This one’s for the boys…

… and all the lady train geeks like me! The bright red engine looks so festive. We often put my husband’s childhood train set around the bottom of the Christmas tree. Below is the historic sign for the beautiful art deco but defunct train station in Galveston, Texas. Much like parts of Britain, many train lines were discontinued when cars where in common use. Our township is surrounded by train lines but they only carry freight these days. It’s quite normal to wait for 20 minutes for a train to pass with endless freight carriages. I still love the sound of a train whistle on a quiet night.

As you can see, it was part of the Santa Fe railroad network. As a child, I watched so many American movies with trains, especially Westerns. Just the name Santa Fe Railroad gives me goosebumps, imagining the vistas as you crossed prairie and mountains. We live between Houston and Dallas, and Amtrak still runs passenger trains between the cities. The nearest working station is 40 miles away from us so I doubt we will ever use the current train system.

The museum had ‘populated’ the station with plaster model passengers and it helped to show how glamorous the train station was back in it’s hey day. There are some beautiful art deco buildings and hotels in Galveston – it’s amazing that they have survived so many hurricanes.

The mail sorting rail car was the most exciting part of the museum. It was so perfectly restored after Hurricane Ike damaged it. I loved the idea that the train didn’t have to stop while picking up the mail – and wondered if this technique ever failed!

The Route of the Zephyrs sounds like a dream. I have flown over all of these places and visited some of them. It’s certainly a fascinating view of the vast differences in American landscapes. From steamy, subtropical Houston to pretty Denver surrounded by snow-tipped mountains. Amarillo is my favorite place on the list with the best canyon in Texas.

As we approach Remembrance Day or Veteran’s Day as it is known in the US, on Friday 11th November, may we remember all the servicemen and women who perished in war.

Holy Shrimp Boats!

Do you see the name of the boat? It is named after our current Roman Catholic Pope, Francis II – the first Pope to hail from the Americas. Argentina, to be precise. This is the harbor at a magical little fishing port, Palacios about halfway between Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas. The majority of the population is Hispanic, some white and minority of Vietnamese who migrated to Palacios for the shrimping. The names of the boats reflected their heritage.

If you zoom in on this boat coming into harbor, you will see that the owner is Vietnamese. He was waving at us very enthusiastically as we snapped images of him. It was the end of a very long shift for him and hopefully a good catch. Palacios is not a tourist trap so perhaps he was intrigued by the Paparazzi. Our respective grandparents were farmers and fishermen, so we are drawn to working harbors and the countryside.

Why does he always walk into my shots???

We stopped at the pretty main drag to get a lovely cup of coffee. I have a theory about why coffee tastes so much better in remote places. The water is better and the milk fresher, perhaps? Some of the cafes we stopped at have a Mission connection to a small coffee farm in Latin America. Coffee that’s good for your soul. In the school vacations I used to see groups of Texan youth going to Missions in remote places of central America – better than playing video games all summer.

The boat’s names were an intriguing mix of Texican, Spanish and Vietnamese. Palacios has been home to the indigenous Karanwaka natives, then the Spanish conquistadors, French and finally the other Europeans. It is satisfying to see that Vietnamese refugees found a new community in the most unlikely of places.

Then I spotted this random dude that I fancied… I am so proud of my Teddy for losing all his excess weight and getting healthy. He is easy on the eyes too. 💗

Knitted Pantaloons

I was all set, getting ready to leave the house to go to the Dentist. Then I saw a flicker of gray in the garden and crept to the window. It was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, resplendent in knitted pantaloons. If I was little, I would ask my Nana to knit me a stuffed Hawk just like this one.

The Juvenile was very skittish and as I went to get my camera out of the drawer, I noticed a squirrel staring intently at the hawk from the fence. Part of me wanted to warn the squirrel but I really wanted a photograph… We have plenty of squirrels and this one was curious, not scared! Baby Cooper posed so nicely for me, showing off her fabulous plumage. I need to get an outfit of taupe and steel gray now.

Eventually, I made a noise as I was trying to poke the camera through the Venetian blinds and the hawk flew off straight into the squirrel. My heart was in my mouth wondering what would happen next but the feisty squirrel fluffed up her fur like a cat and terrified Baby Cooper. They eat much smaller prey than squirrels. Our squirrel stood her ground, saying, “That is MY Nut Mom and MY garden.”

Please come visit us again, little hawk! I want to see those yellow feet…and those fluffy pantaloons.

EXCITING UPDATE

When I went out on the walking path yesterday, I met Baby Cooper! She sat in her tree while I have a one side conversation with her. There is an open invitation for her to visit my yard.

