There was a tangible sense of excitement as the lead horse approached, dancing his way across the main street in Tomball that was closed for this yearly pilgrimage of trail riders to the Houston Rodeo, the biggest in the USA. Then the crowd started cheering as they welcomed the wagons with mules and horse riders.
Sam Houston Trail Ride
There are 12 trail rides that come from all over the south Texas area to converge in Memorial Park in central Houston. The Sam Houston Trail arrives in Tomball on their third day. They are on route to Houston and the trail originates from Pinehurst, Montgomery County. All the trails are astonishing when you think that they have to traverse a vast city full of interstates but it reflects the original settler’s routes which eventually turned into proper roads.
It tugs on my heart strings because I can envision how life was like for my early pioneer ancestors, especially my great grandparents, Sam Houston and Lillie Dellinger who settled in Oklahoma and north Texas. He was named after the original Sam Houston, one of the original leaders of the Texas Revolution. My great grandfather was an intriguing man, well named, some might say. Even my father’s middle name was Houston. All the signs were pointing to us ending up as Texan folks even though I was born in California.
I love all animals but I am particularly fond of donkeys and mules – an elderly donkey was one of my first sponsored animals as a child. The wagons were just amazingly well restored.
One of the groups comprised of two charming brothers from Cajun Country in Louisiana. They had taken the animals on trucks over to Pinehurst to join the trail. One of them asked me if I would like to get on his horse! He was so handsome that I would have been delighted if it was a euphemism… 😉 Teddy was there, however, and I stupidly wore a short skirt so couldn’t attempt getting on his horse without taking my skirt off first. Maybe in 2022 we will have conquered Covid-19, the trail riders will visit again and I could try to get on my first horse!
This softly spoken cowboy was whispering sweet nothings to his adorable mare in case she was frightened by the crowd. Everyone was so well behaved especially the little children.
El Campo cemetery in the old town, San Diego
My nomadic ancestors have graves all over the world but I recently found out that some of them settled in San Diego as early pioneers. This provoked my recent visit to San Diego. Leaving the airport, I had a very personable Uber driver who took me to my hotel in the Gaslamp area, to drop my bag, and then straight to the oldest cemetery in San Diego, El Campo. It is situated in what was once the old town and now has a replica pioneer town. At first I was surprised at how small and basic the cemetery was but there was something haunting about the simple stone markers and recent wooden stakes. Much of the cemetery was taken over when a new railroad was built and many of the residents were re interred in a different part of the city.
This plaque is in remembrance of my great-great-great grandfather Jesse or Julian Ames, a pioneer from Connecticut. His daughter Matilda is my direct link to this very large family. The Ames family has a very large family get-together every year – perhaps I will ask for an invitation? He was born in 1807 and died in 1866.
This is the grave of my other great-great-great grandfather, Juan Maria Marron who was born in 1808 or 1809. From researching historical records there were many people with very similar names born at the same time in San Diego. The re interred graves caused some more confusion but my ancestors are there somewhere and more importantly their spirits live in the modern city of San Diego. Juan and Julian’s children married and are my great-great grandparents.
Grave of an Indian Maiden
Of all the graves I looked at, this grave of an Indian maiden pulled at my heartstrings. Did she die of a European plague such as smallpox or flu? Or perhaps life was just harsh back in those days. So many women died in childbirth although I think referencing her as a maiden means that she was without children. Then my mind wandered to my Mestizo heritage. Was this a maiden taken from Mexico or a local native? Cemeteries are so interesting, especially if you have a personal link. In those days, San Diego would have been paradise, good weather, fine farming and seas full of fish.
Pioneer Farmer’s Wife
When you are in the temple complex of the Latter Day Saints, it is easy to envision what drew Brigham Young to settle in this area of Salt Lake City. Within the city limits there is a small canyon and a creek that runs through it, City Creek and Canyon.
To my utter fascination, it runs right through the modern shopping mall – beautifully designed. This historic park is a lovely way to demonstrate how hard it was for the early settlers to tame this harsh environment. This is a lovely little oasis in the center of the city although the Salt Lake City is generally serene with a beautiful backdrop of mountains.
Pioneer planting methods
Original City Creek running through the modern mall
My cousin told me a wonderful tale which I thought might be apocryphal until I researched it – The Miracle of the Gulls. In 1848, when the first Mormon pioneers were struggling to grow crops, they were almost devastated by an invasion of what is known as ‘Mormon crickets’. They are really members of the Katydid family – shudder… When all seemed lost in came a migration of gulls that regularly ate at the Salt Lake. This time they gorged on the Mormon Crickets, so much so that they regurgitated the first buffet and then started again thus saving the crops. Isn’t nature amazing? If I was a pioneer, I would have been convinced that it was a miracle instead of something naturally occurring. Maybe it was a miracle?
Mountain view from Salt Lake City
When you look at the landscape you have to admire the tenaciousness of the Mormon Pioneers. They had almost nowhere else to go, having been persecuted for their beliefs in other states, and yet managed to conquer this inhospitable place. It is as hot as hell in the summer and incredibly cold with major snowfalls in the winter. A wonderful environment now that we have tourism and modern facilities, especially air conditioning. It is a rich state and their hard work has made it so.
City Creek Mall