Keepers of the Light

After more than thirty years, the place names of South Texas feel familiar as my own. Boca Chica, Cavallo and Copano. Carancahua. Tres Palacios. Espiritu Santo. The bays and passes, the long southward slope of the coast, the gritty beaches and wind-bent oaks embrace and hold the history of a rich and complex world.

There are stories and legends, told and re-told by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who lived them. Artifacts of an earlier time lie bleached and scattered like bones across the landscape. Spanish anchors turn up behind plows. French cannons surprise ranch hands in the field.  Tiny settlements cling to life, rooted in and named for the explorations of such men as René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, shapers of a land they barely understood.

At the water’s edge, the shadow of Indianola lingers. Wiped off the map by twin hurricanes, the port’s ghostly tide of immigrants ebbs away into forgetfulness.  Marvelous ships sleep mired in the bays and the Matagorda lighthouse, that great, silent sentinel, offers relief and guidance to those uncertain of their course.

I love Matagorda, both the island and the light. Walking beneath that great, gray tower I well may have crossed paths with my great-great-grandfather, David Crowley, whose own presence on Matagorda resulted from a remarkable combination of choice and circumstance.  Still a young man at age thirty, he’d taken the proverbial advice and gone west.  Years later, his 1907 obituary provided a detail or two:

He was in the Rocky Mountain region seeking for gold when the news reached his camp that the flag was fired upon. He said to his fellow gold seekers, “I am going back to Iowa to volunteer. If the flag is going down I’m going down with it.”  He returned to Chariton and enlisted in Co. K, 34th Iowa, on August 9, 1862.

According to an itinerary for the 34th Iowa contained within  The War of the Rebellion:  A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,
the men began their Civil War service at Helena, Arkansas, arriving aboard the vessel Iotan as part of the Army of the Mississippi. After an attempt to surprise Vicksburg from the north failed – the so-called Yazoo Pass Expedition – they moved south, to join the Battle of Vicksburg.

After Vicksburg, the Regiment moved south to Carrollton, Louisiana, where it was assigned the task of transporting prisoners through the Atchafalaya swamp.  After losing a number of men to disease in the process, they sailed for Texas.  By November 5, 1863, the men had arrived at Boca Chica and bivouaced near the mouth of the Rio Grande. Sometime between November 14-16 they marched north from Brownsville to Port Isabel, capturing 39 bales of cotton along the way. (Whether the cotton bales offered resistance is not recorded.) Corpus Christi and Aransas Pass fell in the middle of the month and by November 19th, David Crowley had landed on St. Joseph Island.

Other Union troops soon arrived, joining with the 34th to effect the capture of Ft. Esperanza. Advancing to the north, they crossed over to Matagorda after a brief skirmish at Cedar Bayou, a shallow cut separating the two islands.  Under the command of General T. E. G. Ransom, forces reached Fort Esperanza on November 27.  After two days the Confederates, outnumbered and outflanked, evacuated the fort after spiking the guns, firing their stores and blowing up their magazines. The fort was occupied and repaired by the Union forces, who used it as their base of operations for future campaigns in the area.

An unidentified soldier from that expedition writes:

On the 22d we crossed Orange Bay, landed on St. Joseph Island, and next morning took our line of march without baggage or transportation. We managed to each carry one or two blankets and three days’ rations. We moved eighteen miles and arrived about sundown at Cedar Bayou, a stream about 100 yards in width, which divides St. Joseph and Matagorda Islands. We were here nearly two days in crossing this stream.
While crossing this bayou, some of us who were not engaged in the work went out hunting deer, and were fortunate enough to kill not less than two dozen; and quite a number of choice beeves, all of which were well relished by hungry officers and soldiers.
The last of our troops gained Matagorda Island about 11 o’clock at night, marched up the beach eight miles, and camped until morning. Next day we marched twenty-five miles, which brought us within ten miles of [Fort Esperanza]…

In any list of significant Civil War battles, Fort Esperanza surely would appear toward the bottom. When it comes to famous encampments, Cedar Bayou, Crowe’s Landing, St. Joseph Island and Pass Cavallo probably won’t be mentioned.