Autumn Ramblings…

I love the not very scarecrow and the upside down witches legs at the next store

I am in a strange mood for the start of my favorite season.  Fall has taken some of the heat out of the air and I woke up cold today.  Can you believe it was 73 F (23 C) in the house?? Every so often, I have notions about moving to somewhere quieter with better air quality but those places are always cold in the winter so, ‘No Bueno’.

Before the pandemic, I was delighted at myself for fixing the leaking U-Bend pipe under the sink, with step-by-step instructions from the local hardware store.  Then it leaked again, mid pandemic, and my husband fixed it.  This week it flooded again and the plumber had to be called.  Over the last two decades I have cultivated a cache of trusted contractors in Texas.  We came from a small village in Scotland where you could rely on word of mouth for good service.

I know the plumber’s wife very well and we chat away like old friends, both trapped in the house by work or anxiety. “Hello, Mary”, said I, “Could you send that nice young man that came before?”  As soon as the phrase was uttered, I burst out laughing, as did Mary, at how horribly ancient I sounded.  We shared memories about how embarrassing it was when our respective mothers talked to complete strangers.  You never think your mother’s words and accent are going to fly out of your mouth like Parseltongue.  Then you look in the bathroom mirror and she is staring at you…like Moaning Myrtle.

Mary told me that James would be delighted to be requested, especially from a VIP customer, such as myself.  James came early but phoned to see if that was okay (isn’t that perfect?) and arrived with his wee pal, Carlos.  Both were married and about 30 years old but seemed so young to me.  About a decade ago, I might have tried to emulate Mrs. Robinson for a good price (for the plumbing) but can only pull that off with old codgers now (the electrician, for example).

They went straight to the sink and James said, “This is my last day.”  NO!!!  Then I turned into Auntie Kerry as he told me that he had to take 2 months off work because his mother, in Washington State, just had a serious stroke and was awaiting a brain operation.  He was really agitated about it, understandably, but particularly because he might lose the best job he had ever had.  We chatted some more about making difficult decisions but I assured him that he was making a good decision.  Life is so short; he would probably regret not going and the plumbing company would keep the job open as long as they could.  If not, there is always a need for contractors.

As they were fixing the sink and then the cistern, I whispered to Teddy about the situation and asked him to find a nice geological rock for James as he collects them.  As they were leaving, and undercharging us, Teddy presented James with an ancient rock from Ireland and one from Scotland.  Carlos was just standing, being supportive to his colleague and I felt sorry for him.  So…I asked him if he would like a Popsicle?  Now I had gone from Auntie to Granny Kerry.  They both left, looking happier with popsicles and rocks.  How does this happen and when did I turn from sexy cougar to nice Nana?  Thank goodness I still have my gardener who calls me Babe!  Even Martha Stewart does thirst trap Instagrams.

On the squirrel front, ‘Half’ has been behaving badly.  He was chasing everyone off the deck so he could eat all the peanuts.  I opened the back door and shouted, “Half! I am going to smack your bottom, if you don’t stop that.”  Distant neighbors will be calling social services about the Scandinavian neighbor who assaults her children  The drought has returned and I am watering the garden again.  Yesterday I went into the back yard in my disgusting nightie (stains, no shape).  As I was hosing, a GIANT grasshopper landed on my head.  I had a tiny mental break, lost control of the hose which soaked me and my newly cleaned windows.  The grasshopper was terrified too.

I got washed and went to Trader Joe for groceries.  It’s a hip and groovy store and all the checkout staff are interesting…  My Dude was about 45 years old and looked like he had started a degree at a liberal arts college in California.  In my imagination, weed and surfing took over his life and now he works at a store.  He was so friendly, Bro, and we started talking.  I had bought some cans of wine (it’s a trailer home next) that were pre-mixed with sparkling water for Teddy’s restrictive diet.  The label said that the beverage was for those with an active lifestyle?  I started laughing and told him that I fully intended to sit motionless on my sofa and watch Netflix with said cans of wine.  He laughed and suggested I drink the harder stuff at the weekend.  In response, I told him that I only drink Jagermeister at the weekend (I was joking) but he looked at the old lady with new respect.  For the Brits, Jagermeister is the equivalent of Buckfast.  Gives you a hell of a hangover.

There was a big social event in the street – the second I have attended in a month!  I was so pleased with myself for going to both, behaving like a normal person and not drinking much.  But a toll has been taken – my mental health took a dip from all the social anxiety.  They were all people that I know and like but these last two years of introspection have made it difficult fight against my overwhelming desire to stay at home all the time.  I know it is important to keep challenging myself so although I didn’t feel like it, I kept a promise to visit one of our local antique towns today, with Teddy, and regretted it almost immediately.  Still, I followed through, and that’s important to improve my health.  Now we are meeting friends for lunch on Thursday.  Go, Kerry, Go!

Who doesn’t love a Corpse Bride at the Wedding Store?

