from 2008, part 3


16  4  8


Sit in the car, in our little room, in our roomette, waiting. Ladies and gentlemen we’re having some mechanical problems with the toilets in the coach car and will be ten or fifteen minutes late leaving San Antonio.

Our car attendant comes by and offers us a couple of box breakfasts, continental breakfasts, he calls them. Cereal, yoghurt, muffin, fruit cup, milk in a little baby container that reminds me of elementary school and those little milks we bought for a nickle I bet they’re a dollar now.

The Dairy Best, Vitamin A & D – 2% milkfat Reduced Fat Milk, Schepps Dairy, Dallas, Texas. These last drops once flowed from some anonymous cow udder don’t be gross but it’s true everyone in school had to be so well behaved drink your milk now don’t make a mess yes ma’am yes sir and I was lucky had it easy middle class school plenty of books in the library a desk and chair for each one of us pencils papers text books playground free from drugaddict needles or broken glass and lots of movies and slidestrips but still the same basic imperitive make us all into useful citizens of the empire – IT’S NOT AN EMPIRE IT’S A REPUBLIC – sing God Bless America and Halls of Montezuma every morning I pledge allegiance under God etcetera.

All that so we can have steady flow of milk in little cardboard cartons yes.

Gonna change coach cars they haven’t been able to fix the “mechanical problem.” I wonder what it was, Marjorie says. “The previous announcement it was the toilet,” Daniel says.

We roll forward and then back through the grungy streets beyond the railroad tracks. People are lined up outside some institutional building or another. Back walls, fences, parking lots. All the flotsom of an old Texas city. Metal roofs, brick walls, trackside warehouses. Ancient, faded advertising on the upper walls.

Daniel sits half dozing eyes closed. Stomach feels like we’re moving. Open his eyes – no. Still standing still. Still, at least we’re on the train. They might have thrown us off forever.

No wait – we are moving.


Daniel thinks about yesterday and the night before. Unitl this morning he hadn’t written anything since day before yesterday.

We arrived Monday night, more or less on time. Took taxi to Hotel, checked in, but found our room and had one bed, not two. However, it had a large sitting room and a bedroom, and in the sitting room is a big couch. Just like at home. Daniel must sleep on the couch, a coincidence he finds oddly reassuring and comforting.

TEMPLE         after lunch, running an hour and a half late. Tracks everywhere bending in from three directions. Tis a lovely farm country industrial zone small town full of tracks and locomotives.

When we finally woke up yesterday Marjorie said she didn’t have much energy and din’t feel like doing much of anything except going down for breakfast and then resting. “I don’t see how we’ll get to Kelly Field, and besides, its all so different now I wouldn’t learn anything by going there. Daniel was concerned but waited until the coffee kicked in and they had gone back to the room. Then at last M said well maybe we can go see the Alamo at least – it is far? No. Only three blocks.

And so it was they walked to slowly to the mission, scene of massacre and remember me, Texas. And, inside the shrine, Daniel asks the question that has been perplexing both him and his mother: Which Saint Anthony is San Antonio named after?

Well, said the sacred docent of remember the, it was named after several Saints Anthony – of Padua, of Valero, and of Bexar. The marquis of such and so, and his brother the duke of this or that, and the founding settlers from the far flung isles of Canary (who called the pueblo Bexar for many years) and then, he took a deep breath, this docent I mean, and continued, waxing ever more prodigious after spotting the gleam or ironic interest in Danial’s eye, and this who had just won the battle of whatziallabout at the city of Buda – you know, across the river Ister Danube from the city of Pest, yes?

I am a pest, thought D, and this is going to look really ridiculous by the time I finally write it down.

Later, in his want to merge with historic locales, he reached out to caress the ancient colonial stone walls of New Spain and American slaughter. Wait, wait, Marjorie clutched at his elbow, pointing to a sign that plainly saids DO NOT TOUCH THE WALLS (in English only). Oh dear, D sighed. The sign is still there, present tense. I’m ready to go, M said, past tense, after they had seen Davy Crocket’s rifle, Jim Bowie’s silver spoon, and a small, handwritten note written by and bearing the signature of, David Crocket.

Previously, they had visited the gift shop where Daniel successfully fought off the temptation to by a wagonload of cowboy and indian wild west figures and toys all made in China, complete with tipis and wagons and horses and feathered warriors bearing bows and arrows and rifle toting cowboys and lariat-tossing cattle drivers and even campfires in red and brown plastic. Marjorie arranged to have her purchases shipped home, and then, very leisurely, walked the three blocks back to the hotel.

While I was writing the last few paragraphs we came and went to from McGregor. The green and green and green of this land continues to amaze me. As we move north the grass grows thicker, the trees bigger. The broken little hills of the Balcones fault escarpment now raise their humping shapes not a mile west of our path. Waa-waa, wah, the engine horn wails.

The sun breaks through the clouds and shines. Its been gray all day and a moment of sunshine is welcome.

Little ranches are everywhere. Cattle wander large, fenced pastures. The little towns exhibit a mixture of scattered prosperity and crumbling age. The streams and small rivers flow under our bridges, their banks lined with trees and brush, their water sparkling with springtime promise.

Here and there in the towns you can spot what look like homeless hobo camps in the brushy ground near the railroad tracks. Or is it only piles of junk dumped there by neighbors?

Stare out the window. The young man man with blue veins on the backs of his hands is bent over his Bible. Capital B. Birds fly by outside over the rushing p_____ fields, bushy trees, stock ponds, scattered streambeds. Cattle huddle together near a distant fence. An old county road runs near the tracks.

The Brazos river. Look likes it’s flooding. Its wide bed cuts right down through the low hills. A flock of white birds circles and settles onto a swampy backwater. Then we plunge into more trees and rolling ranchland.

Yesterday, after we returned from our morning walk to the Alamo, M said she wished to rest for an hour before lunch. D went out for a stroll along the river walk, checking it out in case M felt better later and wished to see this famous San Antonio sight.

For lunch they walked a block to the old Buckhorn bar and museum. D had a burger with a Lone Star, and then an Alamo (beer). M tackled a Texas sized giant baked potato, with two glasses of Chardonnay.


By now it was almost three o’clock and when M mentioned that now she was up to takling the trek to Kelly Field, D would only sigh and mumble that now it was a little to late, but how about a little river cruise along the downtown river loop?

And so they found themselves on a flatbottom tourist boat trolling around the arms of the famous river walk river while their sparkling guide and boat pilot regaled them all with tales of local lore and history.

There is the German catholic church. There is the German social club where only German was allowed to be spoken. Here is the Casa del Rio, the first Mexican restaurant opened directly onto the rebuilt river walk sixty years ago, and found by German Americans. All the cooks and waiters and waitresses, however, are Mexican. Here is la Villita, site of the first village of San Antonio Bexar, center of the first riverwalk construction in the 1930s, and right here is the Arneson amphitheter, an open air arena with the audience on one side of the river and the stage on the other.

Fort Worth. City highways and an intermodal transit station. Busses, commuter rail, Amtrak. Two hours late. Crawling along the ancient pathway between the twin cities, paralleling Jefferson – look !  A piece of the old highway cut off and abandoned near a swampy stretch of ground.

Dallas towers.

Rolling west into late afternoon. Sunset dinner 6:30 before and after Minneola.

Goodbye prairie. Hello swamp forests of east Texas.





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