And yet, between his first battle at Vicksburg and his mustering out in Houston, my great-great-grandfather and his regiment fought, camped and marched across the same beaches and dunes I cherish today, helping to secure the very island that has given me so much pleasure.

Ironically, he never had opportunity to see the steady flashing of the Matagorda light – Confederate forces, seeking to gain every possible advantage, had removed the Fresnel lens and buried it in the sand prior to the arrival of Union troops. Nevertheless, as he and his companions went about their business beneath the half-destroyed lighthouse, a different sort of light began to shine as their President, Abraham Lincoln, spoke a few words on November 19, 1863.

News traveled slowly in those days.  Camped out on their Texas barrier island the day Lincoln rose to speak in Gettysburg, the troops of the 34th Iowa certainly waited days – prehaps even weeks – to learn of the address. However long they waited to read the President’s words, once David Crowley had opportunity, he was impressed. Precisely how impressed no one knew, until he mustered out of the Army in Houston, returned to Iowa, married and established the farm that would support his growing family.

Having fought to preserve the Union he so passionately loved, David Crowley took the words of Abraham Lincoln as his own. He memorized them, recited them and cherished them, requiring of his children that they do the same. Remembering how her own grandfather recited the address on patriotic occasions and encouraged her to commit it to memory, my mother said, “It was as though he felt personally responsible for keeping those words alive.”

As a schoolgirl, I memorized Lincoln’s words in Civics class and recited them for my parents with pride, feeling their power long before I understood their significance. Today, hearing them again, I only can hope that future generations will pass them on with as much reverence and passion as those who have come before.  Like the Matagorda light, they shine into the darkness of history, offering relief and guidance to those uncertain of their course. Still, every light demands a keeper. David Crowley did his part. Perhaps we should do ours.

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68 thoughts on “Keepers of the Light

  1. A-ha! I figured you were up to something. I see the new title and the picture of the lighthouse and think: “I’m right there. Got lots of stories about lighthouses.”

    Then we follow the troops and I’ll have to listen to Gettysburg Address. Seems to me we read it in school up here as well.
    All your writing is a pleasure to read but these assignments always lead me “Madly off in all directions”

    1. Ken,

      I’ve been sitting on this post since last November, when I suddenly realized I’d missed the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. I stuck the draft in my files, and managed to remember it this year.

      As these things happen, the delay was good, because I’ve come into much more information about Gramps and his Civil War days, including some stories from Mom.

      The linked story about the lighthouse is quite detailed and good. The Confederate troops tried to blow it up after they buried the lens on the beach, but didn’t have much luck. For one thing, it was made of iron plates, and they didn’t have enough powder.

      Nice touch, the Leacock quotation. I hadn’t a clue he was Canadian!


      1. I had no clue it was Leacock. I just like the line.
        Makes me wonder: The Rebels buried the lens and tried to destroy the lighthouse?
        Can not imagine what these “Occupy” people are going to do. According to local news we have some movements close to us – I have yet to get down there

    1. montucky,

      The research needed for this single post increased my admiration for people who write about big, complicated histories at least several hundredfold!

      I think we tend to forget that human history is, after all, human history – the stories of people. They’re fun to discover, and fun to tell.

      Thanks for the kind words!


  2. What a lovely way to tell a story of difficult times. My hat’s off to you, Linda.

    I’ve only been south of Houston one time. Took a long weekend to enjoy Corpus. At a very nice outside hotel parking lot, someone busted the window out of my new car – to steal my mobile phone, even though it was “permanently” installed. That was about twenty-five years ago. It was traumatic enough to remind this country girl to stay home! I wish I could forget more easily.

    Your posts are reminding me – there really is a beautiful world out there to actually visit. I’ll keep reading them for enjoyment … and therapy! It could work!

    1. Texasjune,

      Oh, I hate when that happens! I’ve never had a car broken into, but I was mugged once, in Houston, right at my front gate. The good news about that was that (1) I learned I’m quite a screamer, and (2) there only was 89 cents in my wallet. Poor guy. I got a call the next day from an elderly couple in the Montrose. They’d found my wallet in their geranium bed and found me through the ID still in it. I still laugh about that.