Clouds and Water

I thought it was snowing on the way to Rockport, Texas. That was very unlikely given the 100 F temperature. To my intense excitement, it was little bits of cotton in the air. The fields were full of cotton crop or wrapped bales. The pink wrapper is in honor of a cotton farmer’s wife who died of breast cancer.

This is the sky at sunrise over the bay. The dark clouds just disappeared even though they briefly promised water in a drought…

An almost empty beach at Mustang Island State Park. Even though it was early in the morning, it was too hot, with warnings to stay inside because of the high UV.

Sunrise sparkling on the dock in Fulton. The sentinels are brown pelicans, getting in some early fishing before the dolphins arrived.

A fishing chair outside our hotel at Port Lavaca, looking onto Matagorda Bay. I lived dangerously and went beyond the sign – nothing happened. When I looked at the sign later, I noted the last sentence. Alligators, methinks! There was also an oyster bed to the left of the chair.

Happy memories of summer although it is still 98 F here – longing for a real Fall.

Ruby Anniversary Trip

After our anniversary trip was Covid Cancelled, we decided to take a road trip to our favorite part of the Gulf Coast in Texas. Our final destination was Rockport/Fulton, an idyllic fishing, wildlife and artist colony. This is a silhouette of Teddy looking for dolphins at our hotel. We saw them all day, every day. A Mom, Dad and baby dolphin who delighted in taking the catch of the leisure fisherman’s lines.

The sand at Mustang Island is perfectly soft and white. I love getting my toes in the beach but then hate having sandy sandals all day…

We ate at our favorite fish restaurant in Rockport, Latitude 28.02. I dressed to match the shrimp sculpture outside the front door. Drum and Triple Tail were on the menu – local fish and freshly caught. It was so good we went again the next night.

Eagerly awaiting our fish dinner as was the Great White Egret below

We bought each other the same anniversary card although you can see that one of us is more romantic than the other from the inside notation below. Love my Teddy (Oso in Spanish)!!!

It was a perfect vacation, especially since we saw those crafty cetaceans aka sea kittens.

Forest Tails

As I write this, the ‘Eeeeee’ of Baby Hawk is preventing me from feeding all my other ‘tails’, although all their baths and bowls are freshly filled.

Baby Hawk

Our red-tailed hawks have had baby #2022.  We had our first small shower of rain after two months of drought and all the forest babies wondered what the wet stuff was falling from the sky.  Baby Hawk sobbed…  It was heartbreaking and funny.  Mother Hawk was wheeling above enjoying a refreshing shower. 

The Tail Family

All our squirrels have funky tails this year.  We have ‘Tail’ who is at least a year old – her tail was fractured but healed well.  The fur came in with strange chevron markings and a much darker gray than usual.  Then there is ‘half’, ‘three quarters’ and ‘pipe cleaner’.  ‘Half’ is extra cute and will come running for a peanut or chopped up apple – she is also a wee bruiser, using Jujitsu on her kin, perhaps that’s why she has half a tail? I am guessing that the ‘Tail’ family all have a genetic weakness with their tails or the clumsy gene.  ‘Nut Mom’ (aka me) also has the clumsy gene and break as many items as my mother did.  One day in the garden, the hawk suddenly appeared and the squirrels were blissfully sitting in the trees.  I ran out, shouted ‘lie down’ and they did!

Baby Blues

We have twin baby blue jays.  When they are first fledged, their iridescent blue feathers have not fully grown in and they have fluffy gray tummies.  The parents have a distinctive black necklace which the babies don’t have until maturity.  My friend across the cul-de-sac thought the nest was in the trees by her garden because she rescued a newly fledged blue jay from one of her dogs.  From my friend’s rose colored perspective, her ‘black lab mix’, Gertie, was just going to nuzzle the baby…  Gertie, who looks like a Rottweiler, has nearly pulled me off my feet when I took her for walkies in past years.  Then she was desperately trying to ‘nuzzle’ ducks at the pond.  Methinks she saw feathered snacks.

The baby blue jays have been so fun to watch – they have tried every voice in their repertoire.  Gentle beeping, the rusty wheel, the annoying squawk and their imitation of the red-tailed hawk.  That gets me racing to the door to check if it is a raptor.  Their mimic is pretty good but if you listen carefully, it doesn’t have the mournful lament of real hawk.  Their monogamous blue jay parents are very attentive, gently showing them how to drink from the bird bath and feed themselves.  They seem to know our garden is a safe kindergarten.

The Cardinals

The cardinals often accompany the blue jays who provide a Minder service for the smaller birds – early warning of predators.  One of the silly baby blue jays tried to sit in a tiny bush with a baby cardinal.  The father cardinal lay on the deck, with a ‘broken wing’, pretending to be injured to lure him away.  Baby blue didn’t know his own size and meant no harm.  Two American Robins, a type of thrush, have arrived from the north.  It seemed as though they had traveled through our airport system because they were exhausted and filthy!  They didn’t quite understand this garden of plenty but feasted and washed.  They have settled in the oak tree in the front.

