Library Foundation flapping red cape for the bullish on books

"Toro Obscuro," Joel Salcido, poster artist for San Antonio Book Festival 2013,
“Toro Obscuro,” Joel Salcido, poster artist for San Antonio Book Festival 2013,

A full day of readings by recently published Texas authors is on the horizon for Saturday, April 13. No need to steel yourself for a drive up I-35 because the San Antonio Public Library Foundation is bringing a fresh edition of the Texas Book Festival here to the Central Library and the Southwest School of Art for seven hours of readings, discussions and signings.

logoThe preliminary schedule is so packed I assembled links to resolve (or attempt to resolve) conflicting pulls among the readings in advance. Definitely check the official website for updates before heading downtown:

All Day

  • Book Sales
  • Coloring Station, Painting Bookmarks; H-E-B Children’s Area
  • Latino Leadership for the Library En Nuestras Palabras: My Story Van, Stories on the Porch, Create A Story, Meet the Story Tellers, Stories are Milagros for the Future; Central Library Plaza Walk

10 a.m.

10:45 a.m.

  • Elaine Scott (Buried Alive!: How 33 Miners Survived 69 Days Deep Under the Chilean Desert); Children’s Area, Central Library
  • Storytelling with Sarah Loden; H-E-B Children’s Area

going-clear-cover11 a.m.

11:15 a.m.

  • Celebrating Small-Town Texas Souls with Liza Palmer and Lynda Rutledge; Moderator, Josie Seeligson; Southwest School of Art, Ursuline Campus

11:30 a.m.


12:15 p.m.

12:30 p.m.

  • A Sense of Birthplace: Investigating the Past: Beatriz de la Garza and Sarah Cortez; Moderator, Yvette Benavides; Southwest School of Art, Navarro Campus

oleander12:45 p.m.

1 p.m.

  • Sandra Cisneros performs from Have You Seen Marie?; Moderator, John Phillip Santos; Central Library

I always tell people that I became a writer not because I went to school but because my mother took me to the library.

Sandra Cisneros

job-cover1:45 p.m.

2 p.m.

2:15 p.m.

alicia2:30 p.m.

2:45 p.m.

  • At War Over the Environment: Two Experts on the Politics of Parks and the Natural World with George Bristol and Char Miller; Moderator, Weir Labatt; Southwest School of Art, Navarro Campus

3 p.m.

  • Esmeralda Santiago on Conquistadora; Moderator, José Rubén De León, Central Library
  • For readers of Young Adult fiction: Summer of the Mariposas with Guadalupe Garcia McCall; Moderator, Yvette Benavides; Southwest School of Art, Navarro Campus
  • Thinking caps and creativity crowns; H-E-B Children’s Area

3:15 p.m.

4 p.m.

4:15 p.m.


An incredible agenda for a first-time event (May there be many more).

Of course you will need breaks, so there will be children’s activities and music throughout the day.

And nourishing your mind makes you hungry, so some of San Antonio’s favorite food trucks will be parked nearby for refueling.

Hmm, this is San Antonio. Wonder where the beer stand is….

cafeNote to Austinites: Your turn to hit I-35.

Note to Self: Never get so excited about something you decide to post the whole schedule – with custom links – again.

And thanks to the Mister Barista for that caffe corretto blast.

April 12, 2013, Update:

Just received the schedule for the Latino Leadership for the Library area just outside the Central Library, and it adds another slew of author appearances.



Once upon a time, northern San Antonio was a land of dairies….

The Trustees of the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund are hosting a celebration of the publication of The Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill: Voelcker Roots Run Deep in Hardberger Park from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 16, at The Twig Book Shop, 200 East Grayson at Pearl Brewery.  Music Max and Minnie would have loved will be provided by the Lone Star Swingbillies.  During the event, 60 percent of any sales of the book will benefit the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy.

Char Miller, W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College of Claremont, California, and author of Deep in the Heart of San Antonio: Land and Life in South Texas, wrote: “Few San Antonians remember Buttermilk Hill, but Gayle Spencer has recovered its significance through an intimate portrait of the dairy-farm families who once inhabited the rolling North Side terrain.  Only the Voelckers held out against encroaching sprawl, and the result is Hardberger Park, a verdant vestige of the city’s bucolic past.”

After the Texas Revolution, land grants from the Republic of Texas attracted new settlers to the outskirts of San Antonio.  The grandparents of Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker were among those drawn by “gold” to a community known as the Coker Settlement, just north of today’s Loop 410 but, at the time, a full day’s round-trip by wagon on bumpy dirt roads. Unlike that of California, their gold was, first, the opportunity to produce golden butter and, later, the value of the land itself.