      I’ve been lucky enough to spend a good bit of time in the area south and west of San Antonio, especially along the coast. It’s a rich, rich area historically, and the people are wonderful. One of these days I’ll tell some stories of my first months there – if I think I can stand the embarassment. City-to-country can be pretty danged funny!

      I love having you visit here – and thanks so much for your kind words!


  3. This is so well written. My husband is from Beeville and my mother-in-law is from Robstown. Being from Mexico I found all the Spanish names in your introductory paragraph fascinating.

    This line and the story of the lens is memorable/ironic: “Nevertheless, as he and his companions went about their business beneath the half-destroyed lighthouse, a different sort of light began to shine as their President, Abraham Lincoln, spoke a few words on November 19, 1863.”

    You really have a way of looking at the big picture through all the details and still find a very special meaning for yourself. Love how tightly woven and interconnected everything is. Thank you for your hard work that reads so smoothly.

    1. georgette,

      Ah – you have roots, and understand how truly rich and satisfying the South Texas culture is. It’s understandable that the history of the area begins and ends with the Alamo for most people – even while the Presidio La Bahia, the painted churches of Praha (and elsewhere) and the beautiful desolation of Baffin Bay are often ignored.

      As for irony – it’s in those small, ironic details that some of the best stories have their genesis. When I discovered my ancestor had been on Matagorda, it was a story. When I discovered he’d never seen the light as it should be seen, it became a good story.

      Thank you for mentioning the structure of the post. Sometimes I become acutely aware of how much good writing is craft, rather than inspiration.


  4. I always love when history and his story can come together. When it’s family history that is tied to a place you love it’s even better.

    Great story, great telling.

    1. Gary,

      People and places – they’re good separately, but they’re better together. And, as you rightly say, when you can bring past and present together in one place, it’s just the best.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and the kind words. Glad you enjoyed the tale. We’ve got rumors of rain for this coming week – we’ll keep hoping!


      1. We were teased with sprinkles yesterday. Today already we’ve had a few more. Strange as it may be, everything this fall is looking greener than it has in months.

  5. How wonderful to carry such a deep and direct connection to the past and frame it so that it resonates in the present. Beautifully done, Linda. That’s quite a beacon you have shone–changes the way we look at things.
    Thank you.

    1. ds,

      it didn’t occur to me until writing this post that the “nostalgia for the past” that so many people ridicule may actually be something quite different. It may be a living connection to the past that people are hungering for.

      Santayana’s famous aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, has become almost a commonplace, but it’s true. Our lack is in taking “remembering” for purely recollection. It’s that, but it’s more – a “re-membering” that involves putting sinew and flesh to the bones of history. Story-telling is one way we do that.

      After all, what’s more fun than letting a light shine on the world?


  6. As always, your research — and the words you choose to share it — dazzle me to the bone! I always learn something at your posts, something I’d never have thought to look for before. Today’s is no exception! What a fascinating history. Three cheers!

    1. jeanie,

      Thanks, lady! You know I appreciate your taking the time to stop by this time of year – you have to be chasing your creative tail 24/7 to get it all done.

      One of the things I couldn’t put out of my mind while researching this is just how long I’ve had some of the bits and pieces lying about. There are some letters, some Civil War documents, some copies of courthouse records – but I’d never really taken the time to put them together.

      Joan Montgomery, a Homer Laughlin collector I’ve never met, finally got me off my duff when she sent me some information about the family she found online. That’s when I started browsing about, picking up details here and details there, and putting the pieces together.

      If i can find the documentation, I may even write the story of how G-G-Grandpa helped Mom and me during the Hurricane Rita evacuation. Living history, taken to a new level!


  7. It was even more interesting than your fifty word synopsis!

    As Georgette said –
    “You really have a way of looking at the big picture through all the details and still find a very special meaning for yourself.”

    I agree, but might be tempted to change it to …
    “You really have a way of painting a picture through all the details and still find a very special meaning for yourself.”

    Thank you for all your hard work in researching your posts – the resulting entry produces total pleasure for your readers.

    1. Sandi,

      I wish I could find – or even quote correctly – a little rule for non-fiction writers I once read. The point was, for every sentence written, you’ll spend more time than you can imagine fact-finding and fact-checking – and how true that is!

