Boerne (“Bernie”)

Uncategorized November 12, 2013

I was not supposed to be in Texas on this leg of the tour.  Scheduled was three months in Colorado, but as life goes, there are changes.  One must roll with the punches.  But Boerne is a magical town.  The day I pulled up to the library I felt like Dorothy arriving at Oz.   The Patrick Heath Public Library is a three year old structure that embraces the west but with a twist of Frank Lloyd Wright.

There was serendipity to Boerne.  When I was at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke MA  in September, I ran into three older women looking at my art.  A conversation ensued.  When I mentioned where I was going next, I said: “Texas”.  “Oh where?!” asked one of the ladies expectantly.  At that moment, a flash of recognition washed through me.  “Boerne,” I said.  “That’s where I’m from!” Eleanor McCall said, the mother-in-law of its former Mayor.  To put it in perspective, it’s like meeting someone in Manhattan who not only lived on your street,  but in your building  AND in your apartment as well.  Boerne has a population of just under 11,ooo.

Like all places I set up, conversations began almost immediately.  The world is truly a melting pot when I meet a man from England, now living here.  Graham Miller told me stories of when he was seven years old and the US troops were building for the big assault on Normandy.  “My buddies and I used to hang around the camps, climbing over the grease-covered tanks (protected from the long sea voyage), much to the deep disappointment of our mums.”  He talked about a day a GI cook stuck a helmet full of french fries for them to eat.  Later he became a Spitfire pilot and regaled me with interesting facts and tales about one of the most beautiful fighter planes of all time.

The night before arriving in Boerne, I’d woken from a dream about meeting Willy Nelson while still in Amherst.  We’d started chatting in a coffee shop and then continued the conversation as we walked the town.  I woke with that dream as clear as the blue Texas skies that Friday morning.  It felt like a good omen.

At the beginning of my first week at the library while chatting with someone, I looked beyond this person to see “Willy”.  Cowboy hat, long hair protruding, bandana and the rest that said “Texas”.  Willy in fact was a Canadian by the name of Rick Taylor, veteran of the Canadian army, now carrying dual citizenship.  He is married to a German.   He told me that he’d read about the exhibit and as I’ve learned about him, his inquisitive nature drew him to visit.  We talked WW II (for which he missed by a year’s age restriction).  He he said he joined the Canadian Irish Regiment “because I wanted to wear a kilt”.  I knew I’d found a kindred spirit in Rick.  He mentioned a local bar where Tuesdays are kilt night.  We have a rendezvous scheduled.

Today, Veterans Day, I attended a ceremony at Veterans Park.  It had a feel of Mayberry – that iconic feel-good show from the 1950s.  It was a show I had loved watching as a kid.  American flags were passed out to attendees, the local school band played patriotic songs, the  school chorus sang their renditions  and sandwiched in between were the speeches and tributes.   What followed was an organized cookout with lots of traditional summertime food.  All free.  And on a day where the sun drove the temperature into the 70s.

There are many wonderful people  here who have made me feel welcome.  I’m not a Yankee to them.  One woman joked:”My daddy used to think damn Yankee was one word until he left Texas.”   My only regret is the stay is the shortest so far.  I’ll be gone by Thanksgiving but as this tour has become a journey, its richness  will last.  Happy Veterans Day.

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by

For over three decades my profession was as an author and illustrator of children's books. Firefighters A to Z (McElderry Books/S&S) was chosen as a "Best Book" by the NY Times (2000). Over 100 titles are attached to my name. In 2011 my life changed the moment I saw a photo of a WW II fighter pilot. Nineteen year old Griffin Holland, P-47 pilot stood erect on the wheel of his plane, staring off into the distance, cocky as all get out. The need to paint that photo and Griff's tearful reaction to it as an 88 year old man set this journey in motion.

Comments 9

  1. Tom Lynn says on November 12, 2013

    Thank you for your continuing service to our veterans. Glad you enjoyed your Texan Veterans’ Day holiday.

  2. Floyd A Thompson (Tom) says on November 12, 2013

    Chris. What a lovely and rich serendipity this town provided. All things happen for a reason. The meaning may be hidden or revealed on Gods perfect timing. May your journey continue to be richly blessed.

  3. TM Swift says on November 15, 2013

    Ah, Chris, we hardly knew ye! Yes, Bennie still comes in on Friday to arrange the bulletin boards. She faithfully asks us about our children. I’m hearing rumors that we will soon get a second Artist in Residence … “Your” spot is filled with books waiting for the Friends’ book sale on Saturday. Amherst is settling in to its first round of church fairs and art shows for ‘the holidays.’ Allan Carpenter has brought me his geraniiums for the winter and they will continue to bloom in my office throughout the winter as they have for the past 8 years.

  4. Ariel says on November 20, 2013

    Thank you, Chris, for making this November so memorable at the Patrick Heath Public Library. The serendipity has been the best part of your exhibit! You brought a touch of magic to those of “The Greatest Generation”, living in our community. I’m certain that you will pass this way again. Mille fois, Merci…

  5. Matt Hartnett says on November 25, 2013

    I did not know about the WWII exhibit at the Boerne library and stopped there this morning to look for a few books. What a great surprise to see the incredible display of uniforms, medals, “Mae West” life jacket, etc. that Chris had assembled, along with his wonderful paintings of our Greatest Generation folks. Unfortunately for me, Chris was packing up to leave after a month in Boerne. He speaks of the town in glowing terms and I wholeheartedly agree. My wife Judy and I found Boerne in our travels after retirement about 3 years ago. A charming and wonderful town full of folks that love the West, love the great State of Texas and most of all, enjoy being around the friendly people lucky enough to live here. All the best Chris and thanks for brightening up our library with your incredible paintings and display.

    • wwtwotravelingportraitexhibit says on November 25, 2013

      Thank you Matt for your kind words. The Boerne blog was written two weeks into my stay but the wonderful people such as yourself have continued to make this town a special stay. I’m very sad to be leaving. The time went by so quickly. At least you were able to stop by (and talk) to see much of what the tour is about -a celebration of a special generation. Enjoy this great town. You’re very fortunate to have found such a place.

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