"A" is for Abilene, Animals, Aprons and Art

Our plans were to tour the zoo in the morning, then see what the Grace Museum had to offer in the afternoon. We ate breakfast and got ready to leave. Right then, 8, count them, EIGHT, C-130's took off right over our head, probably heading off for some kind of mission. If we weren't fully awake before that, we surely were by the time the last plane flew over!

The Abilene Zoo is quite small, but still enjoyable. My favorite exhibit was the giraffes, of course, my all time favorite animal. There were two of them and wherever we would walk along the perimeter of their pen, they would follow us, their heads bent curiously watching us. It was advertised in the paper to "feed the giraffes", but I didn't see any evidence of that, or anyone to ask how we could go about doing that. But I suspect that was why the giraffes were watching us so copiously.

Many of the other animals were not in open areas with moats and walls; but in cages with bars so it was not conducive for photos.

The buffaloes happened to be in a nice open area, and there was a large blue heron in there with them. Jim made some kind of call out to the bird and it responded. Then Jim walked away, and the bird began to follow him, just like in the movie Evan Almighty when the animals followed Steve Carell. First the giraffes, then the bird - it was quiet funny!

We finished off the morning at the zoo, grabbed a quick lunch, then tracked down some sculptures.

In the afternoon we went to the Grace Museum. It was constructed in 1909 by Colonel W.L. Beckman and named for his daughter, Grace. It was Abilene's premier hotel for many years, and since it was located right across from the train depot, one of the first sights seen by the passengers. The hotel was remodeled in 1946 and the named was changed to the Drake Hotel. In 1973 the hotel closed when its boiler failed. The Abilene Preservation League purchased the hotel in 1986 in order to preserve it. It was renovated and restored in 1992.

It now has three museums under its one roof. On the first floor is a large ballroom, the beautiful lobby, and three galleries. They have both permanent and rotating exhibits. One of the exhibits was a large display of cut up wooden pieces on a wall. If you pressed a piece it would make a musical sound - from a blast of a horn, to a piano key to drums. It was really cool.

In another gallery was the visiting exhibit, "Apron Chronicles". We entered a large, rectangular room and saw the crissed-crossed clothes lines with aprons from the 1950's, clothes-pinned to the ropes. I immediately started to cry because it reminded me of my mom - she always wore an apron when she baked.

Photographs of the people who had been interviewed for the book were posted on the walls, along with a copy of their interview. They talked about the wonderful memories they had of someone in their life who wore an apron - a mom, grandmother, or a wife. To learn more about this exhibit go to their website: http://www.apronchronicles.com/, or read the book, "Apron Chronicles", Stories collected by EllynAnne Geisel and Photography by Kristina Loggia.

The second floor was divided in half; to the left was another gallery - to the right was the Children's Museum. We quickly perused the museum. It had a lot of fun things to do like play with a large size "Operation" game; an exhibit on poop; an ambulance that you can sit in and pretend to drive, along with a body in the back; and a little theater. Kids could easily have a ball in this place.

The third floor is the History Museum with authentic recreations of kitchens and dining rooms from 1910-1948, representative of life in Abilene, although it looks like it could have represented life in anytown, USA. The kitchen tile in the 1948 kitchen looked awfully familiar to what we originally had in our kitchen back home, when I was growing up! The third floor also features an authentic recreation of a 1940s boot shop, from Albert J. Mallouf, who was a local bootmaker . The shop has some original equipment, handmade tools, samples of many types of leather, even the original cash register used in Mallouf's shop, and Mallouf boots, all set in a working environment of a brick facade and old plank flooring.

This is the most beautiful sculpture that we saw today. It is called "Jacob's Dream". It is located on the Abilene Christian University Campus and was created by Jack Maxwell. Inspired by the biblical account in Genesis 28, the sculpture site consists of a towering 32.5 foot bronze of four angels descending and ascending a ladder between heaven and earth. The sculpture is surrounded by almost 100 massive blocks of limestone, each etched with scripture.

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