      You’re having a taste of that yourself these days, sorting out questions of the trotter-vs-hands sort. But those details matter, and can make all the difference between “good” and “great”. It isn’t that one is more “right” than the other, but that consistency needs to be maintained. That’s detail work, for sure!

      It reminds me of Mark Twain’s famous aphorism – “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the story – you’ve compiled enough family history for a good number of stories, I should think!


    1. Jo,

      I remember my feeling of fascination when I read Paul Theroux’s “The Happy Isles of Oceania”, especially the chapters on NZ and Australia. The very chapter heading, “Walkabout in Woop Woop” made me smile, then, laugh, then smile again.

      If i could provide you even 1/1000 of that, I’m just so pleased. Civil War Texas wasn’t quite the outback, but it wasn’t high society, either!


  8. Such a great story rich in family history!

    I have a totally off topic question. Are the islands that are just off shore really close? Sometimes maps can be deceiving. We visited Corpus Cristi when we lived there, but I don’t remember seeing land offshore. Of course we are talking eons ago – so my memory surely doesn’t serve me that well.

    Also, you must not receive big swells on shore with those islands – if they are close. I’m just curious. On a map, Santa Catalina looks pretty far off our shore – and it is about 26-27 miles, but we can see the mountains on the island unless there are low clouds obscuring our view. The islands depicted above look much close than that.

    And now I know why you did a double take when I wrote something about Bolsa Chica, because I did when I read Boca Chica!!!

    1. Karen,

      Yes, the barrier islands are close. Take a look at this map and you can see it. There’s a ferry at Port Aransas, and a 4.5 mile long causeway from Corpus to North Padre Island. Also notice – if you’re on the bayfront in Corpus, the bay is so large that you don’t see the barrier islands along the coast.

      There’s quite a difference between Catalina and our barrier islands. Ours are more like big, fat sandbars that just happen to be above water. There are dunes – some relatively large – but essentially the islands are flat. And the islands take the swells and surf during storms, protecting the mainland. That’s why erosion and flooding can be such a problem during hurricanes.

      And don’t forget – Galveston is a barrier island. The Gulf is on one side, bay on the other. You have to come across a causeway to get onto Galveston – and if a storm is coming, you’d better leave early! The seawall was built after the 1900 storm to protect the city – and the entire city was raised to make things more secure. I wrote about that after Ike – the post has some photos of the raising of Galveston.

      Amazing, the similarities and differences!


  9. I won’t look for new ways to say what everyone else has already told you–this is a fine post.

    I did not know you had a Civil War veteran following you around nagging you to tell stories–and to remember every word of the Gettysburg Address. I’m obsessed with them myself–not their war itself so much, but their lives after the war, here in Antrim County. It’s very absorbing. (Have you ordered David Crowley’s Civil War pension file?)

    1. Gerry,

      Thank you, ma’am. I’m glad you enjoyed it – that is, after all, the point of this little endeavor.

      Your description of the situation is exactly right. Since I first discovered “my” Crowley’s connection to Texas and Louisiana, I’ve been paying attention. Matter of fact, my first trip to Mississippi was ostensibly for the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, but the real point was to stay at Uncle Henry’s on Moon Lake, and read about the Yazoo Pass Expedition. It is absorbing – that’s the perfect word.

      I haven’t ordered the pension file – in fact, didn’t realize you could do such a thing. On the other hand, I already have copies of a few documents: his regiment’s service record from the Des Moines State Historical Company (1881), the Indiana marriage license for he and Annie, the declaration for an Invalid Pension, declaration for Widow’s Pension and assorted general affidavits, including one from his commanding officer.

      The most delightful detail comes from the records of his Company. Seems a year after his stint on Matagorda, he was serving as a Woodchopper’s Clerk – I haven’t pinned down his location at that point.

      I suppose I should be quiet now, and not write another chapter here in the comments. But it sounds like you might understand.


  10. You are the most elegant of writers. I hope you are, or at least are considering, writing a book. You’ve taken us on an incredible and inspiring journey here–and that daguerreotype (I’m assuming it’s that?) is remarkable. How lucky that you have it, that it wasn’t lost or tossed aside.

