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??? 🧟‍♀️

Stylish Miss Laurel

This is our Texas Mountain Laurel. For the first time, since we adopted her (from our neighbor), she is covered in blooms. They have a very intense smell – almost like grape bubblegum. By sheer coincidence the color is exactly the same as the Pantone Color of the Year 2022, Very Peri. I think she just wants to be fashionable like her mom… I have no idea why I anthropomorphize plants but I love to hug my trees and name them. Perhaps it’s natural, given I was born in San Francisco to a couple of beatniks!

Courtesy of House Beautiful

This is one of my favorite colors. One generous boyfriend bought me a gorgeous midi length sunray pleated skirt in periwinkle blue/lilac. My mum hated lilac so that made the purchase even better! Curiously, although he was generous and I was thankful, I didn’t like my clothes being chosen for me. I have trained Teddy never to buy me clothes and especially not lingerie! He did get me a free lilac fleecy dressing gown with some perfume and I have been wearing it for over a decade but I don’t think that counts as lingerie.

This is Miss Laurel in her full glory. She was planted next to another bush, a Japanese Yew, who died despite my best efforts. That has given her room to spread her branches. We are headed into a drought cycle in Texas and I think she might like the drier conditions. Originally mountain laurels came from the Chihuahua desert in Mexico. When the blooms fall off there will be very poisonous seed pods. Teddy better behave…

Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Despite my lapsed Catholic status, I had no idea what a Minor Basilica was until I researched this post.  There are just 4 Major Basilicas in the world and are regarded as personal churches for the Pope.  There are many Minor Basilicas which are an elevation of  a Cathedral, followed by Churches and finally  Chapels.

The Parish of Natchitoches in Louisiana was first founded in 1728 and the first church was built within the walls of the Fort St Jean Baptiste circa 1729-1733.  Pope Pius IX granted Cathedral status to the 6th Church of the Immaculate Conception in 1853. The current Minor Basilica, below and in all the images, is the 7th church built in the general area.

The building above is the current and hopefully final building.  It was completed circa 1900-1905.  Pope Benedict elevated it from a Cathedral to Minor Basilica status in 2009.  The turbulent history surrounding the Basilica belies its peaceful appearance, from its beginning in colonial Louisiana through fire, Civil War and finally a magnificent edifice in a sleepy little town.

I was struck by how this architecture and interior differed from Cathedrals and Churches in Texas. It echoed the French style of the original Arcadian settlers. The arches were so finely painted in gold and the chandeliers sparkled. On the first stained glass image you can see the Fleur de Lys, the state flower and symbol of Louisiana.

One Little Duckling

Our curiously mild weather has the ducks thinking it is Spring. There is one little duckling being guarded by an entire flock of Muscovy ducks. Mom and Dad are probably a young breeding pair who don’t remember that we had an ice storm last February. All the ducks have excellent shelter in the roots of some large trees. They are guarding her for another reason…

As I approached the ducks, I could hear the crows mobbing so I looked for a predator and found one. This is a beautiful Cooper’s Hawk who was just minding his own business but was not welcome. I was shooting into the sun so couldn’t get a clear image of him. The silhouette is quite effective at giving a sinister feel.

By contrast, this lovely pair of Egyptian Geese were utterly chill and refused to move for me. Our relationship has progressed. They are new to the pond and last week they hissed (cussed in Arabic) at me. After a very long conversation, they have decided I am safe.

I found a new visitor last week – a nutria. She allowed me to come really close and have a good look at her thick coat and long tail. They are an invasive species from Latin America and look like little capybaras or beavers. Usually the Park Ranger removes them so that they don’t damage the integrity of the containment pond – they burrow extensively. The one time that I have seen them up close and I didn’t have my camera! C’est La Vie…

Image of Nutria, courtesy of Pixabay

Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile

This is the oldest hardware store in Louisiana – the Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile in Natchitoches, LA. It was founded in 1863, during the American Civil War, by Jewish Prussian immigrants who were looking for a welcoming place to settle. The store is still owned by descendants of the family.

This is an original working till from 1910. I LOVE hardware stores and have been known to loiter with intent in my local Ace store… Kaffie Frederick was the stuff of nostalgic dreams and totally unexpected. Despite it’s historical magnificence, it’s a working hardware store, with some unique old toys.

Look at the original paneling on the walls and those amazing tools! They looked as though they could have been used in battle…

It’s amazing to think that the store was opened before electricity was in general use, so you needed natural light, and perhaps some gas lights. I wanted to say thank you to the owners for preserving something so special, even if it was by accident.

This is so much more practical and sustainable that plastic packs of nails and screws. Below is a side view of Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile from the street.

Down-Home Christmas

Keep it simple this holiday season. We are in year two of this pandemic and it is so wearying. Some of our visits to family or friends might have to be postponed. When I feel stressed about this, I remember that all four of my grandparents lived through the WWI, WWII and the Spanish Flu pandemic! I bet they had many years when they wondered if life would ever get back to normal and what would that look like? My father in law spent at least four Christmas’s in a POW camp in East Germany, working in a salt mine.

