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May 19 Bios-Tom Watson & Marilyn Brister

TOM WATSON

About myself: In my childhood days our family lived on the outskirts of the small West Texas town of San Angelo where the surroundings were mostly rural. There I had daily exploits with similarly adventuresome playmates in the many pasturelands near my home. It was there that I became curious about all the varied and wonderful organisms that nature provided in the wildlands. I felt an enduring sense of freedom, peacefulness, and identity. Most vividly I remember a windmill in a pasture some distance from my home where my companions and I would camp nearby. I listened to the clanking of the gearbox and whirring of the millwheel until I fell asleep; those sounds for me to this day are somnific. In those West Texas fields I began to develop a lifelong appreciation of natural ecosystems and their constituent organisms. It was not until college at a small university in the Chihuahuan Desert of far West Texas that I began my formal studies of biology. Already predisposed to fall in love with the discipline and leading to a career mostly in Plant Biology, the desert setting was an ideal outdoor laboratory for study of plants and animals. Their adaptations to that harsh climate were fascinating. After completing my BS in Biology at Sul Ross State in 1967, I spent a year in graduate school at Washington State University. I returned to Texas the following year and entered the graduate program in Botany at The University of Texas in Austin where I completed a PhD in 1972. I was an Assistant Professor of Botany at The University of Montana for 8 years and lectured at The University of Texas for 4 years. Intermixed with years of teaching were varied employments as a computer analyst with Verizon, Dell Computers, and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. I retired in 2004. Looking for an anchor in retirement, I was introduced to the Master Naturalist program by my neighbor Delbert Basset, one of the founders of the HCMN chapter. I completed the training class and MN certification requirements with the Dragonfly class of 2004. In 2005 and 2006, I served as Board President of the HCMN. 

You may not know: My grandfather and grandmother came to my home town from Eldorado shortly after their marriage in 1898, riding in a horse-drawn wagon and taking two days to traverse the 43 miles. My grandfather, my favorite male relative, became a windmill technician who sold, installed and maintained Aeromotor windmills for farms and ranches. I marveled over how he was able to erect windmills and towers in the early 1900s using nothing more than a model A truck and a gin pole! From my Tom Sawyer experiences referenced above and with a deep and admiring love of my grandfather and his work, to this very day I become reflective, mellow, and drowsy when near the clanking and whirring of windmills.

Also: It was during my second term as President in 2006, that the very first HCMN Gala was held. Without Susan Nenny and Jean McMeans, who both served on the Board then, the Gala may have never come to be. It was also the very first time for HCMN participation in the July 4th parade in Wimberley, ramrodded by a peripatetic Susan Nenny. 

Favorite MN activity: Leading interpretive hikes for wildflowers and grasses at Onion Creek and LBJ Wildflower Center and teaching grass identification classes for the Capitol Area Master Naturalists. I also enjoy developing plant species inventories (lists) for Onion Creek and working with ecologists for Austin Water Utility (WCD) in restoration activities at Onion Creek.


MARILYN BRISTER

About myself: I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, then studied at UT Austin where I received a BA, and then an MA in German. After a few years spent raising kids, I went back to school and got a degree in Medical Record Administration at Texas State and then got a job at Central Texas Medical Center where I worked for 19 years before retiring in 2010.

 What you may not know: I am an avid model railroader and with my son built a model railroad layout in my dining room. I am active in the New Braunfels Railroad Museum where I create dioramas and layouts for the museum (one was a model of a native seed farm). As the chairman of gardening at the Museum, I maintain the small garden in front and one in the back of the museum with help from the members. Since I became caretaker of the gardens, only native plants have been added. I also belong to the San Marcos River Walkers club and have walked in all 50 states. I enjoy playing pickleball at the San Marcos Activity Center. 

Favorite MN activity: Caring for the native plant landscape at the San Marcos Discovery Center with my master naturalist friends.