    1. Susan,

      Elegant? Oh, my. You’ve made my day, especially since I’d like my blog to be the Little Black Dress of the web. Given a choice between Coco Chanel and Lady Gaga… Well, you take my point.

      As for a book… there are two adult non-fiction books in my head, one with a title. There’s a children’s book, also titled, and three short stories, two of them titled. One of the short stories also is for children, with a name for the main character that came to me fully-formed in the middle of the night.

      What am I doing with all of this? Nothing. Yet. But there’s clearly movement, however subterrranean. It’s been four months since Mom’s death. Each of those months has had its own storyline, its own preoccupations. Now, it’s time to continue de-cluttering my life and reorganizing what’s left. We’ll see what happens.

      As for the daguerrotype, I found it tucked in amongst some recipes, sales receipts, family correspondence and such. It took some time to figure out what it was!

      I see you’re taking some time for the upcoming holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!


  11. The etymologist will add that the name Matagorda is really a Spanish description. Mata translates as ‘shrub, grove, copse, underbrush,’ and gorda as ‘fat, thick,’ so a mata gorda is a place with thick underbrush.

    And it doesn’t take an etymologist to recognize a well-told tale.

    1. Steve,

      Ah – and of course we could add “Port Lavaca”, since it occurs to me “la vaca” would enjoy the “mata gorda”!

      It also makes sudden sense of the name of one of my favorite places in the world – Virgin Gorda. A quick run through the Wiki revealed that Columbus chose the name because the boulders look like a plump, reclining woman. And they do.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the tale – and added to it!


  12. Hello Linda,

    I agree with what everyone else has said, you have such a beautiful way with words. You can take something historical and add a personal touch that makes it even more interesting.

    Thank you so much for another delightful story and history lesson.


    1. Patti,

      It’s amazing to me that even now I remember history class in school as rather dry and boring – long lists of dates, places and names to be memorized. Of course all that is important, but it’s remarkable how much Civil War history is falling into place now – and now many dates and places I can remember – since it’s become part of a story.

      I don’t know enough about the history of education to say this with certainty, but prior to “dry and boring” in high school, there was a period of time where “captivating and exciting” was the rule. Perhaps different teaching styles were instituted, and it wasn’t just the subject matter that put us to sleep.

      In any event, I’m having a wonderful time exploring all this – finding the inconsistencies and trying to figure them out, especially. I’m glad you enjoyed it!


  13. How amazing that you’ve discovered you are walking the same sands your great-great-granddad did and that both of you wound up in Texas, though the family is from Iowa.

    You also have a lovely way of seguing from one subject to another, though at first glance, they seem totally unrelated. I wish my mind had that knack of finding common threads and connections. I’m a bit of a scatterbrain, flitting hither and yon. It probably explains why you are the writer and I’m the reader!

    We memorized the Gettysburg Address in elementary school but I couldn’t recite it now, if my life depending on it. I’ll be in trouble!

    I was a bit of an odd duck as I did like to read my high school history books for fun, when I got them at the beginning of the year. I have to agree with you about the actual classes, though. They were dry and boring.

    I don’t really remember much about my SC history class in either the second or third grade but I do get a warm fuzzy feeling when I think about it. I suspect, though, that being geared towards students that young, the book was fairly light on all those boring dates and focused more on interesting aspects of SC history.

    1. Gué,

      Tracking back a bit farther, I’ve discovered that the Crowley line isn’t really “from” Iowa. The roots are in Virginia and Ireland – County Down. It’s pretty interesting that, after the war, when David Crowley went back home and married, he and Annie came to Texas first, and only later back to Iowa.

      I didn’t remember until you mentioned your SC history class that we had classes in Iowa history, too. I’m not sure that’s even taught today. I know “civics” isn’t. Perhaps remedial Civics for legislators would be a good thing…..

      We did so much memorizing in school – even in Latin class! Poetry, drama, historical speeches – we did it all. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We had better educations when we graduated from high school than many have today post-college. Not because of the memorization alone, of course – but because our solid, substantive curricula. At least we could read and write!

      As for those thoughts – maybe yours are butterflies and mine are inchworms. Yours are a lot harder to catch!


      1. You’re certainly right when you say “We had better educations when we graduated from high school than many have today post-college.”

