on the clouds as I snaked my way up the back roads that take me up Bartlett way.
In between the bright bursts of sunshine we had some of what I like to call "God light." It's the kind of light where streams an streaks of light fall down from the sky. I'm sure you've seen it before. It looks quite like the heavens have just opened up a crack, quite possibly to let somebody out (or maybe, for those lucky souls, let somebody in.) As I was driving, I kept thinking that there was a lot of God light and a lot of cows.
The cows were sort of amazing in their own right. I mean, there were lots of cows and horse and whatnot but, in some places, the cows were actually lining up and they sort of looked like they were on some oddball cattle drive. It was a bit strange. I don't normally shoot lots of cow photos, and I kept with that tradition today, but I did manage to fire off a few shots of the God light (and, as a matter of course, included some cows there too.) God light and cows to follow, I'm sure.
Bartlett itself had changed a lot over the years. Gone are all of the mom-and-pop style places. The cafe? Long since closed down. It was kind of like visiting a shell of an empty place. Familiar yet oh so different.
Years ago, when I was first shooting up there a lot, Hollywood had come a calling to good old Bartlett. They filmed a move there, called "The Stars Fell on Henrietta," which was about the oil bust and boom. Almost a poetic metaphor, that is, as Bartlett has gone from being the setting ("Henrietta" in this case) of a premier Hollywood movie to being a sort of hollowed out ghost town (of sorts.) Some of the murals leftover from the Hollywood days are still left behind in Bartlett-now they are decaying nicely for us all to enjoy in different light. (I'll post some of that work in the posts to follow too, so please check back in to enjoy some of that.)
They say you can never go back home again. Maybe they are right but, then again, they say a lot of things, and, just like going back home again, most of us fail to listen to the pundits (well, some of the time anyway.) Today, I did just that. I went back to my "photographic home" of Bartlett, Texas and popped in for a visit. I hope you like the stories, and shots, that follow because, like it or not, this is Bartlett, Texas.
Until next time...