Frank A. Mills


Rusty Tractor & Barn | Round Rock, Texas

In Search of Rust

Posted: April 13, 2020

I am drawn to rust like a moth is drawn to fire. There’s something about rust that seduces me. Rust is fascinating. There’s an inherent beauty in rust. She paints her canvas with a palate of reds, purples, browns and blacks. My favorite, I think, are the shades of umber, ochre and sienna.

Rust has one aim--- to survive until she is no more. She only needs is a piece of ferrous metal, a bit moisture, and some air. The iron becomes her canvas; the moisture mixed with air, the paint; oxidation, her brush.

Some would say that Rust is a murderer. Not so, she is Mother Nature reminding us that from “dirt” we come and to dirt we shall return.

I can’t get away from photographing rust.

It seems that we are all drawn to rusty old vehicles. I know I have photographed many. But of course, that is not the only place we find rust. It seems that rust is lurking around every corner. Take for example this rusty old cash register:


With nothing to do one day, but to wander with camera in hand, I chose to wander along some county highways in eastern Williamson County. Entering the tiny hamlet of Lanesport I spied a decrepit and decaying old general store. In the ruble, there she was waiting for her portrait to be shot. How could I not? I was drawn back to those days of childhood buying penny candy at our little general store, sitting on porch edge sipping cream sodas.


"Tractor Heaven" | Georgetown, Texas

In Georgetown there use to be a place that I fondly called, “Tractor Heaven.” It surely was the place where tractors went after death. Mistletoe hanging in the oak trees, rust eating at metal, there was a holy feeling about the place. Today there is not much left of Tractor Heaven. most of the rusting tractors have long since departed. In its heyday though, I was given free reign to wander and photograph.





Road Grader Gears

Every so often one gets lucky and finds an almost perfect picture of rust at work. This image of the gears of a road grader, captures rust pitting the metal, while lichen begins to grow in the pits.

There’s rust everywhere. Sometimes it is merely sitting there, like a flea market, a bit deranged, beckoning you: “Look! Look what I have to offer!” Like this literal flea market in Fredericksburg:


Or perhaps in a field behind a fence:


And then sometimes you have to dig a bit, explore a bit. If you do you might find something like this bit of graffiti on a bit of rusted metal:


Or maybe a rusting toy airplane in a pile of junk:


Or these rusting old pipes in a semi-abandoned store in Taylor. Getting this one took a bit of begging. The lessee was reluctant to let us wander the abandoned upper floors, floors that were not in the safest of condition. However, after some pleading we were allowed to wander.


Or this old Range Master in an abandoned barn in Round Rock. It was a reminder of that time I was careless and grabed hold of an electric fence with bare hands while attempting climbing over. It seems that I was more concerned about the barbs than noticing the sign.


This past summer I returned to the place where the barn was, she was no more. I was reminded once again, I need to get those shots when I can. They may not be around tomorrow.

Before I leave the rust found inside, there are these images of the inside of Taylor’s old jail, down in the cellar of City Hall (fortunately, for all, City Hall demolished, the jail along with it.)



Sometimes the rust is on the outside, like her on the corrugated roof of the old Elgin Cotton Seed Mill (no longer in business):


Or this Tin Can Water Tower in Jarell. Look at the faded logo. Looks like a bird to me.


And then there are the signs. I have hundreds of shots of old rusty signs. I have no idea what I am going to do with any of the images. I guess just look at them from time to time, seeking to remember the “olds days.” And for me, the “old days” go way back.


Add salt to the mix, like when a hurricane cones along, rust’s palate expands. These are from Galveston Railroad Museum after Ike passed by:



Rust also does her thing to steel rails, such as these along the “Georgetown Tap” (Georgetown R.R.):


Or the rail on this old abandoned railroad bridge in downtown Austin:


I started this piece out with the comment that we all seem to love rusty cars and trucks. I know I do. It is hard to pass by one without taking a photos:



Ford F-100



It seems fitting to wrap this all up with an image of Mother Nature doing her thing with rust, decay, and new life:


Comfort, Texas next to the old depot

© Text and images, Frank A. Mills, 2020

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