        I had a miserable experience two years ago when I agreed, reluctantly, to teach a couple of remedial math courses at a local college. All the students in those courses had been given a high school diploma—I’m careful not to say that they earned a high school diploma—but I quickly found that not only couldn’t they do first-year high school algebra, they couldn’t even add two simple numerical fractions, something I remember learning in 4th grade. Some of them didn’t know their times table.

        Naturally the students’ ability with written English was on a par with their math ability. I’ve sometimes fantasized a law that would apply to every English language document published on paper or online; the writer would be required to put at the top of the document, in large letters: “It’s = it is; its = belonging to it.” Maybe after a few years of that, most people could finally learn this trivial bit of third-grade English.

        Not wanting to hijack your post, I’d better stop now; it’s [with an apostrophe] better for the blood pressure in any case.

        1. Hehehehehe…. hon, if I didn’t have fingers and toes, I couldn’t count. Thank heavens for calculators.

          My subjects were literature, history, science (without the scary math parts) art, etc.

          It took me two years and summer school to get out
          of Algebra 1. I think Mrs. Jantzen passed me out of pity, figuring that if she didn’t, the two of us would be there for all eternity. Dad couldn’t understand it; it comes so easy to him. I’m like a deer caught in headlights! lol

        2. Literate, pro-education rants always are in order, Steve. We’ve all had the sorts of experiences you describe, and I think the “it’s/its” legislation would be terrific.

          My personal crusade involves “less” and “fewer”. Every time I go into a store with express lane signs that say, for example, “Fifteen items or less”, I ask to speak to the manager and explain the problem.

          We do what we can!

        3. Gué,

          I was a flashcard baby. I think it was both second and third grade that I spend an hour after supper with those darned things. The best thing that ever happened to me was the little “trick” with the fingers for multiplying nines!

          Algebra and geometry didn’t start to make sense until I started sailing and had to learn navigation. The story of my discovery of triangles made the round of the bars for some time.!

  14. As always it is beautifully written and so well thought out! The one thing I love about Americans is the pride you take in your history, constitution,and the ability to remember such things as the Gettysburg Address. I think sometimes us Canadians fail to recognize the importance of our own history and what ties us together as a nation. It is an important lesson that we should learn from our neighbors down south.

    1. belle,

      Some of us worry that our national memory is getting a little short, too. Still, we do pay attention to our history.

      Sometimes I get pulled up short when I realize how close some of those “far-away times” really are. My great-great-grandpa David was born just 100 years after George Washington – to the day. That’s just amazing to me – as is the fact that I have an ancestor in that lineage that fought with Washington.

      I’m beginning to understand why some people find genealogy so fascinating!


  15. Ah, what a delightful piece of history. Love your writing as always…

    Thank you for your comments today. I responded…and invited you to come visit me in Washington. We can sit by my woodstove and have a nice long chat.

    1. Martha,

      You know how I feel about those woodstoves, don’t you? I can’t think of anything more lovely, especially since we were setting records for high temperatures in the neighborhood yesterday. A mild November is one thing – the eighties in November is simply not festive!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. Thanks for stopping by – and Happy Thanksgiving!


  16. History as human history really doesn’t get better than this, Linda. I love how you have told this personal story about a symbol of light to the world…and that you ended this piece with such a poignant rendition of the Gettysburg Address. It reminds me of that Stand By Me video sung from different people all over the world:

    1. Ginnie,

      And it’s the sheer humanity of Playing for Change that makes it so appealing.

      Since we do love our connections, here’s one for you. The second performer here is Grandpa Elliott (one of my favorites, by the way).

      One of David and Annie Crowley’s sons was Robert. One of his daughters, Mabel, was my mother’s mother.

      And who did Mabel marry? Edd Elliott, who for years was my personal “Grandpa Elliott”.

      How can we not smile at all this?


    1. Bridgesburning,

      Hello, and welcome! It’s always such a delight to have someone new stop by. I’ve been by your blog, and will come back later this evening to read a bit more.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the kindness of a comment. I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  17. You really do have a way with words. And just when I might drift off (heaven forbid I might LEARN something!) you throw this in there: “Whether the cotton bales offered resistance is not recorded.” Ha!

