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DATE LINE One of Abilene’s public sculptures, “Desert Mule Deer Skull” by Joe Barrington PHOTO COURTESY STEVE BUTMAN PHOTOGRAPHY Prairie Renaissance by Mary Helen Specht FTER SO MANY YEARS AWAY FROM Abilene, I had almost begun to believe that the stories I told about my hometown were the only stories there were to tell: my ele mentary school teacher who con vinced 30 fourth-grade students that the Soviet Union had taken over the U.S. earlier that morning, causing half of us to burst into tears a lesson meant to help us appreciate our freedom. The biology teacher who kept a picture of an aborted fetus on his office door. The time in high school when fellow students scrawled “Vegetarians Have Sex with Animals” in big letters on our driveway. In my mind, the city was immutable: my Bible Belt, backwater hometown. But even then, Abilene had a lovely, eccentric side. I remember the first time I walked into the downtown studio of our local art celebrity, Clint Hamilton, and was shocked that such a magical spot could inhabit this conservative, Protestant place. Hamilton had lived for years in New York and worked among the 221 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG