This was one of the first places we made a stop at on our Involuntary Vacation from McAllen in south west Texas to our home in the south east – a total of 700 miles. It was a very small community, not as wealthy as it had been in the past although there is now plentiful natural gas in the area. Sometimes this positively affects the population but usually the oil companies or landowners benefit the most. We like to ‘collect’ unique post offices across the states and just being named Pawnee Post Office was cool enough.
I was intrigued about why the place was named Pawnee, as they are primarily central plains Native Americans. When the second European settlers arrived in 1826, an Irish family named the Sullivans, they found a piece of wood nailed to a tree with Pawnee written on it. Later arrowheads discovered in nearby Sulphur Creek were attributed to the Skidi Pawnee or Panismahas. Legend has it that they practiced human sacrifice. So does our society, with guns, every day. Many tribes were semi or fully nomadic and the area is rich for hunting, even today. Back in the day there were buffalo, panther, antelope and wolves (oh my). The area was settled by Native Americans 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. Prior to the Sullivans, Carlos Martinez was granted the first Spanish land grant in 1789 as the conquistadors invaded from Mexico into Texas.
The Indigenous tribes were Apache, Karankawa and Borrado. This is a wide and brief generalization but Apache were known as fierce warriors with a strong religious belief. Their territory spread from Arizona to Texas and Mexico. Navajo and Apache are related tribes. Karankawa lived across the southern part of Texas, skilled in hunting and warfare. They crafted pottery and baskets that they lined with a type of asphalt that washed up on the beaches of the Texas Gulf. Oil has been part of our culture for a long time… Not much is known about the Borrado who were misnamed by the Spanish settlers for their striped body painting or tattoos. They were native to Northern Mexico and the Rio Grande area. The frequented Padre Island.
After the Sullivans settled in Pawnee they were joined by their women folks and then a range of Swedish and German settlers. Today this tiny little town still has 12 churches that represent every possible form of Christianity. The Methodist Church below caught my attention. The photographs are untouched to show how dark the clouds were. I have to be honest and say that it looked like a perfect place to shoot a thriller or horror movie – no disrespect intended! Can’t you see villagers seeking shelter behind that red door to escape from the oil companies zombie hordes (obviously interchangeable)??
There is even excellent disability access to the beautiful little church (aka zombie shelter). Perhaps zombies might be considered disabled in which case my shelter idea is terrible. Wouldn’t you like to live in my mind for a day??? 🧟♀️
My gorgeous four poster bed in Merida…note the mosquito net
Doesn’t it look gorgeous? The tiles are original from the 17th century mansion. The French owners have recently created this boutique hotel and coordinated everything with the tiles. The back wall is the palest dove gray as is the new futon beside the bed. The lamps were made of local limestone and I am taking the photograph from the stairs (yes two levels) in my suite leading to the brand new bathroom. It was exquisitely designed with local stone in the huge shower.
So far, so good, eh? The bed was rather hard but the bedding was lovely. The mosquito net was not for decoration and the fumigator turned up on the second day (it smells of roses, Senorita…). I look like I have had measles. Eventually I caught one of the little f***ers and my blood oozed out of it. The exquisite shower had only cold water. On one fortuitous occasion I had a tepid shower – yay! I was offered three other rooms which barely had a trickle of still cold water and realized I had the best room. My French fellow guests had a trickle of cold water for their whole stay. Dirty froggies…🐸. I know that is terribly un PC but it’s one of my resolutions.
The menu was translated by French people into English and they need not have bothered. There is a local Maya language spoken and I have no idea what the menu said. I ate dessert and breakfast with unidentifiable fruit. I rarely spoke English to anyone. Everyone at the hotel spoke French including the staff. My driver’s English was as good as my Spanish and yet we talked for hours each day. Google Translate helped with certain words until we were out of cell phone range.
THIS WAS THE BEST VACATION EVER!!! I don’t know why but I loved every second of it, even my Eco toilet which means no paper down the drain (there was a little lidded bucket for the poo smeared paper). It felt like glamping or glhostelling. The day before I left I had received bad news about four friends with health and other problems. I was so upset that I momentarily considered not going. The saddest news was the death of our fellow blogger Pan otherwise known as Linda, beautifully memorialized by John Ray and Osyth. If you click on John and Osyth’s names you will see their posts about Linda. My head still has an image of her dog guarding her dead body for two days.
