Hutto, Hippo Capitol of Texas!

I love street art!

For many years I enjoyed seeking out the murals created during Sacramento’s annual Wide Open Walls festival. (Click here to read my post from March 30, 2018)

I recently moved to central Texas, about 24 miles northeast of Austin.

While I am aware that the capitol city boasts many murals, I am delighted to find unique and whimsical art right here in my new home town, Hutto, Texas!

The Hutto Library

The Legend of the Hutto Hippo

In a July 2022 article published in in the East Wilco Insider, writer Fernando Castro shares the legend of the original Hutto Hippo.

In 1915, a circus train reportedly pulled into the Hutto depot. According to legend, a hippopotamus escaped from a railcar and went for a dip in Cottonwood Creek next to the rail line. The other name for a hippo is, of course, river horse.

Circus workers tried to coax the animal from the creek and return it to the train as nearby farmers and merchants watched in hilarity. Meanwhile the depot agent telegraphed [nearby towns] Taylor and Round Rock with a message to “Stop trains; hippo loose in Hutto.”

Greetings from Hutto!

Whether or not this tale is true, the schools, businesses and residents of Hutto have embraced the hippo as their town mascot.

I recently spoke with “Hippo Mayor” Mike Fowler, local historian and author, retired State of Texas employee, and former Councilman and Hutto City Mayor.

In his article “The Hippo Legacy in Hutto and Our World,” Mr. Fowler writes extensively about the history of the Hutto Hippo, with an eye toward promoting the hippo branding for the community.

I think his branding efforts have been very successful! Statues of hippos, large and small, adorn residential lawns.

Business logos and other identifiers are painted on hippos greeting customers.

HEB, the local grocery store
Hutto Flower Market
Eye-catching and clever way to advertise a local automotive shop!

Mr. Fowler was one of the founders of the “Hippos Unlimited” 501(c)3 non-profit organization (now disbanded), whose primary purpose was “to advertise and promote the Hutto community in a positive manner through the use of its primary identifier, the hippopotamus.”

Here are just a few of the many accomplishments of Hippos Unlimited:

  • Promoted hippos everywhere in the community;
Fire station
Hutto Police Station
Local park
  • Brought in over a thousand concrete hippos, of various sizes, which are now sold by the Hutto Chamber of Commerce and seen throughout the community;
  • Donated 16 large concrete hippos to the Hutto Independent School District, and 10 large concrete hippos to the City of Hutto;
Encouraging the arts at Hutto Elementary School!
  • Co-sponsored (along with “Everything Hippo,” a brick and mortar hippo store) a 2008 Hippo Calendar, the proceeds of which benefited the Hutto Independent School District’s band program;
  • Acquired the hippomobile, “Harmony,” which was used in parades, and area and community events.

“Harmony” has since been repainted, renamed “Hermes” after an ancient Greek deity (who is also considered a protector of travelers), and is privately owned locally.

Hermes, the Hippo Car!

As Mr. Fowler says, “Just looking around our community today, it is really hard not to smile at our many unique hippos and the great pride that we take in them.”

I agree!

(All photos by Jeri Murphy Photography)


Hello, Texas!

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written anything for this blog.

The past two-plus years have been filled with changes, the most significant – for me – being my recent move from California to Texas!

I am currently located 27 miles northeast of Austin, in the city of Hutto (population 30,000). I live with my youngest son and his fiancée, and my two granddogs, Kilo and Harley.

Man and woman sitting outdoors, on a picnic table bench, with two black and white dogs sitting next to them.

Texas is a BIG state, and there are plenty of places to explore. After living in the Sacramento area for 30-plus years, I look forward to all the new experiences – and photographic opportunities – that are coming my way.

I hope y’all will enjoy exploring along with me. And if any Texians have suggestions for “must visit” places nearby, please drop a note in the comments below!

Snapshot of bluebonnets and red poppies in Fredericksburg, Texas
International travel

Roman Colosseum

A Spectator’s Visit to the Roman Colosseum

After refreshing sleep and breakfast, on our second day we set out to explore Rome. And what could be more “Roman” that a visit to the Colosseum?

View of the Colosseum in Rome, taken from the pedestrian sidewalk with tourists in the foreground walking toward it.

According to travel guide Let’s Go Italy (2009 edition):

“The Colosseum – a hollowed-out ghost of Travertine marble that once held more than 50,000 bloodthirsty spectators and now dwarfs every other ruin in Rome – stands as an enduring symbol of the Eternal City.”

From my travel journal:

“. . . we get our first view of the ruins of the Forum, and make our way to the Colosseum. Centurions approach us for photo opportunities, and we finally succumb. (Jen is moderately amused by their attention.)”

Two men, dressed as Roman centurians, posing with smiling young woman in front of Roman Colosseum.

“Then we join an English-speaking Italian and his tour through the Colosseum. Although he is not a great tour guide, it was an interesting and informative entrance / visit to the Colosseum. “

Image of interior walls of the Roman Colosseum.