    1. Bug,

      Oh, you’ve made my day! When that throwaway line popped onto the page, I laughed and laughed. It may be poor form to laugh at our own jokes, but I sure did. And I wondered if anyone would catch it.

      No one did – or at least no one said anything about it – until you!

      It’s strange. When I tell stories just sitting around on a porch, I can be really funny. I’ve not tried that with my writing, much. But it worked this time. Maybe I’ll try again!


    1. Andrew,

      Didn’t they do a good job with that video? I was charmed by it myself, since Illinois townfolk look, sound, and believe pretty much like Iowa townfolk. It could have been recorded in the basement of my home town court house.

      It’s a wonderful way to communicate another truth – the history of a country belongs to its people. Everyone will tell the tale a little differently, but everyone gets to contribute.

      What’s truly amazing to think of is that every person in that video has their own family story, just waiting to be told – and I’ll bet every one would be interesting!


    1. philosophermouse,

      You’re right about Texas being different – and oh, my! Did I have lessons to learn when I moved here. There was sheer size, for one thing. The first time I drove across the state from El Paso to Houston, I thought I’d never get there.

      As for all the wars, rulers, flags, explorers, profiteers and such, I’ve always preferred Fehrenbach’s “Lone Star” to Michener’s “Texas”, but even Fehrenbach needed over 700 pages to tell the tale!


    1. Bridgesburning,

      Every now and then I spend time on the Frio at Concan – for a while, I had to run down to Uvalde to use the internet. May still have to, if the “Bait & Tackle & Internet Cafe” in Concan isn’t up and running. The only place I can get my modem to work is down the road by the cemetery gates.

      I was amazed to discover the Rexall Drug in Uvalde’s the oldest continuously running Rexall in the country!


  18. I know I’d learn something about American history every time I come here. And this time is history in depth. The amount of research that goes into writing this post is impressive.

    And speaking about history, I’m a bit puzzled. Just a couple of weeks ago and I believe it was on PBS, they had a documentary on Abraham Lincoln but from a ‘revisionist’ perspective. Scholars clarifying ‘myths’ and mis-interpretations’ about the person and life of Lincoln. I’m a bit surprised because I know PBS represents the ‘main line’ view on American culture and history. But if you ask me, I don’t remember the specifics now. I was just kind of surprised… that’s all.

    ADD: Here’s the link for “Looking for Lincoln”, which you can watch online.

    1. Arti,

      Part of the reason I enjoy doing posts like this is the research. I profit from the learning as much as anyone!

      I’m smiling at this: “I know PBS represents the ‘main line’ view on American history and culture”. For many of us, that might have been true in the past, but it assuredly is not true today.

      I have my favorites on PBS and NPR, especially NPR radio on Saturday mornings with its news quizes and word play, but I do have issues from time to time. I no longer depend solely on PBS for an “objective” view of things, any more than I would depend on Fox News or MSNBC, particularly in the realms of history and religion.

      One of the realities of life is that political correctness and revisionist history tend to hang out together. Still, facts are facts, and while we may wish particular events hadn’t occurred in the past, the task is not to deny them, but to understand them in their context. If we find the actions of a Lincoln, Roosevelt or Hitler abhorrent, we’re free to disavow them. But we’re not free to pretend they didn’t exist, or claim that the people themselves should be erased from the record because of them.

      Now – it’s true that “new” facts can pop up from time to time, and when they do, they have to be taken into account. We may need to adjust our view of things because of them.

      A perfect example is my own Aunt T – remember her from Julia Child and the Jeweled Elephant? Since writing that post, I’ve learned something absolutely unbelievable about my beloved Aunt T – and one of these days, her “new” history will have a post of its own – touching on some of these very issues! But the point is that, once I had my new knowledge, I had to accept the truth that my image of her had been provisional and limited. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean I loved her any less, or remember her any less fondly.

      Well, as you can see, you touched a nerve. With whole sections of American history disappearing from school textbooks because some committee or other finds aspects of our history distasteful or politically incorrect, these issues have become occasional fodder even for cocktail party conversation or hunting trips – and that, my friend, is all to the good!