The Laurel

Alas, not everything survived our drought.  In the early spring our Texas Mountain Laurel was glorious, covered in blossoms but by early summer she suddenly died.  We have raised her for about 8 years so we are sad.  Your swan song was glorious.

On a lighter final note, Wanja Joseph, commented on my post Dolphins are Jerks

“I am having a hard time describing or thinking of those sea kittens as naughty or crafty. My innocence is gone! Beautiful shots”

Henceforth our squirrels are known as tree kittens…

Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga

This is the third location of what was also called the Aranama Mission or Mission La Bahia, established in 1722 in Goliad, Texas.  Previous missions were at Matagorda and Lavaca Bay then named La Bahía del Espíritu Santo (The Bay of the Holy Spirit), on the south west coast of Texas on the Gulf.  On our involuntary vacation trip, we visited the town of Goliad first and then went to see the Mission itself, a short distance away on the banks of the San Antonio River.

The intention of the third location was to settle in a place that the native people, the Aranama, would be willing to stay and work, as well as establish territory to defeat the French, in particular. At its peak there were 40,000 head of cattle at the Mission making it the largest ranch in the area and run by the Franciscan order. I often wonder what the indigenous people thought – did Missions make their lives easier or was it just stolen land? They would have offered protection against some of the more warlike Tribes and a regular supply of food albeit with forced conversion to Catholicism.

One of my Irish cousins is a Missionary nun. For many years she worked in Africa. When she was older they moved her to a poverty stricken housing estate in Glasgow, Scotland. I was curious as to how she adapted but she loved it! Most people who meet me make assumptions based on my Scottish accent and seem to think I lived a fabulous life (in a castle?). Many people my age immigrated from Scotland to other countries to achieve a better life.

The building itself fell into disrepair over the years and was reconstructed as part of the New Deal in the 1930’s.  From visiting other Missions in Mexico and California, it seems authentic to me.  I was enchanted by the simplicity of the church and the pastoral lands surrounding it.

Mission Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo de Zuniga is a bit of a mouthful, as was my Spanish given name – Katherine Louise Dellinger de Ortega.  My ancestors settled in Spanish Missions from central Mexico up to San Francisco.  When I was in McAllen, the Mexican American receptionist commented on my Scottish accent and I said, “You won’t believe what my maiden name was!”  After the reveal she said, “Well, that is a brown name!”  I was so happy that she recognized my Mestizo heritage despite my Caucasian appearance – few people do.

Goliad

Goliad Courthouse

Our next stop on the Involuntary Vacation was one that excited us both.  Goliad is a town steeped in the history of Texas invasion and independence.  It was first settled by Spanish conquistadores in 1749.  This mission, Presidio La Bahia, is a short distance from the current town on the banks of the San Antonio river and it was built on the site of an existing Aranama village.  It was renamed Goliad, an anagram of Father Hidalgo who was a hero of the Mexican war of independence (from Spain) in 1821.

In 1835 the first Texas declaration of Independence was signed on the altar of the Presidio chapel.  Texas is the only mainland state that was an independent nation before joining the USA.  That is why the Texas flag may fly at the same level as the US flag.  The revolutionaries were a mixture of Tejano and white settlers.  In 1836, Colonel Fannin, of the Texas Revolutionary Army, and 341 of his soldiers surrendered in the battle of Coleto Creek.  The next day they were shot by the Mexican army outside the walls of the Presidio.  This was the Goliad Massacre.

In 1836 General Sam Houston, the Governor of the Texas Republic, granted some land to the settlers where the current courthouse and market square are located.  My father and his grandfather, one of the early settlers in Texas, had the middle name Houston to honor the General.  I am highly amused when people ask me about my Scottish heritage because of my accent…(I have no Scottish roots but long Texan ones).

Pretty Masonic Lodge
Dentist and Title Company on the Goliad square
Longhorns were the first cattle raised by early settlers

There is a Hanging Tree on the north lawn of the courthouse.  There is a rather sad history of excessive violence and ruthlessness for a period which was ended by the Texas Rangers.  Perhaps the turbulent history of the settlement led to part of this.  When the early settlers returned from fighting in the battle for Texas independence some of their farms had been ransacked.  It is conveniently forgotten that all this land belonged to indigenous people before any of the settlers arrived.  There is very little knowledge of the Aranama Tribe.  It was believed they were farmers and after the Spanish invasion some moved north and the last survivors were likely absorbed into the Hispanic population.

References Texas State Historical Association and the City of Goliad

Pawnee, Texas

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??? 🧟‍♀️