Tuesday, April 1, 2014
There are so many beautiful little cities in this country of ours. San Antonio does a great job of reaching out to tourists and displaying its art and food in places like La Villita, its oldest neighborhood; El Mercado, the colorful Mexican market; and its historic German neighborhood honoring Kaiser Wilheim I of Prussia. But for Jim and me, who are not shoppers, that just means tired feet and tacky trinkets, although I did get a medallion for my walking stick which has been all over the world with me. Look in the grocery store for Pioneer Flour which has been made here by the Carl H. Guenther family for five generations. Attached are pictures of the Guenther House restaurant where you can buy a two pound sticky bun (or cinnamon roll) for three bucks. We did truck through the Hemisfair Park, site of the '68 World's Fair and the Institute of Texan Cultures, a well-done exhibit of the 27 ethnic groups who settled Texas (which could be said about the whole United States).
Everyone associates San Antonio with the Alamo and the Riverwalk, so let me pass on a few facts that are lesser known.
First, the mesquite tree is the big one with Jim and me in it and branches buried in soil like an old live oak. They are all over and are used to smoke and flavor BBQ here.
Second, the Buckhorn Saloon is the oldest and most famous in San Antonio because Teddy Roosevelt, Clinton, and Bush appeared here. Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders here and at the gorgeous German Menger Hotel, America's first 5-star hotel. The Rough Riders were Tejanos, a mix of Indians, Spanish, and Americans who could ride, shoot, and talk Spanish. The Buckhorn is now home to the Texas Ranger museum and to the largest, and very impressive, taxidermy collection in the states.
And thirdly and finally, the Alamo was built in 1718 as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, only called the Alamo after the Spanish word for the stands of cottonwoods which surrounded it. It is the first of five missions built along the San Antonio River by Spanish and native Indians of so many different tribes that I cannot remember or spell them. It is a shrine to those 189 men who fell in March 1836 defending Texas' independence against Santa Anna who are not even buried there. Santa Anna burned all bodies (one guide said Davey Crockett was not killed, but taken prisoner and beheaded with the bodies of Jim Bowie and Travis, their heads put on stakes, and their bodies burned with the other dead). A year later the ashes and fragments were gathered and entombed nearby in San Fernando Cathedral where Santa Anna had raised his infamous red “No Quarter” flag when the Defenders of the Alamo refused to surrender.
The five missions, and those throughout the southwest, were built to Christianize the Indians and protect them from tribes we are familiar with: the Apaches and Comanches. Unfortunately, 70 percent of the natives died within ten years from European diseases. The five missions here, along 14 miles of riverfront, were owned by the Catholic Diocese which couldn't maintain all the land, so they made an agreement with the National Parks that the missions would maintain the buildings and hold mass in them and donate the surrounding lands to the park system…separation of church and state, yet working together. We took the Historic Mission Park Heritage Trail along the San Antonio River and found in the third, Mission San Jose, established in 1720, the finest example of a completely restored mission in the US with its famous “Rose Window” and detailed carvings of the craftsmanship of the time. Here again, you will see pictures of San Jose rather than the Alamo, because it more accurately allowed us to picture the grand size of the Alamo compound and the lifestyle lived within it. By the way, another of the missions, Concepcion, is the oldest unrestored church in the US today.
And the fourth and last thing I want to share with you before we move on to the South Llano River is to explain the picture of the Lone Star flag flying at an equal height with the US flag. It is the only state in the nation allowed to do that because when Texas was annexed into the US, it was a separate country being annexed to another country and one of the stipulations allowed their flag to fly equally with the US flag on a separate pole; if on the same pole, it must fly under the US flag. All other states must fly their flags at a position lower than the US flag even if on a separate pole.
Gayle Carson, author of Wynds Over Wylusing, retired from CCSD teaching at Wando. She has developed curriculum and taught for Florida University, USC, and City Schools of Chicago as a contractor for the Naval Submarine Base in Charleston. A past owner/operator of a decorator showcase, she has also bred and shown dogs and Holland Lops. Gayle grew up in Mt. Pleasant, married Jim Carson, and raised three children and six grandchildren here. They are avid outdoor people and love boating and water activities. Her hobbies include backyard hobby farming, water gardening, playing the organ and piano, and travel. Jim and Gayle are members of East Cooper Baptist Church, the Senior Center, and various charity acitivities. They are presently on a four month “See America” odyssey in their motor coach with their two pups