3,000 Hippos and Sophie Tucker Can’t Be Wrong

In November, my friend and critique partner Gale Albright presented a NaNoWriMo write-in at the Hutto Public Library, in Hutto, Texas. Nine writers and their laptops gathered to write for four solid hours, supported by snacks and coffee provided by the Library.

Attendance was so robust that I had to scrounge* for a seat when I arrived. Late.

Welcome to Hutto
Welcome to Hutto

It would be trite to report that both writers and library staff expressed enthusiasm for the project. Nonetheless, that’s what happened, and I can’t pretend it didn’t.

They were so enthusiastic, in fact, that I foresee a future write-in,  even without NaNoWriMo to serve as an excuse.

After the write-in, I drove around the city. Originally settled by Germans and Swedes, Hutto still looks like a small town, but it’s changing rapidly. New subdivisions are going up all around.

The older part of town has neat houses and yards,

Hutto neighborhood
Hutto neighborhood

a charming main street,

Hutto Main Street
Hutto Main Street

and open spaces.

Hutto Main Street seen across a grassy area
Hutto Main Street seen across a grassy area

The library is a renovated fire station. A couple of years ago, the reading room was tiny; then a second bay was opened, more than doubling the space and providing room for an enlarged children’s area.

Hutto Public Library sign
Hutto Public Library sign

 

Hutto Public Library building
Hutto Public Library building

But what sets Hutto apart from other cities worldwide is its legend. You can read the whole story at How the Hippo Came to Hutto, on the Williamson County Historical Commission website, but here’s a summary: In 1915, a circus train stopped in Hutto to pick up passengers and to let workers care for animals. Somehow, a hippo got out of a railcar, headed for a nearby creek, took a dip, found the muddy water to its taste, and, no matter what trainers did to lure it out, refused to cooperate. Legend says the Depot Agent telegraphed two Taylor and Round Rock: STOP TRAINS, HIPPO LOOSE IN HUTTO. Somehow the hippo was returned to its railcar, but amused residents made his story their own. Soon afterward, Hutto School took the hippo as its mascot and the football team became the Hutto Hippos.

Today Hutto is

010 3000 hippos signThe largest stands near the Chamber of Commerce building.

Main Street Hippo
Main Street Hippo

One guards its property.

Guard Hippo
Guard Hippo

Another is exceedingly modest but also stylish.

Britches-wearing Hippo
Britches-wearing Hippo

A fourth, like the Guard Hippo, enhances its original concrete with an overlay of alabaster.

Alabaster Hippo
Alabaster Hippo

I wish I had taken more pictures of Hutto’s hippos, but drizzle had turned into rain, and I wanted to get home before rain turned into traffic problems. Suffice it to say there are hippos of every size and color all over town. A local artist can be commissioned to personalize hippos to the owner’s specifications.

Hutto is a pleasant little place. In some ways, it reminds me of my hometown as it was when I was a child.

In short, I think Hutto would be a good place to live.

As they say, three thousand hippos can’t be wrong.

*****

English: Photograph of Sophie Tucker
English: Photograph of Sophie Tucker (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Public domain.

 

Turn up the sound and enjoy Sophie Tucker singing “Fifty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong.” Cole Porter wrote the lyrics. I hate to say it, but this is three thousand times better than the hippos.

Sophie Tucker was quite a looker. I had no idea. Now I see what all the fuss was about.

 

*****

*Exaggeration. There were two empty seats.

She Cannot Get Away

Kaye - testimonial - pictures - croppedIf you read the previous post, reblogged from Gale Albright’s Visions and Revisions, you know mystery novelist Kaye George attended the Austin Mystery Writers meeting last week. Kaye, who for a number of years served as AMW’s Grand Pooh-Bah, moved to Tennessee last winter, leaving Gale and me forsaken and forlorn.

At the Last Lunch, celebrated at the Elite Cafe in Waco, Gale and I presented Kaye a certificate declaring her Member Emerita. It was supposed to say Grand Pooh-Bah Emerita, but, distraught over her impending move, I forgot that part.

The bull pictured on the certificate is an homage to Kaye’s first published novel, CHOKE, in which heroine Imogene Duckworthy narrowly escapes death by goring. I don’t believe that’s a spoiler, since Immy later appears in both SMOKE and BROKE.

Gale and I were foolish to suffer so over our friend’s disappearance because, thanks to the miracle of email, social media, and the Eyes of Texas, which are perpetually upon her, Kaye cannot get away. She’s been gracious about our continued presence in her life. She even suggested AMW publish an anthology of mystery stories, and so we shall. Each member has agreed to write two stories related to a central theme.

The prospect of putting out an anthology is exciting for those of us who haven’t published widely (roughly four of the eight current AMW members), but for me it’s also stressful: What if I can’t deliver? What if I’m already written out? What if I have to tell Kaye George the dog ate my homework? She knows I don’t have a dog.

At this point, I should tell a story related to the questions raised in the preceding paragraph. But it’s nearly 4:00 a.m., David just exchanged sleeping on the couch for sleeping on a bed, and I’m left downstairs hearing, sort of by default, Marvin Hamlisch first say that the music of the ’80s exemplifies our country’s return to family values, and then introduce a very old person I don’t recognize to sing “Under the Boardwalk.”

In other words, I’m outta here. The story will wait until tomorrow.

***

Oh, jeez. Now they’re singing “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog.” Those family values just won’t quit. What are the PBS folks thinking? 

I have to retire now, before we all drown in sarcasm.