      ADD: I forgot to say thanks for the Lincoln link. I’m deep into pie baking for our Thanksgiving now, and will have some time to begin watching. I’m looking forward to it – for once, it will be my turn to provide a review when I’ve seen it all!

    1. Jack,

      Your words of appreciation are especially meaningful, given your chosen field. Family history is fascinating – and isn’t it true that the older we get, the more intriguing it becomes?

      I trust your Thanksgiving was a fine one. Mine was just fine. From what I see on the radar just now, we both may have a little something more to give thanks for, in the form of rain. I hope there’s enough to counteract the winds that will come, too.


  19. I don’t have time to read now, but I’ll be back. Just stopped by to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. We’re off to Dad’s. I hope you enjoy this day. All the best. Bella

    1. Bella,

      I hope you traveled safely and enjoyed the day. I’m looking forward to hearing about the seafood I’m sure was on the menu!

      It was a lovely day – and my pecan pie was even better than I remembered!


  20. It’s Thanksgiving evening — not too late, I hope, to wish you well and to say, “Happy Thanksgiving.”

    Our’s was quiet, unlike years past, when all the children came home, when my parents were still alive, when Don’s mother still graced our table with her joyful presence — when the day was full of hundreds of snippets of conversation and too much good food from too many good cooks.

    It makes me wonder whether we ever appreciate what we have while we’re living it? Or whether appreciation grows in retrospect? With distance?

    Strange that all those years on the Texas coast never yielded a visit to Matagorda Bay for me . But I always liked the sound of the place, as it rolled off the tongues of those talking about it. How neat that it holds an ancestral connection for you — and that you and your Mom came to live ‘just a piece’ up the coast from where he served.


    1. Janell,

      It isn’t too late for good wishes at all. It was a long, leisurely Thanksgiving with some of the best food I’ve had in many holidays. Perhaps the fact that my responsibility extended only to desserts was the reason!

      I’ve talked with several people who had their first “quiet” Thanksgiving this year – especially couples who had no family gathered around for the first time in years, or decades. All of them were giving little sighs, saying, “Oh, it always was good to have them, but… it was good to relax in this new way, too.”

      The echoes of Wilder in your comment are clear, of course. And I think I would have to say, “Yes…yes, I think we do appreciate what we have, even in the moment.” Not always, perhaps, or not fully – but it was clear yesterday as we chatted around the kitchen that everyone was both appreciative, and present.

      I hardly can believe you haven’t been to Matagorda! Some of the best winter shelling is from Sargent Beach to the mouth of the Colorado. When your winter begins to feel oppressive, come on down!


  21. Wouldn’t it be grand if all leaders (politicians and business) would adhere to the sentiments expressed in the Gettysburg Address?

    Might level the moral, ethical and economic playing field.

    1. Rick,

      Indeed. And wouldn’t it be grand if someone could express some sentiments that weren’t constrained by the sound bite and crafted for the polling results?

      That might even raise the playing field. The ability to construct a cogent complex sentence wouldn’t hurt, either.


  22. Ms Linda,
    I enjoyed your description of Matagorda Island. I grew up in South Texas and first visited the island in 1960. I am finalizing a history of the island and have researched it with fascination and fondness. Perhaps my fondest memories were touring it with Joe Hawes, great grandson of Hugh Walker Hawes, founder of Saluria.

    Thanks for your brief but colorful account of the island. And I have much resarch on the Union soldiers that occupied the island and PowderHorn.

    Bill Winsor
    Dallas Texas

    1. Bill,

      When I was living in the area I knew a Horton – now I wonder if the family might have been descendants of Albert. Quite possible. I didn’t know about Saluria, even though I’ve read a good bit about LaSalle and Indianola – and have been to Indianola several times. Thanks for mentioning that – another bit of knowledge about a great area of Texas.

      I was surprised to discover that the 34th Iowa spent the majority of their time in Louisiana and Texas. I’ve been to Moon Lake, home of the ill-fated Yazoo Expedition, where they began their service, and of course to Matagorda. More than once I’ve thought about writing about his course through the war – I suppose that would become a book, too, if I devoted some time and energy to it.

      Congratulations on being able to use the word “finalizing” re: your own work! When publication happens, I’d be pleased to know about it.


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