By the late 1800s, so many dairies dotted the countryside that the area became known as Buttermilk Hill.  Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill traces the early migration to this community and the daily challenges faced by those who farmed the land.  Dairy farming involved rising before dawn to churn milk drawn the night before into butter, answering the twice-daily calls from cows in need of milking and driving long distances to deliver cream and butter to city-dwellers.  Life was not easy, and nature did not always cooperate.

Max and Minnie both were born on Buttermilk Hill and learned to milk cows almost as soon as they could walk.  With farming in their blood, they naturally married from within the Coker settlement.

As dairy farming became big business in Texas, small dairies no longer could compete.  But by then, the land itself was so valuable protracted court battles embroiled the Voelckers and their siblings, leaving permanent scars. San Antonio swallowed up one farm after another, until the Voelcker farm, part of which is Phil Hardberger Park, was the last one standing on Buttermilk Hill.

Update on November 9:  Unused, there are no remnants of cream glopped onto the back of this wonderful milk bottle cap Carolene dropped by my house.  She says (see her comment below) the Twilite Dairy was located out Blanco Road about a mile past Voelcker Lane.  That dairy on Buttermilk Hill, which no longer stands, had been owned by Josephine and Onis Lester Harrison (1910-1954), the son of Nancy Cordelia Tomerlin Harrison (1889-1962),  Minnie Voelcker’s half-sister.

Update on November 14Ed Conroy’s review in the Express-News is better written than the book itself.

Max and Minnie Voelcker left more than their farm behind

Front Cover of "Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill: Voelcker Roots Run Deep in Hardberger Park"


Never realized how much virtual travel it would take to get a book to press. Certainly, Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker could not have envisioned their story would do the amount of traveling it has done this summer; of course, they would be shocked to find their story told at all.   

Editor Lynnell Burkett of LBJ CommuniCo of San Antonio found our book designer, Amy Layton, in Sanger, Texas. The indexer (I never had given any thought at all to how indexes arrived in the back of books.), Sherrye S. Young, PhD, of RedLine Editorial Services worked from her home in White Bluff, Tennessee. I tracked down Char Miller in Delaware.  He read Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill while relaxing on a beach, then wrote the blurb for the back of the book when back in Claremont, California, where he serves as director and W.M. Keck professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College.   Former Mayor Phil Hardberger docked his sailboat at some unknown port to email in his blurb.  And now Last Farm temporarily has moved to the offices of Four Color Print Group in Louisville, Kentucky, before its journey to somewhere in China.   

Back Cover of "Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill"


And then we wait.  And wait.  While Max and Minnie were doing all of this virtual travel with the click of a send button, that is not how they will return.  Their journey back to San Antonio actually will be aboard a proverbial slow boat from China.  Their story will arrive, no longer in only a virtual state, at the end of October.   

As I packed up the pieces of paper and photographs documenting their lives that have encircled my desk for so long, I wondered what good the couple has accomplished posthumously since I completed writing the manuscript more than a year ago.   

The Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Trust has announced their Scholar and Young Investigator Awards for 2010.  The Young Investigator Awards are designed to support young scientists conducting medical research to find cures for cancer, heart disease, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, retinitis and/or macular degeneration of the retina.  Recipients are provided $150,000 per year for three years ($450,000).  The Scholar Awards provide a one-time award of up to $500,000 to each recipient and are intended to foster development and productivity of outstanding, established scientists conducting medical research to find cures for the same diseases.   

Investigator Award recipient Alexander Bishop, PhD, of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) is striving to determine cisplatin survival factors to augment ovarian cancer treatment.  UTHSCSA’s Doug E. Frantz, PhD, is working on the development of novel stem cell-based therapeutics to treat heart disease and cancer.  Lorena M. Havill, PhD, of the Southwest Foundation for Medical Research, is studying genetic contributions to knee osteoarthritis risk.  Sunil Sudarshan, MD, PhD, of UTHSCSA is delving into the metabolic links to renal cancer.  Scholar Award recipient Tyler J. Curiel, MD, MPH, also of UTHSCSA, is devoting his energies to the development of effective and tolerable age-specific tumor immunotherapy.  

Pretty amazing that the frugality of two former dairy farmers with little formal education is contributing so much to the advancement of medicine.  Makes me even more proud to have been privileged to get to know them, if only from the scraps and traces they left behind, and to preserve some remnant of their lives on paper.    

Bon voyage Max and Minnie, and, as I resume my other writing projects, I already miss your presence in my study.   

Note Added on September 15The Twig Book Shop, 200 East Grayson in the Pearl Brewery complex, will host a book-signing welcoming Max and Minnie back from China from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 16. 

November 17 UpdateGifts with enduring ramifications….