“We are told that the centurions – approximately 55,000 in number – were generally slaves, aged 19-24, who chose to be centurions so they could earn their freedom.”

“Some criteria: They must be larger than the average Roman (who were slight and short, approximately 5 feet tall) and they had to successfully fight 7 times to earn their freedom. (“Unsuccessful” equals death.)”

View of the interior walls and labyrinth-like floors of the Roman Colosseum.

Other interesting notes:

  • There were approximately 775,000 – 800,000 people killed in the Colosseum.
  • Because it’s a very hot structure, it was covered with a large white linen to keep it cool, and the linen was removed by sailors when it was time for the games / fights.
  • People would bring their children to see the events (it must have been very gory).
  • The wealthy people would attend the first event, then take their chariots home for a few hours before returning for the afternoon event.

Neglect, Ruin, and Rebuilding

By the 6th century A.D. not only had public taste in entertainment changed, but the structural integrity of the Colosseum had been damaged by earthquakes and other natural phenomenon.

For the next few centuries, it was abandoned and used as a quarry for other buildings including the cathedral of St. Peter, the nearby Palazzo Venezia (also known as the “Wedding Cake”) and for defense fortifications along the Tiber River. (See article.)

Interior walls of the Roman Colosseum, showing structural damage and missing bricks.

By the 20th century, nearly two-thirds of the original Colosseum, including all of the arena’s marble seats and its decorative elements, had been destroyed by weather and natural disasters, as well as neglect and vandalism.

Restoration efforts began in the 1990’s.  In 2007 the Colosseum was voted to be one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

And in 2018 (according to Wikipedia) the Colosseum was the most popular tourist attraction in the world with 7.4 million visitors.

Two female tourists standing close together, with interior of Roman Colosseum in background.

Reader discretion advised.

The Colosseum was a place of blood sport. The following information (from travel guide Let’s Go Italy – 2009 edition) may be considered graphic.

“Within 100 days of the Colosseum’s AD 80 opening, some 5000 wild beasts perished in its bloody arena, and the slaughter continued for three more centuries.

“The labyrinth of cells, ramps and elevators used to transport exotic animals from cages to arena level was once covered by a wooden floor and layers of sand. Upon release, the beasts would suddenly emerge into the arena, surprising spectators and hunters alike.

“Animals weren’t the only beings killed for sport; men were also pitted against men. Though these gladiators were often slaves and prisoners, if they won their fights, they were idolized like modern athletes – at least until the next fight.

“Contrary to popular belief, not all gladiator matches ended in death. Some fights stopped after the first knockdown, or the loser could ask the emperor – who would defer to the crowd – for mercy.”

International travel

First Day in Rome – Vatican City

On our first full day in Rome Amanda, Jen and I left our apartment early and walked to Vatican City, where we joined the tour group Enjoy Rome led by a lovely British lady named Agnes.

During this three-hour tour we visited the Vatican Museums, which includes The Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.

International travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Three Weeks in Italy

I don’t know why, but over the past few weeks I have felt the strong urge to write about my 2011 trip to Italy. I’ve learned to listen to that little voice that says, “Just do it.”

So please enjoy this recap of a trip-of-a-lifetime. I had no idea I would fall so deeply in love with Italy, and now I know why people return again and again!

US travel

Almost Heaven

Editor’s Note:
In honor of West Virginia Day – 3-22-2020 – I am reposting this piece from October 2012. There are two new photos, and the web links have been updated. Enjoy!

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River….

California travel

Hearst Castle – Part 1

The past few weeks have been very busy with work and travel – which included a visit to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. I’ll be sharing more about this beautiful and surprisingly accessible destination soon.

In the meantime, here’s a “sneak-peak” photo of Carrieanna and our tour guide at one of the famous Hearst Castle pools. Enjoy!

California travel

Accessibility at the California State Fair

If you know me, you know I love going to the California State Fair! This year I wanted to pay close attention to accessibility at the Fair. In particular, I wanted to find out what challenges wheelchair-users have encountered.

US travel

Arizona Desert Spiritual Retreat

The sky in the northern Arizona desert is beautiful and ever changing.

Landscape view of dramatic clouds over desert vista.By day, the clouds are pushed around by the wind, sometimes briefly bringing a rain shower or offering a respite from the sun. However, the sun soon regains dominance until it sets in brilliance.

Brilliant, colorful sunset over Arizona desert.

US travel

The Alamo | Remembering Texas History

My history-loving son recently moved to Austin, Texas, which gives me a new travel destination! As we discussed things to do during my recent visit, he suggested going to San Antonio to see The Alamo.

He told me of his first visit there, and how much it moved him. He described the battle and the loss of lives, and spoke of the bullet holes still visible in the chapel.

He remembered standing next to his buddy, a veteran who became so filled with emotion that he had to leave the building.