Hell on wheels at Texas Roller Derby


Austin is where roller derby was reborn in the early 2000s, and it’s still a hot ticket, even on a Sunday night. My daughter and I attended last night’s Texas Roller Derby bout between the Rhinestone Cowgirls and the Holy Rollers. It had been 8 years (!) since my family and I watched the Hellcats vs. Putas del Fuego to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. Having recently watched Whip It, a movie about a teenage girl (Ellen Page) joining Austin’s roller derby scene, my daughter was keen to see this entertaining sport in person.


Fishnets, short-shorts, and tiny skirts, along with helmets and elbow and knee pads, make up the costumey uniforms worn by the all-women skaters…


…and even some of the male fans.


The Rhinestone Cowgirls came out first…


…and they hopped up on the padded rail and rode it like cowgirls, whooping for the crowd.


As an announcer called out the players by their alter-ego names — Bad Apple, Shania Pain, Domme Draper — each skater took a showboating lap around the banked track, playing up to a photographer at the rail.


Then the Holy Rollers took their laps, and the bout began. As blockers and jammers lined up on the track (see my 2009 post for the rules of the game), their teammates warmed the bench, their punny, girl-power derby names visible on the back of their shirts. Seen here: Calamity Jones and Jackie Lantern.


Assault & Vinegar helpfully illustrates the pun in her name with the scientific formula for salt.


Warming the Cowgirls’ bench are Mad Maxican, Shania Pain, Irie One Shove.


All the players had a chance to show their skating skills in jam after jam, the blockers trying to keep the other team’s star-helmeted jammer from breaking through the pack.


It’s definitely a contact sport…


…and we saw a number of wipe-outs.


But they always got right back on their skates.


“Mama Tried” is of course an allusion to the Merle Haggard song:

No one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried,
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied.
That leaves only me to blame ’cause Mama tried.


Holy Rollers blockers


Here’s the Holy Rollers jammer (the scorer), trying to break past a Cowgirls blocker.


By the end of the half, the Cowgirls were crushing the Holy Rollers…


…and the final score was 101 to 65, with the Cowgirls on top. Another night of Austin-style fun!

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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The upcoming talk with James deGrey David has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Wishing you a merry and bright Christmas!


The Christmas tree is aglow.


Festive ornaments add cheer.


Family gathers close, and memories of past Christmases are retold.


Lights shine across the city…


…and we’ve spun under the Zilker Christmas Tree on its 50th anniversary.


Neighbors’ houses glow like magical fairylands of light.


And troubles are put aside for an evening and a day of quiet or festive celebration.

Magical lights in our 'hood #xmaslights #christmaslights #austin #merryandbright

A video posted by Pam Penick (@pamdigging) on


Friends, I wish you all a warm and wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, or other solstice holiday! See you in 2017!

And if you missed my post about the Highway 360 Xmas trees, please click here and enjoy!

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Decking the cedar trees on Loop 360, an Austin Christmas tradition


Just after Thanksgiving every year, Austinites who live along scenic Loop 360 are treated to the festive sight of roadside juniper trees decked out in creative, colorful decorations, turning miles of highway into a drive-by Christmas parade.


It started off, years ago, with just a few trees suddenly sporting tinsel and colorful glass balls.


But the idea caught hold among merry-making Austinites, and nowadays any juniper (we Texans call ’em cedars) along the highway is likely to be targeted by decorating elves.


Some people decorate with a certain theme in mind, like this Denver Broncos tree.


Others go traditional, with tinsel, ribbons, colored balls, and bows.


For drive-by appreciation, the decorating elves know to go big. Shrimpy ornaments are lost to view as drivers zoom by on the highway, so oversized ornaments are key.


So is picking a tree that’s not too tall, so you don’t have to leave the top undecorated. Just toss that tinsel up there.


Right-sized trees are, it seems, in such demand that people are putting “hold” tags on their favorites well before Thanksgiving.


The bee tree is one of my annual favorites. Empty detergent and other large plastic bottles are spray-painted black, striped with yellow duct tape, and given wings of screening mesh.


You can’t miss the bee tree, and I look for it every year.


I also got a kick out of this picnic tree adorned with pink and yellow paper plates and plastic cups and forks.


Snowman face decorations have turned some trees into green, unmeltable Frosties.


Ray Ray’s Pledge, an Austin-based advocacy group that educates people about the danger of leaving young children unattended in hot cars, decorated this tree. Yellow ducks are inscribed with safety facts and calls to activism. White ducks are inscribed with a year and the number of children who died in hot cars that year.


This year, 2016, has seen 39 hot-car deaths, a tragically high number since such deaths are entirely preventable. Ray Ray’s Pledge website — named after baby Ray Ray Cavaliero, who died after her father accidentally left her strapped into her car seat for 3 hours on a hot day — offers lifesaving safety suggestions. Even if you think it could never happen to you, if you have a young child or grandchild, please read them.


Other trees are decorated in memory of a loved one…


…like this tree for Emily.


And this one in memory of Grandma Lola. I like that idea.


It’s kind of sad, though, that they have to put up a sign asking people not to take their ornaments.


Sticking with shades of blue and green helps this tree stand out.


On a lighthearted note, a Pac-Man tree wins my vote for creativity and humor.


Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are chased by ghosts Pinky, Blinky, Inky, and Clyde, all of them cut out of colorful plastic plates with painted eyes.


Ms. Pac-Man sports a plastic-plate hair bow and red lips. Super cute!


A local geocaching group reserved this tree, which they decorated with colorful foam links and old CDs for sparkle…


…plus clear balls stuffed with geocaching log sheets. I like that this group, Geocachers of Central Texas, has scheduled a clean-up of tree decor on December 31. That’s responsible decorating…


…as another sign reminded fellow decorators. In general people are really good about coming back to undecorate the trees and restore the roadside to its natural beauty.


But for now, we enjoy the festive spectacle.


It’s a heartwarming holiday tradition in the best spirit of Austin: spontaneous, creative, and full of goodwill.


Merry Christmas, y’all.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Need a holiday gift for the gardener, new homeowner, or environmentalist on your list?
Please consider giving one (or both!) of my books. They’re packed with plenty of how-to info for newbies as well as lots of inspirational photos and design ideas for more experienced gardeners! Order today from Amazon (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!) or other online booksellers (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!), or find them anywhere books are sold.

“In an era of drought and unpredictable weather patterns, The Water-Saving Garden could not come at a better time. With striking photographs and a designer’s eye, Penick shows us just how gorgeous a water-wise garden can be. This is the must-have garden book of the year!”
Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants

“This thoughtful, inviting, and thoroughly useful book should be required for every new homeowner at closing. It has the power to transform residential landscapes from coast to coast and change the world we all share.”
Lauren Springer Ogden, author of The Undaunted Garden and coauthor of Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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