Yesterday we went out to the Texas “hill country,” the home territory of President Lyndon Johnson. We visited the LBJ Ranch and the western White House, where John twisted arms under live oak trees and has a phone in every room.
In Johnson’s childhood, the hill country was a place of great poverty, and one of his first legislative accomplishments was bringing electricity to the region. Now the beautiful area is home to wineries, ranches, and bed and breakfasts. A few traces of the region’s hardscrabble roots still remain, however.
We toured the Alamo yesterday. As we walked the grounds, we happened across three volunteers who demonstrated the multiple steps of loading, tamping down, and firing the arms used by the defenders of the Mission against the overwhelming forces of Santa Anna. The process was cumbersome and posed a special risk for the humble pinky. The leader of the trio explained that the men of that era were trained to use the pinky to tamp down the charge, so that if the firearm discharged prematurely only the pinky would be lost.
Remember the Alamo, but remember the pinky, too! Its sacrifice helped secure the American West.
Last night after dinner we walked over to the plaza in front of the Cathedral of San Fernando, one of the oldest churches in the United States. A few times every night they project a light show against the facade of the cathedral that tells, in very broad strokes, the history of San Antonio.
It’s an interesting, memorable show, as new images slide up and down, faces appear and then vanish, and wavy lines move back and forth on the church and its two towers — but it’s disorienting, too. After a while you wonder if you’re dreaming, or if someone might have slipped a Mickey into your drink.
To get down to the San Antonio River Walk, you take stairways and ramps from bridges and overpasses. Many of the stairways and ramps are of the bland, concrete variety, but some are special — gracefully curved, with wide steps and overhead greenery and delicate tiled facings that reflect a southwestern flair.
It’s amazing how a few colorful squares of tile can turn a generic stairway into an eye-catching addition to an already festive area. If I had my say, every concrete municipal staircase would have bright tile facings with bold colors and geometric designs. It’s a way to inject some much-needed art into our everyday surroundings.
Near the Pearl Brewery, looking back at the San Antonio Museum of Art, reflected by the river and framed by the fish sculptures hanging from the underside of an overpass.
It’s still dark in San Antonio, out on the western edge of the Central time zone, as I prowl the River Walk — but the joggers and outright runners are already out in force.
I’m not a huge proponent of organized religion, but I’m a sucker for churches.
The Little Church at La Villita, in San Antonio, is a gem. Built in 1879, its clean lines, stone walls, and modestly proportioned stained glass window create a setting of simple beauty. It’s well suited for quiet contemplation after a stroll on the River Walk — and it’s cool inside, too.