There are five towers in Texas that contain English change ringing bells, three in Houston and one each in Abilene and Dallas. In my recent trip to Texas I was able to include trips to Abilene and Dallas.
Abilene has practices on a Tuesday night and I drove for three hours through a horrendous rain storm to attend the practice there (the rain held off until I’d finished the practice and then started up again in full force for my return journey!). The tower of All Saints (Church of the Heavenly Rest) in Abilene contains 6 bells (tenor 6-1-5), and a regular group of ringers run by Robert Partin (Tower Captain). It had a very nice spirit and they made me extremely welcome. They’ve done most of the routine bell maintenance themselves and have an amazing set of stays for each bell. One stay was broken by a learner when I was there and Len, Robert’s assistant, nipped up the tower and replaced it in just a few minutes. The handling of the bells was quite tricky because the ropes are rather long and very thin, and so get tangled round the hands if you’re not careful. We rang rounds and call changes and then I and one of the learners climbed right up above the bells with the storm beginning to brew again. Len was all for us opening the top hatch and going out onto the roof itself but we resisted his enthusiastic urgings!
St James’s Episcopal Church in Dallas has a practice on Wednesdays and occasional Saturdays. Because I was based between Fort Worth and Dallas I was able to go to Dallas three times – two practices and a Sunday ring. Dallas also has 6 bells (4-2-12) and the Tower Captain, Linda Rankin, is a Cumberland Youth. There are 3 regular ringers with her, including a complete beginner, who is already ringing cover and starting to do call changes, so is coming on immensely fast. Again, I was made very welcome and had some very good sessions in the pub with this lovely band. On the last practice I was introduced to Stedman Single, which was interesting! I really hope to go back there one day and highly recommend it to anyone visiting Texas.
Gregory Rose (Stepney and Foster Lane)