Our trip to our favorite town of Tomball snapped us back to reality. Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. We will be alone this year and it will be fun. Pajamas and Netflix are on the menu. A friend gifted me some fresh chestnuts last week. I haven’t seen any for a decade. After boiling them, Teddy and I stood laboriously taking the double skins off. The internet advice about how to make this task easier was POPPYCOCK!! I cut myself, broke my nail down to the quick and ate half of what I was peeling. They tasted amazing.

Teddy hates nutcrackers in the same way that others hate clowns. It was very kind of him to sit in front of them – nervous but tentatively smiling. It is an historic Texas German town so there has to be nutcrackers, eh? I was amazed by the ingenuity of the various store owners. The white painted bike below is my favorite. The simple town tree in the last photograph is accompanied by a decorative oil derrick because most of Texas is sitting on oil or gas. Very little is drilled in our area anymore but we still have capped oil wells in our peaceful forest.

We passed a church food pantry with a line of cars as we walked through the town center and that gave me pause to be grateful. I am making a simple vegetable stir fry with the aforementioned dratted chestnuts on the 25th. As long as it is made with love, it will taste amazing.

On a final funny note, I ‘allowed’ Teddy to come to the supermarket with me yesterday. He skipped to the car for this special treat. He can go alone to the store but MUST NOT call me on the cell phone like the other dimwit husbands. Teddy has two degrees – figure it out! I parked the car and as we were walking to the door I noticed he was futtering with the buttons of his fleece. Not once but twice had he buttoned them in the wrong order. I rolled my eyes and gave him the withering stare that says, ‘Euthanasia is not off the table’. (Is it Euthanasia if Teddy isn’t willing??) Then I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. Remember to enjoy the little things.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, FELIZ NAVIDAD

Floral Spike with Bee

One of my most popular posts of late was Floral Spike. After reading all the comments from avid gardeners, I decided to allow my Coleus to spike even if that led to the plant’s death. My reasons were that it would likely die in the winter and that the spikes attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. I managed to snap this busy little bee foraging. Texas bees were ravaged by the February Freeze – about 25% died. This particular Coleus does look a little sad but she has fed so many garden visitors.

The Honey Bee, Apis mellifera Linnaeus, is upside down in the spike, trying to avoid my nosy gaze. In the last few weeks my other Lime Green and Maroon Coleus has also started to spike.

It almost looks like a Texas bluebonnet but the Coleus spikes are often blue. Like the other Coleus, I shall allow it to spike and feed our garden friends.

This Coleus grew from a tiny plant pot to this verdant bush in just 6 months and is still popping out little ones at the back. Being part lizard, I feel that winter has arrived and I am sitting with a fleece in front of the gas fire. It is 77 F outside…

Ducks watching Ducks

It’s been a while since I strolled around the containment pond with my pesky eye irritation. As I rounded the curve, I could hear the panicked high pitched peeps of the whistling ducks. The parents ran away from the grass where they were nesting with babies in tow and splashed into the water. The bombproof Muscovy ducks just sat and watched with perplexment. They live here year around and are domesticated – nothing to fear from humans who feed them (and keep them warm when it snows). The whistling ducks are migratory so are pretty feral and very skittish.

This year we have a bumper crop of whistling ducks to go back to Latin America. Dozens and dozens of lovely wee non-ducks, as we call them as they are neither ducks nor geese. The ducklings are just precious little ‘stripes’. I didn’t see any Muscovy ducklings this year but I think this lot are all the same family. It’s doubtful that would stop them getting frisky, though… Red faces not red necks?

On my trek back, I got a better photo of the six Muscovy Ducks. Don’t they look dapper in their evening wear? I like the touch of taupe in the middle duck and the silver one is my favorite. They look ready for the Oscars or whatever the Duck equivalent is.

Floral Spike

This is the first year that I have seen floral spikes on my Coleus plants.  When I researched this, some articles indicated that it was a precursor to the death of the plant.  We often use them as annuals but they are perennials in their native countries of Thailand, Malaysia and surrounds.  Since we are also subtropical, they should live past a year but only if we get no frost.  Our Texas mega freeze this year both killed many trees and plants, yet magically revitalized others.

Then I read another article that suggested you should let them flower, as the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees feed off them.  The freeze also killed many of Texas’ much needed bees – I have seen hardly any this year.  The hummingbirds have started to arrive, however, and we have had a lovely variety of butterflies fluttering past the window.  A little green pond hawk dragonfly follows me around when I water the garden every day.  Coleus are part of the mint family and the roots are used medicinally in South East Asia.

Treesymbolism.com states:

The coleus plant can be considered as a sign that you need to take good care of yourself and you must do everything possible to stay healthy and live a long and fulfilled life. You must always put your health at the peak of everything because this is what will give you the courage to stay fulfilled.