Thursday, August 10, 2006

Around San Anto 2006

(A continuation of

The dog Manchas and I make it to San Anto, but we're going nowhere in afternoon rush hour, so we pull off downtown. It's $5 to park by the Mercado Market Square, a tourist trap in front of Santa Rosa Hospital, but it's worth it just for the shade and sounds from the fountain where a bunch of brown kids are cooling off. After a thousand heated miles, I'm wasted and Manchas doesn't even want to chase pigeons, or maybe it's 'cause his instincts are to herd the four-legged--cows and horses.

I sit on an old park bench, remembering decades ago when one of the nuns from the hospital fired me, for insubordination, I recall. I'm also sitting on the site of the cemetery where, after storming the Alamo, Santa Ana had his slain soldiers buried (fewer than 500, which means the Alamo Texians, as they're now called, killed only 2.5 to 1, not the seemingly 50 to 1 dramatized in those movies). Over a hundred years later, the good citizens of San Anto had those bodies removed and redistributed to other sites, denying us a memorial. Anglo civilization can't seem to leave us alone, even after death.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas site claims the Alamo was "founded by" Franciscan priests. They fail to mention the labor came from local and imported Indian slaves, some of whom were maybe my ancestors--selective Texas history trying to erase even the indigenes' mark on the land.

The whole family thing is good, as always, although brother Ralph never shows, but that's Ralph. They know I love cabrito, which is difficult to get in Denver, so we have it at least four times. Turns out not all the cabrito is baby goat; some is cabra, chivo, old and tougher. Something to ask about next time you're at H.E.B. or a San Anto restaurant; it's the difference between juicy-tender and dry-tough.

My family lives off Hwy. 281 So., out in the sticks south of town. Hundreds of swallows, an occasional coyote howling, bats, lots of trees--mesquite, pecan, some palmas. I brought the truck to take back some mesquite planks, for making furniture. Here I see huge piles of dead oak along the roadside, victims of the current, extended drought. After some research, it seems I'll also return with no mesquite.

In Texas and into Mexico, the mesquite tree grows like a weed, and ranchers and farmers treat it as such. The best and biggest mesquites grow in the Uvalde area, but that's too far to drive. Good thing, because mesquite has shot up to over $7 a board foot, something outside my budget. The mostly Anglo furniture makers in San Angelo and Uvalde don't understand the increase.

But some mexicanos here explain there's no more mesquite in Mexico; it's all been cut down for firewood, to burn coals for homes or for the tacos everyone loves to buy from street vendors. There's too many people of all colors, there, here, in Denver; so many people, even the weeds are disappearing. Maybe this heat's the planet's way of showing it's tired of them, as Abbey too might have said.

We do most of the usual things that go with my Texas visits:
º Frequent stops for aguas de sandía, blended watermelon with water and sugar, some of it so thick I could have used a fork. $1.50 for a big ole glass, much better than the $1.50 small glass you get in Denver made of powdered product, like a Kool-Aid.
º Beer, every day, goes well with this heat--Negra Modelo, Grolsch, St. Pauli, whatever. I got an East German brother-in-law who's never lost his accent. It gets better with beer as we sit out on the porch or under the tent letting Manchas mangle their new dog.

One change: I usually make a point to stop by the Alamo and piss on the Alamo Cenotaph, the memorial to the Texans that sits out front of the Alamo. (It's not typical hunter or gatherer behavior, but it's something I do.) This time I've got a better idea, but it's not fit for posting.

Six movies were made about the Alamo, the first one in 1911. I remember when I was a kid proudly putting on a Davey Crockett coonskin cap and play-killing all those mescans, just like John Wayne in the second movie. It took decades, and some peeing, to get myself out of that thinking.

My mom, the dog and I go looking for a river where he can get himself all wet, but the banks are low, the drought's been here too long. At spots in the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers he only manages to get his feet wet. But there's herons, egrets, pelicans, cardinals everywhere--migration's in cycle. A fantastic refuge is being completed nearby at Mitchell Lake (named Laguna de los Patos when this was still Mexico), but it's not open yet, won't allow pets, and no swimming, so it doesn't matter to Manchas. It's hot, even the river water.

There's also a billion, billions of tiny brown butterflies everywhere in south Texas, mixed in with small, fewer monarchs--something about great breeding conditions; I guess global warming isn't bad for everyone. People complain about the American snouts, as they're called, that cover their windshields. They forget who was here first, and will probably be here last, and they can't see that their windshields moving at 60mph into droves of these migrating insects are to blame.

Each morning we sit outside watching the billions awaken in the trees and on the ground from the heating, morning Texas sun. I amble through them like Gulliver walking through flying Lilliputians. They're Life(!) I want to grab and embrace, but even my approaching steps mean death for ones I don't see. It's an uncomfortable helplessness for a wannabe hunter-type. (Since my camera didn't turn out useable video, go here for an idea of what a billion snouts look like:

The dog is having a great time. He gets lots of needed socialization, meeting strangers, licking them a lot, has learned a few new commands that he sometimes doesn't ignore. My sister Barb's Basset hound's ears make for a great chew. Her dog's female, he's male, but they lack the equipment anymore to do anything but pretend--sort of like homo sapiens' once-heated obsession with Earth.

Plus the dog's let me sleep all night, a new experience for us both. Coming in out of the sweltering heat to doze in front of an AC vent will do that, even to the best of primitive gatherers--spoils him; when it's time, he may not want to leave.

The day comes--the hunter's got job obligations. Last two days the dog's been questioning me with his eyes: "Are we going home now?" So he's ready. We load the truck with white limestone, other rock, and agave cactus for my desert-garden, but no mesquite. Except for my liver and the butterflies, we've caused less harm than good. Time to go while we're ahead.

I didn't have a chance to do all I wanted, but there'll be another time. San Anto will be here, maybe even the snouts, again. We catch US-10, take it up to 65, splattering dozens of the billions with each mile.

(final installment, next week...)

© Rudy Ch. Garcia 2006


Anonymous said...

Rebecca Blackmore said...

Good Evening Y Buenas Noches, to the writer who is interested in the mesquite wood.
My husband and I just bought some land off of Lockhart, on black land praire. My husband is doing everything possible to rid himself of the mesquite brush, along with mesquite trees. Personally, I still find myself yanking the mesquite seedling off the tree because it takes me back to my El Paso roots. This was our version of candy. We would pick brown bag full of mesquite and under the porch on hot sunny afternoon, sucking and chewing on these seeds. We were in heaven.
At any rate, I enjoyed your blog which I accidentally found. Now I find myself compelled to offer you some free mesquite. Cut-and-take, gratis! You will sweat some, but then you will enjoy the fruits of your labor...
Of course, I will double check with my husband to make sure its okay. Hey, it would save you the riding around looking for mesquite around the SA area/highway 281 and I will meet a good writer doing his part in sharing of himself to others.
So if you are truly interested, you can contact me.

Anonymous said...

I'm back in Denver and won't see Texas again this year.

I was especially looking for mesquite that has been cut into planks or boards that could be used to make furniture.

My mom's got mesquite on her property, which she might let me cut down, but which she won't cut down into boards for me.

Dalhart? Maybe next time.

Manuel Ramos said...

I'm not the writer who did the piece that talks about mesquite, but I have to say hello to anyone from around Lockhart. Love that Barbecue. Rudy if you go down there to pick up the wood, I'm on board - I need a brisket fix from Kreuz's.