My mental health must be stronger than I imagined and I decided that life really was too short. I compartmentalized all my bad news, got on the plane and prayed at every church that I saw in Merida. I got lost twice in the pitch black but kept finding churches so perhaps Huehuecoyotl had an auspicious plan. The beauty of nature and the kind, warm people of the Yucatan soothed my soul and provided much needed balm. I have many stories to tell but I have a busy week helping friends and doing paid work so it may be a week or so before I share more.
I climbed a pyramid!
This is a shot from Mayapan, a huge Maya city that has NO tourists! My various DNA tests did not show that I am part mountain goat…all those years hill-climbing with my school friends, Katharine and AnneMarie have left me with a core strength. There was a small group of local school teenagers who struggled to keep up with me…
Most importantly, may Linda rest in peace. She was a loyal, funny and delightful blogger friend that I will miss.
Never has a street been more aptly named. There was one wonderful church after another. The title photograph is of the French Huguenot Church – it is simply known as that. I noticed it particularly because it is painted a delicate pale pink with black cornichons. The Huguenot’s were French Protestants who escaped persecution from the Catholic Church. I loved the way they embraced the Protestant ethic and yet created a house of worship with a certain French soupçon of elegance. Below is the exquisitely simple interior with a startling blue chandelier, accentuated with the blue prayer books.
Nave of French Huguenot Church
St. Philip’s Church
Above is St Philip’s Episcopal Church which is the grandest on the street. Another tourist later told me that the church keepers weren’t very friendly (well, they are Protestants – I am sorry but there is always a lapsed Catholic devil sitting on my shoulder). There is always a fine line between visiting a historic site and respecting that it is a current house of worship. No talking, flip-flops or chewing gum, please! There were some very distinguished guests in the graveyard and it was so serene on a hot, steamy Charleston afternoon.
Well, Charles certainly has a lot to answer for…
Both churches were in the French Quarter. The streets were a charming mix of old and new.
St Philip’s Graveyard
It was only after I left Charleston that I remembered about the Charleston Church massacre more than a year before, at the Emanuel African Methodist Church. The victims of this hate crime, their relatives and the people of Charleston give us something to aspire to in this horrific week. Dignity, sorrow and forgiveness.
This is a beautiful stained glass window in St. Mary of the Annunciation’s Catholic Church, the first Catholic Church in South Carolina. The original building was founded in 1789 but this is the third church on the same site. It is quite an unusual architectural design for a Catholic church and I don’t think I have ever seen one quite like this.
St. Mary’s of the Annunciation, Charleston, SC
I went early to visit and to my delight was the only person there. Old churches and mosques can be so busy with tourists that you miss the reverential feel of an ancient place of worship. I went straight to light a candle and this time I prayed for everyone. The church was relatively small but so beautiful, especially inside. Just as I left, I remembered to bless myself from the font and be grateful for all that I have.
St. Mary’s Nave
Behind the church was a lovely little graveyard but these were the saddest little gravestones I have ever seen. They must have been for stillborn children because there was no name, just a single date. So sad, and yet touching that they had been remembered in this way.
My maternal family name is McHugh, it is an Irish name and not that common with that spelling. So, at least one of my namesakes had money because this is a fancy memorial.
This is the first time I have ever seen a McHugh stone in a graveyard, except for my own family. Recently we discovered McHugh’s in America who had emigrated generations back and we even have a mysterious photograph of my great-grandmother taken in Boston when we thought she had never left the farm in Sligo? One American McHugh I spoke to was very disappointed that my pure Irish heritage was tainted in so many ways. The dropped me like a hot potato – get it? Potato? Irish? I am pretty sure that my snobby Conquistador ancestors would feel much the same way. 🙂
Charleston is full of churches of every denomination and I tried to visit as many as possible, including their fascinating graveyards. More in the next post.